The Art and Science of Trade Show Budgeting

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Figuring out what to budget for trade shows as part of your overall marketing is as much an art as it is a science. The artistic side relates to the communication of a message that hundreds or thousands of attendees will understand and act on. The scientific side focuses on ROI, how many prospects must you reach to realize a payoff for your effort.

My rule of thumb for trade show and event budgeting is that for an overall marketing budget of 5%, 20% of this should go toward trade shows. Every company is different, however if you depend on relationships, market awareness, and can communicate your message in a visual way, then trade shows are a terrific investment. Where you invest, what shows have your target audience in attendance and how often you attend is going to be unique to your company.

Not surprisingly there are many hidden and not so hidden costs to attending a trade show. Transportation, for example, depending on the size of your trade show display and the amount of trade show “stuff” you take can $250 to over $1000. In some cases it is required or financially smart to join the association or group that is sponsoring the trade show. This again can be from a few hundred to over $500. Below is a simple budget that can give you an overall picture of your next trade show and what the cost categories will be.

The key to success is understanding your market and the players or buyers and reaching them through trade shows in the most efficient way.

Trade Show Budget

Estimate Actual

1. Space rental $ _ $ _
2. Display & Graphics $ _ $ _
3. Marketing Material $ _ $ _
4. Promotional Gifts $ _ $ _
5. Freight & Shipping $ _ $ _
6. On-Site Services $ _ $ _

(electricity, setup, flowers)
7. Pre-show promotion $ _ $ _
8. At-event promotion $ _ $ _
9. Hospitality $ _ $ _
10. Personal expenses $ _ $ _
11. Miscellaneous $ _ $ _

(10 – 15% of 1-10) $ _ $ _
12. Travel, meals $ _ $ _

& accommodation

If you would like more information on this topic or if you would like to suggest a topic for a future article, please contact Peter Winters at:
For over 10 years Mr. Winters has been consulting businesses on strategic planning, marketing, and public relations.

He is the owner of Exhibit Warehouse a Richmond Virginia-based trade show display and trade show exhibit fabrication company.


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