Real Business, Online

The True Cost Of Exhibiting At Tradeshows

Liquasil roof coatings exhibition stand graphic
One of our 3m graphics

I just posted an article on LinkedIn about exhibiting products and services and thought I’d share it here too, because I know many of the readers of this blog attend trade shows, either as an exhibitor or an attendee.

There’s a lot in this post that you might not have considered previously, I know I hadn’t, so I hope you like it.

I booked our stand at next week’s ScotlandBuild Expo exhibition in Glasgow way back in April. It should be a good show and I’m pretty certain that we’ll get value from attending.

But what’s the true cost of exhibiting for a small business like ours?

First of all there’s the cost of the space.

Ours (Stand B7 if you’re coming) is only 9 square metres and for the princely sum of £4,445 plus VAT, we also get use of a carpet, table, two chairs and a waste bin! Oh, and that didn’t include a £395 booking fee – so it’s a £5,000 stand in reality.

But the stand is only the start of the expense.

There are four of us attending, including two staff borrowed from our building surveying practice, so we have to consider travelling costs (two in a car to take our display stuff), two return flights, hotel accommodation for three nights and meals of course. Let’s assume £2,000 minimum.

As we haven’t exhibited under the name “Liquasil” previously, we had to engage a graphic designer. All told, we’ve spent £2000 with him on design alone.

A further £1500 on brochure production, three display stands and we’re up to £10,500 before we set foot in the exhibition hall – and I think we’ve got away lightly on those costs.

Because our staff aren’t sales oriented, I also invested in a full day of exhibition training for them. That added another£995.00.

By taking our own display equipment, we have saved a lot of money by not using the exhibition organiser’s logistics company to move and erect everything.

If you consider that we have two full exhibition days at 8 hours per day, it means it is costing an incredible £708.44 PER HOUR to be at this show.

A few people have contacted me asking if I can meet them at the show (apologies if you’re one of them) and my answer has been the same to all of them – we are there to meet new and existing customers (roofing contractors, building surveyors, property managers, FM companies etc) and because of the hourly cost, won’t have time for socialising during the show.

That includes time for telephone calls too, so I’ve emailed our installers and let them know the score. Leave a message, we’ll get back to you during the quiet periods and breaks.

Knowing the hourly cost focuses ones attention like nothing else.

It helps us to make rules that everyone on the stand understands. Things like:

  • Not allowing staff to conduct mobile phone conversations on the stand
  • Ensuring there’s no food or drink on the stand
  • Keeping conversations as brief as possible
  • Staying on-topic
  • Avoiding over-manning – we have a personnel schedule

But there’s an even more important consideration when exhibiting. I hadn’t properly considered it previously, but I’ve exhibited previously and had visitors to the show (not exhibitors) come along and trying to pitch their products or services.

The last time this happened, we were approached by a web designer, a graphic designer and a cleaning company.

These people, unlike us, were not investing £708.44 per hour to be there, yet felt they had a right to come and pitch their services speculatively, for free.

It’s a very common occurrence at trade shows, so if you’re thinking of just popping by and pitch us your products – please don’t. It’s nothing personal, but why should I pay £11.81 per minute to hear your sales pitch?

I would like to thank Jon Howarth of Manning The Stand for his valuable advice and provide him with a recommendation at the same time. He opened our eyes and we’re now all looking forward to a really good show.

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