Even if the whole world wasn't dealing with a global pandemic and even if your budget wasn’t severely affected by COVID-19, you would still need to be considering updating and planning your budget for the trade show season. It’s just something that has to be done annually (or more frequently).
While lots of exhibitors focus on the budget of the show itself – the booth, the graphics, the lighting – cutting costs in that area directly impacts your customers’ experience and could hinder your growth.
On the other hand, staffing expenses hover around 20% for most exhibitors, and it’s an area where you can trim costs without having to trade value and performance.
Here are some helpful tips on saving money on staff travel for trade shows:
- Know your budget. This seems obvious, but many people put the cart before the horse in this area, hoping they come in under budget after planning and staffing their trade show trips.
- Communicate your budget. Your staff needs to know their expense limits. If you don’t have a formal expense policy, consider creating one that includes the amounts they can spend for travel, hotel, and food.
- Designate one person to book your group’s travel and lodging. Maybe you don’t have a travel department, but you can assign one person to handle those details. That way, there will be one point of contact throughout. Also, having one person look into group packages and deals on flights, hotels, and ground travel can be a money-saver.
- Consider a travel agent. A good travel agent knows which airports are the best for flying in and out of your destination, which are closest/easiest access to your venue, and the best prices for each. They also know when it’s worth it to stay at the hotel attached to the event center and when it’s not. They know how easy it is to get a rental car at each airport and which destinations offer the best Uber or shuttling services.
- Plan ahead. If you don’t use a travel agent, purchase airline tickets early to lock in low fares. Supposedly Tuesday is the day to shop for flights as they tend to be less expensive. Also, look for cheaper flights by landing into surrounding cities instead of a main hub. Of course, you’ll need to weigh this against how far your hotel is, rental car fees, Uber costs, etc.
- Send fewer staffers. This one speaks for itself. Could fewer get the job done well?
- Look at food options. Because food is less per piece than flights or hotel stays, people often overlook just how much of the travel budget it is. If you add up meals and snacks and drinks and entertaining, you’ll see that it’s quite a sobering amount. Trim the food budget by choosing a hotel that offers free breakfast; pack a big stash of healthy (or junky!) snacks to have in your booth; have a gift bag of snacks for each staffer to have in their hotel room; consider ordering in for team meals; entertain clients at breakfast or lunch instead of dinner, which is usually more expensive and often includes alcohol.
These are just a few of the ways you can lower your exhibiting costs by cutting some travel expenses. Figuring out how to cut costs while still showing up in the best way possible for your attendees is key to continue growing your business through trade shows.
This article was inspired by "5 Ways to Cut Trade Show Staff Travel Costs" by Briquelle Neyens and first appeared at skyline.com
Photo by Bruce Mars