How Much Does it Cost to Build and Run a Trade Show Exhibit?

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Brands are always looking for ways to make a lasting impression—one of the most influential and time-tested ways is to attend a trade show exhibit. However, the cost of doing so is a mystery to many companies. In this guide, we answer the question “How much does a trade show exhibit cost?” by explaining the factors that affect pricing, a cost breakdown, and tips to manage costs. 

How much does a trade show exhibit cost?

Trade show exhibits are remarkable and memorable events for both brands and audiences. Due to an established success rate, the future of trade show exhibits is bright. According to a study released in early 2023, 43% of marketers and exhibitors are optimistic about the effectiveness of trade show marketing, and 45% said they are hopeful. This optimism is likely fueling the increase in trade show exhibit investments. A survey conducted in March 2023 revealed that 41% of marketers and exhibitors plan to increase their trade show exhibit budgets, while 33% plan to keep them the same. 

However, you are not alone if you wonder, “What is the sticker price?” Unfortunately, it is impossible to provide a specific number given that every trade show exhibit is wildly different from another, and the market is constantly changing. But we can break down the factors and elements that affect the cost so that you can determine an accurate quote for your event. 

Factors that Affect Trade Show Exhibit Cost

Brands can produce successful trade show exhibits on both modest and grand budgets, where your event lands will depend on many factors. Here are the three most impactful: 

  1. Scale of the Event: A small and modest trade show exhibit will cost less than an epic large-scale exhibit. 
  2. Resources: What do you have on hand to bring the exhibit to life? What extent of the project can you handle in-house? The more you have on hand and can accommodate in-house, the lower your costs will be. 
  3. Location: For example, a trade show exhibit in New York City will have a very different price tag than a trade show in a smaller city like Nashville. 

Trade Show Exhibit Cost Breakdown

Include these essential categories in your budget to ensure everything is accounted for:

  1. Exhibit Fees
  2. Insurance
  3. Marketing
  4. Design and Build
  5. Equipment Purchase, Rental, Installation, and Deinstallation
  6. Production
  7. Staffing
  8. Food and Beverages
  9. Entertainment 
  10. Travel and Accommodations 
  11. Miscellaneous Expenses
  12. Contingency Fund

After listing all the main categories, it is recommended to break down each section into specific subcategories. For example, marketing can include lines for strategy development, creative design, paid advertisements, printed materials, and more. Create a subtotal line for every category and a column to record the estimated cost, actual cost, and cost difference.

Tips for Managing Your Trade Show Exhibit Costs

Here are a few ways to keep your trade show exhibit costs aligned with your budget. 

  1. Get Granular: Keep track of every line item in a detailed manner, no matter how small, because every penny adds up. For example, resist the urge to group all equipment into one category. Instead, break the equipment into lighting, sound, and power categories. Examining the details can provide valuable insights that may have been overlooked.
  2. Track Spending in Real Time: It is essential to stay up-to-date with your expenses while adhering to a budget. Record all purchases in the budget and update estimates whenever priorities change, or new information arises.
  3. Consider Securing Sponsors: To lower costs, consider finding a sponsor who can expand your market reach by tapping into diverse audiences and provide products or services for the event. For example, a beverage sponsorship could reduce alcohol costs and create a metaphorical (and literal!) buzz for the event. 
  4. Create a Contingency Fund: Remember that the contingency fund differs from a miscellaneous fund, but both are necessary. A miscellaneous fund covers uncategorized expected expenses, while a contingency fund covers unexpected emergencies or issues. Depending on the size of the event, it is a good idea to allocate between 10-20% of the budget for emergencies.
  5. Partner with an Experienced Event Marketing Agency: With an expert on your team, you can optimize expenditures for the most significant impact. So, how do you find a great agency? Luckily, Hamilton is here to help.

Hamilton is a full-service event marketing agency with a 75-year legacy creating immersive brand experiences for companies throughout North America and worldwide. We design, produce, and execute integrated experiences that drive meaningful connections between your brand and your audience. Our full range of solutions includes exhibits, events, environments, and digital experiences. 

To optimize your trade show exhibit budget, contact Hamilton today!