How much is a trade show exhibit worth? This is important to know because the time and money you spend on your trade show exhibit contributes directly to the number and quality of the leads you get at your next trade show appearance. But it’s impossible to determine how much a trade show is worth until you find out what it costs!
It’s also useful to break down the expenses you can expect when you exhibit because this can help you determine whether a particular event is worth attending by allowing you to compare your probable expenses to the number and quality of leads you can expect to generate.
Trade Show Booth Costs
Most exhibitors prefer not to design and build their own trade show booths. It’s definitely something better left to the experts!
According to Exhibitor magazine, the average exhibitor spends just 11% of their show budget on exhibit design and construction. This may seem low, but this figure takes into account people who buy prefab and other inexpensive components in addition to those who purchase custom booths. In addition, this figure represents the cost per show, not the total cost of the booth.
Pro Tip: To find the cost per show for the booth you plan to buy, you’ll need to consider how many shows you plan to attend over the life of the booth. Most booths last around five years before parts must be replaced.
Trade Show Booth Costs: The Exhibit
A professional design and build company can handle every aspect of the booth design and construction process and provide you with a high-quality exhibit that’s built to your exact specifications.
The price you pay for a trade show booth depends on a few factors:
- The size of the booth
- The type and number of components it contains
- The materials used to build it
In addition to design and build, ProExhibits provides shipping and storage services to many cities, which means you don’t have to worry about the logistics of getting your trade show booth to a venue or about setting it up once it’s there.
Trade Show Booth Costs: The Breakdown
The square-foot costs you’ll pay for a trade show booth depend mostly on the type of booth you want. There are three broad categories of booth:
Square footage costs typically include the booth’s structural elements, as well as lights, graphics, and cases or crates used for packing purposes. A/V equipment and content aren’t included in square footage costs. In some cases, flooring and furniture may be included, but this isn’t typical, so it pays to check when shopping for a booth.
A portable trade show display is one that’s made up of components that are easily transported from one place to another. If the portable exhibit is small enough, it may even be possible to transport it to a show in your own vehicle. This can be helpful for smaller companies looking to get into trade shows without making big initial investments.
In this category, expect to pay $50 to $125 per square foot.
In a modular display, the whole booth is made up of several separate pieces. A modular booth might include display stands, demonstration islands, and other functional pieces.
For modular components, you’ll pay between $75 and $225 per square foot.
Companies able to make bigger financial commitments often prefer the custom option. Here, the booth is customized according to the client’s specifications. While the cost is greater, a well-made custom trade show booth helps a company maximize their impact and make a big impression.
Custom exhibit costs typically run from $125 to $325 or more per square foot.
Flooring has a surprisingly big impact on the look and feel of your booth, not to mention on the comfort of your booth staff! Flooring costs vary depending on the material you choose and the size of your booth.
For instance, for foam or plastic tile, you’ll pay $3 to $5 per square foot, while carpeting starts at around $2 per square foot. On the other hand, for eco-friendly bamboo flooring you can expect to pay over $10 per square foot.
In this category costs are highly variable, depending on what functions you intend for your trade show display, booth size, and what kind of aesthetic you’re going for.
Trade Show Booth Costs: The Variables
Variable features will influence your booth cost. For instance, if you order customized graphics that are large or arranged in a complicated shape, you’ll typically pay more than you would for simpler graphics. Other customized elements, such as a digital display wall, also increase costs.
On the other hand, if your design is simple, and you haven’t opted for complicated A/V systems, your trade show booth cost will be lower.
The average exhibitor spends 6% of their budget on the design and production of graphical elements. This is a relatively low figure, likely because exhibitors are increasingly opting for digital graphics, which are easier to create than print graphics.
Trade Show Booth Costs: The Floor Space
When you exhibit at a trade show, you’re renting the space where you’ll install your booth. Space rental is by far the most expensive part of exhibiting at a show. In fact, the average exhibitor spends around one-third of their trade show budget on renting exhibit space.
The amount you pay for floor space varies widely.
For instance, exhibitors at one of the biggest shows in Las Vegas—the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show—paid $36 to $43 per square foot. That’s a total of $14,400 to $17,200 for a 20×20 space.
Exhibitors at the 2018 California Almond Conference in Sacramento paid $6,500 for a 20×20 space at a square-foot cost of $16.25.
Overall, booth space runs anywhere from $20 to $45 per square foot, but there are outliers in both directions.
Booth space costs depend on several factors that have to do with:
- The nature of the show
- The city in which the show is located
- The venue
- The space you rent
While many of the biggest shows allocate space on a first-come-first-served basis, where early registrants get the best spots, some charge more for premium locations. At the latter shows, booth space at the end of a row may cost more than space in the middle of the same row. Spots located near the main entrance may cost more than those on upper floors or tucked into corners. In general, the more prominently placed the space is, the more it costs.
Pro Tip: Choosing a less-prominent exhibit space can help you save money. The trade-off may be reduced traffic to your booth. You could look at cutting costs in other ways, such as travel, hotel rooms, and show services. Get our guide for building an exhibit on a budget here.
Calculating Your ROI
Determining your trade show ROI based on your exhibit costs is not a cut-and-dried task, not just because there are many factors involved, but also because it’s a long-term calculation. Your ROI depends on how much you spend, on the number of leads you generate, and whether those leads generate sales. If your customer relationships take time to develop, it can be hard to be precise about your ROI.
Another factor is that some elements of your trade show success can’t be quantified at all. For instance, you may make some valuable new industry contacts or generate a large amount of brand awareness after launching a new product.
Make Your Trade Show Booth Work for You!
Breaking down the cost of a trade show booth makes one thing clear: It’s a significant investment that builds your brand and your leads. That means it’s worthwhile bringing in the experts when it comes to design and construction. The ProExhibits team is a seasoned group of creative designers with the skills you need to make sure your next display is the best it can be!