The old adage, “Time is money” is often literally true when it comes to exhibiting at trade shows. If you don’t allow enough time to get everything done, you risk blowing your trade show deadlines. This could add up to fees and penalties that cost you even more. But get your project done ahead of schedule, and you may earn discounts that cut the total cost significantly.
Are you attending a show this year or have another exhibition project waiting in the wings? Start your planning early, complete each phase of your project promptly, and just watch how it pays off!
You Benefit from an Early-Bird Attitude
Once you’ve decided to attend a show, there are big benefits to booking early. Most trade shows and industry events offer discounts for early registration. This is always the best option and not just because you’ll save money.
By registering early, you also get the pick of available booth spaces. At popular shows, the best spots are always snapped up quickly. The sooner you register, the better the chance you’ll have of scoring a prime booth location.
Hotels and Travel
You can also save if you book things like hotel accommodations and flights early. When you reserve your exhibit space, check with your show contact or on the show site to see if they have preferred service providers. Preferred providers have partnered with the venue to offer special discounts to exhibitors who book early. A perfect example is a hotel. If the event purchases blocks of hotel space based on expected demand, that space is offered at a reduced rate for event attendees—until it runs out.
Pro Tip: Even if you’ve missed early-bird discounts, don’t neglect looking into the offerings of preferred providers. Booking travel, accommodations, and show services through them may still save you money, even if you’re not one of the “early birds.”
For any services you want to use at the event, check with potential vendors to find out if they offer discounts for early bookings. There’s a wide range of services available for exhibitors to use, and many vendors that serve the event market offer early-bird discounts. This may include:
- Material handling/drayage and dismantle labor
- Cleaning services
- Electrical services
Once you’re registered as an exhibitor at a show, you typically get access to an Exhibitor Manual, which lists event services. An early-bird discount will usually apply to all services in the Manual. With this approach, you can make your trade show budget stretch a little further. For instance, if you book your hotel and travel early and score those discounts, you may find you can afford to send extra booth staff.
Late Fees and Hidden Penalties That Can Hurt Your Budget
Just as you can benefit from a proactive booking schedule, waiting until the last minute to get things done can be costly. This is especially true when it comes to the design, production, transportation, and installation of your exhibit.
Exhibit Design and Production
Many hours of work are involved in designing and manufacturing an exhibit and in planning all the other elements that go into attending a show. No matter which trade show company you work with, you can expect that you’ll pay a premium of about 10% when you ask them to work on a rush job. The exact amount depends on the size of your booth and how much customization you need. A highly customized booth will typically cost more to rush through production than a standard modular exhibit.
This is a matter of necessity: It takes time to design and manufacture the elements of a booth. When you want a rush job, more people may be needed to work on your project, and those people may need to work overtime to get it done. Production schedules are changed to meet your trade show deadlines.
The fact that graphics tend to be highly customized is the reason why a graphics rush job typically means you’ll pay more. For graphics panels, an order of 1 to 10 panels is completed in 10 days. For 10 to 20 panels, it’s 15 days, and for 20 or more, around 20 days is standard. This is the amount of time that’s needed to create panels using the production-ready graphics you provide. You can expect to pay up to 50% more for a rush order, depending on how much of a rush you’re in. The larger the order or the sooner the deadline, the more it will cost.
Pro Tip: If you’re less than a week away from your event, it may be too late to complete the graphics you’re envisioning for your booth. With graphics, it’s always better to get your order in well before the show to be sure they’re ready in time.
Logistics and Planning
Once the manufacture phase is complete, there are matters such as freight and labor to consider. If you’re rushing to keep to your trade show deadlines, these services will cost more than usual.
Shipping: No matter which method you choose to ship your trade show booth to the venue, it will cost more if you leave it to the last minute by shipping direct-to-show rather than to the advance warehouse. Whether it’s FedEx®, a trade show company, or any other freight service, you’ll pay less if you allow plenty of time for shipping.
Drayage: As well as shipping, there’s drayage to consider. This is the part of the transport process that gets your exhibit from warehouse loading dock to your exhibit booth space on the show floor. The costs of drayage can mount quickly if you ship direct-to-show, as this means you’re shipping in the last days before opening. In this situation, your freight carrier may end up waiting for several hours before it’s able to unload, and that extra time is paid for by you. It’s always more cost-effective to allow enough time to ship your exhibit to the event’s advance warehouse. And it gives you more peace of mind, as you can be sure your booth and other materials will be waiting for you at your exhibit space when you get there—and not stuck on a truck waiting to be unloaded.
Installation: If you ship direct-to-show at the last minute, you risk paying more for installation labor due towait times. Because of late unloading, you may end up paying overtime to the labor crew you hire for installation. Overtime rates can increase your labor costs up to 60%, making your late-shipping option even more expensive.
The Numbers Don’t Lie!
Still not convinced that early bookings and orders are worthwhile? Check out this EXHIBITOR article, which details exactly what you can stand to gain and how much you risk losing.
According to EXHIBITOR, paying attention to trade show deadlines can save you up to $30,000 when you attend a show with a 30×30 booth. Whether it’s due to scoring discounts or avoiding late fees, you can greatly reduce your outlay just by getting things done at the right time. In particular, EXHIBITOR notes that rush orders on graphics inflate your costs by a large margin. And if you’re stuck paying overtime on show services such as cleaning, electrical, and installation, you can dish out thousands more than you planned. Just about everything associated with attending a trade show can cost more if you wait too long to secure it.
Be the Early Bird: Get the Discount
Planning to exhibit this year? Start planning now, and you’ll get the most out of your trade show budget. Whether you’re attending a trade show or building an exhibit for another purpose, it pays to make the important decisions early and avoid the penalties that come with leaving things to the last minute.