Three Tips for Attending a Trade Show on the Cheap

Get Exposure Without Going Broke

It’s no secret that there are monumental benefits to attending a trade show – exposure to a targeted audience, opportunity to express your unique selling point, generating leads and soaking up industry knowledge at seminars and discussions. But when budgets are tight, your company’s accounting department is going to want you to trim the fat a little on your trade show budget.

You can use ideas usually overlooked for cheaper transportation, plan and negotiate to get discounted room & board and get trade show booth rentals rather than purchasing trade show displays. Here are a few tips to help you keep costs down, but still create impact and get the most from your trade show experience.


Depending on where you are traveling from, how far in advance you make arrangements and the mode of transportation you choose, you can spend a little or go over the top on this one. Obviously, you can’t control where you are traveling from, or where the conference or trade show is held. But you can plan ahead, and be open to different travel options.

As with anything else, don’t wait until the last minute to make travel reservations. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but if you plan your trade show schedule six months to a year in advance, and make your reservations several weeks prior to the event, you can save the company hundreds of dollars.

And when planning travel, remember that the plane is not the only way go. If the event is only a couple of hundred miles away, renting a van for the group, or partnering with another company who is also attending the event, renting a charter bus and splitting the cost could be a cheaper option. Also, riding the train, which many people overlook, is an affordable option. Attendees get to sit back and relax and meals are often included in the price.

Room & Board

Conference organizers often block off a number of rooms for attendees at a motel or hotel with a discounted rate. But if you don’t have this option available to you, there are several options for keeping costs in check.

First, keep in mind the distance between the hotel or motel and the conference. Booking rooms at an economy motel 15 minutes away from the event may seem like a good idea – at first. But keep in mind the costs of taking a cab back and forth can quickly add up. And, the inconvenience of being far away from a quick change of clothes, or grabbing something you may have forgotten can cause unnecessary duress. Instead, pair employees up (make sure they are compatible so that you don’t end up with an episode of Big Brother) and have them share a room.

Second, if you know you will be attending several events over the course of the year, shop around at the different hotel chains to see what kind of special discounts they offer for repeated hotel stays. Some of them offer discounts if you sign up for a special program, or you can get a free night’s stay after you’ve booked a certain number of nights.

Third, try getting a room at a hotel that includes a continental or buffet breakfast to further cut on expenses. And if the establishment also has a restaurant, that can save you and your team the headache and cost of going elsewhere to eat.

Fourth, and last – avoid room service if you can, as this can add unnecessary costs to your budget.

Trade Show Booth Rentals

With a trade show booth rental instead of a trade show display purchase, you can save hundreds of dollars. Your space represents the image your company wants to project to the public – and for some of your future customers, this is the first time they will be meeting you.

While you can purchase smaller trade show displays and even table top panel displays to keep costs down, trade show booth rentals are even cheaper. This is a great option for companies:

  • • wanting to cut costs in the short-term or long-term
  • • that infrequently attend trade shows
  • • wanting to try out a few different styles before deciding on a purchase

Before you enter into a trade show booth rental agreement, make sure you read the fine print, ask plenty of questions and understand the terms. For example, what accessories, if any come with the trade show booth? What is the timeframe for you to return the product? What are the terms for any damage incurred?

Also, make sure you look into options for enhancing your trade show booth. Banner stands, literature racks, lighting, and other accessories can drive traffic to your space, increase the generation of leads, and directly influence your bottom line.

Attending a trade show needn’t put you in the red. There are economical alternatives to what you may have done in the past. Take a look at the bigger picture, get creative, and you can plan your event on a shoestring budget without sacrificing the value of attending and participating in a trade show.