10 Hidden Costs of a Trade Show

October 22nd, 2018

So you sat down and created a budget for your upcoming trade show and custom exhibit display. You even remembered to include lots of leeway for installation and dismantling fees. Maybe you even have a little bit of extra included for missing a deadline or purchasing liability insurance for your display. But chances are there are a few hidden costs of a trade show that you may never have considered. Here are 10 common charges that you are going to want to plan for if you want to avoid any unpleasant surprises during your event.

TSystem Custom Exhibit Display


Rigging expenses for hanging signs can drive up the cost of your custom exhibit display.

Hanging signs are incredible, eye-catching features for any custom exhibit display. And with lots of sizes, shapes, and features from which to choose, it is easy to get the sign that meshes perfectly with your brand and booth.

Unfortunately, these signs also need to be rigged to the ceiling in order to work. And that means paying rigging fees that can add up quickly. In fact, these fees can cost hundreds of dollars an hour, and they may be more if you need to pay labor costs to have it put together before rigging, hire additional crews and equipment, or if your sign is heavy enough to require inspection and approval by an engineer. Know your potential costs before you commit to a hanging sign.


Don’t forget that your trade show exhibit will need to be cleaned.

Your pristine, and potentially brand-new, trade show exhibit will be your pride and joy. But don’t forget that it won’t stay looking that way on its own. With dozens or hundreds of visitors passing through and booth staff practically living in it, you have to expect dirt and clutter to add up quickly.

To keep your booth looking presentable, you will need to clean it, both during the event and afterward. Most venues allow you to book basic housekeeping services for during the event itself, but you will have to plan for the cost. Budget even more if you want to hire someone to do a thorough cleaning before you pack away your booth till next time.


Include electrical expenses in your trade show exhibit budget.

Reserving your booth space isn’t the only step you need to take to ensure the perfect spot to put your trade show exhibit. You also need to make sure that you can run features like workstations, tablets, computers, and lighting. And for that you need electricity.

Your venue’s show services should offer the option to specify your electrical needs, but you will have to tell them what those needs are, and be ready to pay for those electrical services. You will also want to remember to order any A/V services you need. Make sure to order in advance: Doing so is the only way to guarantee their availability when the trade show opens.


Account for Wi-Fi accessibility in your trade show exhibit.

Even if you remembered to account for electrical services for your booth (because if not, that incredible digital presentation won’t be impressing anyone), it can be easy to forget about Internet accessibility. Adding Wi-Fi to your trade show exhibit is going to be an extra expense, but without it, your visitors and booth staff are going to be very upset, and not all of your booth features are likely to work. 


Drayage is real, and can be pricey for your trade show exhibit.

You may feel confident in your shipping budget, but many exhibitors forget the other part of getting their booth to the trade show floor: Drayage. This term refers to moving your crates and materials from the shipping dock to their spot in the exhibit hall. And while the distance is short, the fees can be very high, especially if you fail to plan correctly. You could be facing thousands of dollars in extra fees, and you will want your budget to be prepared to handle the cost, so do your research and build the expenses into your trade show exhibit plan now.


T-System Exhibit


Labor expenses can add up quickly for a trade show exhibit.

Hopefully, you are already aware of your need to hire labor to install and dismantle your trade show exhibit. What you may not know is that your labor costs can add up quickly because of hidden expenses. For example, you need to pay the hourly rate for labor, even if your exhibit is delayed. That means you could pay for hours of labor you never use if you have to wait for your exhibit to be delivered to the trade show floor. In addition, certain times of day or weekends might run you higher labor costs. Know your costs, and plan ahead to keep them as low as possible on set up day.


Plan ahead for furniture rental costs for your trade show exhibit.

Unless you purchase and ship your own furniture to the trade show, you will be renting furniture, and possibly flooring, to outfit your trade show exhibit. And that expense will be added to the other costs of designing, building, shipping, and setting up/dismantling your booth at the trade show. Choosing your furniture and reserving your rentals ahead of time will allow you to both manage and plan for those extra costs, because saying no to furniture in your display is not a cost-savings option you can pick if you happen to forget until the day of the show.


Avoid, or plan for, last minute purchases from the show organizer.

The good news is that if you forget anything at the trade show, you can probably order it through the show organizer. The bad news is that you are likely to pay some pretty hefty fees for the privilege. The best plan is to be organized ahead of time, but don’t forget to have a little extra money set aside for last-minute purchases through the show organizer.


Missed deadlines can add unexpected costs to your trade show exhibit.

Many of the hidden costs on this list are unavoidable. Drayage, for example, will always be an issue unless you are carrying a portable trade show display onto the exhibit hall yourself. However, missed deadlines, and their associated fees, are usually entirely preventable with a little planning. Keep track of deadlines for things like reserving booth space, ordering electrical services, planning for booth delivery, and dismantling your exhibit. Staying on top of early bird discounts and deadlines can help you save money and avoid fees that can quickly over stress your budget.


Security for your trade show exhibit may also be an added cost.

 Because you are likely displaying some valuable products at your trade show exhibit, you may want to hire additional security to keep an eye on your booth during times when you may not be at the booth to watch it yourself. This service is usually available through the show organizer, but you have to ask for it ahead of time. While it is an added cost, it may be worth it to ensure the safety of not only your giveaway items but also valuable products and prototypes.

Preparing a budget for a trade show means more than planning for the trade show exhibit. From planning for rigging expenses and drayage to hiring security, hidden costs can quickly add up, unless you are prepared for them. Take every potential cost into consideration to ensure that your budget and your event both run smoothly.