Trade shows are the ideal venue to meet new and existing suppliers, conduct business meetings, network and investigate new products. However, in order to make your trade show experience an investment for your business, consider these five budget tips for success.
1. Plan your stay
The more preparation you put into planning your trade show visit can mean less money spent. Do you need to fly? Are you within driving distance? If you need to fly and you’re not 100 percent committed to attending the event, buy your plane ticket months in advance with flight insurance. Flight insurance is typically around 30 dollars, depending on the carrier, but locking in cheaper plane rates can save you a great deal of money. Plane tickets can double, triple, or even quadruple over time. Should you choose not to attend the show, you can cancel your flight for a full refund.
It’s also important to book hotel rooms far in advance. Hotel room prices can skyrocket days before the trade show, or even worse, be completely booked. It’s also important to analyze all of the cost details when comparing hotels. If one hotel is $200 per night and another is $180, your first instinct would be to choose the lower price. However, if the $180 hotel room requires $50 of transportation a day, it is probably more expensive. In addition, if you want to avoid a $20 to $30 daily parking pass, take a look around the area for parking lots or spots well ahead of time. There are even apps like ParkMe that show all parking lots in certain areas, and if you aren’t driving but need transportation, use Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar instead of a taxi. They are typically much less expensive.
2. Do your research
It’s important to be prepared with event information when you attend a trade show. Doing your research beforehand can save a lot of time and money. Come up with a detailed list of what you need, or what products you would like to carry, and start researching who will be attending. Having a list of all the vendors you would like to connect with will ensure that you’re not missing out on vendors that could be an asset for your business. If there are vendors that you would like to meet with, set up appointments in advance.
3. Bring snacks
Trade show food can be very expensive. The same can be said about coffee, bottles of water, and other beverages. Bring a bag full of snacks, and whatever you need to keep your hunger under control. Often the price you pay for most trade show food can be spent on a nice meal elsewhere, that can be a great team building activity.
4. Promote yourself
With so many attendees and booths, it’s difficult for everyone to remember each other. The first rule is to always carry around extra business cards when attending shows. You never know how many people you may want to stay in contact with. Second, almost every show will create their own hashtag for attendees to post pictures, and for others to follow. Post tons of pictures with your team using the hashtag, along with your company name, and you may be featured on their website or social media sites. The last rule is to promote your team by wearing matching work polos with company badges or logos.
5. Calculate ROI
Once the trade show is over, it’s a good idea to evaluate how it went and see if it was worth your time and money. For example, ask if you had not attended the trade show, how long would it have taken to generate the same amount of business? If you’re a smaller retailer, evaluate the opportunity cost of spending your time at the trade show, rather than at work. Evaluating your experience and results will tell you whether the show was worthwhile, and can help you make decisions on whether to attend future trade shows.