Cost over-correction has made corporate events expensive, but a few pointers can ensure affordability.

In the virtual world in which we live, trade shows and corporate events have become the final frontier for face-to-face marketing.

Since 2010, the trade show and event industry has not only witnessed a full recovery but an all-out boom. So why is this not all good news for exhibitors and corporate events teams? The answer is actually quite simple: show organizers, associations, decorators and event venues have over-corrected their costs and subsequent profits. How else can you explain a 257 percent increase on material handling charges? But is this sustainable? I have the benefit of interacting daily with exhibiting clients and their stakeholders, and I can tell you the number one "ask" of our team is how to best maximize return on investment—which recently has meant level-setting trade show and corporate events budgets. 

So, what can be done about these soaring costs? Many things, but most importantly, you need to be a great negotiator. Whether you leverage a professional face-to-face marketing company to negotiate on your behalf, or choose to do it yourself, understand many aspects of the exhibiting experience is negotiable. If you are not asking for discounts, you are missing the boat. Second, you need to research and understand which trade shows and events you attend represent your greatest return on investment and which represent a budget drain. As we evolve from the “digital age" to the “age of insights,” data will be king—so the ability to control data is critical. If you are not collecting and tracking your lead data accurately, and if this data is not the determining factor for which events you attend as an exhibitor, you are not only missing the boat, but possibly sinking it. 

Though there are hundreds of factors at play when planning your exhibiting and meeting schedule, uncovering the most appropriate strategies to control cost seems to be at the top of everyone’s list. What are some other key cost containment strategies? When considering leveraging your messaging at an event, it may be best to bypass show sponsored branding opportunities and find these on your own. For example, in lieu of paying an over-inflated price for show sponsored signage or lanyards, reach out to restaurants near the exhibit venue and see if they will display signage or table tents with your branding and booth number at a fraction of the cost. People attending shows love to dine out. Also, understand 'high tech' versus 'high touch'—if you integrate technology into your exhibit experience, make sure it has a purpose. Too many exhibitors include technology for the sake of having technology and end up with expensive equipment and large screens, but limited or no content. The integration of technology generally requires a significant amount of planning. And, when utilizing rented technology shop around, it is not always best to blindly order rental equipment from the show-sponsored provider. This also holds true with other rental commodity products. Remember, you have options. 

So yes, we believe it is possible to sustain these substantial price increases, but from an exhibitor perspective it won't be without a solid strategy that includes some creative thinking in the way you manage your overall spend.

Greg Lindsey is the vice president for New Albany-based Exhibitpro. He is nationally recognized as a leader in face-to-face marketing and trade show and event strategy. Greg can be reached at glindsey@exhibitpro.net or by calling 614-885-9541.