I recently met with a new client who was just hired by her company, and one of her job functions is to handle their modest trade show program. She is new to the trade show world and was very open to any advice I could offer.
We talked for awhile about typical issues such as the advantages of shipping “advance” to the warehouse versus shipping “direct” to the show site, consolidating shipments to save on material handling, and the pros and cons of renting a monitor as compared to owning and shipping their own.
As our discussion continued, it was apparent that her greatest concern was controlling costs. She asked if there was a single piece of cost-saving advice I could give her, what would it be? My response was simple - plan ahead!
You may have heard the saying that it wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark - the importance of starting early in your show preparation is the key to cost savings.
The first step in planning a trade show timeline is to determine the deadline date for shipping your display properties in “advance” to the general service contractor’s warehouse. This date is typically 10 days prior to the show move-in date. Miss it by one day and you’ll pay a late fee.
Worse than that, you may have to ship “direct” to the show which requires delivery on a specific date and time. Freight carriers charge more for direct to show shipments because of this narrow time window for delivery, and the likelihood of driver waiting time to unload.
In addition, displays shipped direct to the show site actually get delivered to your booth space later than displays shipped to the warehouse. This can increase your labor expenses if the setup crew is kept waiting or if it pushes labor into overtime rates. Allow adequate time for shipping to save on freight and labor costs.
Costs for other show services also increase as time goes by. As an example, the Chicago Dental Society’s Midwinter Meeting opens on February 21st. If you order a bistro table and two stools online by February 1st, the cost is $507.85. Order them on February 2nd and the cost jumps to $708.25. Similar cost increases apply to items like carpet rental and card readers. It’s easy to see how quickly total costs can escalate by not ordering early.
It’s also important to start early on the graphic design process and graphic production. If a new exhibit is being ordered, time must also be allowed for exhibit design, fabrication and shipping.
Beyond reducing costs, planning ahead has the added benefit of reducing the stress level on all participants and generally results in a more successful show overall. If you want to control your exhibiting costs and have a successful trade show, remember to start your planning early - don’t wait for it to start raining!