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Reduce your costs at trade shows

Updated on September 9, 2012

Lighten up your exhibit

Many trade show exhibitors do not pay attention to the weight of their exhibit or trade show displays, but this can cost you a lot of unnecessary expense if you don't pay attention. Most convention centers have a fee called material handling of "drayage" that is the cost that you are charged to unload and load your shipment to and from a trade show.

This coat varies from city-to-city, but no matter where you exhibit it will be a significant expense. For example the drayage cost for some trade shows in New York exceeds $1 per pound. What does that mean to you? Well if you ship 5,000 lbs of exhibit material to you next trade show that can end up costing you over $5,000.

The large exhibitors pre-negotiate this rate before they sign the bottom line. For example at the annual Toy Fair trade show in New York's Javits Convention Center I was told by one of the show managers that the drayage cost for Mattel (one of the largest exhibitors) was over $100,000 and that was only because they pre-negotiated a discount. He said that without the discount the cost would have been closer to $200,000 just to bring their exhibit properties in the building.

What can you do to keep your costs down? Here are 5 tips that can make a big difference.

1 - Reduce the amount of brochures and printed material that you send with the display. Most people don't want to carry your brochures around all day and would probably prefer that you email you information after the show or mail them the information later.

2 - Never ship beverages or bottled water with your exhibit. On average the cost for shipping and drayage for a case of bottled water is $50.

3 - Consider renting furniture and carpeting from the show. Shipping sofas, tables and rolls of carpeting really adds to your exhibit weight. In many instances the rental cost is the same or less as the shipping and drayage fees. And a bonus feature is that the rental includes installation which saves on labor.

4 - Consider replacing heavy wooden structures with stretch fabric elements. Stretch fabric frames and structures are very lightweight. A 16' tall fabric tower may weigh only 25lbs compared to a 16' wooden tower that may weigh 400 lbs.

5 - Hand carry some items if you can. Most convention centers have an exhibitor "hand carry" loading area. You can ship some items to your hotel (where they don't charge to unload) and simply put them in the car or the cab on your way to the convention center. Just make sure that you ship these items in easy to handle wheeled cases so it is not too much of a burden.

In addition top saving you money on your drayage and material handling a lighter weight exhibit will cost less to ship and store which can save you money not only at a trade show, but also year round.

More information and various cost saving worksheets can be found at:


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    • alcalderon profile image

      alcalderon 5 years ago from Orange County, Ca

      Good tips, recently my company did a few trade shows and some of the points you made hit home. Luckily we were not shipping to much of our items we brought. Great read.