1. Reduce the size of your exhibit space

    As long as you are on the exhibit floor, your people are available to conduct business as usual. If a question arises about the size of your booth — if, in fact, it is smaller than in previous years — you can simply say that serving prospects' and customers' needs during these challenging economic times is more important than having a fancy exhibit.

  2. Use the simplest exhibit materials

    Today's lightweight, easy-to-set-up-and-dismantle modular exhibits provide the cost-conscious exhibitor with many opportunities to cut costs, compared to custom exhibits.

  3. Rent instead of buy

    Research local vendors to find an exhibit builder who rents exhibits. The price quote should include transport to and from the show as well as installation and dismantling services.

  4. Man the booth with local staff

    Instead of flying people from all over the country into the show city, try to man the booth with local sales, service, and/or office personnel. This will not only save money, but it will also give selected people an opportunity to represent the company in the exciting and educational show environment.

  5. Consider who will be attending the show

    When money is tight, you can expect fewer prospects and customers to travel long distances to attend a trade show. As an exhibitor, you are likely to see more local attendees, so adjust your goals and objectives to them.

  6. Focus on the benefits beyond the product itself

    There are ways to add value beyond the sale of the product. Discounted or free warranties, free technical support, free product updates, money-back guarantees, free shipping, trade-in allowances, lease-to-own programs, and discounted service contracts should become as much a part of what you're promoting in the booth as the product itself.

  7. Always look for free press

    The trade and consumer press will continue to attend trade shows, seeking news, new products, and stories associated with the show's exhibitors. Always make sure you have press kits to hand out, and pre-arrange interviews with editors attending the show to foster post-show coverage. This is a free and effective way to ensure that your products and services are promoted.

  8. Focus on follow-up

    After all the effort you've made to save money on your exhibit, don't let your after-show customer service slip. Sales lead management is critical in responding to a prospect's request for more product/service information, and the exhibitor who does so most effectively will get the sale.

Peter LoCascio of Trade Show Consultants, Salem, Ore., works with exhibitors who are committed to maximizing their trade show effectiveness and bridging the gap between trade shows and sales.

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Show Stats

Time attendees spent on average per show visiting exhibits in 2007: 8.3 hours

Average traffic density (number of attendees per 100 square feet) at trade shows in 2007: 2.3 attendees

Average amount exhibitors spent per attendee who entered their exhibits in 2007: $159

Average amount exhibitors spent per attendee, with whom a face-to-face conversation took place: $261

Source: Exhibit Surveys Inc.'s Trade Show Trends survey, April 2008