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Adjusting to a shrinking booth size

Barry Siskind


What do you do when your exhibition budget gets slashed?

After a moment of panic, take a careful look at your overall budget to see where the money is being spent. The item that will quickly grab your attention is the cost of renting the exhibit space. As this usually takes up nearly a third of your financial allocation, it becomes the first place to look for cost savings. But, simply reducing the size of your exhibit comes with some challenges.

  • You have already given a deposit to the show organizer.
  • A change in size may also precipitate a change in location.
  • A change in size may affect your exhibit hardware.
  • A change in size may adversely affect your personnel.

Let’s look at each in turn

  • Your deposit. You made a deposit early to ensure your space at the show. Most shows have a very strict policy about cancellations. If you are cancelling within the contractual limits and give lots of notice, you should be okay but read your contract carefully to make sure there are no hidden costs for cancellation or changes.
  • Your location. When you shrink an island you end up with a peninsula. When you shrink an end-aisle you end up with an in-line booth. None of these are necessarily bad but they may present a problem with optics in the eyes of your customers. The last image you want to project is one that says your company is in trouble yet; the financial reality is that you are working with a shrinking budget. In addition, if you need to change location you may cause some confusion when customers try to find you. To overcome this, you will need to include an aggressive pre-show promotion campaign to ensure that attendees know where you are now located.
  • Exhibit hardware. If reducing exhibit size doesn’t make sense, you can look at reducing the amount of exhibit hardware, recycle components from other shows or look to rentals rather than outright ownership. Uncluttered space can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. It forces you to re-think such things as traffic flow, on-site meetings and hospitality. By cutting back on your hardware costs, you minimize the expense while maintaining the overall integrity of your display. In addition to savings in hardware you also may cut back on furnishings. This might also produce reductions in the cost of installation, dismantling, on-site services and transportation. One approach is to re-think your existing exhibit space to allow more room for one-on-one meetings which may result in a more inviting overall look and feel and minimize the cost of off-site meeting areas.
  • Your personnel. One of the challenges you face in times of reducing cost is maintaining staff morale. Your staff understands the fiscal restraints your company may be facing yet they may feel resentful when challenged with producing great results in an exhibit that does not meet their expectations.
  • Open a dialogue with your staff and let them know the challenges you are facing and make them part of the solution. Listen carefully to their suggestions and whenever possible incorporate these ideas into your exhibit plan.

    You might also consider sending fewer people to the show. Each addition person adds to your cost so limiting attendance to those absolutely necessary for the success of your show may be an essential step. Once again keep your staff up does date on why decisions like these are being made to reduce the possibility of creating adverse affects which may result in demoralized staff.

In times of fiscal restraint booth size is just one place where budgets can be trimmed. Look beyond size and you will find many more places where you can find savings. But if you shrink your booth size, do it with your eyes wide open and implement the change intelligently.