How To Budget for a Trade Show
How To Budget for a Trade Show

If you're new to exhibiting at trade shows, the No. 1 issue that you'll need to understand is how to budget adequately for a show. No matter your industry, the sticker shock can be real when businesses find out the expenses that go into exhibiting.

Before you sign up for a trade show, learn more about the costs involved in attending and exhibiting at a convention.

Exhibit booth space and show services

In order to exhibit at a trade show, you'll need a space, and you'll need to secure that space from the show itself. Depending on your industry, your desired location in the exhibit hall and the size of your booth space, this can be just the beginning of your budgetary concerns.

Once the booth space has been secured, you'll then need to rent electricity and Wi-Fi, possibly furniture, or even catering services. Some conventions are pricier than others, but you should expect that at a large industry show, you may be spending thousands of dollars on just securing a space and obtaining the necessary services for your booth.

Your trade show exhibit

Your trade show exhibit is what sets you apart on the trade show floor. It can attract potential prospects and leads, or it can turn people away.  Depending on the size of your booth, you have to decide whether to buy a modular or pop-up display, or opt for something larger.

Modular displays can cost between $1,000 and $10,000, depending upon the accessories purchased. While the materials may seem pricey for purchase, it ends up saving you money in the long run, because you set up the display yourself, and it's reusable. Often, the display is stored in a small container that can sit in your office until you use it next. 

Larger displays can pose complex budgetary questions. Your business will need to decide what type of display you want: a system, a hybrid display, a custom one, or double-deck trade show exhibit. The price of these various displays varies depending on the size of your booth space.

A good rule of thumb is to work with an exhibit manufacturer that guarantees no post-show billing so you can trust that the estimate you're given includes the exhibit rental, installation as well as dismantling, shipping, and storage. If you opt instead to obtain your exhibit from the show's general contractor, you may find exorbitant fees and post-show bills that could easily blow your budget.

Drayage and installation and dismantling

Many small business owners don't know this, but there are lots of fees associated with getting your trade show exhibit to the convention hall and then setting it up. One such fee is drayage, which refers to the transportation of your exhibit from either the convention hall's loading dock or carrier vehicle to your booth space. Depending on how you pack the exhibit, it may require more effort to transport it to your booth space. This can drive fees up even higher.

Once your exhibit has been delivered to your booth space, it needs to be installed prior to the show. If you're working with an exhibit house, they will set these services up for you, but if you've obtained a booth from the show's general contractor, you may have to pay fees for union labor to install your booth plus additional fees to take it down. When you're working with the general contractor's labor, sometimes they won't guarantee labor rates. Further, if you make any changes to your exhibit, you could incur additional fees as well. You don't want to end up with an exorbitant post-show bill.

Catering services

Convention rules generally dictate that you have to obtain any food or beverages from the show's general contractor. If you don't read your show guide carefully, you could get incur a hefty fee for providing food to show attendees that wasn't provided by the convention hall's catering service.

If you host an event, such as a happy hour in your trade show booth, then you should ask to pay for items on consumption to lower your costs. Further, food and beverage items should only be provided to people who qualify as leads, not any attendee on the show floor. 

Marketing campaigns 

Prior to your arrival at the trade show, you'll want to promote your presence. Ideally, you'll want to alert customers, prospects, attendees and industry influencers and press about your presence. If you've got a healthy marketing budget, you can combine email marketing with a targeted pay-per-click advertising campaign, as well as social media and retargeting efforts. If you don't have a large marketing budget, you can accomplish your marketing goals with a combination of your sales team calling on customers and prospects, social media efforts and an email marketing campaign. Allow yourself a few months before the show so you remain top of mind.

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Depending on the show you attend, you need to consider all of these things before you exhibit in order to come up with a sound budget. If you're new to exhibiting, it's best to start conservatively until you know you have the funds for a more elaborate trade show presence. Remember, you can be just as dangerous to the industry leaders with large trade show exhibits and booth spaces with a great product, great marketing and knowledgeable salespeople. 
4 Scientific Reasons You Should Take More Breaks at Work

What does it take for you to get mentally prepared to dive into that multi-hour Excel spreadsheet session? Before you instinctively reach for another cup of coffee we’ve got great news – just start taking more breaks. Not only could you make far fewer mistakes, you might blast through your work quicker and even enjoy it much, much more.

Here are four scientifically proven reasons why you should go ahead and take that break.

1. You'll Maintain Optimal Stress Levels

FACT: Taking regular breaks of 1.5 minutes increased worker productivity by almost 7 percent.

Interestingly enough, our optimal stress level is not a completely stress-free environment – at least in terms of work productivity. In fact, the optimal stress level for people to reach peak productivity is when they’re under some stress but not overloaded. If stress levels are beginning to feel like they’re entering the red-zone, taking breaks has been found to be an incredible regulator in maintaining, or in this case potentially reducing, stress levels.

2. You'll Quit Overthinking and Move On

FACT: Taking regular breaks of two minutes increased productivity about twice as much (11.15 percent).

Have you ever had a eureka moment on a project that seemed completely out of the blue? Or how about when you just can’t name that song or artist, only to suddenly remember after you’ve consciously stopped thinking about it?

One way to think of this is when you stop fully concentrating on one thing and take a break from the problematic task, your subconscious mind is still working away in the background finding a solution. Higher levels of stress often correlate with overthinking a particular subject, so if you want to make concrete logical connections without even trying – simply move on and it’ll likely come to you.

3. You Can Better Regulate Your Emotions

FACT: Taking breaks before they are needed is the most effective for your health.

A relentless focus on “work” can also mean a neglect of “play.” A work habit such as this, if left unchecked, can lead to reduced productivity, boredom and burnout. Human beings are naturally emotional and must stay self-critical in order to feel a full range of emotions to be healthy and productive. To stay emotionally well, it has been found that pre-emptively taking breaks before they are needed can be an effective method to strike the perfect balance at work. Be proactive and never forget how important “play” is in regulating your mental well-being. 

4. You'll Be Able to Exercise Stronger 'Focus Muscles'

FACT: Taking a short break every couple of hours from a tough work schedule helps us keep in good shape physically, mentally and emotionally, which considerably improves our productivity.

Physically, after strenuous exercise, our bodies need ample rest and balanced nutrition for our muscles to recover and grow stronger and bigger. This rule is no different for us psychologically. After hours of intense concentration on a particular subject, puzzle or problem, we need to give our “focus muscles” enough time to rest and re-cooperate. Think of break-taking as a big scoop of protein for the mind. After taking a break, you might just be giving your mind all the “nutritional” support it needs to stay focused and productive at work.  

Wondering what you can do for a break?

Taking walks, having a chat with a colleague and coffee breaks are the obvious ones – and they’re great. But, if you’re not able to get away from your desk, another great option for a mental break is to switch your focus to a soothing or funny video on your computer screen. Using products like YouTube’s Picture-In-Picture, which is currently in beta testing, or the recently released PowerDVD 18, which includes a mini view feature to play locally sorced videos or stream YouTube videos over those daunting Excel sheets, could help you refocus and take a much needed mental rest at your desk.

So next time you want to take a break, go for it and don’t feel guilty. Know that you are engaging in a healthy habit that can make your productivity at work soar. 

Give Your Small Business an End-of-Year Audit

The end of the year is the perfect time to give your small business a checkup. To set yourself up for a successful 2019, take a look at these 10 areas of your small business, from revenue and expenses to your personal satisfaction as a business owner.

1. Revenue trends

The first and obvious starting point is whether your small business made a profit. If you did, that's excellent. Examine your revenue streams to find out what's working, where you could diversify or expand your offerings and how your customers' needs might change in the coming year. 

If you recently started your business and your expenses are still outstripping your profits, that's not uncommon. Many small businesses take a few years to become profitable. The key metric you'll want to look at is the revenue trend: Is your revenue increasing or decreasing? Are you reaching customers who are willing to spend on what you offer? Are your sales inconsistent or declining? 

If you aren't making a profit and your revenue trends are negative or inconsistent, plan on making changes in the next year. Analyze what you are offering, what customers you want to target and how you are marketing in order to start making a profit from your small business.

2. Marketing successes (and failures)

You should be keeping records of your various marketing streams, including direct advertising, media appearances, email and search engine traffic. This is the time of year to sit down go through those records and discover where you were and were not successful. 

Did you only send out a few emails this year but get a strong response from each one? Then it's time to create a strategic email plan for next year. Did your blog bring reliable search engine traffic to your site? You'll want to continue investing time and resources into it. Did you buy print ads but not see any increase in customer interest? Put your money somewhere else next year. Examine the return on investment for every form of marketing that you use to decide what you need to continue and what you need to change in the coming year. 

And if you discover that your marketing efforts are inconsistent and unproductive, it may be time to return to basics by creating a marketing plan and a target customer profile

Editor's note: Need a marketing service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

3. Website

A strong website is key to having a successful small business. Even if you are running a brick-and-mortar store, your website is where most customers will find information about your business, services and availability. But what makes a website strong at the beginning of the year may not be the same by the time December rolls around. 

Customers expect your website to keep up with advances in design, mobile responsiveness, security and speed. All of these features will require periodic updates to your website design. You'll also need to update your website's content to keep up with changes to your business and services, search engine optimization, competition within your industry and your marketing plan. 

Some years, your website may only need a few small tweaks to content or design. Other years, you may find yourself in need of a full overhaul, especially if customers are bouncing off your website before making a purchase, contacting you for more information or signing up for your email list

If you are unsure what needs to be updated, contact a content writer or web designer that you trust. Most of them will be willing to provide an assessment of your website's strengths and weaknesses for a small fee.

4. Social media

Business social media accounts all come with analytics that go far beyond the number of followers and how many times you were retweeted. These metrics allow you to assess how you are reaching and engaging your audience, as well as converting that audience into customers. 

Set aside time to go through your analytics to assess what is and is not working for your business. You may find that you need to invest more time on a platform that you were previously ignoring, or you may discover that one channel isn't creating any return on investment, and you can stop making so much effort there. 

Use what you find to create a concrete social media plan for the next year rather than trying to spread yourself too thin without understanding the results.

5. Business expenses

You'll need to have all your business expenses recorded, categorized and backed up by receipts and invoices when it's time to file taxes next year (and if some of those expenses are contractors, then you'll need them in January when it's time to send out 1099 forms). But sorting through these expenses before the end of the year doesn't just save you time during tax season. 

When you go through your business expenses, you'll also put together a picture of the results of that spending. Did you pay for advertising that didn't bring in any new customers? Skimp on a website redesign that lowered your website's bounce rate? Was your virtual assistant a good investment that saved you time and improved your productivity? 

As you go through each business expense, analyze the cost and the results. This will let you know where you need to spend more and where you should cut back next year.

6. Employee satisfaction

If your small business has employees, performance reviews are a useful tool for assessing their work and potential for advancement. But you should also use reviews to assess how satisfied employees are with their jobs, management and work environment. 

How employees feel about their work and work environment is a strong barometer of your business' well-being and future success. Employees who are unsatisfied with their career growth or workplace culture are more likely to interact poorly with customers or leave prematurely, both of which can cost your business. 

Ask employees about factors like their career goals, growth within the business, and how well they feel their work has been recognized. Depending on the size of your business and your relationship with your employees, you may find one-on-one reviews more productive, or you may be able to encourage more honesty through anonymous surveys. 

If multiple employees mention problem areas, such as work overload or lack of career growth options, then you likely have structural issues in your small business that need to be addressed in the coming year. Consider what changes you can make that will strengthen your business and keep your employees happy at work.

7. Management and leadership

Poor leadership is one of the top causes of employee burnout, and ineffective management can lead to high employee turnover, an unhealthy work environment, inefficient work, poor professional relationships, and lost revenue. The main cause of poor management is simple: Most managers never receive leadership training

To ensure that your company is functioning at the top level possible, review leadership skills with your management team and find out whether they feel properly equipped to lead their team. If managers – including you – haven't received any formal training, set aside time and resources in the next year to educate them on leadership and team-building skills rather than simply expecting them to learn on the job.

8. Yearly goals

If you did achieve your business goals this year, reward yourself and any employees who were instrumental in making that happen before moving on to setting next year's goals. Rewards are a strong motivator, even if we're giving them to ourselves. If you made partial progress, acknowledge that positively, then assess whether the goals were achievable, or if you should set more realistic objectives for next year. 

If you didn't make progress on your goals over the course of the year, lost track of what you were working toward or didn't have any objectives in the first place, now is a good time to start thinking about what you want to achieve in the next year. Set concrete goals with defined action steps, and choose a method for tracking progress toward those goals. If you aren't sure where to begin, get back to basics with a vision statement to understand the core of your business and what you want to work toward.

9. Learning and growth

To help your business grow, you need to be growing too. The end of the year is an excellent time to pinpoint areas where you need to learn and grow as a business person

From learning another language to taking courses on marketing, studying management to learning how to give an excellent presentation, make a commitment to learning at least one new skill every year. You'll improve your ability to run a successful business, uncover new opportunities and encourage your employees to do the same.

10. Personal satisfaction

Finally, check in with yourself. If you are healthy and happy with the work you are doing, then your business is probably in great shape. But if you are feeling burned out, then regardless of your business's profits or progress, it's time to reassess. 

Take a look at the work you take on, the clients you interact with and your relationship with your employees. Should you delegate more responsibilities? Stop offering a service that leaves you drained and unhappy? Partner with a charity to start making a difference in your community? Consider a rebrand? Get feedback from other business owners? Take an honest look at what parts of your business leave you energized and which ones make you unhappy. 

As an owner, you are the foundation of your small business, and your personal satisfaction, along with your physical and mental well-being, is vital to the health of your company.

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