What’s the most effective way to be thoughtful with marketing event budgets in emerging times? The answers may surprise you.

Spring is in the air, airports are busy again, and it feels like the world is waking up from a year’s long nap. Across the globe, the trade show industry is abuzz with shows gradually starting to open. Exhibit managers are back to work with physical-distancing spaces in mind. There’s the sound of forklifts at convention centers again while your LinkedIn feed is filled with happy and relieved industry professionals “back at it” once again.

Finally, we’re all slowly and safely coming back to what we love to do — planning and executing memorable face-to-face marketing events!

Along with the unfurling of the trade show and live events industry, there is also an air of caution. This certainly isn’t a surprise. We’re collectively emerging from a global pandemic that still maintains a level of uncertainty. Public and personal health and safety remain a huge concern that everyone is trying to navigate. Caution is a necessity in moving forward.

However, when it comes to caution for brands exhibiting at trade shows, one glaring trend happening right now is that brands are reducing their show floor presence by opting for a smaller booth space size. It makes sense to a certain point — a lot of companies right now are bouncing back and restrategizing all of their processes, operations, and marketing on a tighter budget and with reduced staff. They don’t necessarily want the risk of “going big” when situations are still very subject to change and trade show attendance is unpredictable.

While these conservative strategies are understandable, it’s important to ask: As marketing events are opening up again, is now the time to go smaller? Is smaller really safer?

Maybe our answer is a surprise to you, but we say NO!

Here’s why.

The issue with this strategy of reducing booth size is two-fold. Let’s first consider the initial motivation for the exhibitor: to save money. In order to save money on space, there is only one option — take less of it.  

What’s often overlooked is that exhibitors can (and should!) actually keep their usual footprint, or even increase it, and still conserve funds on the event. How? The most significant way to save money at a trade show is to simplify the exhibit. Less architecture leads to less booth density.

Less Architecture = More Savings

If exhibitors take less structure, look at the compound effect of cost savings:

  • Lower transportation costs
  • Lower drayage costs
  • Lower labor costs
  • Lower electrical costs
  • Lower graphics costs
  • Lower A/V costs

More Space is Still Needed

The second issue with the strategy of reducing booth space is that it’s completely counter to what attendees and booth staff are going to want and even expect — more space. Physical distancing is a concept most had never even heard of a year ago and now it is top of mind. Hear more from Sean Combs, President & CEO of Steelhead Productions,

"This is where I see the biggest opportunity for our customers. We can create environments that are impactful and spacious by employing less density of exhibit structure, making for confident and safe experiences for the staff and attendees. Keeping, or dare we say, increasing booth sizes could have other benefits as well. First is the appearance of a greater brand presence. Also, most shows use a point system for booth selection in the following years, so maintaining space or increasing it positions the brand to have priority in this process."

At Steelhead, we totally appreciate the need to be cautious with budgets and overall spending as we dip our toes into the convention centers this year. That’s why our team has been working diligently on methods to help brands exhibit effectively and impactfully in this new climate.

If you have questions about maximizing your marketing event strategy, we encourage you to reach out to one of our brand reps for a brief discovery call.

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