Location matters in real estate, restaurants, retail, advertising, SEO, on the trade show floor and just about everywhere else, especially in marketing. One area we deal with in particular where there are very specific pros and cons to location is the location of the show itself. Here we’ll touch on the obvious pros, but delve a little deeper on the cons and the potential pitfalls to be aware of.
The location of a trade show can have its benefits. You might get a city with excellent food like New York or Chicago, a city with good weather to get outside like Miami or San Diego, or a city like Las Vegas full of extracurriculars. Sometimes you might just be intrigued by a location that’s driveable or just a quick flight. You could also enjoy an international trip, all expenses paid. Exploring a city and bringing coworkers and clients into a new local culture together is part of the fun of being involved in this industry. Take advantage of not being trapped within the same four walls like so many of our office-mates.
Yes, there’s plenty to enjoy about seeing the world on the company dime, for sure. Do not let yourself be blindsided though, by what different location cities can mean for a trade show, and specifically the budget. Even going to the same trade show put on by the same show organizer and using the same show decorator, a new city changes everything.
Local Unions and Regulations
This can be major. In northeastern cities like Boston, Philly and New York you will exponentially more for labor (and everything really) compared to cities like Orlando or Las Vegas. With stricter labor unions, you’ll also have to be hands-off throughout installation and dismantlement. I’ve personally been on site and waited hours for someone to come plug in a TV for me, and if I would have done it they still would have come, charged us for it and we would be out of luck for any future favors. Try to either budget for the extra time and money required, or reconfigure a simpler setup for these locations.
Shipping and Material Handling
We have clients that have their shows move from coast to coast year to year. Great strategy to capture different attendees, but will double the cost to ship your assets to shows. It will also increase time.
Material handling/drayage rates will also vary city to city, be cognizant of this when budgeting.
Traveling internationally is great, it means your business is growing and tapping into emerging markets. Shipping your US assets out of the country though can lead to nightmares. We’ve had clients whose booth properties got hung up in customs long enough to miss a show, and we’ve had clients have them disappear in South America and never reemerge.
Plan to pay to have your booth built locally if you’re going international. If not that, bring a display portable enough to travel along with you in the plane so you can keep it in sight.
Hawaii is the exotic American vacation destination. They already live on tourism, why not capture business travel with trade shows right? Well, that dramatically increases all costs across the board from flights to shipping. Be minimalist with staff and booth properties there. Anticipate things like this in the contiguous Unites States as well. Las Vegas has cheap flights and hotels, but expensive meals and entertainment. Orlando seems to be fairly cost effective all-around. Do a little research to best plan staff, booth properties and local client engagements.
Hotels and resorts serve as great getaways for smaller conferences. These are part vacation, part educational seminar a lot of times. Of course supported by a small vendor fair to allow meet and greats and marketing during breakouts. Be creative, but avoid extensive exhibit structures. Logistically you don’t always have a shipping dock, and if you do, you may not have an elevator or any way to bring the booth to the ballroom or vendor event area. We have gone to a hotel and carried a couple of crates worth of exhibit properties up piece by piece to do a lengthy setup for a not lengthy show.
Make the most of whatever location you end up with, plan for potential budget and logistical pitfalls, plan some fun in as well! Work with vendors to help identify potential problem areas, and balance that by finding someone who can let you know the ins-and-outs of what unique offsite options are around.