Attending trade shows can be huge for business, but getting in the door can sometimes be tricky. If you’d like to attend that big-time trade show but can’t figure out how to make the numbers work for your small business, it might help to look outside your personal checkbook. Here are 7 ideas for affording a big trade show on a small budget.

  1. Crowdfunding

    All the rage these days, crowdfunding is usually used to raise startup capital or launch a new initiative, but why not appeal to the masses for your trade show entrance fees? Get the word out so your fans can support you.

  2. Individual Development Account Grants

    When you’re just starting a small business, it might be a good idea to invest in an Individual Development Account. If you are accepted into the program, the cash you set aside toward a big business expense (such as a trade show) will be matched, significantly minimizing the cost outlay.

  3. Consider a Used Trade Show Display

    Of course, gaining entrance into the trade show is only one factor that needs to be considered. Even if you are able to negotiate a discoun on the entry fee or partner with another company, you need to have the right kind of trade show display and boards. Purchasing a  used trade show display does not mean that you are stuck with a generic representation of your business, though. In fact, purchasing them from the right company provides a vibrant, affordable, expansive and stunning method of highlighting your company.

  4. The United Inventors Association

    This non-profit helps inventors get on their feet by supporting their entry to five trade shows across the country, then even helps introduce them to buyers and other notables once at the trade fair.

  5. State Government Grants

    Many states have assistance programs targeted toward small businesses that need help affording trade show entrance fees. Do your research to find out what state resources or grants are available to you, and then prevail upon them.

  6. Negotiated Discounts

    If you really want to attend a trade show but haven’t managed to make the math work, consider some wheeling and dealing. Perhaps you could host a panel that will help pay your way in return for your services, or you could partner up with an organization that supports your business.

Once you do get your foot in the door of that trade show, of course, it’s time to wow. You’re there to impress distributors, buyers and potential partners, so you have to bring your A-game. Prep your swag ahead of time, bring your best employees and speakers to show off what you do, and plan a stunning backdrop with the help of a company such as Infinity Exhibits, which offers a range of affordable exhibit options.

First impressions are everything, so make sure that once you’re at that big-time trade show, you make the most of the opportunity.


About the Author: Carlos A. Espitia is a marketing & business consultant with Infinity Exhibits and the self-proclaimed “Chief Human” at CAE Marketing & Consulting. He is a 15-year marketing expert, high-performance driving instructor, founder of Omega Delta Sigma, former U.S. Marine, and University of Florida alumni.

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