We have partnered with countless successful companies and executed upon thousands of trade shows. Our line of business allows us to witness trends in the industry and two trends we’re seeing is the increasing costs of trade shows all while the associated timelines are growing shorter. With these two realities working against companies, it is crucial for organizations to plan and prepare ahead of time by building a timeline and budget appropriately, and we’re here to help.

Importance of a timeline

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” and this couldn’t be truer for companies working hard to participate in a trade show event that could launch them into further success within their industry. Unfortunately, companies without a sufficient and known timeline are often rushed and forced to make decisions. Instead of having the time to ask the “why” behind the what, companies are obligated to make decisions more quickly than they’d like – which can be costly to their organization.

Mapping out a timeline for each trade show event will ensure to optimize the company budget. nParallel has found that timelines, in general, are getting shorter. The time to design, engineer, fabricate, and execute is expedited as a result, and companies often find themselves rushing into more expensive decisions.

Creating a timeline

At nParallel, we like to partner with our clients to create a schedule and timeline well in advance of an event. Unforeseen glitches can happen, and so we are firm believers in timelines that offer leeway in the schedule to allow sufficient margin. So, when creating a calendar, make a generous one. We suggest beginning the timeline a year before the event and starting the process with S.M.A.R.T. goals. Companies should discuss their goals and objectives on the front end so they can understand their priorities and be prepared to make decisions in-line with them when the time comes.

Creating a budget

When setting a budget, there are many things to consider. Trade show costs can vary from year to year, especially if there is a show relocation. Right along with the timeline, budgets should be created a year in advance to research and prepare for all the different financial plays a trade show demands.

The biggest area that we see companies forget to add to their budget is drayage. Let us quickly give you a synopsis of this so you can be sure this is in your budget for next year.


Drayage is the transportation of the exhibit. The detailed work it takes to move hundreds of thousands of pounds of freight and material to an event is vast. The proper understanding of what exactly drayage encompasses will help companies get ahead in eliminating unnecessary overhead and reduce trade show costs.


A big part of the drayage cost is in labor. Every step of the process takes workforce. From directing the material-handling process from one place to another to checking shipments as they arrive - there are always people making the process happen. Labor costs associated with drayage are determined based on where shipments are delivered. Surveys have discovered that labor costs are lower when companies ship directly to the show site versus to the advance warehouse.


It goes without saying, but the heavier materials are, the higher the cost will be to handle them. The type of packaging used is also key, as some are cheaper than others because they’re easier to handle and lighter. The kind of transportation carrier used is another reason prices tend to increase. A specialized carrier is going to cost more than a standard carrier.

With 2018 quickly approaching, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’d like to talk through timelines and budgets. The process can be daunting, but our team is always ready to have timeline and budget conversations.