5 Factors That Affect The Price of a Rental Exhibit

November 8, 2022

“You get what you pay for” is an adage we’ve all heard before as it applies to most situations when making purchases.  

However, in the trade show and live events industry, it’s not always so cut and dry.  

Especially in recent times of battling inflation, we’ve all been impacted by some obvious cost increases in fuel and onsite labor. But all of the costs associated with executing a trade show are all over the board depending on the city, venue, and regulations.  

Luckily, with some thoughtful considerations in the exhibit design, event marketers still have some control in either keeping costs minimal or knowing where to prioritize for greater impact.  

The 5 Factors Potentially Driving Costs in Your Rental Exhibit  

To learn more about this we talked with Lance Randall, Chief Growth Officer at Steelhead. After tracking cost trends among Steelhead clients for the past year, here are Lance’s recommendations for things to consider with your exhibit design partner that will impact your trade show budget:  

  1. Booth Density: The amount of exhibit structure in the space has a cascading effect on many cost centers. Typically, more architecture means more graphics to produce. More structure and exhibit accessories cause an increase in shipping and labor, not to mention drayage provided by the official service contractor.

  1. Hanging Signs: Basically, anything that requires rigging can be a sizeable expense, depending on the venue. If you eliminate the hanging sign, the cost goes away completely. Ask your exhibit provider for ideas on how to achieve upper-level signage without incurring rigging costs.  

  1. Video: In today's market, it seems like everyone is doing larger-than-life LED video walls, built into the structures for a seamless video experience. One way to save on budget is to opt for larger, 85-inch, 4k screens that can simply be mounted to walls. As Lance says, “If you look around at any trade show, no one is really standing there watching the entire video. Sure, it’s attention-grabbing, but think of the intention behind the video and ask yourself if you really need all that equipment.”  

  1. Lighting: This is the best way to add drama to any environment, but it comes at a cost. Again, if the lighting is required overhead to illuminate the booth from the ceiling, that comes with a hefty rigging cost. Ask your exhibit designer if lighting can be built into the architecture with less expensive LED tape lights to draw attention to key messaging or product areas.

  1. Labor: The timing of the booth installation and dismantling can make a huge difference in your budget. Can the booth be set on straight time or do we need to account for labor after hours or on the weekends? In Las Vegas, for example, overtime could easily increase costs by 50%. Work with your exhibit provider to come up with a schedule that works best for everyone involved, and for the budget.  

IRL Examples of Varying Exhibit Rentals

To reiterate the points made above, here are three real-life examples of client rental exhibits at Las Vegas shows. These booths range in size from 20x20 — 30x30.  

Example 1: Approximately $80,000

  • Rental: $37,000
  • Flooring/AV/Furniture/Labor/Transportation: $23,000
  • Graphics: $20,000

Example 2: Approximately $122,000

  • Rental: $41,000
  • Flooring/AV/Furniture/Labor/Transportation: $42,000
  • Graphics: $39,000

Example 3: Approximately $129,000

  • Rental: $65,000
  • Flooring/AV/Furniture/Labor/Transportation: $31,000
  • Graphics: $33,000

The #1 Key to a ‘No Surprises’ Budget

One thing to remember as a corporate event planner is that when you have a trusted exhibit partner, you’re not planning events alone. Lance explains that to help reduce sticker shock and perhaps get stakeholders onboard with event costs, it benefits exhibitors to involve their trade show vendors much earlier in the process.  

“When annual trade shows happen in different cities, it doesn’t make sense to expect the same budget as the previous year. A 30x30 space in Las Vegas is a much different cost than a 30x30 space in Philadelphia. We’ve seen rigging costs increase 2-3 times in different cities. Solid exhibit partners have a pulse on driving costs at different venues and can offer suggestions on where to be mindful. It’s never too early to start the conversation so we’re all working with the same information,” says Lance.


Similar to what we’ve seen at the gas pump and in grocery stores, costs have gone up, up, up. And within the trade show industry, not only is it impacted by inflation but there could be a huge variance between cities and venues.  

The right exhibit partner can inform and educate you and your team on what to look out for in driving costs in your rental exhibit. Contact us today to get started on your next event!

November 8, 2022
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