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Budgeting: On a Global Scale

It seems to be the dreaded question for both parties – What is your budget? The variety of answers I have heard to this is amazing. They range from “I don’t have one,” to “We have champagne taste on a beer budget,” to “I have one, but I’m not going to tell you because I don’t want you to use all of it.”

The fact is, whether you are doing a show in the U.S. or across the globe – at the end of the day, there is always a budget to be met. It is your exhibit partner’s job to take that budget and set proper expectations for what you can receive for that budget.

Many times, especially for new global exhibitors, budgets are allocated and they don’t fit the costs for the region. I have seen budgets set way too high because they were budgeting based on the U.S. and budgets set way too low, because they have experience in one part of Asia but not another and assume costs from country to country within the region are the same. In the U.S., we have a few handy rules of thumb for budgeting; for example, a price per square foot. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any proven “price per square meter” rules of thumb for other parts of the world.

My first suggestion is to work with your exhibit partner to figure out what to budget for shows in your schedule during your normal budgeting process. They can take a design and have it ballparked for you for you a year ahead of time if needed. This will give you the best gauge of where your budget number should be based on design expectations. However, if you don’t have the luxury of doing that, below are a few key countries/regions and what you should expect to budget in comparison to a custom build in Las Vegas. Budgeting suggestions below are based on my own experiences utilizing the same design within the given locations.

Western Europe – If you have multiple shows and decide to store your exhibit components with one partner there, as you do in the U.S., then budgeting as you would in the U.S. for the same design should give you a good starting number. While you can usually get a bit more for your money in Europe opposed to the U.S. on the production end of things, if the exhibit is going to move from country to country within Western Europe that lends to larger freight costs (price of gasoline is higher there) and larger I&D costs, as typically the same crew will travel with the exhibit. Furthermore, while the conversion difference between the Euro and the USD is shrinking, the Euro is still stronger than the USD and that means it takes more USD to equal 1 Euro.

Eastern Europe/Russia – Pricing in this region is significantly less than Western Europe and the U.S. I would plan to spend about 30 percent of the price you would pay in the U.S. – turnkey. Therefore, if you have a $100k turnkey budget (services and production – not including booth space, hotel rooms, etc.) plan to spend about $30k in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Asia – Unfortunately, grouping Asia into one large bucket is difficult. Different countries within Asia can very and, as with other regions, quality plays a large factor. You may be able to get the same design, for example in China, at two or three very different costs based on the quality of materials and labor. Asia is all about negotiation. I’m not going to throw out a percentage difference here, because in the end, it is just best for you to work with your exhibit partner and use their expertise based on your expectations to help you budget in Asia.

Australia – Overall, you’ll be safe here if you budget like you are exhibiting in the U.S.

India – Here can be a bit more of a challenge as well. The quality levels vary as they do in other parts of Asia. Again, you can get the same design at a wide range of costs. However, if you were to take a U.S. higher quality exhibit – turnkey – I would expect to pay about 30 percent of the cost, as you would in Eastern Europe and Russia.

South Africa – South Africa has fairly high quality standards – much like Europe, Australia or the U.S. You’ll find your shell scheme just like anywhere, but a custom exhibit is generally done to fairly high standard. The great thing though, is that it is generally done much cheaper than in Europe, Australia or the US. Based on my custom experience, I would say budget about 50 percent of what you would in the U.S.

Latin America – There is a wide variety of pricing in Latin America as well. Whether it’s Argentina, Brazil, Mexico or elsewhere in the region – quality matters, as does location. Using examples from the 2015 spring season, I’ll share a sample of the variety you find. In Brazil, we built a 70 meter squared exhibit that would likely come in around $125k turnkey with some AV and higher end materials, which priced about $80k. Comparatively, in Ecuador, we did a 25 meter squared build with basic materials, but with a high quality level and two monitors which cost only $4k less! Moving to Mexico an 81 meter square booth with the same quality level as Ecuador and basic construction materials priced around $55k.

As you can see – budgeting is complicated anywhere on the globe you end up. Please note, these numbers and percentages should be used as an approximate range for budgeting, considering you are comparing the same exhibit design and size from region to region. These are based on my experiences and have not been statistically proven. As like anything here in the U.S. – numbers can change based on many different variables. Having the appropriate conversations up front with your exhibit partner is key to ensuring proper budgets and budget compliance. Happy budgeting!

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