The Exhibitor Cost Equation

February 28, 2023

The cost of booth space is only one factor that exhibitors must consider when reserving space in an exhibit hall. Correlating show services also have a significant  impact on the bottom line – the larger the space, the greater the expense. While a smaller booth space may not be the most productive way to engage the audience or present products and services, reducing space is a guaranteed way to lower costs. In addition, exhibitors must invite their audience to attend and plan engaging experiences inside their booths to achieve a positive business return.

The data from the 2022 Material Handling & Labor Rate Survey clearly demonstrates that exhibitor costs continue to rise. Increases to installation & dismantle labor, electrical labor and material handling rates are outpacing inflation, some by more than 30%.

Key FindingsCapture-Feb-21-2023-03-03-28-5713-PM

  • Overall, there’s been a 29% increase in display, labor, and material handling rates since 2017 which far outpaces increases in prices compared with most other business services.
  • The average installation & dismantle labor rate is $140/hr for straight time and an average of $205/hr for straight time, overtime, and double time combined. Straight time rates range from a low of $100/hr to a high of $235/hr. The highest rates are in the Northeast, Chicago, and California.
  • Electrical labor has the greatest increase at 32% compared with installation & dismantle labor (26%) and material handling (28%).
  • The average electrical labor rate is $132/hr for straight time and an average of $188/hr for straight time, overtime, and double time combined. Straight time rates range from a low of $77/hr to a high of $187/hr.
  • The average material handling rate is $1.88 per pound before event deadlines. An average increase of 10% is recognized when materials are received after event deadlines, increasing to $2.08 per pound.

The Evaluation and Upsides

So when evaluating  the decision to participate in a trade show event look at the costs above and the measurable against all marketing objectives which often include:

• Leads generated
• Booth visitors
• Product demos
• Education sessions attended
• New customers
• Brand awareness
• Customer engagement
• And more

The exhibit hall is like the “playground” for the event. It’s where attendees can test and experiment with new equipment, solve business challenges, and discover new
products, research, and technologies. Thriving exhibit halls are full of memorable experiences – ones that require investment from exhibitors to execute and maintain. The activations that exhibitors deliver in their booths impact the attendee experience and are connected to a successful and sustainable event. It’s more critical than ever to proactively lower costs and incent exhibitors to invest in their show experience.

Guest Blogger:  The Exhibitor Advocate - 2022 Material Handling & Labor Rate Survey - to get your full copy go to:

This important resource will provide show managers, exhibitors, facilities and industry suppliers with a cost comparison of average labor and material handling rates across 16 U.S. cities. We encourage industry stakeholders to utilize the survey to accurately budget for upcoming shows, configure affordable exhibitor packages and more!

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