DID YOU KNOW that in May of 2011, it was actually cheaper to fly a key member of our management team round-trip from Milwaukee to a convention in New Orleans than it was to have a 42” Flat-Screen television pushed on a dolly-cart from the convention center loading dock to the booth space that was approximately 200 yards away? HIDDEN MANDATORY LABOR CHARGE, WOULDN’T YOU SAY!?
I’m not trying to bash conventions, trade shows, or the invaluable participants required when operating every facet of a tradeshow, convention or symposium. However, I am providing vitally important information regarding the attendance of these events. The average entrepreneur or small business owner may not have ever been involved in the financial planning or bill-paying associated with attending events such as the few previously mentioned. 
Do not scan through exhibitor paperwork, set-up regulations, or any other documentation pertaining to the event, exhibiting at said event, or equipment rental. Sometimes it actually isn’t the exhibit space or the tradeshow booth that is the most expensive. Depending on the location, a business can spend more money on mandatory set-up fees, handling charges, delivery expenses, disposal, tape, carpet, etc., than they could ever imagine. Let’s face it, it’s not logical to plan on paying one person $260 to push your T.V. across the room or to get a bill from the venue, as you’re closing up shop, for a $15 roll of tape that their team used to tape your 10’ by 10’ carpet swatch down to the concrete. Oh, and don’t worry, if your thinking, “I’ll just carry my own T.V.!” No you won’t. Because the fine print in your contract, as an exhibitor with the venue, states “If you use the loading docks in back, you have to use their labor force and pay the venue or the contracted labor body’s grossly over-inflated rates that defy all logic, reason or rationale. 
So what’s the answer? When attending shows that allow for some flexibility, try a few simple steps.
Find out if you can carry items for your exhibit space. Quite often, the mandatory labor fees only apply to items that cannot be carried by one person or to items that require the use of the venue’s loading dock. 
Next, research different exhibit tools that can be broken down and carried. There are numerous trade show resources that specialize in lightweight marketing aids such as stands, banners and booth enhancements that come with special carrying cases that can be checked as luggage or brought onboard as carry on. This can save a small business a ton of money over time, especially if the business plans on exhibiting at multiple shows during a year. 
This third piece of advice sort of ties the first two items together. If you decide to ship items to the location ahead of time to avoid the hassle, then simply call your hotel—“Good morning, this is (Your Name) with (Company Name) and I will be arriving on (Date/Time) and I was wondering if I could send a package ahead of time?” They will most likely say, “No problem. We can hold it in our luggage room.” This is extremely helpful because now, even if you splurge for shipping, you can still save on the handling charges found at most venues. Just take your package with you to the exhibit hall and carry it in on your own. Perfect. That move probably just saved you $200-$300. 
In the end, the message is simple. Industry events are often hugely beneficial and can be a great source for leads, relationships and education. However, read over everything and be sure you are comfortable and understand all the terms, fees and guidelines associated with exhibiting at the show in question.