Trade shows are almost second-to-none in their ability to further participants’ industry know-how and fuel their professional ambitions. These jam-packed events are the perfect place to promote products and services, capture marketplace intelligence, generate leads, and exercise some serious networking skills. It’s no mystery why so many resources go into making sure everything from the exhibit furniture, logoed swag and company-sponsored dinners go off without a hitch.
Thankfully, these expensive endeavors tend to yield a satisfying ROI. According to The 2015 Economic Outlook from Exhibitor, 87% of exhibit and event marketers are confident that their company's trade show programs will achieve increased returns in 2015. And that’s great news for the sales and marketing staff who frequent these events, considering staff travel and lodging accounts for 16% of their total trade show budget, second only to exhibit space.
Here are some tips to help trade show travelers enjoy a successful event—and submit even more successful expense reports that keep them on budget, reduce the potential for errors and get routed for reimbursement before the employees start planning their next trip:
Before the ShowTake an opportunity to set expectations with every employee attending the event. It’s important for travelers to know ahead of time what qualifies for expensing—and what doesn’t.
- Know what meals are covered, how many clients/prospects can be treated to dinner, whether or not one or two cocktails can be included in their per-diem, etc.
- Hash out who’s paying for what (e.g. senior-level employee handles dining charges, marketing rep picks up extra candy for the booth) to head-off duplicate expenses and take the guesswork out of simple transactions.
- Learn how to create an expense report—or better yet, get one started for the trip—so it’s easy to log entries along the way and meet the submission deadline.
During the ShowBetween the sessions, meet-and-greets, product demos and dinners, trade shows can be a tireless flurry of activity—it’s easy to miss details. Staying organized helps keep everyone on top of expenses along the way.
- Keep receipts in one spot, like an envelope or briefcase pocket—or better yet, snap a picture of each receipt after payment so it can be easily inserted into an expense report.
- Streamline payment methods: use the corporate credit card for most transactions and avoid cash that can be hard to keep track of.
- Review expenses daily to stay mindful of budget targets and catch any miscalculations that can come as a result of multi-tasking.
After the ShowSaying good-bye, packing up, shipping out…it’s finally time for the weary trade show traveler to decompress and head back to the office. But not so fast—there are a few things left to do!
- Carefully review receipts from show vendors—hotel charges, booth utility services, shipping, etc.—and address questions then and there, in person, while issues are still fresh and top of mind.
- Sort out all expense-related paperwork and put it in your carry-on luggage.
- Have downtime at the airport while waiting for your flight home? Get those receipts and knock out the expense report. With an intuitive expenses app, you can even create and edit your expense report while killing time on a Wi-Fi-free flight; submit your expenses at the tap of a button when you land!