ON HAND: Costly booths

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

Over $8,000.

That’s how much I’d have to pay as a small business owner for an exhibition booth at each of the various expos and conferences this year alone. With booth rates varying from $350 to $800 for deaf-owned businesses (and not much cheaper for nonprofit agencies), that’s a staggering price.

That doesn’t include airfare, hotel, lodging, and transportation, either. Even if I wanted to go to these conferences and expos only as an attendee, I’d pay regular rates of well over $500, plus airfare, transportation, lodging and meals.

Though the return on such booths and marketing may be high–new clients bring more money–deaf-owned businesses still often can’t go to conferences because of the costs of registration and lodging, not to mention all the other little expenses that add up. Most people don’t exactly want to bunk up with 10 other people sleeping on the floor in order to pay for a week’s worth of rooms.

I certainly understand the ramifications of such high costs. I wonder, though, how we can make these conferences more accessible to small businesses or deaf-run organizations that would really benefit from the events yet can’t afford them. Many conferences and expos do not allow booth sharing, where two businesses or individuals share the cost of one booth. For example, some deaf artists live from paycheck to paycheck, yet these conferences are their main source of making money by selling their art. How can they afford booths if they’re already financially strapped and can’t share their booth with other artists? It’s a Catch-22 situation.

I think it is possible to find cheaper booth rates by using less pricey hotels or locations. For instance, the Intertribal Deaf Council conference rates are amazing. Booths are only $175 to $225, and registration fees are only $75 for members. And the fees include meals, craft materials, and a museum tour. Lodging is between $5 (yes, $5) and $50. Their booths are also in the area of where the workshops will be held, so exhibitors will be able to benefit from the workshops.

Even so, some feel that utilizing cheaper locations may downgrade the professional image or ‘class’ of such events. Others also ask if it’s really the responsibility of organizations and expos to make booths less expensive for small businesses or organizations. Or is the name of the game for business owners to spend money to make money? What about scholarships–is it possible to create a fair process in place to determine who gets financial assistance? Yet, on the other hand, would it be appropriate to give scholarships to people in order to help them make money?

It’s a complicated issue, one that needs to be addressed not only by conference and expo planners, but by deaf-owned businesses, too. After all, aren’t we supposed to be helping each other in the community?

Copyrighted material. This article can not be copied, reproduced, or redistributed without the written consent of the author.

Related posts:

Comments Closed