Attending Trade Shows On A Budget

Have you attended a show this year? I’ve attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Search Engine Strategies, and ad:Tech this year. (I was too busy to attend SMX, but maybe next year)

Next month, I hope to make it out to Chicago for the Internet Retailers Conference & Exhibition conference (IRCE). And in the fall, I’m heading out to Vegas for Blog World Expo.

These are all great shows – I learn a lot from the sessions, network with some GREAT people, and meet vendors and exhibitors that can help me take my businesses to the next level. And let’s not forget the crazy parties, great locations (I’ll never get tired of Vegas!), and eye candy galore!

The problem? MONEY! There’s the cost of the shows themselves, but there’s also the cost to get there, your hotel accomodations, meals, etc. But don’t let that stop you from attending! There are ways to attend these shows on a budget, and get the most bang for your buck!


Getting There

Airfare is getting more and more expensive, thanks to the ever-rising fuel costs. Here are two ways to fly for free (or close to it).

1) Sign up for a Southwest Airlines credit card. They’re currently doing a promo where you get a free roundtrip airline ticket after your first use! Only catch? You have to pay a $59 annual fee. Big deal – Where else can you fly roundtrip for $59?!

2) Sign up for the American Express Business Gold Card, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. This requires a bit more work, as you need to charge at least $1000 on the card before you get the full 25K Membership Rewards points, but on the flip side, it doesn’t cost you ANYTHING for the first year!

Accomodations

Hotels aren’t cheap.. Attend a conference in NYC, and you’ll spend between $300-400 a night! 4-day conference, and you’re on the hook for $1200+. Because of this, I use my Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. This card ROCKS!

Here’s how it works – You sign up for the card, and they’ll give you 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase. That’s enough for up to 3 free nights at a Cat 1 or Cat 2 hotel! (In addition, they waive the $45 annual fee for the first year) Then you’ll earn 1 point for every $1 spent. They’ve also got bonus points awarded to you when you reach certain spending thresholds.

Here’s why I like it. If I spent $25K on a regular frequent-flyer credit card, I get enough miles for a free airline ticket. Approximate value – $300-$400. If I spend $25K on the Starwood, I get at least 25K Starpoints (more if I qualify for any bonus promos they’re running). 25K Starpoints = 7 nights at a hotel! 7 nights at a Starwood property would cost you more than $1400!

What’s also nice is that after you acquire 30K points, you get upgraded to Gold Preferred. All of a sudden, you’re getting free upgrades to MUCH nicer rooms, complementary wine, chocolates and candies, extra late checkout, and a bunch of other perks!

Meals

I rarely pay for anything when I’m at a conference. Lunch is usually provided, and an affiliate manager or other big-wig will usually pick up the tab for dinner. 🙂

Admission

So all you’re left with now is the cost of attending the show. There are usually discounts for early registration, group affiliations, etc. Some bloggers contests even give away free passes that were given to them in order to drum up attention to the event!

Another angle to consider – Are you with the press? CES considered bloggers part of the press (though after the stunt Gizmodo pulled this year, who knows where bloggers stand in their eyes), and many people scored press passes! Qualifications for press credentials vary from show to show, but if you’ve got a legitimate reason to request access, you may just luck out.

Good luck, and I hope this helps!


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