That notorious time of year has arrived again: it's time for us all to scramble to manage our fall exhibit and events schedules—while simultaneously preparing next year's plan and budget.

We want to help you out as much as we can, so we've asked 3D Exhibits' own Michael Seymour to share some tips and tactics from the "Doing More with Less" educational session he's presented at the annual Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association annual meeting for the past decade.

Here are Michael's Top 7 Tradeshow Program Budgeting Tips

1.Confirm stakeholder expectation. This is your baseline starting point for planning. What does upper management want out of your program? Do they want more exposure, more total bodies, more time with fewer highly qualified bodies? Are you upselling existing clients, appealing to new prospects—or trying to do both at once? And do they have quantitative metrics that will tell them if they've reached their goals? Once you know what you're trying to achieve, you can rough in what sorts of strategies, tactics, demos, marketing and promotions you'll need to make it happen. And from there, you can outline to management how much funding you'll need to accomplish that.

This way, you've created a case for why you need a specific budget. And if you don't get that budget, you've articulated up front the challenges that may prevent you from achieving your targeted goals.

Also be sure to implement a program to measure your program's success. You're going to want hard numbers at the end of the year to either prove you've done your job or to demonstrate that the budget you were given negatively impacted your results.

2.Reach out to your partners for estimates, allowances and recommendations. How much can be achieved with a certain budget? How much additional to create a new technology integration? How would it impact our budget if we do things an entirely different way? Your existing and anticipated supplier partners can help you determine just how far each dollar can go. Sometimes they can even suggest more cost effective alternatives that you might not have thought about otherwise.

3.Anticipate the launch. If you know there's going to be a new product coming out in 2017—especially if the launch will be tied to one of your major trade shows or meetings—now is the time to meet with R&D and the product manager to nail down objectives and expectations. Talk through how the product can best be explained and demonstrated and how they envision the launch. Then, help them understand how much of this your budget can—and can't—support. This reality-check of expectations will force them to either realign their vision to fit with the funds available—or give them incentive to seek additional funds that will enable you to elevate the level and wow of your plan. Either way, you're all on the same page moving into 2017.

4.Ask questions to identify less-obvious costs. For instance, have you taken content creation, equipment rental and internet rental into account? Will the big promotion you're planning require additional labor, shipping, and drayage funds? How will the local rates of the specific cities your events will take place in impact your budget?

5.Look to other budget buckets. Just because you are given a budget of $100,000.00 doesn't mean you only have $100,000 to spend. The trick is to look for other budget buckets that can absorb some of your costs. For instance, can graphics or promotion be moved to another part of the marketing budget? Can exhibit staff T&E come out of the sales budget? If the interactive demo you are creating will be used by the sales people on their iPads, can part of its creation be charged to the product manager's budget or to sales? No one ever said budgeting can't be creative.

6.Manage the production schedule. Take advantage of early show services order discounts. Plan so nothing ends up being air freighted to the show. And most important keep your team on task so decisions are made in time to eliminate overtime graphics and fabrication charges. Missing key dates is the fastest way to blow your budget out big time.

7.Plan around the time it takes your internal team to make decisions. Michael shares the story of a friend who was designing and building a new custom exhibit. "My friend scheduled 60 days for the process of designing and selecting an exhibit and 90-days for detailing, fabrication and shipping. The thing he didn't take into account was the additional 30 days after the exhibit was selected that it took procurement to negotiate the contract details." In reality, the project ended up taking 90 days to design and award—which left only 60 days for detailing and fabrication. This loss of time for fabrication ended up costing the company tens of thousands of dollars in unanticipated overtime charges.

How do you make sure your trade show program budget stays on track?