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The Latest and Greatest Exhibit Concepts, Inc. News

Exhibit Concepts

How to Justify Your Trade Show Spend

Exhibit Concepts February 15, 2019

When it comes to marketing expenditures, trade shows are often the biggest line item in the budget. This means that justifying their cost and gathering data to prove their success is incredibly important to your overall marketing efforts. While it’s easy to think that a trade show can be difficult to justify, there are several important pieces of information to gather to justify this major expenditure to your boss or upper management. And, sometimes it’s not just about justifying the spend, but many executives disproportionately emphasize and focus on digital marketing and social media. These are certainly important tools but cannot replace face to face interactions.

Create a Golden Thread

A cohesive, connected brand message is crucial to communicating with customers and prospects. There are millions of messages bombarding us and vying for our attention, making it all the more important to create a connected, consistent message. Consider the pre, during, and post show experience for your audience: each serves as a touch point to communicate your unique offering. From advertising and sponsorship opportunities to signage and collateral, everything adds up to making a connection. Those connections lead to a positive association with your brand and ultimately, customers buying what you’re selling.

Collect Real-Time Data

Technology is a game changer for events like trade shows. This means it is easier than ever to collect and analyze your attendee’s behavior before, during, and after the show. Not only can this shape your strategy for the event itself, but it can help you when it’s time to qualify leads, improve your lead generation, and even lead to a better overall marketing strategy for your company. If your event has an app, consider using it to gauge social activity like the use of hashtags, check-ins, and much more. Social engagement isn’t easily related to ROI, but it will help you understand what is or isn’t working with your strategy—and how you can fix it mid-show or next time around.

Make the Connection

The best way to justify event/trade show spend is to tie it back to company revenue. While this can get murky with events, it’s not impossible. Gathering lead data at the show will help tie customers and prospects back to marketing efforts with a marketing automation platform. This means that hot lead gathered at the event can be tied back to an existing lead that could have been gathered through marketing efforts. This will help show the customer journey—and how a trade show helped to seal the deal by meeting that hot prospect face to face.

Face to Face Still Works

Do you know what’s missing from other marketing channels? A live human connection. While getting the word out to your customers about your brand is important, putting a face to the brand is crucial. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 90% of expo attendees have not met face-to-face with any companies exhibiting at the show in the 12 months prior to the event. That makes your next trade show the “final frontier” in terms of marketing.

Best of all, a trade show gathers your target audience in one place, meaning your sales reps aren’t going out to shake the bushes for clients: the business comes straight to you at a trade show.

While it’s easy to think that a trade show is a difficult to measure, expensive proposition, it’s quite the opposite. Trade shows are among the highest touch, highest value marketing channels in existence. Trade shows cover all aspects of marketing, made even more powerful by the human, experiential element that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Play the Comparison Game

There are a variety of marketing tactics that can be used to generate leads. However, it’s important to think about both the time and money involved in closing those leads. According to CEIR, exhibition leads are less expensive and require less time, on average. In their study, “The Cost Effectiveness of Exhibition Participation: Part I and Part II,” meeting a prospect at a trade show versus in the field saves $943 per prospect. A field-sales lead requires more legwork, like identifying the prospect and a series of phone calls. Finding a meeting the prospect at an exhibition saves both time and money in the long run. For more statistics on the value of exhibitions, EXHIBITOR Magazine has a great article.

So the next time your boss asks about your trade show presence, you’ll know just what to say.

Trade Show Planning & Partners: The World Fuel Story

Exhibit Concepts February 12, 2019

When it comes to trade shows, set up can be an intense (and stressful!) experience. Like so many other things in life, creating a strong plan and bringing in good partners is the key to a successful trade show experience. No one knows that better than World Fuel Services, who recently attended the 2018 National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Orlando.

Each year, NBAA-BACE plays host to over 23,000 attendees from across the globe, making it the largest business aviation event in the world.

 

In order to achieve their goals, World Fuel Services (WFS) secured a 50’ – x 150’ space near the entrance to the show hall. The space featured a unique and very large overhead sign, a large deck structure for VIP meetings, custom carpet inlays and a variety of spaces to accommodate creative hospitality. This required an 8-day build plan with daily milestones from pre-rigging through the show’s start. With a structure this large, there are many moving parts and people involved. Set-up took 500 hours and teardown took another 300 hours. But architecture alone does not create an experience. It was the ultimate marriage of form and function, with a large hanging sign spanning the booth, and 24 small meeting areas for Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) throughout.

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It was important for WFS to have spaces for FBOs to conduct business, in addition to several other events and engagements. A touchscreen globe gave visitors the chance to understand WFS’ reach around the world. However, it wasn’t all business. WFS gave away highly coveted items throughout the show, including bottles of champagne, headphones, and designer sunglasses.

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There was no shortage of entertainment and hospitality either: a magician entertained visitors with slights of hands, while several bands performed alongside an open bar and heavy appetizers. While there were many moving parts, events, and engagements happening, that solid plan and strong partners ensured it was a successful event for all involved.

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Brukner Nature Center Named Best of Ohio

Exhibit Concepts January 30, 2019

Brukner Nature Center in Troy, Ohio received honors in this year's Ohio Magazine - Best of Ohio. A reader’s poll surveyed Ohioans to vote for their favorites throughout the state and Brukner won for Best Nature Center.

Exhibit Concepts has had a long-standing relationship with Brukner beginning with the design and fabrication of exhibits, wildlife habitats, graphics, and interactive components of the center’s downstairs area in 2011 and continuing with renovations to the main level in 2016. In regard to the award Deb Oexmann, Executive Director, stated “the beautiful renovations had a lot to do with that.”

We were delighted to design spaces that showcase the amazing insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, and plant life that are found in the preserve and congratulate Brukner Nature Center for receiving this honor.

Trade Show Trends from CES 2019

Exhibit Concepts January 22, 2019

When it comes to trade shows, none are larger, busier or more captivating than the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Not only is CES the gold standard for product showcases and unique engagement, it’s a fascinating look at the future of technology. From self-driving Lyft cars to bladeless helicopters, there were no shortage of futuristic innovations to witness at CES 2019.

The ECI team was on the show floor to support our clients including Omron and Wireless Power Consortium and to also take in the sights, sounds, and jaw dropping tech showcased by some of the largest technology companies in the world.

As we walked the show floor, we were wowed not just by the technology, but by the unique ways exhibitors worked to stand out from the crowd and draw visitors in. The show is all about tech, but everywhere we looked exhibitors brought in fresh, unexpected elements to humanize and elevate their technology offerings.

Here are some of the trends we saw on the show floor at CES this year.

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The Human Element

CES is a technology show, but it’s really about the marriage between humans and the technology that works to improve our lives. This year, we saw CES booths incorporate humans more than ever—and it made for a fun, engaging experience at every turn. Some of our favorites were the booths that had a DJ, spinning tunes and showcasing products like headphones or speakers. Exhibitors like Omron, SONY, and Intel brought in the human element in a variety of ways. Omron grabbed the crowd’s attention with a product specialist perched on a spotlighted, second-floor podium who described the robotic demonstrations taking place below. Intel and SONY had presenters on the floor, speaking to small groups about products and their benefits. SONY even took things further with an acrobatic artist suspended from the ceiling, while another company featured a woman performing tricks with a soccer ball that could be viewed in person or on a large corresponding video screen.

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The Throwback

Just like the trend we believe will be big in trade shows for 2019 many CES spaces proved that what’s old is new again. Walking the show floor means seeing display after display of cutting-edge technology, but brands like Victrola stood out from the masses. The brand featured over 49 new record players that not only played vinyl, but had Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player and AM/FM radio. The center of the SONY booth was set up like a record store with light wood displays, records by SONY artists to flip through, and a phone with Bluetooth headphones to listen to tunes. While visitors perhaps didn’t plan to listen to records at CES, they were lined up to take in the experience. One booth was filled with games like PONG and skee-ball, attracting crowds of kids at heart to play their favorite childhood arcade games.

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Listen, Look, and Feel

Some of the most meaningful, memorable experiences are those that involve the senses in some way. That doesn’t mean involving all the senses at once, but rather finding a way to evoke emotion or encourage action. The Victrola space we mentioned earlier was covered in a vinyl fabric that made it look like it was constructed of painted white brick. Still others mimicked concrete or were made of real wood, making them surfaces you couldn’t help but touch. One of our favorite experiences were sculptural elements throughout the show that incorporated light and or fabric to create a beautiful statement piece that hung from the ceiling. This was a great way to use the entire exhibit booth space—and encourage visitors to look up which provided a beautiful relief from the many visuals vying for their attention down on the show floor.

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Instagram-Worthy Moments

There are plenty of elements that are begging to be photographed or recorded at CES. Everywhere we turned, visitors had their cell phones out to take a picture or record a video to share on social media or even with co-workers when they returned home. But the brands that really stood out were those who created vignettes that were tailor made for the image-driven Instagram platform. One of the best (and brightest!) examples was in the Nikon booth, where there were three colorful photo setups featuring a pool filled with rubber ducks, for example. Other great examples were brands who created home environments: booths that looked like a bedroom or family room—and one booth that was built to look like a house.

While the emerging technology is a big draw for attending CES, it was the unique ways to tell stories and relay information that really stood out on the show floor.

ECI Leaders Speaking at EXHIBITORLIVE 2019

Exhibit Concepts January 16, 2019

Each year, trade show and corporate event marketing professionals from all over the world converge in Las Vegas, Nevada. These talented planners, productivity masters, and face-to-face marketing experts come together for EXHIBITORLIVE. This event is where they network, walk the show floor to see the latest and greatest offerings from exhibit houses and spend time in the classroom honing their skills.

The Exhibit Concepts team also converges upon Vegas, with our staff manning the company’s booth (1001!) and spending their time in the classroom, too. Members of our leadership team will be on hand to meet with visitors in a one on one setting during show hours.

Want to schedule a meeting? Click HERE.

Want a FREE Fast Pass to walk the show floor? We are giving them away! Click HERE to get yours; use code 4085.

While several ECI employees will be students, three of our leaders will be teachers. These talented, experienced leaders have some captivating topics to share with attendees.

Ellen Campbell-Kaminski, our VP of Sales and Marketing, will be leading two sessions at EXHIBITORLIVE:

T362 Humanize Your Target Audience with Attendee Personas

This session is on Tuesday, February 26 at 10:00 AM. This session will help attendees learn how to craft attendee personas to help improve the results of their next event. Those attending will learn to target their ideal audience, create robust attendee personas for their next event, and apply personas to an event strategy and broader marketing plan.


T348 Sales and Marketing Alignment: How to Get-and Stay- on the Same Page

This session is on Tuesday, February 26 at 3:45 PM. Alignment between sales and marketing is critical to optimizing business results, but many organizations struggle to achieve said alignment. This session covers strategies to get everyone on the same page by recognizing where misalignment is happening and finding ways to focus on objectives, strategies, and priorities.

Kelli Glasser, our President and CEO is teaching one session:

M445 The Un-micromanager: Let Your Leaders Lead

This session is on Monday, February 25 at 8:00 AM. Whether you report to a micromanager or display those tendencies yourself, this is the session for you. Attendees will learn how the non-micromanager, who doesn’t hover over people or dictate tasks, gets better team and organizational results, improves productivity and engagement, and reduces everyone’s stress level.

Jeff Hannah, our VP of Creative, International, & Interiors, is teaching four sessions:

W510 A Trip Around the World: Must-Knows for Global Exhibiting

This session is on Wednesday, February 27 at 8:00 AM. This fast and fun trip around the world will help attendees discover fascinating insights into seven major world destinations. Attendees will improve their working knowledge and increase confidence in handling shows and events in Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, and Sao Paulo, to name a few.


W512 Traveling Abroad: Important Do’s and Don’ts

This session is on Wednesday, February 27 at 10:00 AM. Whether you manage your own travel or that of your team, there are important do’s and don’ts to know about traveling abroad. This knowledge will help attendees stay safe, save money, and avoid typical scams while traveling overseas.


R505 Global Frameworks: Marketing from the Context of Culture – Part I

This session is on Thursday, February 28 at 8:00 AM. Understanding culture is key to creating a successful international trade show program, while neglecting nuances in cross-cultural business can damage business relationships. Attendees will learn to see things from a totally different perspective by recognizing that all business is conducted within the context of culture.


R506 Global Frameworks: Marketing from the Context of Culture – Part II

This session is on Thursday, February 28 at 10:00 AM. This is a continuation of the previous session, exploring cultural profiles of China, Mexico, Germany, and the UAE. Attendees will also learn more about verbal and non-verbal communications, morality, relationships, and protocol.

So, whether you plan to walk the exhibit hall or expand your knowledge in the classroom, we’ll see you in Vegas!

Top 5 Trade Show Trends for 2019

Exhibit Concepts December 27, 2018

The new year is right around the corner, and with it brings new opportunities to make a big impression on the trade show floor. We believe 2019 will be a year of marrying human interaction with unique technology to create an experience attendees will remember long after they’ve left the show floor.

Want a look back at last year’s trade show trends? Here are our Top 5 Trade Show Trends for 2018 and Trends from the Show Floor at CES 2018.

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TREND ONE: NOSTALGIC ENGAGEMENT

Technology has transformed the way we live our lives, but one thing remains the same: everyone loves a chance to win. “Throwback” games like Plinko and nostalgia-inducing sounds like the click of a prize wheel can capture the attention and hearts of attendees even without a digital component. Look for ice breaker games like these to make their way to the show floor, along with a long line of hopeful prize winners in 2019. These engagements are entertaining and captivating, and appeal to the child in every attendee, all without a tech portion—making it as affordable for exhibitors as it is fun for the attendee.

TIP: Look for ways to incorporate your message into this engagement, whether it’s product focused or educational. Creating a unique spin (no pun intended!) on nostalgic engagement will reinforce your value proposition while giving visitors the chance to let their hair down and have some fun.

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TREND TWO: CUSTOMER-FOCUSED DESIGN

You only get one chance to make a first impression, which means you need to find a way to appeal to customer’s emotions and needs on the show floor. Gone are the days of drawing a crowd with loud music or a flashy booth design that just turns heads. For companies who wish to stay competitive in 2019, it’s all about understanding your customers. Don’t start with kiosks and demo stations. Instead, start with the ideal customer in mind. Why are they attending the show? What do they already know about your product or service? What do you want them to do, think, or know after they stop in your booth? Design with the answers to those questions in mind to appeal to customers and prospects.

That means knowing their pain points while also understanding your own goals and using them as your north star when designing a trade show space. Every aspect of the design should have a purpose and serve to reinforce your message, which is centered around serving your ideal customer. A booth is no longer a booth: it’s an experience for everyone who walks by or steps foot inside, and it is best executed by a design that has the customer in mind every step of the way. 

TIP: The best way to understand who your customer is and how you can help solve their problems is with buyer personas. This crucial information not only helps you create a plan to appeal to your customers (both current and potential) but it should play a starring role in the planning process as you prepare for your next show. Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes is a great way to ensure your message is received by the right people.

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TREND THREE:  AUTHENTIC BOOTH STAFF

In a world where we are glued to our phones and many of our social media “friends” are people we haven’t seen in decades, face to face conversation still matters. In fact, it matters more than ever. At its core, a trade show is about human interaction and making connections. This is why it is critical to not just staff your booth with humans, but with the right humans. We believe 2019 will reinforce the incredible value of human interaction to not just make an impression but build a lasting relationship. Staffing your booth with people who are not afraid of conversation and are able to answer questions is incredibly valuable, as is the presence of executives to reinforce you company’s commitment to your trade show investment.

TIP: For your next trade show, think outside the box for booth staff. Could members of departments other than sales tell your company’s story in a unique way? You probably need to have sales people on the show floor to make a connection for future relationships. But consider inviting other individuals across the company with deep knowledge and expertise such as software developers, research analysts or customer service to work the show. A passionate team member with a different perspective just might be the best way to make that lasting connection with a customer. In many cases, those who are the makers have the best answers because of their deep working knowledge (and passion!) of your product or service.

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TREND FOUR: LIVE DEMONSTRATION

When it comes to walking the show floor, trade show attendees are faced with sensory overload, which can lead to a diminished attention span. While scientists can’t agree on how long our attention spans are (some say goldfish pay attention longer than humans), they seem to be growing shorter every day. A great way to stand out from the crowd is to facilitate the learning experience for them. Remember why people come to a trade show. They want to see, touch, and experience the product. They want to ask very specific questions relevant to their situation. They want to get to know the people that they might be doing business with. In a nutshell, the experience and information have to be different and deeper than what they can find on your website. We believe showing and teaching in real time, alongside digital content, will be big in 2019. This means delivering information your customer needs to know in the most relevant, impactful, and meaningful way. Think of it as a guided tour of your offerings, with the end goal of facilitating learning.

TIP: Decide whether demonstrations are better in a group (theater) setting or as a more personal one on one. If you are doing a theater presentation, consider how frequently you will present and how long people will be comfortable watching and listening. Also, think through acoustics and how you will “advertise” the presentations. Presentation training will be critical – if you are using employees – as they need to be comfortable speaking to an audience and may need assistance drawing people in. If you use a professional presenter, you need to get her up to speed on your product so that they come across as knowledgeable. But also have subject matter experts ready to handle the tough questions. Or, go through in-depth training with booth staff to ensure they thoroughly understand the product, your customers, and how to best communicate your unique solution to your buyers. Look for booth staff that have the heart of a teacher: they can deliver a message in a clear, easy to understand way, and are able to successfully facilitate the learning experience for everyone they meet.

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TREND FIVE: HARNESSING THE POWER OF DATA

Gathering and analyzing the data and analytics on your booth attendees is nothing new. But, the power of data can lead to a unique perspective for 2019. Not only can data help you understand behavior, it can drive deeper, more meaningful engagement and help you design a richer experience for visitors. Our digital-driven world means the data is out there: and this is the year of taking the time to truly understand it.  When looking at the results of your show, try analyzing what’s missing.

Who is missing from your booth?

What segment of your targeted audience just doesn’t show up or engage?

Then, think about other ways to reach them, whether it’s through a different show, a new venue, or even an off-site event.

It’s no secret that justifying your spend and tracking ROI is a crucial element of any marketing plan. In 2019, we see an increasing emphasis placed on data surrounding return on objectives (ROO). Ask questions like: Are we moving the awareness needle? Do customers understand why our product is better? Do they have a favorable impression of our brand and company?

More than anything, it’s important to focus on the value of gathering deeper data. This typically means information on things like the number of visitors and peak hours for traffic. But, it should also include demographics of visitors, the questions they ask, what they know about your product and what they consider to be comparable alternatives. Let 2019 be the year of considering your trade show presence as an opportunity to gather deep market research—the more you know, the better your plan.

TIP: Collecting data should be meaningful and provide a deep dive, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Don’t grill every visitor with a list of questions. Instead, consider a simple data collection tool that makes it easy for booth staff to record insights during their interaction with a booth visitor after the conversation is over.

2019 promises to bring all sorts of changes and advancements in face-to-face marketing, but we’re most excited to observe the happy intersection of people and technology.

Mound Cold War Discovery Center

Exhibit Concepts December 21, 2018

During the Cold War, the Mound Laboratory, a classified facility in Miamisburg, Ohio was home to The Dayton Project, a division of the top-secret Manhattan Project.

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At peak operation, the Mound employed approximately 2,500 people and occupied 116 buildings. The museum tells the story of the people, sworn to secrecy, who dedicated themselves to the work that revolutionized the Cold War, the Nuclear Age and the history of the Space Race.

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This history is brought to life with colorful graphics, interesting artifacts and hands on interactives that educate visitors on the science behind radiation, cold war espionage, and radioactivity.

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Exhibit Concepts was proud to collaborate with Dayton History, the Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management, and the Mound Science and Energy Museum Association to imagine, design and fabricate exhibits that honor the employees and the important work that was once shrouded in secret within the Mound Laboratory.

This project continues a long-standing partnership with Dayton History where we have worked on several projects for over 15 years. The story of the Wright Brothers National Museum being the most recent. See the story in the link above.

How to Effectively Light Up at Trade Show Booth

Exhibit Concepts December 07, 2018

It was the great William Shakespeare in the play As You Like It who began a famous monologue by saying, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” A visit to a local theater for any sort of production will involve just that: a production. From the music to the actors the lighting, it’s quite the undertaking. Each of these elements is carefully selected to create the ideal environment. However, it also involves a big budget.

When it comes to lighting your trade show booth, there is also a budget involved: one that needs to cover more elements than just lights. This is why it’s so important to think about the context and environment in which your booth will be standing in order to find the best focal point and lighting type.

TYPES OF LIGHTS

There are a variety of ways to incorporate lighting into a trade show booth, but some of the most popular options include:

Accent: As the name suggests, this is simply a way to complement the booth architecture, reinforce brand colors or simply to improve the overall look of the booth. Accent lighting isn’t the start attraction per se, but it does play a great supporting role in the booth by defining spaces or back lighting areas to spotlight features like shelving or a welcome desk.

Product: If your booth includes product displays, it’s important to draw the visitor’s eye (and attention) to your product. This is best achieved through lighting effects, whether it’s a spotlight, down light or even up light. There are plenty of options and it just depends on your product and how it is best lit.

Theatrical: Much like the stage lighting mentioned earlier, some booths require this type of show atmosphere, complete with spotlights and lights coordinated to sound or music. A great example of effective theatrical lighting is Omron’s presence at CES 2018. Their booth featured Forpheus, a ping pong playing robot that was introduced to the crowd during the show. When the demonstration was about to begin, the main lights were brought down and the theatrical lights came up, drawing the eye straight to the main attraction.  

Aside from choosing the best type of lights for your space, it’s also important to think about factors that could have a major impact on your overall budget. Here are some things to consider:

  • What are you emphasizing? Are you introducing a new product that needs to be highlighted?
  • Is accent lighting enough to make your booth stand out or do you need additional lights?
  • What is your show schedule? (The price of show services lighting varies by city.)
  • Can your lights be pre-wired to save money? (Any lighting integrated into the exhibit build will result in higher prices, but this will save money on the show floor.)
  • What venue restrictions do you need to account for?

Every trade show booth needs lighting, but every situation is unique. Working with an exhibit house to choose the best option to accent and highlight your space is the best way to ensure a successful outcome.

National Museum of the Pacific War: Remembering George H. W. Bush

Exhibit Concepts December 03, 2018

As the nation mourns the passing of former President George H.W. Bush and tributes are being shared about his life of public service, we thought it fitting to share images from the gallery named in his honor at the National Museum of the Pacific War and the ribbon cutting ceremony from 2009.

Located in Fredericksburg, Texas, the National Museum of the Pacific War is an immersive experience for visitors. On December 7, 2009, sixty-eight years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Museum hosted the Grand Re-Opening of the newly expanded George H.W. Bush Gallery. The ceremony was attended by survivors of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, drawing a crowd of over 5,000 people. The late former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara, along with Texas Governor Rick Perry, were on hand that day to cut the ribbon.

Exhibit Concepts was honored to fabricate the exhibits for the National Museum of the Pacific War, one of the largest projects we’ve undertaken as a company. Our team was privileged to be in attendance that day for the ribbon cutting, honoring the late former president. Exhibit Concepts has continued to work with the National Museum of the Pacific War to renovate and update portions of the museum, including updates to the George H.W. Bush Gallery and Theater.

How to Create a Trade Show Request for Proposal (RFP)

Exhibit Concepts November 30, 2018

So, you need a new trade show booth. Asking your peers for recommendations, looking in magazines and directories for award winners or searching Google for exhibit houses is a good start to build a potential candidate list. But, if you aren’t ready to sign with a new partner based on a recommendation, your next step is likely writing a new build request for proposal (RFP). There is no industry standard for this type of request, but there are some key elements you should include to gather the best responses. And remember, you are looking for the best fit for your company and a partner that you will be working with for several years, so you want to tailor the RFP your company’s unique needs and market position.

WHAT TO INCLUDE

A good RFP should be clear, concise, and articulate your needs and expectations to potential bidders. Start with an explanation of the project, and define the obligations and requirements of the successful bidder who will be selected to design, build, and install your exhibit. An RFP should also include a standard response format, which will make it easier for you to evaluate responses and compare them to one another. Likewise, you should explain how each proposal and bidder will be evaluated so expectations are clear.

SETTING CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

To get the best responses from prospective exhibit houses, it’s important to set expectations up front. This is best achieved by factors like:

PERSONALIZATION: There are several companies that offer a portal for submitting RFPs. While there are advantages to this approach, it can be fraught with technical issues and bidders are not able to showcase their unique capabilities and talent. Remember, you are looking for the best creative and execution fit for your company. You are not buying a commodity product. Instead, consider using a spreadsheet to collect responses. This gives you the ability to personalize your questions and allow users to send responses via email versus navigating a portal system.

TIMING: How much time should you give companies to respond to your RFP? This depends on how involved it is and if it includes a design in the proposal. Include a timeline when sending out an RFP, that clearly shows the date the RFP is released, when responses are due, and other important factors, like when (and if) an in-person presentation will take place. Typically, companies set deadlines for the return of documents and designs staggered days or even weeks apart to give companies time to submit each to deliver against your objectives. Be realistic in setting your timelines. If you are expecting design submissions, then allow ample time for creativity. This isn’t an area you want to short change. Consider that the good exhibit houses are busy.

EXTENSIONS: Speaking of timing, is it ever appropriate to extend the deadline during this process? This also depends. There might be extenuating circumstances such as technical issues with the portal or other issues such as illness or travel delays. It’s best to assess each request on a case by case basis.

INVITATIONS: While it may be tempting to invite as many companies as possible, it’s best to avoid a “cattle call” when searching for an exhibit house. This “wide net” approach tends to result in awards going to the lowest bidder and as such, the best exhibit houses won’t even participate. Take the time to do some upfront research to narrow the field to those houses that are likely the best fit and then send invitations to a limited number of companies to simplify the decision-making process.

WHAT TO INCLUDE

Some of the key components of a good trade show RFP include:

  • Background Information: Give bidders as much as information about your positioning, current marketing, and any other relevant data to help them with an approach.
  • Budget: Every project has one, so it’s important to lay out either a concrete budget or at least provide a range and be clear about what is included? Is the budget for the build only or turn-key?
  • Timeline: From start to finish, this is where you should lay out clear dates for submitting a proposal, choosing a partner, and attending the trade show or series of shows.t

This is just the beginning, however. A complete trade show RFP includes much more information, so we created two Excel templates to help you get started:

The Trade Show New Build RFP Template is ideal if you are attending one show and want an exhibit house to focus solely on your presence there. This is a shorter form template that covers basic capability questions. If you are looking for a new design and engagement, this is your template.

The Trade Show Program RFP Template is best for larger companies who attend multiple shows a year (commonly referred to as a program) and have extensive requirements for their exhibit house. This comprehensive template covers all aspects of business operations in depth to help you choose the best exhibit house. If you intend to move all your existing property to a new exhibit house, this is your template.

The Latest and Greatest Exhibit Concepts, Inc. News