Building a brand new Exhibit can seem overwhelming, particularly when you’re just starting out in the industry. If you’re not sure where to start or need a little guidance, check out these in-depth steps for every aspect of building your exhibit:
Timeline & Budget
Establish a general timeline for your exhibit: identifying potential Exhibit Houses, requesting for information (RFI), pruning your options, sending an RFP, reviewing responses, selecting the top exhibit house, constructing the exhibit and finally shipping it to the show. Then, based on information gathered from research form a budget to submit to management for approval.
Tip: To avoid last minute rushing, work backwards from your completion date and make sure to include extra time for unexpected delays or setbacks.
Assemble Your Team/ Collect Information
Now is the time to set objectives and decide what you want for the look and feel of the exhibit. Choose people from multiple departments in order to receive input from a wide range of perspectives. In addition to the commercial group, incorporate the marketing director, key individuals from sales management, an industry expert, and most importantly, include field-sales reps or booth staff that have had real contact with customers on the show floor. Once you have your team, start collecting the data you need for an RFP (company mission statement, product samples, non-design requirements like staff experience levels, Pantone Matching System (PMS) logo colors, etc.). One thing to consider is gathering images of existing exhibits from different companies that illustrate a specific look or feel you want to work toward.
Tip: If you have difficulty regularly assembling your team in the same room for a meeting, set up a video conference for individuals who cannot physically attend. After the conference, make sure to follow up with a summary including any materials presented in the meeting.
Make a List of Potential Exhibit Houses
Research and compile a list of exhibit houses that have the capabilities to deliver your design, construction and service needs.
Tip: Attend exhibiting and event conferences or expos to personally meet contacts for exhibit houses.
Compose/Send Your RFI
Using questions developed by your team, compose an RFI asking for information from nine major categories:
- General Information: Ask about global presence, corporate philosophy and even employee numbers.
- Account Team: Check how many other clients your assigned account team will be handling simultaneously (time/resource competition).
- Technology & Design: Ask about the number of designers employed and if any awards have been won for exhibit design. What can they produce in-house? Do they offer inventory-tracking?
- Clients & Trade Show Experience: Ask if they work with other clients in your industry and which, if any, foreign countries they have conducted business in the past year.
- Pricing: Request pricing philosophy, current rates for services (fabrication, graphic design, storage, etc.) and whether renting an exhibit is an option.
- Industry Experience: Ask about years of experience for your industry and in what shows they have installed exhibits.
- Additional Information: Such as corporate culture or other miscellaneous details.
- References: Request contact information of other clients for reference, especially if they are within the same industry as your company.
Tip: Set a strict deadline for exhibit houses to send in proposals. Companies that meet the proposal deadline are more likely to meet critical deadlines down the road.
Form an RFP
A request for proposal isn’t the same as a request for information—the content is focused on your company and what you will require for the exhibit project. Here are six main components:
- Company Overview: Describe your company, products/services, mission statement, core values, organization and any corporate messaging and logos.
- Marketing Strategies: Summarize your general brand-marketing strategy and product-marketing messages. Be sure to include important sales and marketing collateral.
- Challenges/Objectives: Detail any pre-existing issues and lay out your functional and design goals for the new exhibit.
- Services: Set requirements for services, including overall account management, exhibit storage, inventory management, etc.
- Photos: Include photos of existing property with individual elements and details for comparison/discussion.
- Budget: Opt for a general budget range instead of a fixed figure, since your budget may need adjustment as the project progresses.
Tip: A budget range keeps designers from becoming too limited, but also gives them parameters to work around.
Send Out the RFP
Sending the RFP with a confidentiality agreement and a form of acceptance can help you determine an exhibit house’s higher level of commitment to the project upon return. Include supplemental instructions (i.e. expectations for presentations or requests to see creative concepts prior to pricing) and relevant information such as a cover letter listing all competing firms and a deadline for submitting additional questions or requests for clarification.
Tip: Keeping communication open and transparent between you and all competing exhibit houses helps level the playing field and raise their standards. It can also save you from having to answer the same questions repeatedly.
Check References & Financial States
Make sure to contact all provided references and have your accounting team perform a financial check on each company to ensure they are in solid standing.
Tip: Checking references can reveal strengths and weaknesses of each exhibit house and help you eliminate poor performers.
Plan a Visit
Visit your top potential exhibit house contenders.
Tip: Visiting is a great opportunity to meet company reps face-to-face and get a feel for the company’s overall quality and attitude.
Score each company’s presentation under these nine criteria:
- Flexibility: Is the exhibit adaptable to varying spaces/products?
- Functionality: Can the design accommodate different types of events (interactive, theater, high-traffic, etc.)?
- Overall Design: Does the design effectively communicate your company image, messaging and brand?
- Account Team: Does their team’s personality mesh well with yours and do they have what it takes to push your project to the next level?
- Total Program: What level of services does the exhibit house offer?
- Industry Experience: Does the exhibit house have enough experience in your industry?
- Financing Alternatives: Do their payment, lease or rental terms meet your needs?
- Cost: Do the costs seem feasible and fit within the budget range?
- Financial Stability: Is the exhibit house financially stable?
Tip: Scoring can help you tangibly compare exhibit houses and validate existing notions about each company.
Notify Both Winners & Losers
When notifying the winning company, be sure to also send the other exhibit houses a letter detailing why you chose another company over them and thank them for their time and efforts.
Tip: It may seem like a waste of time, but the communication etiquette is often highly appreciated. You can even offer them constructive criticism to help them win a future bid.
Write a page-long executive summary for management approval that lays out the overall exhibit-building process (what you used previously, what you need, any plans that were presented, your recommendation and reasoning).
Tip: Sending an executive summary straight to the top of your company management can save you time and effort trying to explain every detail of the RFP to multiple people. It is easy to comprehend in one sitting and can get you faster approval to begin your exhibit build.
Ready to start your first exhibit build? Contact The Trade Group and our professionals will get you started on your best possible options.
The post Building Your First Exhibit 101 appeared first on The TradeGroup.com.