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What to Include in a Request for Proposal for a Trade Show Booth Design

We sat down with Skyline Exhibits designers Stephanie Roiger, Amy Kubas, Greg Mathieson and Evan Detskas, who have a combined 50 years of experience designing in the trade show industry and were kind enough to help outline what you should include in your Request for Proposal document to have the most efficient, exceptional trade show booth design process and the best results when you get to the show.

Your exhibit house needs enough information in a Request for Proposal (RFP) so the design team understands what your company goals are for the show, your company branding, and all necessary information to help the designers bring you the best of what they have to offer. You are an expert on your company’s marketing goals and products, and the exhibit designers are experts in exhibit design. You have a vision for how you would like the booth to look, and the exhibit designers have the training and experience to optimize that vision, and if given the right amount of information the designers can “Wow” your attendees with something you may not have imagined. Let’s take a deeper dive into what your Request for Proposal (RFP) for a trade show booth should include.


Not too much, never too little

It is critical to give enough information, without overwhelming the designers, which can be a fine line. Include company information, your competitive advantage, necessary product information, and order of importance in your communications for the show in the first paragraph. The order of importance regarding communication goals always comes into play, especially when you are launching a new product, yet still showcasing your tried and true original product as well. Include your company’s achievements in this first section, but refrain from overemphasizing them. As a marketer, it is ingrained into your writing to speak of your company on these terms, that’s great! Be upfront about your position in the industry then move on to outlining the overall brand message you want to send.


What’s New?

In the second paragraph of your new RFP, include information about new products in the coming year and any re-branding that might be done close to, or launched at, the show. This includes logos and any milestones for the company or product. Celebrating your 25th year and want to make it known on the show floor? Awesome! The designers can potentially highlight that achievement in your booth, but won’t know that it’s happening if you don’t work that into the messaging of your RFP.  In our conversation, Design Manager Evan Detskas made an important point; “You may be hesitant to share sensitive company and brand information, especially if it’s a big change for your product or company, but these changes are imperative to the design process. Signing a non-disclosure form takes the worry out of it.” Worried the designers will create something “off-brand?” Send a copy of the branding guidelines to the designers to ensure all pieces of your marketing puzzle look cohesive on the show floor.


Show Goals- Make them Known

In the next section, outline your desires, problems, and needs. What would you like the booth to accomplish for you? Did you have a problem with the layout on your last booth that discouraged attendee interaction? Does your product line need special electrical equipment for a demo? How much space do you need for the demo? Will you be hosting a live speaker? If you are showing a product, include quantity and dimensions. The design of your booth should accommodate any activities you have planned.  “Communicating specific show goals in an RFP is what we are looking for,” said Skyline Exhibits Designer Amy Kubas.


Past, Present & Future Trade Shows

The fourth paragraph of your RFP is all about where your company has been and is looking to go. This includes your company trade show history. What has your budget been for past shows? How many shows do you typically attend each year? About what size was the booth? Are you considering going to more shows this year than last? Would reconfigurable booths for your shows be an option? “Knowing the past and future plans of your trade show attendance prepares us by giving a benchmark for what you are looking for, and what you hope to do in the coming years. If you plan for future events, incorporating a design that can be repurposed in many different booth sizes can increase your ROI,” said Stephanie Roiger.


Breakdown that Budget

Onto the big question mark: Price. If you find you are blindsided by the cost of an exhibit, ask yourself: did you thoroughly research the company, exhibit design process, and industry standard cost? Know what to expect and develop your budget off of that. Be upfront about your Trade Show budget in this section, and what your budget includes. Greg Mathieson recommends to, “Segment your show budget into rental or purchase of the booth, content to be created, audio/visual components, shipping & drayage and promotional costs.” Doing this gives your designers  a better idea of what they can create for you. Having a budget prepared means your design team won’t be blindsided by you asking to include audio/ visual content with $200 left in your budget. This design team will become an extension of your own team. Take the time to talk, whether in person or on the phone, to build a relationship with this new team member and continue to keep them in the loop with your goals for the show.


One Decision, Limitless Impressions

The best trade show designers will give you their best. That means you will likely be provided with one option (two if you insist on it). If you have given all of the above information to the best of your ability in an RFP to a leading exhibit designer, and if you engage with them in the design process, then you will receive their best work, which will last in attendees minds long after the show floor lights dim.


There you have it, the entire process for submitting a Request for Proposal for a trade show booth design. It may seem like a lengthy process, but it is crucial to properly complete if you are sticking to a budget and timeline for the show. Good luck at your next show!



About the Author

Kayla was a Senior Marketing Associate at Skyline Exhibits, based at Skyline's International Design Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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