How to Plan a Trade Show Exhibit

How To, Tips

Developing a trade show program can be overwhelming. To make things easier for you, here is a universal guide on what it takes to get an exhibit built. Each section represents a chronological step that you are involved in. Find explanations and tips for each step below.

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The process of creating a trade show exhibit should start with an RFQ. Some companies choose to skip this step and are usually met with communication issues, cumbersome progress and confusion. Avoid potential disappointment by taking this step to learn about different exhibit companies. An RFQ exposes an exhibit house’s abilities, prices, how they work, quality and individuality.

-Tips for preparing an RFQ

  • Ask questions that really let you understand your choices such as:
    • Describe what differentiates you from competitors.
    • Detail the steps your company takes when developing an exhibit from inception to completion.
    • How does your company handle design changes during production?
    • Ask for multiple case studies for comparable projects that include exhibit details, challenges and solutions. The examples will help prove if the company does what it says.
  • See this Sample RFQ for more ideas

-Inviting companies to submit an RFQ

  • Typically, companies invite 8-10 exhibit fabricators to ensure variety.
  • Sometimes picking 8-10 companies can be difficult. Here are some ways to help expand your list:

-Tips for reviewing RFQ submissions

  • Don’t worry if it seems overwhelming, the benefits make it worthwhile.
  • Focus on more than price, look for companies that match your corporate profile.
  • To make selection easier, create a rating system based on your priorities to score each submission.
  • Select 3-5 companies that you would be comfortable working with to submit designs.




trade show design renderings

These design renderings are ready to pitch.

This step in planning a trade show exhibit can be the most fun for both sides. Results depend heavily on the information you provided to the selected companies and adequately communicating the marketing goals, selling process, functional needs and vision your company has. Take note of these handy tips to help exhibit houses exceed your expectations.

-Prepare a Design Overview

  • Establish a turnkey budget for your exhibit.

costs image exhibitor

  • Find other budgeting tips here.
  • Give your exhibit partners an idea of the functional components your exhibit needs, including:
    • Conference Rooms
    • Workstations
    • Presentation spaces or theaters
    • Reception counters or bars
    • Storage rooms
  • Other things your design overview should include:
    • Marketing materials and brand standards
    • Logos
    • Additional exhibit configurations, if needed (example: modular design for an exhibit that will need to break down to different sizes)

-Set up the design presentations for success

  • Give your exhibit companies a choice in presentation platforms: face to face, online presentation or a simple submission of materials.
  • Plan for each presentation to take an hour. This allows time for explanations and conversations to occur uninterrupted.
  • Make sure all of the decision makers from your company attend the presentation. This helps avoid having to pass along information (which risks misinterpretation) and could save time.


Selecting a Trade Show Exhibit Fabricator


Completed trade show exhibit

A completed trade show exhibit should reflect your company’s goals and personality as developed in the design process.

All steps lead to this. Choosing the right trade show exhibit for your program affects your company’s marketing success.

-What to take into consideration

  • Remember the RFQ. While design and budget should be the heaviest influencers in your decision, insights from the RFQ will help determine which partner will work well with you.
  • Remember that you can change finishes, colors and graphics throughout construction so these are not the most important aspects of the initial design. Instead, base your decision on exhibit flow and functionality, placement of graphics and budgets. These elements show the creativity of the exhibit house and demonstrate that they understand your trade show needs and image.

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