What to include in your RFP (Request for Proposal)

Before you send out an RFP for your trade show booth, there are a few critical factors that you need to finalize. This includes your budget, booth size and exhibit needs. Sending out a very general RFP will either turn contractors away, have them chasing you for details or end up with a pile of proposals that don’t match your needs.

Next you need to decide if you want to hire a design company to create the final concept then send it out to contractors to build it for you (this helps when comparing costs) or if you want to receive design/build proposals from contractors.

Next, decide which contractors you are going to contact. If you don’t already have a list of reliable companies, ask the show organizers for recommendations. You can also ask your industry peers for contacts. Read here for tips on choosing a reliable trade show contractor.

Things to include in the RFP

  • Your RFP should include as much information as is needed for the designers to understand your company’s style.
  • Name, date and location of the exhibition
  • Size of your booth
  • Your company logo, brand guidelines, website URL and other marketing materials that you think would be relevant when designing a concept for your trade show booth
  • Who your competitors are and what differentiates you from them. Also, who your customers are
  • Your show objectives – sales, product and communication objectives for the show
  • What you liked and disliked about your previous exhibits
  • Special elements that you would like to see in your exhibit display
  • Be specific – if you have certain requirements for flooring, furniture, meeting rooms, etc. be specific from the beginning of the process
  • The services required from your contractor – do you want a full show campaign including marketing, PR, swag and your exhibit or just the booth? Do you need a member of their team present at your booth throughout the show?
  • Areas within the booth – how many people do you need seating for? Do you need a kitchen with a sink and fridge? Do you need meeting rooms? Will you have products on display and do you need a demonstration area? Think about your reception, storage areas and anything else you might require.
  • Lighting, audio-visual equipment and graphic requirements – you can ask for their suggestions if you don’t have anything specific in mind.
  • Timeline and budget – your budget is probably the most important thing to include in your RFP. Without this, it is close to impossible to design a suitable exhibit display. Also include the deadline for submission of proposals.


To ensure that you remember to add in the details every time you send out an RFP, create a template that you can follow. Some contractors send you their own template to fill in so that they can ensure they receive all the necessary information from you.

Trade Show Checklist

Author: Komal Qaiser

Being in charge of a company’s entire tradeshow presence can sound extremely daunting! Yes, there is a lot to handle but with the right amount of planning, it can be a great experience.

  • Book booth space
  • If interested, look at sponsorship opportunities
  • Book a press room, if required
  • Hire a contractor to build your exhibition booth
  • Have your exhibition stand design approved by the show organizers
  • Arrange flight/hotel booking for staff attending the trade show
  • Order name badges for employees
  • Prepare a media kit
  • Order your marketing collateral and gift items (brochures, folders, envelopes, etc)
  • Order business cards for the employees attending
  • Order flowers
  • Order water and electricity (if needed)
  • Creatives for your booth graphics and sponsorship
  • Book hostesses
  • Book a photographer
  • Write a brief for the hostesses and photographer
  • Register badges for everyone attending
  • Uniforms for staff/hostesses
  • Social media posts about the event
  • Email your contacts and set up a meeting calendar
  • Follow up with the contractor building your booth
  • Send a shipment of marketing materials to your hotel or straight to the convention center
  • Cash for vendors that need onsite payment – discuss payment methods beforehand
  • Scissors, tape, stapler, fishbowl for business cards, business card holder, phone charger – these things really come in handy!
  • Camera – even if there is a photographer there, someone at the booth should be taking pictures for social media and other platforms so that you can post things as they happen
  • All-purpose wipes – these will be handy for the reception desks and tables as dust gathers so fast and fingerprints don’t help!

Tips for Trade Show Surveys

As a marketer, there must be so many different questions that you wish you knew the answer to. Which publication does everyone in the industry read and how can I make sure my target audience and decision makers see my marketing efforts? Many of our marketing strategies are based on guess-work and optimism. For this reason, being present at a trade show and having easy access to so many people from your industry can be an extremely valuable situation.

Before a show, jot down all the questions that you may have and decide which ones you think will be easy to have answered at the exhibition. Create a survey and approach people visiting your booth to see if they would be willing to spare a minute to complete the survey.

Make it worthwhile – put the names of the people that took the survey in a draw or raffle and give them something for helping you out.

Keep it short – don’t overload the survey with questions. Put some serious thought into the questions you are asking and don’t throw in any old question that comes to mind. Too many questions will mean people will be likely to speed through it and put any answer down to just get it done and over with.

Relevant questions – ask questions like which publication they like to read, how they heard about your company, what perception they have of your company based on your brand image, if they use your product/services and if they would recommend them to others, what trade shows they plan to attend and other questions that will help you retrieve answers to your questions.

Don’t be pushy – if someone does not want to answer the survey, don’t try to push them to take it – chances are they will be the least bit interested in giving you any significant information.

Use the information wisely – once you have collected the information, it is time to analyse the results. Discuss it with your team, see how you can benefit from the information you have acquired and pass information on to relevant departments so everyone can do their part to ensure the survey was a worthwhile exercise for your company.

Was it worth it? Tracking Trade Show ROI

With trade shows springing up across the globe – each more promising than the last, it is easy to get lured into exhibiting at more shows than you had initially anticipated. As a marketing professional, you have probably been asked to measure ROI of your trade show participation to show that it was worth the investment. Unfortunately many events end up over-promising and under-delivering and therefore don’t yield enough business to justify participation.

 Clearly define your goals and objectives before the trade show – without goals, measuring ROI is next to impossible. Plan your goals and create metrics that will allow you to easily track them.

Record trade show leads – you can do this the traditional way by colleting business cards in a fish bowl and speaking to your sales team or use the digital options available (sync directly to your CRM). To effectively measure the ROI, you will need to track and monitor these leads and this could take weeks or months after the show. The leads produced may vary significantly in terms of value. Track leads for greater insights.

Calculate your lifetime customer value using CM software

Tip: To maximise your trade show ROIchoose the right show, get PR coverage, ensure there is adequate pre-show marketing, host an event, stay active on social media, ensure your booth is welcoming and your sales team is trained and have a strong follow-up policy in place for post-show marketing.

To calculate your trade show revenue:

Count the number of leads collected at the show, estimate the average number that will result in a sale (CRP), calculate the average value of a sale from a trade show lead. Next, total your participation cost and use this formula for trade show revenue.

leads x close rate % x average sale value = estimated show revenue

Tips for Trade Show Press Releases

Author: Komal Qaiser

Your company’s presence at a trade show can be a game changer. You can either make or break your brand or, even worse, go completely unnoticed. Big stands, sponsorships and key staff members present will get you noticed but to grab attention from the press, put off important company announcements until an industry event.

Many companies work on deals, product launches and partnerships months before a show begins. However, if you can wait then it is a good idea to coincide the news with a trade show. This way, you can get into the dailies and have your news delivered directly to your target audience.

Announce before the show – Dailies are magazines that different publications publish every day at the show. Find out which publications are being distributed at the show, contact their editors and tell them about your news. When your press release is ready, send it to the members of press with a clearly marked release date (mention the show name and date) and let them know it is under embargo so the news does not get out. Let them know you are open for interviews if they would like to come by your booth to meet with key people and offer you an editorial. Even better, try to get an interview with the relevant person at your company before the show so that it can be published in the dailies.

Hold a press conference – most exhibition halls have limited press rooms so it’s important that you make the booking well in advance. Schedule the press conference a day or two before the first day of the show and send an email out to media personnel.

Have a good media/press kit ready – add company information, product and service information, recent press releases and articles, profiles on members of your management team, your contact details and any other relevant company information you want the media to know about. Remember, members of the press receive press kits all the time so it is important to have a good quality, professional kit if you want to get their attention.

Visit the press room – at the trade exhibition, there will be a press room where key media personnel sit and write up their stories. On the day before the show, pop by the room. Outside the room, you can usually find cubby holes dedicated to each publication. Drop a print out of the press release (preferably on company paper) along with a media kit. If you can, go into the press room and see if you manage to catch one of the journalists to see if they can feature your news!

Look for speaker opportunities – many shows have small networking events and conferences where people from the industry gather for panel discussions or as solo speakers. Contact the show organizers months in advance and see if there are any opportunities available where you think your company would have relevant input.

Try to get an editorial with an industry or big publication – speak to the journalists and see if you can score an interview with key people from your company. Most times, journalists would love to hear from you – provided you have credible information that is relevant to the topic in discussion.

Send out a teaser and mail blast – send out a mail to everyone in your database letting them know you will be at the show and that you have some big news for them! Don’t tell them what the news is but perhaps you can give them a hint to keep it interesting.

Hold a press morning or breakfast at your booth – invite key media personnel to your stand for a coffee morning or breakfast. If you are in charge of the company’s PR and media presence, go around and introduce yourself. Hand them your business card and ask them if they have received your media kit. Tell them what news you have recently released and try to get an interview with someone from your company.

Have an email blast ready to send to your database when the news is announced – when the news is released, send an email out to everyone in the database. Let them know what the news is because not everyone will be at the trade show or have access to the dailies.

Inform your team and booth staff – ensure they all have as much information as possible so that visitors to the booth can have their questions answered – you don’t want your staff to find out about the news at the same time as everyone else because chances are people that have read the news in the dailies will stop by your booth for a chat or have questions for your staff members. Make sure they are all prepared to answer clients and prospects.

Throw a booth party – if it’s really big news and your budget allows, throw a booth party! You can have a themed one or a combined one if you have partnered with someone. There are plenty of possibilities – you just need to figure out what your target market would enjoy.

Use social media – reach out to visitors of the show and other industry contacts and potential clients by broadcasting your news across your social media platforms.

Many exhibitions have a press section on their website where you can see which publications are going to be publishing dailies and also get a list of the media contacts that will be present.

Tips for Trade Show Graphics

With many exhibition booth designs, there are empty spaces for graphics. When you are sending out an RFP to stand contractors, you can ask them to leave space for graphics or not – this is entirely up to you. However, depending on the stand, graphics usually serve great purpose by giving you an extra platform for branding as well as adding dimension to your booth.

It is usually the responsibility of the company, not the contractor, to design graphics for the booth but feel free to send your designs to them for their opinion or ask them for ideas on what they think might look good. Here are some tips for trade show booth graphics.

Stick to one theme – make sure that all your graphics are designed in one theme. The same theme you have for the booth, advertisements at the show, sponsorships at the exhibition and trade-show marketing material should follow through in your booth graphics. It might be tempting to play around and make each one completely different but it could end up looking confusing and messy. The colour theme, design and copy should look good together so that the overall design works together. Your graphics should tell a coherent story.

Keep it simple – don’t go and add a huge amount of text that no one will stand and read. Place a headline that will entice people to visit your booth and find out more. Booth graphics are no space for small details, remember less is more. For it to be impactful, your messaging should be concise and to the point. Write something that will attract visitors and try to avoid playing with too many different types of fonts.

Hire a professional graphic designer – one that knows trade shows. Hire someone who knows what they are doing so that they can follow the specs exactly and come up with good quality work.

Image Quality is everything – use high quality images, don’t try to blow up small images and make sure that all artwork is in high resolution so that it comes out well in print. Always give the company printing the graphics your pantone colour so that they can be as close, in colour, as possible.

Rendering – ask your contractor to show you what the graphics would look like in the booth by viewing your graphics rendered on the display. You might think they look great until you see them on the booth so this is a critical step to ensuring your graphics are right for your booth.

Lighting – don’t add graphics in the corners or in dark spots at the booth. Make sure they are placed somewhere where they are highlighted and visible.

Being at a large exhibition can be quite overwhelming. The smell of coffee from booths, fresh paint from the exhibition displays and the sound of chatter and excitement really make it an experience you’re going to enjoy. If it’s your first trade show then you have quite a bit to catch up on.

Early Bird Offers – many organizers have special discounted rates for companies booking in advance. Try to plan your trade show presence well in advance so you can avail of these offers which include advertising, space booking, sponsorship and furniture rental.

Floor Plan – almost every exhibition will have a floor plan. This map shows which companies are exhibiting and where their booth will be. It also shows the size of each company’s booth as well restrooms, cafe’s, location of the press room, main entrances, press conference rooms and anything else that the organizers feel you might be looking for. A few months before the show, you might see this floor plan, completely blank, when you are choosing the location for your booth.

Sponsorship – trade show organizers usually have a list of sponsorship opportunities that exhibitors are eager to grab. These include banners, tote bags, lanyards, flags, hotel room keys, charging stations and so many other great things. Note that these opportunities are usually booked out months in advance. As soon as you decide you’re going to participate in a trade show, contact the show organizers to see what sponsorship opportunities are available. Don’t be shy to suggest something you think might look good – if it’s doable, they’ll be more than happy to accommodate your request.

Press Room – at any big trade show, key media personnel are swarming the floor hungry for news and interesting opportunities. The press usually has an area dedicated to them called a press room. This opens a day or two before the show and here you will find editors and other members of the media working on news for the show. You can pop in and let them know if you have news to announce, introduce yourself and drop off a press kit or press release. They all have cubby holes at the entrance that you can leave your PR material in. Most trade show organizers will have a list of media partners on their website so you can plan who are going to meet before attending the show and even contact them prior to the event. Dailies are magazines made for each day of the show, highlighting major news and events from the show and companies at the trade show. You can advertise in the dailies and contact press members to see if your news can be featured.

Collect Data – the members of your team present at the exhibition will most likely have planned their meetings prior to the show. However, you can be sure that you will have unexpected visitors. Don’t fret, a busy booth is a good booth! Welcome them with open arms and don’t forget to ask for a business card. Everyone visiting your booth should give you a business card which you can add to your database when you get back to the office. Use this data for mail blasts, newsletters and follow-up emails.

Giveaways  – most companies have promotional items that are handed out to everyone visiting the booth and towards the end of the show, everyone walking by. Choose something fun, handy and interesting that stands out from the rest.

Costs you might not have heard of – drayage, electrical etc. – read our article about trade show budgets to get a better understanding of the kind of costs you might incur.

App – most trade shows have their own app, made by the show organizers. Here you can see a list of exhibitors, view exhibitor profiles, some even let you contact each other and arrange meetings and advertise your company for everyone to see. The app usually proves to be extremely useful and even guides you to different company booths so you’re not left running around the floor searching.

Press Conference Room – most exhibition halls have a few press conference rooms that you can book for a short time slot (typically 30 minutes – 1 hour). If you have big news and you want the media to know about it, send out a press release but also book a press room and send an invite to members of the press in advance. It’s a great time for them to ask questions, take pictures and then feature your news in the dailies. Press conferences are usually held one day before the show, when editors are finalising the news they want featured in the next day’s daily.

Speaker Opportunities  – the opening ceremonies or seminars at big trade shows typically feature experts in the field, most of whom are employees of companies exhibiting at the show. This is absolutely brilliant for exposure and needless to say, gets booked out very quickly! Again, as soon as you decide you’re going to participate at a trade show, contact the organizers to see what speaker opportunities are available and see if anyone in your company would be a good fit. This is free of cost.

Tips for Product Demonstrations

A product demonstration or “demo” is a demonstration in which a product is displayed to potential buyers. It’s really that simple but that doesn’t mean it’s that easy.

An excellent product demo can be extremely effective in engaging prospects and stopping traffic. The aim is to leave a lasting impression so that people want to buy your product. For this reason, trade shows are a great place to hold product demonstrations – you have access to so many people that could potentially be interested in your product and if they don’t have the need for it, you have a platform on which you can try to convince them that they do or that they will need it.

Why have a product demonstration

Generates interest – a product demo is all about getting prospects interested in your product to increase the likelihood of them purchasing your product. You need to convince them to make the final purchase.

Enhances your sales and marketing efforts – product demonstrations offer the desired visual support that helps to improve a sales promotion.

Clear the air – demonstrations help address customer concerns and misconceptions about the product. It is a great way for customers to be up, close and personal with the product and ask questions as well as see it in use.

Saves time and expense for sales team – you’re demonstrating the product live in front of so many people that may have come from many different countries – hence saving trip expenses if your sales team were to travel around to showcase the product.

How to make your product demonstration REALLY good

Practice makes perfect – write a script and know what to say but practice over and over again so that it doesn’t sound rehearsed. The demonstrator can come up with things to say in the middle of the demo but they need to have a list of bullet points or features that they will focus on.  Avoid techie-talk – your customers want to know how it will benefit them not how your product works internally and how it was made. It needs to look natural and effortless so rehearse it to exhaustion.

Design a space for the product demo – if space allows, have a little corner or area where the demo will take place. Have a good backdrop in case people are taking photos of the demo. This will also make it look more interesting.

Charismatic demonstrator – the person should be lively, energetic, fun and engaging. This should be someone fun to listen to and easy to understand.

Add some spice – A great product demonstration focuses on creating excitement about a new product. Keep it fun, exciting, short and entertaining. Add some humour, maybe funny props or anything that will get the audience going. Try to keep it within 2-4 minutes.

Know your product – like the back of your hand. The demonstrator should have incredible knowledge about the product so they can address any concerns that may arise on the spot. You need to be ready for any questions that potential customers may have. They also need to be able to sort out any technical or other glitches that might come up in the middle of the demonstration. Be prepared for questions and have answers ready.

Test everything before the demo starts – if possible, at the venue where the demo is taking place. Stay clear of any unfamiliar equipment and do not assume that everything available at the conference site will work. What you do not want is your product demo ending because the product was not working – try explaining to clients that that was an electrical glitch and not an issue with your product!

Emphasise the benefits – combine the features of the product with the benefits enjoyed by prospects. You need to tell them why they are going to love it and why they really need to buy this product now. Make the demo about your clients. Every feature that you demonstrate should be tied directly to a customer problem (and how your product is likely to solve it).

Keep it simple – don’t make the product seem overly complex. Highlight a few good features that would be of high value to potential customers.

Anticipate problems – plan what to do if something goes wrong. Have a technical person on hand as well as someone who can answer customer questions if the demonstrator is not able to. When you’re practicing the demo, write down a list of the failures most likely to happen, then discuss how they can be solved. Be prepared for questions and have answers ready. Where possible, have an extra product and spare cables handy, as well as anything else that may affect the functioning of the product. If it is taking place in a foreign country then you need to ensure that your kit will work.

For most companies, the bulk of their marketing budget goes straight into trade shows. Even if you plan to attend a trade show with a small presence, the amount of expenses incurred really adds up. From staff tickets and hotels, per diem, catering, swag, sponsorship and so much more, you can easily end up with a hefty bill.

So, when you finally make it to the trade show and everything is buzzing on day one, it is important to ensure that all your efforts do not go to waste. Here are a few things to avoid at trade shows.

An empty reception – make sure that there is someone at reception at all times. If someone has walked up to your booth then you obviously have something that they are interested in and losing a potential client or partner is the last thing you need. Have your hostesses coordinate their break time and ask them to ensure someone is there before they leave the front desk.

Chasing people – you want to be a go getter but there’s always a limit. Don’t be that company that looks really desperate to pull people into the booth – it’s not the best look. Avoid screaming over to people as they’re walking by. If things are quiet at the booth and you think valuable show time is being wasted then walk around and go to other booths to arrange meetings.

Very loud music – booth parties are great and when there’s good tunes, people, food and drinks they can be an incredible way to draw the right attention to your booth. However, when there’s no party and there are people at your booth meeting to discuss business, it’s best to keep the music down. No one wants music blaring when they’re trying to have a serious conversation. This also applies to video sounds – visual graphics are great and sound effects can make a video even more appealing but if it’s on at your booth all day it’ll likely drive your staff and visitors crazy.


Messy food – if you are ordering catering for your booth, be selective. Listen to your mind, not your tastebuds. Take time to look through the menu and choose based on convenience. Fingers foods that can be eaten without making a mess work best. Avoid food with crumbs that will be left all over your booth like chips, certain pastries and anything else that will leave a message behind.

Huge centrepieces -this applies to both the tables on the floor and in a meeting room. Flowers look great and there’s probably no such thing as too many but avoid gigantic structures that will block your view of the person seated at the meeting table with you.

Using Social Media at Trade Shows – Event Marketing

Be a social media butterfly

  • Getting your name out there and promoting your brand
  • Having a good time and enjoying your company’s presence
  • Meeting clients and potential clients

The social media frenzy is popular for a reason. There is so much you can do and such a wider audience you can reach if you use the right platforms to post your content. By making this physical event virtual, you can easily target a global audience. Many social media platforms lend themselves effortlessly to a range of effective marketing functions, yet many companies do not take full advantage of this.

Come up with a social media plan – make sure that you have accounts on each of the platforms you wish to use. If you don’t have an account then set them up (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whichever ones you think will reach your target audience).

Start before the show – find out what the show’s official hashtag is a few weeks before the show. Start posting using the hashtags, relevant keywords and official show name.  Making up your own hashtags might not be very effective but if you are going to be posting a lot then use a customised hashtag in every post.

Create a teaser post or video if you have company news or a product launch coinciding with the exhibition. Get people excited and invite them to your booth to witness the unveiling of your exciting new product!

Connect with people – let everyone know what your involvement in the show will be whether it is your booth number, your speaker opportunity, a product launch or a press event. Connect with media contacts that will be covering the event and let them know if you have news to share. Share what they are posting, comment on their posts and show them that you think their content is interesting. Be a social media butterfly and interact with others using your company accounts.

LinkedIn – finding people for business purposes could not have been made easier. Make a list of the companies you would like to meet with at the show and find the relevant person on LinkedIn. Connect with them and discuss the possibility of meeting at the event.

Post lots of photos and videos – taking the experience beyond the exhibition center will help you reach a much wider audience. Getting video footage of the event is quite effective and gives diversity to the posts. See if you can get a happy customer to saw a few quick words and post their video testimonial on the page.

Don’t stop when the show starts – continue to post photos, videos and whatever else you can get on your social media channels. This will keep people updated and will have your booth buzzing. Post about any competitions or giveaways you have at your booth too.

Proofread – grammar and spelling mistakes can make the best post look absolutely horrendous so make sure you proofread before posting – you’ll be glad you did. Autocorrect does not help!

Bring your localized presence to a global audience by sharing content, using hashtags and relevant keywords and posting a variety of content. Go on, jump on the social media bandwagon and bring the tradeshow to life in other parts of the world.