RFP is an Acronym for Request for Proposal
This is one of the few tradeshow exhibit industry terms that is also pretty common in other areas of business. In a nutshell, it means that your company has a need to buy products or services and you'd like to invite prospective vendors to submit proposals. RFPs can be sent out for something as simple as a rental backwall display or as elaborate as complete multi-year management of a hundred shows per year tradeshow program.
Once received, evaluation of submitted proposals can be difficult and time consuming. As such, the number of companies that you invite should be limited to 3 – 5.
The basic RFP format is to provide:
- An overview of your company.
- A summary of your needs.
- An outline of how and when proposals should be submitted.
In order to make the process as efficient as possible, it is best to provide information that is concise. The key to dealing with responses in a timely fashion is to direct submissions so they are as similar in format as possible.
If you intend to request custom exhibit designs from bidders, keep in mind that designs are presented in a variety of formats from renderings mounted on boards to web-based video productions. You should clearly communicate the presentation format you prefer. When requesting designs, providing a budget number will make the final evaluation process much more productive.
You should also provide a format for the cost portion of the proposals. This can be in the form of a spreadsheet included in your RFP to be filled out and returned, or even as simple as an itemized list. Including this information helps to clearly describe what cost elements are to be included in the proposal. Things like carpet, electrical service, vacuuming, floral or technical support are not always part of the RFP process.
The bottom line? Give prospective vendors enough information to put together a proposal that is complete and in a format that makes it easy to compare. Time spent editing and refining your RFP documents can result not only in significant time savings when the time comes to review submissions, but also more quality in responses.
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The Exhibitors' Perspective is an Important Part of Tradeshow Success
You are a trade show exhibitor. You’ve toured many cities, been to every convention center in the U.S. and talked to more strangers in one day than most people do in a month. This is why your perspective is an important part to tradeshow success.
Without you, the trade show exhibitor, what would the show organizers, general contractors, housing companies and convention center staff do?
The power of your knowledge and perspective is vast. This is why, as an exhibitor or event professional you can help define the future of face-to-face marketing. The Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA) has an arena where you can interact and be heard by other professionals in your area of expertise.
TSEA has published the Trade Show Exhibitors Bill of Rights which outlines the basic ideals that show organizers, managers and hosts should provide to all exhibitors.
Here is an excerpt from the TSEA Bill of Rights.
As an Exhibitor, you are entitled to:
- THE RIGHT to be educated in convention housing practices
- THE RIGHT to independent third-party audits of trade show attendance
- THE RIGHT to qualified labor practices
- THE RIGHT to proper inspection of previous show results before committing to a future show
Download The Trade Show Exhibitors’ Association Bill of Rights to see your rights, right now. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!
You can voice your needs and help shape the future of face-to-face marketing at the TSEA Red Diamond Congress. Click here to learn more on how you can help.
Graphics Are the Most Important Design Element of Your Trade Show Display
For the vast majority of tradeshow displays, the graphics are the most important design element. No matter how beautiful a display is, if you hang poorly designed graphics on it, it just looks awful. And attractive graphics aren't enough - they must be effective as well, if you want to get the maximum ROI on your tradeshow dollars. In order to get the best graphic design results, you should start by carefully considering your objectives and how your tradeshow display's graphics might help you achieve them.
Too often, companies choose to just blow up their logo and a few of their magazine ads or a page from their website, stick them on the backwall and call it a day. People who view a web page or magazine ad spend considerably more time reading and also expect to get complete information from this type of graphic. Tradeshow graphics, on the other hand, need to be read and understood in the 3 seconds that it takes an attendee to walk past your booth.
Let’s consider the graphics on a standard 10 foot backwall display. The normal way to arrange graphics is to put your company’s name and logo on a large sign at the top. This is just fine if your company is Coca Cola, or Nike, but lesser known brands might want to add a few words that describe what the company does or maybe a bold statement that grabs the attention of the visitor.
Design Graphics to Support Your Sales Presentation
The balance of the graphics in a small booth can be used to create an atmosphere, list features and benefits of products or show products in use. I prefer to design graphics that support a sales presentation. Once a prospect has stopped at your booth, the booth staff can easily do a brief sales presentation using the graphics as visual support.
Once you have established your objectives, it makes sense to take advantage of the experience an exhibit designer brings to the table. Share with them your goals and allow them to provide input on graphics that are going to be displayed.
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Exhibitor Appointed Contractor is a Company or Individual that Works on the Tradeshow Floor
The letters EAC is one of thousands of acronyms that can seem to exist only to confuse people with less than 5 years of experience in the tradeshow business. EAC stands for Exhibitor Appointed Contractor.
An Exhibitor Appointed Contractor is a company or individual that works on the tradeshow floor providing any of a number of services that could also be ordered from the General Services Contractor. (Freeman, GES, etc.) There are a few services for which you may prefer to use someone other than the General Services Contractor (GSC) such as installation and dismantling labor, audio visual rentals and service, floral, etc.
If you choose to use an EAC, you must notify the show well in advance to allow them time to make sure your selected company is properly certified and insured. The form for this notification is in the show manual. Be sure to find the form and get it sent in as soon as you are able since the show generally requires at least 30 days notice.
The most common service provided by an EAC is installation and dismantling labor. A large number of companies of all sizes are anxious to provide you with labor services. These companies claim to provide better quality labor and service than the GSC at a competitive price. They will also help you with filing the EAC form. Be sure to get their information in writing and check references just like you would with any of your vendors.
Installation and Dismantling of Your Tradeshow Exhibit Should be done by an EAC or GSC
There are some services that are provided only by the convention center or GSC such as material handling, electrical service and labor, rigging, vacuuming, plumbing, etc. Many exhibitors feel that this exclusivity allows the GSC to charge inflated rates or provide inferior labor, but for most of these services there are good reasons for the rules. In the case of material handling or drayage, there must be only one exhibit management company organizing everything, both to keep order and for safety reasons. Electrical labor and service must be done according to the contract with the convention center and local building codes for public safety.
No matter who you choose to provide your needed services on the show floor, as a first step, you need to spend some time reading the show manual to understand each service and to know the rules and your rights. Need help? Let's Get Started.
There is Still a Place for Trade Shows in Your Marketing Mix
Talk to anyone who sends more than 2 texts a day and they will tell you that the only way to market products and services is to use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or search engine optimization. They consider face-to-face marketing to be an antiquated form of communication and that the days of tradeshows are numbered.
Those of us who make our living producing trade shows get the opportunity to see things in a different light. Walk the aisles at the consumer electronics show and watch buyers from all over the world making deals with major manufacturers. Go to the HIMSS show and see hospital administrators finalizing plans for purchase of their new IT infrastructure. Attend the American College of Cardiology meeting and listen to heart specialists discussing the advantages of various new instruments with the inventor. This type of important business communication can only be done face-to-face and the most cost- and time-effective way to do this is at a tradeshow.
Social Media Should be an Important Part of Your Tradeshow Promotion
The fact is, social media can and should be an important part of tradeshow promotion and communication. The ability to reach out to potential customers before, during, and after a show using this technology can greatly increase tradeshow ROI. Just like any other marketing project, exhibitors should enlist the assistance of a person or group that has experience with the most popular networks, explain their goals and put together a plan for your tradeshow.
Keep an open mind. Don’t expect overnight success. Continue to review and improve your approach to both media and the results will come.Let's get started!
What to Consider When Determining the Best Staff for your Trade Show Booth
It may not always be the best idea to have your top salespeople staff your tradeshow display. There are several reasons to consider others to staff your booth.
- Most salespeople are born and bred to “close sales” and very few sales can actually be closed at a trade show.
- Salespeople will most likely have a number of current customers at the show. Tradeshow marketing objectives are, for the most part, based on gathering leads. It may be better to allow your sales staff the freedom to spend time with their customers and use others to staff your booth.
- Salespeople are typically very hard to manage. A well trained, disciplined approach to booth staffing may produce better results.
So if not salespeople, then who does make the best booth staff? There is no one correct answer to this question. I believe that each company needs to look at the goals and objectives that they have established for each show and staff accordingly. Each tradeshow exhibit, large or small, should have a preplanned basic procedure for handling visitors that is designed to properly communicate your chosen message, answer any questions and record lead information for follow-up.
There should be people assigned to greeting and qualifying visitors to the booth. This role should be filled by a person who is approachable, pleasant, smiling, energetic and a good communicator. Choose people to fill this role very carefully, as they will make that first and lasting impression on your prospects. Once a prospect has been qualified, this person should also be capable of delivering a brief presentation on your company.
As conversation with the prospect continues into more depth, there must also be someone in the booth that is very product or service knowledgeable. This could be a technical person, manager, or inside sales representative. Ideally, with the help of your staff, the prospect gets the information they need and leaves your booth with a positive impression of your company.
Think about your goals for the show and make sure to select and send the staff that gives you the best shot at not only meeting your goals, but exceeding them.
It seems like every time my wife and I go shopping at the mall, I get a reminder of what it takes to make exhibiting at a tradeshow a great investment. I think we have all had the same experience - I'm not talking about the big department stores or even the smaller shops that take up most of the space at the Mall. I'm referring to the little carts that sit out in the open.
Most of these tiny stores (or kiosks) are staffed by one young person who spends most of their time talking on their cell phone, texting or chatting with friends who stop by. Just like most companies that exhibit at tradeshows, these small businesses are depending on the visual appeal of their products to attract potential customers. While I have no firsthand knowledge of how profitable these carts are, I think it's safe to say their owners would be thrilled if they could increase sales by 10 – 20% each day.
The exception to the rule are the carts that are selling jewelry or eyeglass cleaner. As you walk by, you will almost always be approached by someone who asks, "Excuse me ma'am, would you allow me to clean your rings?" or "Excuse me sir, can I clean your eyeglasses for you?." I would venture to say that the people that work these carts have been given some training and some incentive. Not only that, I'll bet that they sell much more of their product than the carts staffed by distracted teens.
My personal favorite is the one demonstrating and selling the foam airplanes that come right back to you when you throw them. Usually two young people are constantly throwing the planes and they always come right back to them. Just the activity alone makes you stand there and watch, which greatly increases the chances you'll buy something.
So how does all of this relate to trade shows?
Even though the situations are completely different, there is one common factor. The buyers in each case are human beings. Most human beings respond to similar stimulus. Get the people that work your exhibit to approach prospects with as much energy as the people selling jewelry cleaner. Have some activity in your booth like the people throwing foam airplanes. I'll bet you'll see a big improvement in your trade show ROI.
In a grocery store or other retail shops, it is very desirable to have your product placed on an "end cap" (the very end of an aisle). This position provides a great deal more traffic, keeps you from being right next to your competition, and has been proven to increase sales.
Many marketing managers take this experience in retail and put it to use in selecting exhibit space at a trade show, choosing "end cap" spaces, or "peninsula booths" in trade show jargon. This is not always a wise decision. If you look closely at the floor plan of a trade show, you'll see that the vast majority of these spaces face cross aisles. Most cross aisles are not a great choice for traffic. Attendees typically use cross aisles to get from one main aisle to another, which means they are looking towards their destination and may completely miss your display.
Another consideration is the display restrictions that apply to peninsula booths. Most of these spaces are 20' x 20'. Standard tradeshow booth space rules provide for a 5' line of sight area along main aisles. This means that you cannot install displays over waist high within 5 feet of an aisle that is adjacent to another exhibit. In the case of a peninsula booth, you will lose about a quarter of your exhibit space because of this restriction. This needs to be considered as you design your booth and may mean that you will be unable to use some or all of your existing display.
The best thing to do is to carefully review the tradeshow rules before selecting an exhibit space. In my experience, you should select a space based on where you think you'll get the most traffic, and while it might, the end cap doesn't always come out on top.
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Most exhibitors are being forced to find ways to reduce the cost of participation in tradeshows. The most common way this task is approached is to look at each cost line item and see what can be done to save money.
The common first step is to contract for a smaller booth space. This not only saves on the cost of the space rental, but also provides an across-the-board cost reduction. The downside of such a reduction? You may have to settle for a less than desirable booth location and you'll also need to make sure your display properties will fit in the smaller format.
After booth space, the likely second step is to look at each cost category for the show and try to determine which costs can be reduced. This is a very time-consuming process and usually entails trying to find out how much your exhibit weighs and how long it should take to set up. This information is not always easy to get your hands on, and when you do, there are always a slew of variables that can affect the final cost of the show.
In my opinion, however, the best first step to take is to contact your exhibit supplier (assuming they store and manage your display) and lay your cards on the table. Explain to them that you have been asked to cut 25% off the cost of last year's show. Ask them to provide recommendations. Remember, they do this for a living! They are not likely to be overly excited about this mission, but they should support you through good times and bad.
If they can't or won't provide you with some good ideas, you should probably consider finding another supplier.
Thinking about changing exhibit companies? Click here for an apples to apples cost comparison.