Choose Your Trade Show Partner in 5 Easy Steps

So you’ve decided to try experiential and need a trade show partner. Great! Now you just have to find 37 exhibit houses, send them all lengthy RFPs, and labor over the boring responses to find the perfect match, right?


Don’t dive headfirst into a time-consuming global RFP. Follow our no-nonsense advice to skip the drudgework and find the perfect trade show partner for your experiential success story in five steps flat.

Step 1: Get in Sync

Internal siloing — that “my team versus your team” thing that happens between departments within a large organization — is the biggest contributor to ineffective RFPs and wasted time.

Forget that. Begin your development process by aligning creative, marketing, executives and procurement on the message, goals, and standards of success of the experience you want to build. Your heroic efforts here as Captain Collaboration will pay off in spades later.

Step 2: The Long List

Build a list of five to 10 companies that might be able to build the experience you’re after. Cast a wide net here to include vendors you’ve worked with before as well as new ones. Don’t be afraid to branch out by including unconventional choices; fresh tactics yield fresh results.

Step 3: Get on the Horn

Call each company on the long list and ask straightforward qualifying questions to see how their capabilities align with your needs. Need robust AR/VR capabilities? 24/7 support onsite? A quick call is a painless and effective way to find out if they can deliver. If you can cut five companies out of the running with a few phone calls rather than extensive RFPs, you’ve saved yourself hours of writing requests and reading responses. And those hours equate to dollars.

Step 4: Face-to-Face

Your phone calls have turned the long list into a short one. Now’s the time to request a pitch. Give the few top candidates a more in-depth look at your plans for the event, then invite them to wow you in person. Face-to-face meetings facilitate deeper discovery that just won’t happen behind a screen or over the phone.

Step 5: Winner!

Face-to-face meetings also allow you to assess the energy in the room, and the dream vendor will “just feel right.” With any luck, you’ll be able to seal the deal on the new project before your partner even leaves the office. Now that’s efficiency.

If you’re willing to make a few phone calls, you just might be able to bypass the RFP altogether. Download our hilarious and helpful “RIP RFP” newspaper to learn how.

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