By Sarah Hurley, Susanne Skinner, Victor Torregroza

Success is Built on Relationships

When it comes to trade show planning and booth design, your exhibit house is a trusted partner – a work spouse – in the positive outcome of your efforts.

It is not a seasonal partnership: it is an annual investment in the success of your programs. All events begin with a strategic vision and end with critically acclaimed results for your company. A strong partnership with your exhibit vendor means every element of your booth, from design to fabrication to transport, build and storage, is a collaboration.

Collaboration is Power

The exhibit house you partner with should fit into your corporate business model as if they were employees of the company. Give them a seat at the table and invite them to bring their expertise, creative ideas, and their ability to understand your goals. They represent a critical contribution to your trade show success.

Share your vision, brand, and ROI goals to create a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with them.

Kick off the planning process by communicating your strategy, KPIs, budget, and timelines. Define the roles and responsibilities of your team members and invite your vendor to do the same. Create a cadence of communication, feedback, escalation, and evaluation to prevent delays and misunderstandings. Everything costs more than you think it will, so remain realistic and flexible.

These steps guarantee both sides are on the same page as planning progresses.

Divide the Tasks, Multiply the Success

Your trade show exhibit tells your company story. It is a huge investment for a short period of time, with results that speak to the future of your collaboration and the event itself.

Creating a win-win partnership means all participants understand their deliverables. You are not them; they are not you – each person brings a distinct set of competencies to the process.

Clearly delineate all roles and responsibilities and confirm each person’s understanding of their deliverables.

Exhibit House: Tips for Success:

  • Advise the best use of floor space
  • Capitalize on the location
  • Reflect the client’s brand and messaging
  • Stand out boldly, with bright colors that align with the client’s brand
  • Create an interactive experience
  • Design a welcoming landscape
  • Advocate for your client

Client: Tips for Success

  • Communicate your objectives
  • Define your goals
    • New markets
    • Increase awareness
    • New customers
    • Lead capture
    • Customer and prospect meetings
  • Decide how goals will be met
  • Share your ROI Metrics

The Devil Lives in the Details

Nothing replaces investing in a good plan. Certain elements of that process live in the domain of the exhibit vendor. These touch points apply to any size/cost of an exhibit, but the order of priorities will change if it includes a build.

  • Set expectations and work closely with client throughout design process
  • Communicate show rules and regulations
  • 3D designers create the actual booth design, client creates the content
  • Account managers or directors liaise with their internal departments (2D designers, 3D designers, Project Managers, Detailers/CAD, Shop)  
  • Manage and convey all communications with general contractor, show management and other third-party service providers
  • Leverage personal relationships with show management to negotiate space assignments, shape sponsorship opportunities, and streamline approval process for clients
  • Once the layout is approved, provide service estimates, production estimates and timeline to client for their approval
  • Set up weekly status calls to confirm timelines and budget
  • Manage exhibit budget to client specifications
  • Assign a detailer to work with carpenters to build custom pieces
  • If requested, handle the clients’ regulatory submissions

Communication is Key

Successful partnerships mean both sides can listen and understand one another, working through challenges for solutions all can agree upon. Always bring respect to the meeting and work to understand each other’s corporate culture and style. Clearly communicate the cost of delays when working with specific deadlines.

Be clear and concise, set expectations, and ask for feedback. Close each meeting with an understanding of action items and responsible parties. A detailed project plan keeps everyone on track.

Following these guidelines increases productivity, decreases misunderstandings, and builds a strong and lasting relationship