6 Important Things to Consider When Writing Your Trade Show RFP

We often receive complicated RFP’s from large companies for new exhibits. It takes some time to carve through and find what they want as they are often not written with the trade show display in mind and start as a corporate template for all large purchases. 

While the need to be comprehensive is vital – so the quote you receive is accurate, it doesn’t have to be a 100-page novel. But, it does need to be well thought out. If you’re a smaller company writing an RFP, it can be overwhelming if you’ve not done it before. So, where do you start? In the absence of an industry-standard – we are here to explain the details.

The RFP goal is to provide your exhibit house or designer with information to develop a concept that accurately meets your needs and optimizes your vision. We understand that your display is an integral part of your marketing strategy, regardless of how big your company is. It’s essential to your success, and that is what matters. Therefore, there are core criteria necessary for every project.

  • Background Information
  • What you want
  • What you need
  • The details
  • Budget
  • Timeline

This looks like a short list; however, there is quite a bit of information needed. Breaking it down into smaller segments makes it easier to manage.


You’ll need to include your contact information and some information about your company. We will look at your website to learn more about your brand, but it’s beneficial to have your branding or style guide and some marketing materials. We want to get to know you!

Where does your trade show program fit in your overall marketing strategy? What are the goals and objectives for your trade show program? We are looking for the WHY of your trade show participation. What are your customer-centric objectives that drive your interactions at each event? Companies can no longer have the mindset of going to a show because they feel they are expected to be there. What are your focus and your measurable objectives? Here are a few examples collected from our clients.

  • New opportunities, networking, and prospecting
  • Exposure and recognition
  • Sales and or product launch
  • Client maintenance and relationship building
  • Speaking and presentation opportunities
  • Support the organization and sponsorships
  • Education
  • Demonstrate your expertise in a specific subject area

There are two viewpoints you need to think about here.  

  1. What do you want for your display?
  2. What do you want from your exhibit house?

Is your audience the same at every show, or does the message or service you are trying to highlight change? This affects the design, the materials, and the hardware we build with. Should the design be generic, or does it need to be updated for each event? If it needs to change, we will want to look at the most cost-effective option that will be easiest for you to work with. Do you need technology, space for products, a meeting room, a coffee station or a demonstration space?

  • Design and 3D renderings 
  • Fabrication 
  • In-house graphics 
  • Completion of show services  
  • Logistics  
  • Installation and dismantle services
  • Fulfillment services

This is where you assess what you’ve done in the past. What has worked for your team and what hasn’t? You may find that after you’ve reviewed your list of needs, it might contradict your list of wants. Clearly defining your needs will help us immensely when we sit down and brainstorm your project. If you want something custom – that desire may not fit with your hopes for portability, but it might inspire some custom elements that will add to your client’s experience when they visit your display.

Do you have products that you want to include? How big are they? You’d be surprised how often this isn’t considered.

Do you have alternative uses for the display? When you ask yourself that question, consider opportunities at an AGM, in your office lobby, at sales meetings and at other events. You may find that there is added utility and possibility for the display. Think of all the ways you can use it to elevate your brand!

Here is where we hope you have an Exhibitor’s Manual and floor plan that you can share. If not, there are several things that we will need to know. If you don’t include this information in the RFP, you can expect potential vendors to ask when they submit their questions. Here are the basics. (Download our guide below for a worksheet.)

  • What are the dimensions of your booth space?
  • Are there height restrictions?
  • Where is your event?
  • When is your event?
  • How many events do you attend throughout the year?
  • Do you have any assets that you want to integrate into the display? For instance, custom chairs from your lobby, an existing hanging halo, current banner stands, or existing hardware?

Sometimes these details help us manage your budget. If your big show isn’t until next year – we can propose building some this year and then adding on to the display next year and split up your expense. You can also purchase the core of the display and rent a portion that will allow you to go big at the one standout show you attend every two years.

We understand the hesitation by some to provide a budget, but knowing this saves you time and money and will make the process more efficient. What does your budget include? Is it the physical display, or does it encompass A/V presentations, shipping, give-aways, hotels and meals?

Does your company have specific payment terms that the exhibit provider must adhere to? Are these terms negotiable? Are you considering a purchase, renting or leasing? These are all possibilities to help you get what you need for the price you have budgeted.

By writing an extensive RFP, you receive a collection of high-quality responses to analyze that allows you to compare apples-to-apples and choose the best possible price for your company’s best solution. Clearly communicating your needs will narrow down the RFP applicants to only the most qualified to help and make your process more efficient. The end result will be a display that showcases your company to the best of your abilities.

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