10 Questions to Ask When Selecting a New Exhibit Provider

September 30, 2021

Digging deep to develop a clear checklist of your exhibit program needs will save time and hassle in your search.

For event marketers, partnering with the right exhibit provider is critical to the success of not just a singular event, but for the entire trade show and live event marketing program. A true partner is not just another vendor — the strength of this relationship has the power to make or break an event.

Planning for trade shows and live events is a stressful job because of the hundreds, if not thousands of details that need to perfectly align to create an amazing, memorable experience for your participants. Corporate event markers rely on several vendors to produce just one event. What happens if one, or more of those vendors flake? It could mean, at the very least, a massively stressful last-minute scrabble to compensate. And at the worst — it could ruin all of those months of planning and strategy.

Deciding to switch exhibit providers is a difficult decision for brands. It usually requires a lot of forethought and planning between departments, and for some brands it even results in an arduous but necessary RFP process.

Look, we get it — participating in trade shows and live marketing events is a huge investment for brands. The financial impact, whether it’s good or bad, is significant. And these decisions shouldn’t be made lightly.

That’s why we’ve decided to help event marketers in the exhibit provider selection process. At Steelhead, we know there are tons of options for trade show vendors and each one of us has different areas of expertise which can make the decision even more challenging. It can be overwhelming to narrow down the possibilities.

These questions are designed to help you and your stakeholders brainstorm and then narrow down exactly what you want in your next trade show partner. When you have a strong understanding of your brand’s specific event marketing needs, it will drastically reduce the time spent on searching for the perfect exhibit provider.

So let’s dig deep.

1. Creativity and design.

Check out the vendor’s portfolio. Better yet, check out their clients’ exhibits at a trade show. Are you impressed by their design skills and creative ideas? Does the vendor have a process in place to help create innovative solutions?

2. Access vs. Ownership.

Do you exhibit at multiple shows and need a variety of exhibit solutions? Does the exhibit supplier offer solution flexibility? How much could you save on your trade show program if you didn’t have the burden of owning any assets?

3. No surprises.

Is the vendor’s estimated price guaranteed? Will the price that you’re quoted be the price you actually pay, or will there be surprises on the final invoice?

4. Logistical support.

What other logistical support services does the supplier provide to support your needs? Do you need a walkthrough of the exhibit prior to the event? Do you need specialized shipping? Onsite management?

5. Exceptional service.

Will you have a dedicated client support person or team? Will you be rightfully supported in managing every detail — from design approval through the last day of show?

6. Location, location, location.

Is the exhibit provider’s warehouse location near the trade show venue? Is it important for you to have reduced transportation costs, as well as knowledgeable local staff and logistical support?

7. Brand marketing goals.

Think about both your short-term and long-term event marketing goals. Does the event supplier have the ability to support your vision?

8. Reputation.

Does the exhibit provider have a solid reputation in the industry? Can they share testimonials that speak to their ability to deliver? Can you connect with their clients and ask questions?

9. Sustainability.

Does the trade show vendor have initiatives in place that will support your brand’s sustainability goals?

10. Exhibiting happy.

Do you like the vendor reps you’re working with? Does the supplier’s brand values and mission align with your brand’s values and mission? This aspect of the partnership shouldn’t be overlooked because studies have shown that better work is done when people are happy.

We know that selecting a new exhibit provider can be a scary and risky undertaking. Taking these steps to narrow down what’s truly important to your exhibit program will help tremendously in solidifying the best partnership for you and your brand.

If you feel that Steelhead could be a strong contender as your event marketing partner, please reach out to start the discussion about your trade show program’s unique needs.