Candy Adams, aka the Booth Mom, was on our show earlier this year to talk about best practices for putting on a profitable trade show. On this episode, she is back to talk about exhibit houses and what they need from you, the exhibitor, to create and build your display the way you want it and within budget.

About Candy Adams

Candy is an award-winning, freelance exhibit project manager and journalist. Earlier this year, she won an international Gold Tabbie for “Regular Column” from the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) for her Exhibitor’s 101 column for Exhibitors Magazine. This brings her total number of awards to 19 various bronze, silver and gold writing awards in her 22 years of penning the column.

Candy was affectionately nicknamed the Booth Mom by a booth staffer in the early ‘90s for her nurturing personality and knowledge of the trade show industry. First and foremost, she thinks of herself as a mama bear, protecting her clients against unscrupulous individuals at trade shows who prey on rookies. Always looking for value for her clients, Candy never spends a penny where she doesn’t have to. When she began freelancing in 1996, she realized her nickname was actually her brand, so she officially registered her nickname as the Booth Mom.


Types of Exhibit Displays

There are varying types of displays from the simple Tier 4, which is basically table tops with table drapes and a monitor, to Tier 3, which include table tops and banner stand pullups and the larger Tier 1 and 2 displays, which feature Linears and Islands.


Pitching the Exhibit House

The very first thing an Exhibitor should decide is whether they will want to handle the program management themselves or outsource it to someone like Candy. From there, the Exhibitor should write out what it needs in a Request-for-Information, or RFI. The RFI is sent to a variety of exhibit houses to determine their capabilities and ability to fulfill the needs of the exhibitor. It will include questions about the Exhibitor’s show services, storage needs, technological knowledge, financial management, corporate philosophy, goals and values, creativity and experiential experiences, its network of support services, who they work with, etc. The responses help the Exhibitor to narrow the list down to three to four Exhibit Houses that they would like to have pitch the business.

It is an industry standard for exhibit houses to be asked to design on spec. This can cost them up to tens of thousands in design time, so it is important for the Exhibitor to have a clear vision of what it needs in a Request-for-Proposal. It should start with a marketing brief of how the trade show will fit into the company’s marketing mix and include the Exhibitor’s expectations when it comes to design, ROI (what they are spending to make a sale), what will be considered a success, marketing objectives, client relationships, experiences and memorability. Exhibitors should have a realistic budget as to what is needed to accomplish the project. Candy says most displays cost about $165/sq.-ft. Candy also recommends giving the Exhibit House 90% of what’s expected, and then hold back 10% for things they might want to add. Complex displays are often a mish-mash of what needs to be built, rented from the Exhibit House and rented by the show house. The information will allow the Exhibit House to determine if it wants to pitch the account.


Communication is Key

The people within Exhibit Houses have various core competencies. If you want to build a solid relationship with the Exhibit House, meet with the executive team to talk strategy, responsibilities and execution. Candy says no show goes perfectly, so always have a backup plan. If there is a fail on the part of any vendor, that vendor should get the bill, not the Exhibitor.


Final Thoughts

Candy’s big takeaway is do your homework when selecting an Exhibit House. Do the RFI to as many Exhibit Houses as you like, but don’t send the RFP to many. Keep it down to three or four. An Exhibit House is much more likely to pitch your business if it knows it has a 25 or 33% chance of winning it.


Connect with Candy



Social Media: @TheBoothMom