Crafting the Perfect RFP

Starting the RFP process can feel overwhelming – it requires time and focus that you might feel like you already don’t have. So, we’re here to shed light into making the process feel less overwhelming and more enjoyable as you seek to create your company’s next brand experience RFP. Whether your proposal quest is for brand activations, trade shows, retail, pop-ups, or corporate environments, this insight should be instrumentally helpful.

1. Be selective

It might seem like a good idea to include 7-10 agencies in an RFP process; however, having more than 4-5 agencies participate can be too much information for you and your team to sift through. Depending on your process, that could be hundreds of pages to read and analyze. Most brand directors, trade show managers, creative directors, and sourcing strategists we know are strapped for time, so this selective step helps to alleviate an abundance of meetings and time spent reading.

Including 4-5 agencies requires more research on the front-end to determine the companies that you know – or are fairly certain – will be a good fit with you and your business objectives. However, the downside to this is that it takes quite a bit of up-front work. But we promise, the upside is much greater. In the long run, this approach allows you more time for your day-to-day work vs. emailing 7-10 agencies, answering their questions, and reviewing 7-10 proposals.

The selective approach vs. casting a wider net almost always produces the best results as your time will be spent reviewing proposals from agencies that you already think might be awesome partners.

2. Share measurable objectives

It’s important to establish and share your business objectives in a qualitative and quantitative way. You will want to hear from your brand experience agency how they have helped others in this manner and how they can help you. Trade show programs, pop-ups, and other brand activations can and should have firm metrics to strive towards and measure. If your current program doesn’t have metrics, ask the agencies participating in your RFP to submit recommended ways to measure your program based on your ideal outcomes.

3.  Provide details

As it relates to everything in the proposal, the more details shared with the agencies, the better. You will want to share with the participating agencies your company’s unique selling proposition, core values, target audience(s), ideal experiences, and more. In this case, the more, the merrier.

4. Include the budget

When sending a proposal, it’s best to always share a budget. A detailed, exact number is better than a range because then the agencies submitting proposals can recommend programs that can be implemented to achieve your goals strategically. We can promise that sharing a budget does not limit creative thinking; it helps to maximize thinking to stretch and optimize within a client’s financial parameters. Every project or 12-month plan has one – so sharing it is always beneficial.

5. Give adequate time

The most stressful projects on both the brand and agency side are often rushed. With that, we recommend allowing 3-4 weeks for an adequate beginning-to-end RFP process. If your team is seeking design, we recommend adding a week or two to this timeline. Generous timelines allow both the agency and brand to be most successful and thoughtful.

6. Ask for feedback

The proposal process allows brands to ask the question, “if this was your brand experience or trade show exhibit, what would you do differently?” Hearing an outside perspective on a program can positively change the trajectory of a current program and optimize it in ways that you didn’t think would be possible. Our team, for example, excels at hearing an idea and recommending ways to maximize it because of the variety of projects we work on each day. Our team has endless ideas for stronger programs. So, gather feedback during your RFP process; it’ll help you be more strategic and creative with future campaigns.

7.  Get to know the people

People like to work with people they like. Before hiring an agency, spend time with them. Whichever company gets awarded your business will be working side-by-side with you, and you want to be sure you enjoy the collaboration. We believe it’s important to build comradery before selecting the right agency so that when the work starts, there’s already a personal connection.

8. Make time

Agencies are investing their time into creating the best possible brand experience proposals that deliver on your business goals. And one of the most productive ways to work is in collaboration. So, during the RFP process, make sure to leave space to connect with the agencies to answer questions, provide feedback, etc. The impact of these types of brief calls can make a world of difference in the proposals you receive.

If it’s you, a colleague, or friend who’s about to embark on a brand experience, trade show, retail, pop-up, or corporate environment RFP, we hope your process feels fun, strategic, and results-driven.

Our team specializes in helping our clients stand up and out, and we’d love to start a conversation with you.




Technology Should Advance Brand Experiences

Technology is everywhere. But often, it lacks strategic integrations.

Strong technology solutions should foster three things for your business. It should educate, equip, and inspire your audience with the right content. It should lead your end user to start a conversation with an individual at your company. And it should have a strategic role within your sales program.

Educate, Equip, & Inspire

We all know technology is amazing. It’s a tool that our team integrates into almost every brand experience. Technology should educate, equip, and inspire your audience with the relevant information they need to move along in their customer journey. We’ve helped clients use dozens and dozens of technology integrations to communicate their message in a way that makes sense for the environment and the individual. Both the environment and end user are extremely important considerations to think through when choosing which technology to implement. Each solution is valuable but there’s always one that is better for the brand experience. Two great examples of educating, equipping, and inspiring are General Mill’s iPad Survey with Live Streaming Results and MegaFood’s Digital Product Kiosk.

Lead to Conversations

Technology should almost always lead the end user to begin or continue a conversation with a representative from your company. Whether we implement augmented reality, virtual reality, RFID, flip disk walls, gamification, or iPads and screens they should always be part of the program to facilitate conversations. Technology should never be siloed but it should be paired with human interactions. At the end of the day, business is about building relationships and helping people, and technology should be a tool to do both. Two examples of excellent technology that led to qualified conversations are Agosto’s Flip Disc Technology and Kobelco’s Gamification Matching Game.

Integrate with Sales

Sales, it’s what most companies want. Technology should funnel through to your company’s sales objectives as a tool and methodology to support growth. We help our clients integrate with our technology solutions to drive lead generation and sales enablement. We recently implemented our lead generation and sales enablement tool to help a client increase their qualified lead generation goal by 150%.

An example of a strong technology and sales integration is 3M’s Retail Pop-Up.

Technology helps brand experiences to be more educational, conversational, and integrated into larger business objectives. As you evaluate your technology integrations, be sure it advances your brand experiences.

For more technology inspiration, head to our YouTube channel to see a variety of integrations for brand experiences.



How to Win at Outdoor Retailer

The team at nParallel has been attending Outdoor Retailer both Summer and Winter for decades. The show features over 1,400 brands exhibiting across every floor of the Colorado Convention Center, in Denver — all showcasing the latest outdoor gear and trends. If you are anywhere close to being interested in the outdoors, this IS candyland. Over the show’s three days, the schedule is full of education sessions, industry events, happy hours, and many opportunities to network, learn, and if you’re an exhibitor sell your product to buyers in the masses.

We noticed three themes at OR that made brand experiences stand out: new industry technology, sustainability, and captivating engagements.

New Industry Technology

Products, brands, and trends of this year’s show seem to be focused around new and innovative technologies, rather than quirky / crazy product designs. Brands that showed the adaption of technology with construction and materials into the final apparel piece caught buyer’s attention. This was done through weaving in logos, thermal materials, and seamless construction to get buyers excited about more than the look of the product but the innovation behind them. This helped to communicate the “why” behind the “what” which is important in differentiating your brand experience.


Sustainability is a fad that will never go away, thank goodness! We loved seeing Patagonia showcase their pre-paid package service to send in old t-shirts. They use it with other recycle materials and produce a new shirt with 52% of old t-shirts and the rest with recycled materials from fishing nets, water bottles etc. They started this program one year ago and have collected up to 100,000 t-shirts so far. Great job, Patagonia showcasing real results and global impact!

Another company does something similar by collecting old wine corks turning into soles on shoes. What we love about sustainability is that any industry can implement a sustainability program and have it drive impact and customer affinity.

Captivating Engagements

“Keenfest” was across the street with cartwheel rides, live music, sustainability exhibits, custom screen-printed t-shirts, and food trucks that serve beyond fresh and fantastic street food was enough to keep you sustained and entertained between dashing around trying to make it to every exhibit. You could have sold tickets to the public to get in this place! Now that’s an excellent brand experience. Keenfest thought through the customer journey to draw people in, and make them want to stay engaged in the experience.

We met influencers on-site who were engaging with the public and meeting with their raving fans. Influencer marketing can be spendy, but it’s such a great way to build a following and communicate brand messages in an authentic way.

Tin Cup had a giveaway of a tin cup shot glass and a sample of whiskey. They crafted an awesome venue with the option to get a unique photo with a vintage 1800’s camera and developed it on-site for a takeaway sepia tone picture on your mug. Great job, Tin Cup!

Flexfit Hats nailed it with an ice cream parlor that was a visual pleasure and also great for the taste buds with real ice cream samples. Their set-up looked like a retro ice cream shop married an oasis of natural beauty. They did an excellent job drawing people in with intrigue and beauty.

Our team made new friends on-site and we’re already excited to book our tickets and begin designing exhibits for the next OR.

Are you wanting to make a bigger splash at OR? Reach out to me (, I’d love to chat with you!



Insights from InfoComm

Our team recently returned from InfoComm, where we helped Legrand create the largest exhibit on the show floor – a commanding 100’ x 120’ exhibit! Virtually tour the space here.

InfoComm is the largest audiovisual and integrated experience event, and we’re here to share our top brand experience takeaways that can be applied to almost any event.


Differentiation was hard to find at InfoComm. We saw lots and lots of monitors, but not a lot of content that told the story of why one monitor was superior to another. We often see this happen at trade shows, and it’s unfortunate because many products have a very compelling story that should be shared.

If you’re exhibiting at a show where you have a similar product to others, it’s crucial to tell your differentiation story in a compelling way. There are many ways to differentiate not just with messages but unique architectural structures, varying material, and clear branding with strategic graphics. A unique differentiator was a microphone company that had a talented live musician performing on the show floor. This was an excellent way to differentiate and show how their products work while also engaging and entertaining the audience.

Thought Leadership

The AV world does thought leadership well. We saw many companies leveraging their content and sharing it in large group presentation formats.  It was common to see groups of 10+ people walking the show floor going on “booth tours” where they were all from the same company in their matching polos listening to presentations. Then, they would all walk together to the next booth and hear another presentation. Other industries should absolutely do this! It’s such a great way to introduce yourself to other products, familiarize yourself with options, and grow together as a team.

Many companies had stages and mini-theaters set-up with microphones to host these “booth tours.” This is a great way to gather attention and position yourself as a leader in your industry. Whether you have engineers, scientists, food influencers, or other individuals who can command the attention it’s a strategy that works across industries. People go to shows to learn something new; if they learn from you, they might give you their contact information and ultimately their business.

Cultural Relevance

Another great insight from InfoComm is the idea of e-sports. One exhibitor we saw had an engagement area where they demonstrated their products through an e-sports area. They had two to three people playing a video game and one person announcing. There was always a crowd around watching and engaging. It was a culturally relevant way to showcase their products and capture attention. What made this successful is that the engagement was live, real-time, and interacted with the people right in front of them.

Whether you’re planning to exhibit at InfoComm 2020 or want to infuse your next brand experience with differentiation, thought leadership, or culturally relevant integrations, I’d love to talk to you!


Retail Expansion


We are welcoming Jean Anne Chez to the nParallel family as we further expand our retail and experiential services. As an account planner, Chez will partner with clients to create, design, and fabricate retail environments and experiences whether that be pop-up retail spaces, brick and mortar engagements, mass-retailer roll-outs, point-of-purchases, and retail fixtures and displays.

 “Our craftsmanship in retail spans more than a decade and in recent months we’ve experienced significant retail client growth. With our added clients, we knew we needed to add more retail experts to our team to serve our clients with strategies and creative solutions,” said nParallel Principal Don Gonse. “We’re thrilled to welcome Jean Anne Chez to our team – her experience will provide clients with powerful retail strategies and experienced execution that they can count on for a pop-up shopping experience all the way to a national mass-retailer roll-out.”

 “I am excited about the process of utilizing all my years of experience in the retail industry whether that being business development, creative agency work, product development, engineering, or manufacturing. My vast perspective on retail will allow me to partner with a variety of clients to help them achieve their business objectives,” said Chez. “I’m looking forward to jumping in and partnering with clients to help them make a positive impact to their business.”

Chez’s joins nParallel with a strong background in national retail and local agencies. Prior to nParallel, Chez was at Little & Company, The Bernard Group, Ambient Consulting at Best Buy, PGA of America, and John Ryan Company. Chez’s retail-specific experience ranges from marketing to project management working on national and local brands.  

If your company is looking to leverage retail or experiential engagements to deepen customer interactions, we’d love to have a conversation with you and show you our team’s expertise.

“Best Booth” Award Given to Our Client General Mills at Expo West!


“Best Booth” Award Given to Our Client General Mills at Expo West!

It was our joy to design and fabricate a custom exhibit for General Mills for the globally-recognized show National Products Expo West that resulted in the exhibit being named the “Best Booth.” Natural Products Expo West attracts 3,600 exhibitors and 86,000 attendees from around the nation and world.

Max Goldberg of Living Maxwell, a nationally-known and respected organic food expert and influencer, attends National Products Expo West each year and selects the best exhibits based upon originality, interactive experiences, and impact. For the second year in a row, Goldberg awarded General Mills with the “Best Booth” accolade at Expo West both exhibits were designed and fabricated by our team!  

The exhibit challenge was to equally incorporate General Mills natural and organic brands along with sustainability education.

Our captivating exhibit strategy featured:

Custom rainfall simulator

The 1,500-square-foot exhibit visually spoke to General Mills announcement of regenerative agriculture practices. The highlight feature was a custom designed rainfall simulator that demonstrated environmental impacts of traditional farming practices on soil erosion while simultaneously showing positive impacts of crop cover use. Watch the rainfall simulator.

Lenticular wall

We created a beautifully executed lenticular wall that had crowds walking back and forth and watching the evolution of regenerative practices. This display caught attendee’s attention and drew them in for extended conversations. Watch the lenticular wall experience.

12’ sampling stations

A sampling station doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it should be beautiful and inviting. Our team grew plants several months prior from seeds and planted them within the top section of the 12’ sampling station. Plants included Mexican grasses, lavender, basil, and other herb plants to bring to life the company’s show focus. Throughout the event, samples of General Mills products were given to attendees, sampling brands included Annie’s, Cascadian Farms, Epic Provisions, Larabar, Liberté, and Food Should Taste Good.

 “Our team excels at helping brands position themselves in a differentiated way and it was our honor to help General Mills showcase their brands in a way that caught the spotlight and attention of industry experts,” said nParallel President Megan Diamond. “We helped General Mill stand-out at this three-day event with a strategic approach that married purpose, mission, and product in a way that was engaging and drew people in.”

 “When I got there (to the show), it was immediately obvious that the company (General Mills) had come up with something fantastic,” said Max Goldberg founder of Living Maxwell. “One of my favorite things to do each year at Natural Products Expo West is to pick out the best trade show booths. While the majority of people’s time and attention is focused on showcasing new products, it cannot be overlooked that a good number of brands invest a tremendous amount of energy and resources into building their trade show booths… I like to recognize those companies that go the extra mile and present something special.”


Digital Transformation


Digital Transformation

The world of dimensional brand experience is moving from static images, displays, graphics, to an all-around digital experience to better engage audiences. What used to be an image is now a video. What used to be an exchange of business cards is now smart lead capture. What used to be a pamphlet is now an interactive touch-screen education center.

We are seeing a massive move to digital in the industry across trade shows, retail showrooms, pop-up shops, corporate lobbies, and road shows – it’s expanding in new ways at every event. The popularity of digital merits space within brand experiences because of its ability to connect in a more impactful way, drive engagement, build community, and grow organizations.

As we move into 2019, here are six ways brands are winning through digital integrations.

1.       Increasing smart technology programs across their organization

It not only better serves your organization but more importantly, it better serves your clients.

2.       Reassessing lead captures at trade shows

Leverage technology and data to work with your brand experience for ease, convenience, and to promote efficiencies on the show floor.

3.       Creating digital cohesion

Weave digital technology through all brand experiences from beginning to end. It will better engage your customers and reach them through the means that matter most to them.

4.       Adding more content displays

Increase digital content display screens to better showcase tailored content and provide real-time insight to help customers further understand your products and services.

5.       Integrating marketing automation

Implement technology for marketing automation to offer clients the information they need and when they need it.  

6.       Offering intriguing experiences

Create brand experiences that grab attention from across the room with technology that draws people in. 

We all know that digital has features that foster longer dwell-times within brand marketing, and digital helps to move the needle when it comes to customers engaging with brands, and that’s what we want.

If we can recommend anything as it relates to this transformation, think through your brand presence and challenge your company to increase engagement through digital solutions. Digital can tremendously increase conversations and business results and 2019 might just be the year to make a digital transformation.


Vote for nParallel for EXHIBITOR's People's Choice Award!


Vote for nParallel for EXHIBITOR's People's Choice Award!

EXHIBITOR magazine named four of our client exhibits as finalists in the Portable/Modular Awards competition! The finalist with the most votes will be honored during a ceremony at EXHIBITORLIVE.

Join us in voting once a day through February 26 for General Mills, MegaFood, Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP, or Kobelco Construction Machinery USA!

"Portable/modular exhibits are efficient, effective, and easy to install, but they can also be stunning, sophisticated, and strategic" says Travis Stanton, editor of EXHIBITOR magazine. "This competition is intended to spotlight the most remarkable of these affordable, adaptable, and reconfigurable structures, while also demonstrating the kind of well-designed, eye-catching stands that can be created using portable, modular, and system components." 

The contest was open to modular, system, and portable exhibits making their debut in the United States or abroad between Oct. 1, 2016, and Oct. 1, 2018, and it was judged by a panel of world-renowned designers and marketing experts.

Category winners, the People's Choice Award winner, and the recipient of the competition's top honor, i.e., the Zeigler Award, will be announced at EXHIBITORLIVE. Winners will receive a custom trophy and will be featured in the July issue of EXHIBITOR magazine. 

Vote here!


Success & ROI


Success & ROI

Success can only be found when success is defined. Trade shows and brand activations are instrumental business activities that can move the needle. At nParallel, we believe each show should have ROI and success metrics broken out into three supporting phases.

As part of our strategic approach, we help our clients create programs that deliver on business objectives. The three phases we recommend developing marketing programs and metrics around are the pre-show (or pre-event), show, and post-show. We’ll use the term “show” for simplicity, but we recommend this approach for all brand activations whether it’s a trade show, event, retail pop-up, etc. Unfortunately, some companies only focus on the middle activity, the show or the event. We find that all three components of the brand activation are crucial for success and ROI.

Event attendance should be evaluated based on business goals and how each show or event moves the company closer to achieving their goals. Once a show is defined, it’s important to set metrics and begin planning all three phases, again, not just the middle phase. If a company can build a holistic marketing plan that includes pre-show, show, and post-show elements, their business impact will be stronger than simply focusing on the show alone.


Each event should have a pre-show marketing campaign to support their business goals. The pre-show campaign should help to build awareness of the event and engage the company’s target audience. An example of a pre-show metric would be identifying and connecting with a specific number of qualified show attendees in advance of the event to increase engagement and follow-ups in all phases. The metric for this example should be based upon a realistic and measurable number that can be qualified and monitored. It’s instrumental in this phase to begin capturing leads or prospects to move through the sales funnel, that is, if that’s the business goal.


It’s important to identify metrics to be measured during the show as well. We recommend establishing on-site show goals and review them before and after each day of the brand activation. Those who focus on their goals are much more likely to achieve them because they are the focus of their attention, conversations, and engagements.

Often, there are additional on-site initiatives that the show hosts offer that can help to build upon the brand activation. Opportunities like speaking engagements, dinners, advertising, etc. can help to support the business goals of the brand activation. Again, all opportunities should have goals and should be measured for impact.


Having a post-show plan is vital. Companies are investing time and budget to showcase their brand in front of the right target market and continuing the conversation after the event helps to close deals, increase brand awareness, and bring the brand closer to their business goals.

Success and ROI as it relates to the post-show should be supported with measurables. For example, metrics should be very clear on how to bring leads through the sales funnel and what type of marketing campaigns should be applied to each scenario.

Like we said earlier, success can only be found when success is defined. Each post-show should have a post-mortem to analyze the brand activation’s goals and how the pre-show, show, and post-show campaigns delivered upon the established metrics. If you aren’t hosting post-mortems, we recommend implementing them to optimize brand activations further.


Approaching Creativity


Approaching Creativity

In a world where there is a constant flow of communication at not just trade show attendees, but all consumers, how do you showcase an exhibit with creativity and differentiation to drive impact? This is the question at hand for many trade show managers and executive leaders.

The process is a true partnership between client and agency. Together, we are always stronger because each group brings two vastly different perspectives to the table; which marries business objectives and understanding with strategic and executional trade show excellence.

We believe that finding creativity for a company must start with the precedence of why they are exhibiting in the first place. This understanding should be the thought stream that all creativity should stem from. As a company digs into the objectives of show attendance, they will naturally bump into further understanding their target market, specifically, the ones that attend the show and their rationale. Dialogue around objectives should be the catapult into creative discussions that surround addressing and solving their target market’s pain points through trade show marketing.

Often, people attend these industry events to learn about new products, gain valuable information, and network with others to be inspired and challenged. Being next to hundreds, sometimes thousands of other exhibitors, should push companies to understand why they’re attending and how they’re going to cut through the noise and reach their audience in a fresh, differentiated, and business-impacting way. 

Some people like to start with color swatches, trends, tactics (which, we are the first to love all these things); however, starting with objectives will help to make sure the creative direction and innovation is on-point.

Once objectives are clear, then the creative process can be informed. At nParallel, we bring in key people from across the organization to strategize around the outlined objectives. For us, it doesn’t matter where the best idea comes from for our clients; we just want the best. Sometimes, these story storm session, as we call them, include our clients. Again, we are looking for the creative concept that will support business objectives to reach our client’s prospects.

At a trade show, most companies shouldn’t be trying to attract everyone; they should be laser-focused on obtaining quality leads. Creativity for some brands, like a medical-device client of ours, looks like closing off their booth to only the ten percent of show attendees who received an exclusive invitation to go behind the curtain (which actually was a wall) to experience an innovative product first-hand. This approach is different and is tied to their business objectives of quality leads and sales.

Being innovative and creative in the trade show industry means understanding how to interact with the target audience in the way they want to be interacted with to help them achieve their business goals. Our team of trade show pros have been in the industry for decades and they get how to drive business objectives through trade show marketing.

Helping clients stand up and out is what we love to do.


Our Manufacturing is Turning Heads & Winning Awards

Our Manufacturing is Turning Heads & Winning Awards

In September, the Minnesota Business Magazine hosted their Made in Minnesota manufacturing excellence awards ceremony. The event recognizes companies in Minnesota for a variety of manufacturing practices.

We attended the event and walked away with not just one award, but two! It was humbling to learn that our innovation and sustainability practices attracted the attention of the manufacturing judges and businesses across the state of Minnesota.

So, to give you a peek behind the curtain, we’ve interviewed our Director of Operations to share with you a bit more about why we do what we do and how we design, fabricate, produce, and construct trade show and retail environments for clients.

Dan, what set nParallel’s manufacturing apart?

Our craftsmanship and attention to the smallest details are unique to nParallel. Our team bands together to tackle every project and we have created partnerships in the industry to ensure our sourcing and manufacturing practices are stand-out. From our trade show exhibit fabrication to our retail displays and fixtures testing, sourcing, and mass roll-outs we are committed as a team to every project.   

As the Director of Operations, what are you most proud of?

I’m really proud and truly impressed at our team’s ability to adhere to timelines and budgets in today’s trade show industry. At the end of the day, our clients aren’t just our clients. They’re our friends and people we enjoy working with and for. To come alongside these partners and help them achieve their goals through our manufacturing expertise is what we love to do.

Tell us about nParallel’s capabilities as it relates to manufacturing.

We’re creative, experienced, passionate, and most of all, we’re really, really nimble. We don’t claim to be the biggest, but we claim to be the best. As the director who hears it all and sees it all, we are not restricted with unnecessary processes. We do what’s best for our clients and we work together in a variety of ways to ensure we provide them with a completed project that they are proud to exhibit or display. We sometimes run into challenges and obstacles in projects and what I appreciate about these situations is they allow us to think even more creatively and with opportunities to try something new.

Our manufacturing team including our builders, graphic production experts, detailers, and other divisions are what we are most proud of when it comes to receiving the Sustainability and Innovation awards. Without our people – who are truly the best in the industry – we could not do what we do. Also, thank you to the judges of the Made in Minnesota awards! We are thankful for the time you invested in learning about our manufacturing practices.

Our RFP Tips from Reading Hundreds of Proposals


Our RFP Tips from Reading Hundreds of Proposals

To every season turn, turn, turn. We know that you’ll be turning, turning, turning many pages of trade show proposals once you’ve sent out your RFP. We’d like to help.

 After 15 year in this business, we know it’s RFP season when our team is spending an excessive amount of time held up in a room decorated with pinned renderings, too many coffee cups, and strategic ideas bouncing off every surface.

We review countless proposal every year and we wanted to share a few tips that help both exhibit houses and their prospective clients in the detailed process of proposal season. We can help.

 Check out our top 7 tips.

 1. Include Brand Standards

It is always best to include brand standards from the start so that the creative team can include the right branding, the first time. No one likes a re-do. And by no one, we mean no one. Exhibit houses appreciate any design files that companies want to share as well as any guidelines to follow.

 2. Share the Budget

When sending a proposal, it’s best to always share a budget. A detailed exact number is even better than a range. It helps to give context for how an exhibit house can better help its potential client. We can promise that sharing a budget does not limit creative thinking – including the budget helps to maximize thinking to stretch and optimize within a client’s financial parameters.

 3. Give Time

The worst timeline is a rushed timeline. Excelling exhibit houses aren’t sitting around without any work to do, so, when a brand sends out a proposal to agencies, they should hope that they have other client work on their plate and that they cannot turn a proposal around in a matter of moments. So, being generous with timelines almost always produces the best results.

 4. Ask for Feedback

In a proposal process, this is an excellent time to ask the question, “if this was your exhibit, what would you do differently?” Hearing an outside perspective on an exhibit program can positively change the trajectory of a current program. Exhibit houses see trade show programs all day and have endless ideas to optimize strategies to be stronger. So, gather feedback needed to maximize current programs.

 5.  Get to Know the People

At the end of the day, people like to work with people they like. Before hiring an exhibit house, spend time with them. Whatever company gets awarded the business will have the privilege of working day in and day out with your company. We believe it’s important to build comradery before selecting the right agency so that when the work starts, there’s already a personal connection.

 6.  Provide Details Details Details

As it relates to everything in the proposal, the more details that can be shared with the exhibit houses, the better. As a brand experience company, our goal is to help our clients stand out and we do this through the information shared with us. The more the merrier.

 7. Make Time

Agencies are investing their time into creating for their prospective client the best possible brand activation to deliver upon business goals. The most productive way to work is in collaboration. So, during the RFP process, make sure to leave space in the week to connect with the exhibit houses to answer questions, provide feedback, etc. The positive results of these brief calls can make a world of difference.

If it’s you, a colleague, or friend who’s about to embark on a brand activation or trade show RFP we hope you find exactly what you need. Our team specializes in help our clients stand up and out and we’d love to help you get there.


Exhibiting a Portfolio of Brands

Exhibiting a Portfolio of Brands

We all know that exhibiting takes strategy. What’s more is that exhibiting at a trade show with a portfolio of brands takes even more framework development.

Often, we find companies on a show floor exhibiting with multiple brands and the spaces look unorganized, unstructured, and unclear of what they are striving to accomplish. Most of the time, this is due to a lack of a strategic framework that was not completed in the planning stages, or as we call it, the Define stage, of the process.

There are companies on the show floor that are true category leaders as it relates to exhibiting multiple brands in one booth. Their defined approach showcases their thoughtful brand strategy and helps to achieve their company goals in a stronger way on the show floor. Organizations like General Mills, Pearson’s Candy, and Legrand exhibit their brands with methodology and clarity.

When we are approached by a company to help them with their brand activation, and they carry a portfolio of brands, we help them determine how to showcase all their companies in the best way to achieve success.

First, we understand the goal of exhibiting at the show; a crucial element to define so that business goals are achieved.

Next, we outline who the target audience is of the exact show that the client is planning to attend. If a client doesn’t understand their audience on the show floor, they can’t best position themselves to their audience.

From there, we begin to decide, from the perspective of the target audience, what’s most relevant to them, the individual brands within the company or the company itself? This is the linchpin for how to showcase the company and its brands. For example, General Mills is excellent at knowing their approach for each show. Some brand activations, it’s more important to showcase Annie’s Homegrown, Larabar, Cascadian Farms Organic, etc. And other trade shows, it’s more important for the name General Mills to be front and center. We call this prioritization and alignment, brand hierarchy.

A client’s brand hierarchy should often flow from how the company sells its brands and how the target audience of the company purchases products or services. A trade show is just one of many sales and marketing programs and so the trade show should reflect the overall company and shouldn’t be built-out in a way that is completely different than the everyday actions of the business.

If a client decides that for a specific show they should be showcased as a “house of brands” vs. a “branded house,” we recommend building out answers to the following questions to ensure the booth build-out supports the strategic brand hierarchy.

  • Rank the brands in order of importance for the show.
  • Do any new products or brands need to be highlighted?
  • What percentage of the exhibit should each brand share?
  • Can any of the brands be coupled together?

The tactical execution of the exhibit should follow the brand hierarchy – this includes messaging. The cohesive messaging should flow from the brand strategy and drive home the message on the show floor. The messages are the elements of the exhibit that helps to bring people into the space, to learn more, and engage in conversation. It’s crucial to think about the messages after a company has decided which track to take: a branded house or a house of brands. Messages should vary significantly depending on the approach.

There are some great leaders out there on the show floor, and we believe that any company, of any size, can be an example of how to exhibit with a portfolio of brands. If you need help on deciding how to best position your company on the show floor. You know where to find us!

Celebrating 15-Years


Celebrating 15-Years

As the founders of nParallel, we are thrilled to be celebrating 15-years in business with the best companies as clients and the best-of brand experience experts, our team.

We remember when nParallel was just an idea. Now it’s a nationally-recognized, award-winning brand experience company. We have come so far, and our gratitude is unprecedented.

Our people are gold. Our company consists of a rare collection of individuals who actually look forward to seeing each other every morning. Our company culture is that of chili fests and charity events; we’re each other’s professional weekend movers and the ongoing verbal banter of each other’s horrible bowling scores. We are friends.

At the beginning of the summer, we celebrated our 15-year company anniversary with an all-employee retreat in Northern Minnesota. This getaway allowed us to have a memorable time away as an organization to celebrate who we are, as a collaborative, collective team – all 40 of us plus our employee’s partners.

nParallel has become what we hoped it would and in addition to the best team, we have the best clients. These are the people who have trusted us since the beginning to be their brand experience strategists, project managers, and executional experts. Without their daily (& often, decade-long) trust, we wouldn’t be here today.

So today and every day, we’re thankful for our team and clients who are truly our family and friends.

Cheers to each of you who make up the nParallel story!


Leading with Leads


Leading with Leads

Leads. It’s what 95% of exhibitors want.

Unfortunately, not all these exhibitors are getting their leads. To get the most qualified prospects, it requires a strategic plan and framework. 

81% of trade show attendees are individuals who have authority at their organization to make purchases; therefore, most attendees are key decision makers.

As you build out your lead generation strategy, be sure to engage your brand activation company. We have lead generation conversations with our clients often and here are eight conversations to have.

1.     Set lead goals

Start by establishing goals for lead generation.

  • What does a successful, qualified lead look like?
  • How many leads are we aiming for?
  • Are there specific companies or individuals that are on our prospect list that we must get in front of?

2.     Captivate attention

Let’s be honest and agree that competition on the show floor is fierce; therefore, creating an experience that draws a qualified lead in, captivates their attention, and moves them through the sales funnel is important. Each of our clients requires a different approach to find success. Some execute through innovative technology approaches like augmented reality, virtual reality, projection mapping, flip disks, and more. Other clients engage through a nontraditional exhibit structure that draws attendees in from across the room. Our point here is that the exhibit’s presence must appeal to prospects.

3.     Qualify lead

Badge scanning is not a new technology but is one that should not be overlooked. It can help exhibitors better understand visitors and their level of engagement. The badge scanning we offer at nParallel ensures our customers are getting the most out of their exhibiting by tracking their conversations and metrics.  

4.     Discover pain-points

Understanding a prospect’s pain-point is crucial, no matter the brand activation. To get to the root issue and not an ailment of the problem, surveys can be instrumental. We help our customers discover their prospective customer’s challenge by using technology such as real-time exhibit surveys. A quick survey helps to qualify leads better, understand what products might be best for them, and drive them through the sales funnel by having a better understanding of how your solutions can help. If your team doesn’t want to execute a survey on the show floor, these surveys can be sent in pre-show marketing materials or post-show.

5.     eLiterature

Another obvious one that has benefits that are often overlooked is electronic literature. It’s a common practice now to forgo bringing printed sales material to the show and simply send the material via email to prospective clients. What’s overlooked is the opportunity to measure and further learn about your business lead through electronic literature. The technology that our team uses allows our customers to learn more about who they are sending the sales material to, what areas of the documents they’re interested in based upon clicks, forwards, read times, etc. The metrics derived from electronic literature is instrumental to understanding leads.

6.     Lead Management

If lead management is new to you, we can help. Our software integration allows our customers to capture leads on the show floor and easily merge into a CRM tool. If a client currently isn’t doing this, we can send a lead management expert with our client on the show floor to make sure leads are captured correctly. The last thing an exhibitor wants is to go to a show and not be able to reconnect with leads. Oh, and if we can say anything, please do not do the fishbowl lead capture!

7.     Merge to CRM

No one likes redundancies; therefore, no one should capture leads and then manually add them into their CRM tool. Technology these days should help, not create more work. If a software solution does not allow a company to automatically capture leads on the show floor and merge into their CRM tool, it might be time to reevaluate the solution.

8.     Evaluate

And speaking of evaluating, after a show, companies should be sure to evaluate their leads. Find out if lead goals were met and determine how to improve for the next show. All leads should be categorized and followed-up to close deals that began on the show floor.

Want to lead with leads on the show floor? We’d love to help.


nParallel, a Best Place to Work


nParallel, a Best Place to Work

As the president and one of the founders of nParallel, I’m thrilled that our company was named a Best Place to Work by Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal! This award is something we take unprecedented gratitude in because we know this is a testament to our employees and culture.

It’s true. Our people are gold. Our company consists of a rare collection of individuals who actually look forward to seeing each other every morning. Our company culture is that of chili fests and charity events; we’re each other’s professional weekend movers and the ongoing verbal banter of each other’s horrible bowling scores. We are friends.

In May of 2018, we celebrated our 15-year company anniversary with an all-employee retreat in Northern Minnesota. This getaway allowed us to have a memorable time away as an organization to celebrate who we are, as a collaborative, collective team – all 40 of us plus our employee’s partners.

Our team hires extremely well. nParallel employees are the best-of industry pros. We’ve learned that hiring is more than just hiring for a skill you’re looking for, but it’s equally important to hire an individual who carries the DNA we’re looking for: one of loyalty, integrity, and professionalism. Our employees are the people who truly invest in our clients. We hire those that love the work they do, do it with excellence, and invest throughout the office and into our clients. These people are an assembly of unique minds, a gathering of refined skills, a crew of willing backs, and a family of talented professionals lifting as one for our clients, and each other.

Lastly, our company is committed to a culture of giving and supporting. As an extension of nParallel, in 2017 we launched a program called Exhibiting Good, a company initiative to corporately give back to the community. The kick off to this program provided each team member with nParallel dollars to give to the nonprofit of their choice. Earlier this spring, we mailed cookies to our partners across the nation as an unexpected “thank you.” And we are committed as a team to continue to Exhibit Good in the community in an authentic way.

nParallel has become what we hoped it would. It is because of our people and their commitment to our culture and values that we have the honor to be named one of Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal’s Best Places to Work! Thank you to our employees for making this honor possible and thank you to our clients for believing in us and supporting us over the past 15 years.


The Importance of Exhibit Space Selection


The Importance of Exhibit Space Selection

Booth selection shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s truly a critical process and creative art to help provide the best experience for your exhibit visitors and support your company goals.

As an account planner, I facilitate the process of partnering with the show association, analyzing current options, recommending new exhibit locations, and selecting the best new or created exhibit space to support my client’s objectives.

When evaluating the location of an exhibit, many elements should be reviewed. We’ve created a top 10 list of considerations to help exhibitors evaluate the best location for their business on the show floor.

1. Know the show

It’s most helpful to understand the flow of the show to select the best location. Exhibitors should thoroughly understand the flow of the floor, busy areas, and areas to avoid before making their location choice.

2. Custom spaces

Inquire about custom spaces with the association if you do not see the most ideal set-up for your company. With the right conversation, you might be able to have them create a new space to help achieve your goals in a more efficient way with a stronger location.

3. Maximize middle isles

There’s a science behind the technique to make your exhibit stand out. It might take more strategic work to amplify in the middle, but it can pay off.

4. Front hall

Yes, the front hall seems to be a place where people can see you first; however, the front of the hall can be overlooked by show attendees who want to get into the exhibit hall. At the same time, you can set the stage for the best display if you choose the front hall.

5. Back wall

If you’re choosing the back wall, it’s helpful to think about how you can open the space and maximize traffic. For some clients, we recommend removing the pipe and drape and choosing the corner location to catch people from both angles.

6. Sponsorships

Is your company planning to sponsor a function of the show or activity like a happy hour, break room, exhibit-wide contest, etc.? If so, selecting a space close to your area of sponsorship can be helpful to increase awareness and traffic.

7. Traffic flow

With large shows, it’s important to ask the association how traffic will flow at the event. Sometimes what may seem like the entrance, labeled "front hall," might be the back hall regarding flow.

8. Exhibit company

Like mentioned earlier, utilize your exhibit company. They are truly the experts in the field and should understand your shows better than anyone, except the association. Ask them to develop a strategy, dig into the association’s floor plan and recommend the best way forward.

9. Competitors

As exhibit spaces are selected, be sure to watch where your competitors land. A strategy for companies launching a new product might be to place their exhibit close to a competitor to capitalize on their traffic overflow which can maximize the brand awareness of your new product launch.  

10. Neighbors

It’s important to evaluate who is going to be in the surrounding booths. You want to pick a location where your neighbors are complementary to yours. An example might be, if you’re a healthcare company, you probably don’t want to sponsor the happy hour that could be placed right next to your booth. Consider the moral of your neighbors; you want their moral to be like yours.

If you are still unsure of which exhibit location is best for you, we’d love to help. It’s a strategy that we are experts on delivering to help drive the strongest show results. Reach out to us; we’d love to help.


Three Ways to Maximize Budgets


Three Ways to Maximize Budgets

For the past 15 years, we’ve been helping our clients think outside the box and work within their brand activation budgets. Here are three tips that are tried and true to help companies save money (and time)!

1.       Set clear goals and priorities and have them approved cross-functionally

Your organization’s business goals, marketing objectives and specific goals for your brand activation programs are extremely important – maybe the most important item to share with your agency partner. Whether your agency is helping you with a trade show, retail pop-up shop, VIP demo or experience, or any type brand immersion, this written document (yes, we said written) can help agencies always keep your goals top-of-mind and woven throughout the experience.

We want you to succeed and success looks different for each client, and often each team within our client’s organization, so routing the goals and priorities cross-functionally is always a win-win. We want to deliver a recommendation and solution that drives your organization towards success and if we understand your goals and priorities, we can get to your solution quicker and more efficiently, saving both time and money.

2.       Focus on the entire customer experience, versus physical exhibit space

Often, our clients come to us with very specific exhibit space elements in mind such as wanting a certain number of displays, conference rooms, tables, chairs, signage, entrances, etc. We recommend starting with the experience, instead of these details. Before kicking off a new exhibit design, align as a team and answer this question, “what is the experience we want our customers to walk away with," versus "what elements do we want in our exhibit." Starting here – after aligning on your goals, of course— helps us to get to the quickest exhibit solution by starting with the end in mind.

3.       Ask your exhibit agency to manage your show services

At nParallel, our account team manages thousands of show services for clients each year. This is an area that companies often think they should manage versus asking their agency to do so on their behalf. The benefit to having your exhibit partner manage these elements for you is that agencies have ongoing relationships with exhibit halls and vendors that makes it easier for us to find the best pricing for clients.

We love helping companies problem-solve and stretch their company’s dollars to work harder for them, no matter the brand activation experience.

Want to maximize your budget? Give us a call.


Trading Ideas: The Brand Activation & Trade Show Event of 2018


Trading Ideas: The Brand Activation & Trade Show Event of 2018

If you haven’t heard about Trading Ideas, time to tune in! The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal and nParallel are hosting an event called Trading Ideas on Wednesday, May 9 for a panel discussion with top industry leaders on brand activation. 

The event will be held at the Minneapolis Event Centers and will bring together some of the greatest leaders across the nation including: 

  • Bridgestone, Vice President Eric Higgs
  • Chief Manufacturing, Vice President of Customer Experience Laurie Englert
  • General Mills & Annie’s Homegrown, Senior Communications Planner Neely Thomas
  • nParallel, Co-Founder Don Gonse
  • PeopleNet, Senior Marketing Communications Specialist Emma Bica
  • Triad Conferences, Owner & President Ranae Hansen  
  • Wolters Kluwer, Senior Manager, Global Corporate Events Mindy Sanderson 

The event will be moderated by Exhibitor Magazine Editor-in-Chief Travis Stanton and will include a featured speaker, nParallel President Megan Diamond. 

Attendees can expect a community conversation on brand activation, trade show trends and innovations, mobile experiences, corporate events, budget management and more! The event will provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions to the panelists to get answers to relevant ideas, opportunities and challenges to their current brand activation program. 

Be sure to register today as tickets are limited, RSVP now: Trading Ideas 

If you have any questions about the event or would like to connect, send us an email, we’d love to hear from you! 

Connect with us! 


nParallel Receives Top 40 Exhibit House Award!


nParallel Receives Top 40 Exhibit House Award!

It’s been an incredible year at nParallel and it’s only March!

We were recently recognized as a Top 40 exhibit producer by Exhibit Media Group, an award-winning monthly magazine that features best practices in the trade show industry.

Exhibit houses across the United States and Canada applied for the award and were subjected to an exhaustive evaluation process including more than 50 individual criteria, all weighted to reflect how EXHIBITOR readers and Editorial Advisory Board members value them when vetting and selecting potential partners. 

“It is such an honor to be recognized as one of the best exhibit houses across the United States and Canada,” said Megan Diamond, president of nParallel. “Our team at nParallel is truly some of the best in the industry. We hold ourselves to a high caliber to ensure we are always providing our clients with strong creative, visual intrigue, inspired innovation and useful technology and we’re thrilled that our industry publication has taken notice.”

"This program is intended to spotlight the best exhibit producers in the industry, while also providing a valuable resource for exhibit managers searching for new potential partners," said Randy Acker, president and chief operating officer of Exhibitor Media Group. “The Find It – Top 40 represents the most exclusive list of U.S. and Canadian exhibit providers in the industry and serves as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval when it comes to the companies behind many of the most successful trade show stands in the world.” 

The evaluation process also included a survey of current clients and a review of entrants' past projects, selling points, and innovations, conducted by corporate exhibit managers. The myriad criteria considered were categorized into five primary areas:

·       Company and Capabilities

·       Honors and Awards

·       Thought Leadership and Industry Participation

·       Reliability and Service

·       Creativity and Key Differentiators

All companies who made the 2018 Find It –Top 40 will be featured online at and in the June issue of EXHIBITOR magazine.

Not only was this a huge accomplishment, but we also were recognized by Event Marketer with their Fab 50 award, an honor that showcases the top fabricators serving the event and trade show industry.

Thank you, EXHIBITOR, and thank you to our clients who allow us to help them bring to life their incredible work.