Pitching for exhibitions

First of all, a short introduction to the term ‘pitching’: the term originally comes from the commercial sector, from the word ‘elevator pitch’. Convincing someone about your ideas in a short space of time. Nowadays, the term ‘pitching’ can be found in the museum world. In this case, it refers to a competition in which people try to arrive at a well-considered choice of agency/firm in an assignment situation.

1. Determine the type of exhibition

Before you can give an assignment for a new exhibition, you need to consider what the global line of thought is. What kind of exhibition is it going to be, for example interactive or educational? Who do you want to reach? This must be clear in your mind before you can think about calling for tenders or inviting agencies/firms. After that, you can invite the desired agencies/firms or call for tenders in a targeted manner.

2. Determine whether you need to call for tenders

When calling for tenders, several parties will be given the opportunity to compete for the assignment. Whether you should contract out the exhibition depends on the budget available in relation to the threshold. The thresholds vary per year and for each national or European call for tenders. These can be found, among other places, at the AanbestedingsMonitor (Tender Monitor).

In the case of a call for tenders, agencies/firms can register for the pitch, thus for your assignment. You can point out to your preferred agencies/firms that you have called for tenders. It is up to them whether or not they register for that. If it is not a call for tenders, you can invite a number of agencies/firms (preferably no more than 3) to pitch for you.

In both cases, there are rules attached to this and the process must be as fair and transparent as possible. See the Public Procurement (Tendering Rules) Decree (Besluit Aanbestedingsregels voor Overheidsopdrachten, BAO).

3. Make a good written briefing

A good pitch depends entirely on a clear briefing. The agencies/firms must know what you expect from them, so that they can decide whether or not they want to take part. The invited agencies/firms should preferably receive a fee for the pitch. You should indicate this in the briefing.

The following points definitely need to appear in a briefing:

  • What is the subject of the exhibition?
  • How much time is there for the execution?
  • Indication of the budget.
  • What is the objective, vision and mission of the museum?
  • Who is the contact person?
  • When will the pitch take place?

4. Formulating criteria

There are three criteria on which agencies/firms can be assessed:

  • Exclusion criteria: These are criteria which the tenderer needs to satisfy in order to take part in the pitching process. For example: is it written using the correct language and is the agency/firm registered with the Chamber of Commerce?
  • Selection criteria: These are criteria on the basis of which agencies/firms, which have registered for the call for tenders, are selected before giving a presentation. For example: reference projects and an extract from the Commercial Register.
  • Award criteria: These criteria are used for both a tendering process and for a presentation in the case of an invitation. The agencies/firms will be assessed on these criteria during their presentation. For example: price, quality and availability.

Make sure that the criteria are clearly stated in the briefing. The award criteria apply to both a call for tenders and to information presentations. Exclusion and selection criteria are only set in the case of calls for tenders.

5. Organise a round of questions

Organise an opportunity to ask questions before the presentation. Make sure that all the agencies/firms receive the anonymised questions and answers in writing, so that it is a transparent process.

6. Organise the presentation

This is the day that the selected design agency/firm will come to talk about their ideas one by one. You will have stated in your briefing what kind of presentation you are expecting. For example, a vision presentation where the agencies/firms briefly state what their idea is for the exhibition and how they are going to approach this. In addition, you will specify in the briefing the amount of time assigned for it and who will be present on behalf of the client.

7. Announce the result

Let the agencies/firms know if they won the tender or not on a date that is set and communicated in advance. If you are still doubting between two agencies/firms, you can always invite them one more time.

Please note: If you choose to invite them again, you will enter a new phase, in which both agencies/firms will make a design for you. You must also pay them for this.