What factors should I consider when selecting an exhibit space at a show? Booth space selection is always a gamble. In some cases, you don’t know what you’re going to end up with. It often depends on a show’s selection process (priority points, lottery drawing, etc.). Sometimes you just have to make the best of the spot you’re given. But that doesn’t mean you should come to the space selection process unprepared. There are three important variables to consider when choosing a booth space: booth size, configuration and hall location. Keep in mind, your goal is to select a space and configuration that provide maximum exposure to show traffic.
1. Space requirements The size of your booth should be based on the size of your potential audience at a show. Too large a booth is a waste of money; too small a booth and you’re looking at gridlock. To calculate your potential audience, use this formula created by Exhibit Surveys. Multiply the net attendance by the Audience Interest Factor. The AIF indicates the percentage of high-interest attendees (those who visit at least two out of every 10 exhibits at a show). If the AIF is not available from show management, use the industry average of 52 percent. Then multiply the number of high-interest attendees by the percentage of attendees who indicate a high level of interest in your products. Again, if this figure is not available from show management, use the industry average of 16 percent. Now you must determine how many booth staffers are required based on the size of your potential audience. Start by dividing your potential audience by the total show hours. This will help you calculate the number of contacts booth staffers must make per hour. The number of visitors that booth staffers can handle per hour varies, but the average is 12 (five minutes per visitor). Next you are ready to determine your space requirements. How much open space is needed per booth staffer? (“Open space” is space not occupied by exhibit structure or product displays.) Multiply the number of staffers needed per hour by 50 square feet. Finally, to calculate the total exhibit space needed, add the amount of open space needed to the amount of space occupied by the exhibit structure and product displays. (Your exhibit house should be able to provide you with the amount of space required by your exhibit properties.)
2. Type of configurationThere are four types of exhibit configurations:
• In-line (also called linear) – Small (200 square feet and under) and typically surrounded on three sides by other exhibits, the in-line is easy to overlook. Only one side of your exhibit is exposed to aisle traffic. Shows tend to group in-lines, especially the 10-foot configurations, which doesn’t help. Also many shows place height restrictions on in-lines. If you choose an in-line, think of ways to make your exhibit jump out at attendees. A simplistic example: If all the other 10-foot booths typically are white, paint your exhibit red. Another tip: Choose a corner location, which gives you an added aisle of exposure.
• Island – Island exhibits are typically larger (400 square feet and up) and surrounded by aisles on all four sides. They offer maximum exposure. The island configuration also offers exhibitors more design flexibility. The challenge is to create an exhibit that is attractive and accessible from all sides.
• Peninsula – As the name suggests, three sides of the peninsula configuration are exposed to aisle traffic. The fourth side sits against a neighboring exhibit, which provides a nice focal point for the booth design. If you choose a peninsula, avoid adding side walls (also called “returns”) to the backwall. These act as barriers.
• Cross-aisle – Cross-aisle exhibits are two in-line spaces directly across the aisle from each other. Typically, the aisle must be left clear. However, depending on show rules, you could build an archway or ceiling to connect the two spaces. Cross-aisles are usually larger than in-lines (10 feet deep and 30 to 60 feet long). The big bonus with cross-aisle configurations is that attendees must pass through them to advance down the aisle. For that 30- to 60-foot stretch, you’re all they see, no matter which side of the aisle they look.
3. Location in the hallA report released by the Trade Show Bureau states that “location in a show hall is neither a positive or a negative factor in booth traffic, performance or impact.” But you’ll have a difficult time finding an exhibit manager who buys that assessment. Most swear by the old real estate maxim about the key selling point of, in this case, exhibit space being “location, location, location.” Keep in mind there is no “best” location. Some locations might make more sense. But it would be wrong to say, for example, that a center island space is always best. Every show and show hall is unique. Also, sometimes your location is dictated by your booth configuration. Islands are usually in the center of the hall; in-lines on the outskirts. When choosing a space, start by familiarizing yourself with a show’s floor plan. Locate and consider how you want to be positioned in relation to the following:
• Competitors. How close do you want to be to your competitors? Do you want to be near an industry leader that will draw traffic to the surrounding area?
• Entrances and exits. Do people enter and exit the hall by the same doorway? If so, you will gain added exposure by choosing a spot nearby this high-traffic area. Also find out which entrance is closest to the registration area. This will be the hall that attendees are most likely to visit first. You’ll catch them when they’re still fresh.
• Restrooms. Yes, they draw traffic. But experience shows that attendees visiting these areas have other things on their minds.
• Food service. You face the same problems as with locating near the restrooms: Visitors are distracted. Another issue is garbage. If you’re too close to food service, your exhibit could become an easy dumping ground for paper cups, napkins and plastic wrap.
• Escalators and elevators. Which are used most frequently to access different levels? Given a choice, you might take a space near a down escalator over a spot next to an enclosed elevator. The view of your exhibit is better as attendees descend into the hall.
• Corners. Front corners of the hall are OK; back corners are a no-no.
• Windows. Beware of strong sunlight that could wash out your backlit graphics and AV presentations.
• Seminars. Where are the seminar rooms located? Will attendees be pouring into the hall from the same entrance following each seminar?
• Utilities. Does your booth have any special needs that require it to be located near power, water, gas or air sources?
Finally, here are some areas to avoid in the hall:
• Obstructing columns.
• Low ceilings.
• Dark or poorly lit areas.
• Ceiling water pipes.
• Dead-end aisles.
• Loading docks and freight doors.
• Late setup areas.
Don’t assume these are marked on the show floor plan. Always ask.