Trade show exhibit space is the largest percentage of your trade show budget. As such, it should never be selected via the dart board method. Just like all other real estate transactions, it is all about location. All booth spaces are not created equal. The location of your trade show exhibit booth plays a large role in how much foot traffic you will receive, which in turn affects your ROI. So, when selecting exhibit space, consider these 10 tips for choosing the best spot.
1. Reserve Your Space Early.
When I say early, I mean it because “early” often means up to a year in advance. It’s not uncommon for show organizers to open the space selection process for next year on the first day of this year’s event. Exhibit spaces are often assigned based on an exhibitor’s past participation in the show. Other times they are given out on a first come, first serve basis. Regardless, you need to plan early and find out which booth spaces are available before you can make any other decisions. If the space you want is already reserved, let show organizers know you are interested in case of a cancellation.
2. Get A Historical Perspective.
Ask show management for copies of exhibit floor layouts from previous years. Normally they will be similar from year to year. Compare the space allocations to the buzz generated by those exhibitors. You will most likely see patterns between booth space allocation and attention garnered.
3. Aisle Vs. Island.
Most trade shows offer four main types of exhibit space: inline aisle booths, peninsula booths, end-cap booths and island booths. Depending on the layout of the exhibit hall, each type of exhibit space has its own advantages. Island exhibits are often the largest on the show floor, with custom designs and four sides open to the aisle. Island exhibits can make a huge impact when deployed effectively. However, as I’ve said many times before, bigger is not always better. Just because your competition has a 10,000 square-foot booth, does not mean you need to do the same. I’ve seen inline 10’x10’ exhibits make a big impression when combined with the right strategic promotional campaign. Define your exhibition goals, consider traffic flow, display needs and budget, and then you should have a good idea of your ideal square footage.
If your budget allows, and your products/services warrant a large space, consider an island booth as they usually command the best locations on the show floor. When choosing an inline exhibit space, main aisles and at the end of rows (end caps or peninsulas) are excellent locations as visitors will usually stop and take a look down the aisle before they decide to make the journey.
4. Anticipate Congestion And Bottlenecks.
When it comes to main entrances, be careful how close you get. Entrances are notoriously crowded and often chaotic as visitors pause to gain their bearings. There’s a fine line between high-traffic areas and full-on congestion. Congestion can make it hard to have meaningful conversations with attendees and actually dampen your ROI.
5. Know Your Surroundings.
If possible, try to choose a spot between exhibit booths with smaller displays. This will make your booth stand out even more from a distance and provide greater visibility. Additionally, be aware of any columns or poles that may cause sight issue. You also need to check into any variations in ceiling height. Remember that height restrictions vary by show, by country and facility by facility. Lastly, don’t discount perimeter booths as they can allow for taller exhibits.
6. Inquire About Your Competition.
Don’t be afraid to ask exhibit management about the companies that have booth space reserved near your preferred location. You might want to avoid selecting an exhibit location too close to major competitors or companies you know will have larger, more dynamic displays. On the other hand, being near your competitors can guarantee more traffic as attendees will “be in the neighborhood.” If you know you will have a dynamic exhibit that has been marketed pre-show, you should never be afraid of being near your competitors.
7. Sometimes The Back Is Better.
Let everyone else fight over the front door entrance while you swoop in and secure the spot right next to the only onsite restaurant. If you cannot be front and center, seek out high-traffic locations that are outside the norm.
8. Left Vs. Right.
Do you want to be on the left side of the trade show hall or the right side? That depends on where in the world you are exhibiting. Data shows U.S. visitors tend to start their exhibit hall tour with exhibits on the right and Europeans tend to start to their left.
9. Walk The Floor Yourself.
It’s always a great idea to attend the event as a visitor before you make the commitment as an exhibitor for a variety of reasons, including evaluating booth space. This will give you a great opportunity to take notes on the various exhibit spaces and monitor traffic patterns. Even the best venue map can’t possible convey what can be seen in person.
10. When All Else Fails, Share An Exhibit Booth.
If there is a trade show that you absolutely must attend, but space is already sold out, or you simply don’t have the budget to exhibit – consider sharing a trade show space with another exhibitor. This strategy should only be used for larger exhibit spaces or when the partnership makes sense to the audience. Good examples include licensees, distributors or long-standing vendors. Peninsula exhibit space is optimal for this type of arrangement as you can set up your displays back to back.
Don’t leave selecting a location for your trade show exhibit to chance. If you find yourself in need of some guidance or have additional questions about selecting a prime spot, give us a call at 800-217-9479.
About Peggy Swords
Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.