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How to Select the Best Exhibit Location on the Show Floor

There is an adage in real estate that also serves well on the trade show floor. When looking for property, only three things matter: location, location, and location. It doesn’t matter if you are shopping for a 40,000 square foot headquarters or a 400 square foot exhibit space on the show floor. The key to success depends on location.

When you register to exhibit at a trade show, you know instinctively that some locations on the convention floor are better than others. Some guarantee you’ll be seen by a majority of attendees and others practically guarantee you’ll be overlooked.

The question is, how do you know which locations are prime real estate and which should be avoided?

Exhibitors who don’t know or can’t tell the difference can certainly sabotage their trade show efforts by choosing booth space in the wrong places. Don’t let that happen to you! Check out the seven secrets below for selecting a great booth location.

1. Get ‘Em While They’re Fresh When the show floor opens, attendees are usually refreshed, alert, and excited to be there. That’s the perfect time to reach out to them, as they tend to be more receptive. Exhibiting near the convention hall entrance puts you in a great position. Not only are attendees most likely to see your booth, they’ll also be more likely to remember their experience with your brand.

2. Avoid Your Competition There’s seldom any advantage to setting up your trade show booth next to, or across the aisle from your competitors. It may seem like a good idea, after all, if attendees find that your competition is unable to meet their needs or budget, they can just walk next door where you’ll be waiting for them.

But that’s rarely how things turn out. Instead, attendees roam in information-gathering mode. Exceptions aside, they’re not there to commit. Most will take your marketing collateral, as well as your competition’s, back home to evaluate who can best help them. Another factor to think about: you don’t want your competitor’s exhibit booth to make a better impression on attendees than your own. Setting up side-by-side or across the aisle makes such comparisons inevitable.

3. Talk to the Show Manager Before the Event This is one of the easiest steps you can take to identify great locations for your booth on the show floor. Simply get in touch with the person tasked with managing the show. He or she should be able to highlight the best spaces in the venue and describe how those spaces are distributed among exhibitors. Every show works a bit differently, but contacting the show manager may reveal an opportunity you can take advantage of to secure a great spot.

4. Beware of the Bathrooms This is a slightly controversial position. A lot of experienced exhibitors like to rent space near the venue’s restrooms. The motivation stems from the idea that most attendees will need to visit that area at some point during the day. Why not take advantage of the high-volume traffic and exposure? First, the timing is terrible as no one is visiting the restroom thinking about your products and services. Second, the restrooms carry a certain “ambiance” that may reflect poorly on nearby booths.

5. Ask Whether a Sponsorship Can Lead to a Better Location Sponsoring a show can often give you access to prime real estate on the convention floor. That’s useful if the show manager normally doles out spaces based on criteria you’re unable to compete on, e.g. seniority. Sponsoring the event may help you to leapfrog ahead of other exhibitors. While sponsorships won’t always guarantee a better location, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

6. Don’t Overestimate the Value of Traffic Traffic is definitely important. You want people to see and visit your displays, but you need to attract the right type of traffic. Having the best trade show exhibit won’t matter if you fail to draw people in. With all your marketing endeavors, you must appeal to the folks who are most likely to want and need your products. To that end, avoid paying too high a premium for a location just because it gives you exposure to a lot of attendees. Make sure your exhibit is exposed to the right attendees.

Choosing a great booth location is mostly a matter of identifying opportunities to leverage your brand and avoiding low traffic areas. The upside is that a good spot all but guarantees your exhibit will receive the attention it deserves.

7. Reserve Your Space Early The majority of space selection is done many months in advance of the event. Often the floor plan for next year’s event is being plotted and assigned during the current show. Be sure you know when the space draw is taking place and arrive well in advance of your scheduled time. This will allow you to survey the spots still available. It’s a good idea to select at least three options as some of the spaces can be sold as you are waiting to reserve and place a deposit.

The best time to start thinking about your exhibit location is early in the exhibit buying process. If you need advice on selecting your booth space, contact us today!

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Matt Waterwall
About the Author

Matt Waterwall draws on 10 years of experience in the trade show industry as a Senior Account Executive at Skyline TradeTec in Chicago. With a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and minor in Photography, his prior experience to the trade show industry was served as a News Anchor/Reporter for an ABC affiliate in Texas for more than 8 years. His skills moved him and his family up to Chicago to work for Chicago Tribune-owned CLTV. Understanding your brand and its relationship to your clients, prospects, and industry is the foundation to his consultative approach. His goal is to create a branded trade show environment or event that serves as an exciting marketing vehicle to maximize your ROI.

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