8 Tips for Designing an Effective Trade Show

Consider these ideas to create an environment that provides maximum exposure for exhibitors and minimal hassle for attendees.

On a crowded show floor, a specialty showcase can help new exhibitors get exposure.
On a crowded show floor, a specialty showcase can help new exhibitors get exposure.
Photo: Mitra Sorrells/BizBash

More people are attending trade shows, according to the Center for Exhibition Research, and that trend is expected to continue. The design of the show floor impacts how attendees and your exhibitors will experience your show.

Carol Fojtik is senior vice president of Hall-Erickson, a company that designs and produces more than a dozen trade shows each year for groups such as the American Library Association, the American Society of Safety Executives, and the National Mining Association. Here are Fojtik's tips on how to lay out an effective show floor.

1. Create a fair environment for everyone
We alternate where we place the large island spaces—for instance in every other aisle—so we are alternating large and small exhibitors throughout the floor, and then the smaller exhibitors can feed off the traffic that is drawn to the large exhibitors.

2. Distribute the traffic
For example, angle the entrance unit to the show floor. This way people don’t automatically head through the main aisle. It makes them decide whether to go left or right, so no one aisle gets the first surge of attendees.

3. Eliminate dead space
Make sure exhibitors face other exhibitors or have exhibits across from them so no one is facing blank wall. Even for island exhibits that are open on all four sides, we want to make sure we place booths on all four sides, otherwise attendees just won’t walk back there.

4. Get creative with columns
Columns can be a challenge, and we try to keep the exhibit spaces column-free. If they do have to be in the booth, sometimes you can get permission from the facility to allow the exhibitors to turn those columns into advertising spaces.

5. Consider the layout of cross aisles
Jogging the cross aisles prevents people from just crossing the hall from side to side down one aisle, so it gives exposure to more exhibitors. If the cross aisle runs directly to an exit, you may not be able to move it.

6. Give attendees a reason to linger
This can be done in a variety of ways, such as encouraging exhibitors to do live demonstrations or placing an education theater on the show floor. Networking lounges or V.I.P. areas are also effective.

7. Create product pavilions
This can be a single display of new products available at the show, or you can have multiple displays scattered throughout the floor. Sometimes we also tie in a contest, for example asking attendees to vote for their favorite new products.

8. Strategically place food concessions
Food draws traffic, so keep that in mind.

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