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Bob the Box presents his own trade show booth to a crowd of box spectators.

Trade Show Booths: Tips to Selecting the Perfect Place and Avoiding Common Problems

Trade shows are a terrific way to promote your business to thousands of potential new customers and create new contacts with service providers. Once you decide to sign up as an exhibitor, your next task will be to choose your booth location. Keep in mind, though: No matter how much time and money you invest in constructing a visually impactful booth, if nobody sees it, it’s worthless. So now you’re probably thinking, “What does make for a prime exhibitor booth location?”

High-Value Areas

When considering the ideal location, most people think “Traffic!” Then they try to position themselves next to other exhibits or areas with the most foot traffic. Sounds great, right? Not necessarily. Although high traffic is vital, be wary of an area that entertains too much. Sure, you might get a group of highly involved and totally excited attendees in front of your booth but what about loiterers who leave less space for the truly interested? Maybe worse, there’s so much traffic that the aisle is congested? That can easily block other qualified visitors from reaching your booth. Also, if you’re adjacent to an area that’s louder or far more active than another, it might be tricky to initiate dialogue and engage potential customers. Here are some high-traffic locations with minimal interference that we recognize as high-value areas.

High-value areas include:

  • Main aisle
  • Near an entrance, but not too close. Why? On one hand, attendees are fresh and ready to be engaged. On the other, many are focused solely on getting into—or out of—the trade show. Your best bet is to stay two or three aisles deep.
  • End of a row but not a dead-end.
  • Corner spaces are premiere Why? They provide twice the amount of traffic and deter neighboring booths from sidetracking your visitors!
  • Restroom and concession areas: These are tricky. They attract a lot of traffic but you may have more attendees resting, waiting for a co-worker, or catching up on email than visiting your booth. Also, same as a congested main aisle, distracted visitors delay interested others from reaching your booth.
  • Right side: Best for the United States. Why? Most people are hardwired to approach a venue same as when they drive a car. So in the U.S., look for a right-side booth but also avoid the back left area, which typically generates the least amount of traffic.

Bonus Tip: Pay particular attention to the floor plan. You want to avoid space near support columns or other exposed objects that will obstruct the view of your booth. Even if you’ve been to a particular venue before and are familiar with the layout, double check that nothing impedes the visibility of your booth.

Competitor Proximity

Depending on the show, you may be confined to particular exhibitor category. Although this puts you close to your competitor(s), you don’t want to be too close. A good rule of thumb is to choose a spot where you can’t be easily sized up against your competition. It can damage your brand to be stuck next to a key competitor or organization known for flashier or more interactive displays. Even more so, you absolutely do not want potential customers sidestepping your services simply because your competition next door has a better display. If you’re a smaller “David” taking on an established “Goliath,” look for an area that’s balanced. You want to be near enough to your competition not to go unnoticed, but you also want to be out of the immediate sightline of smaller booths with lower quality displays than yours. Strategically locating your booth away from your bigger competitors will give you the chance to stand out and appeal to the same customers before they get a look at your lesser competition right around the corner.

Selection Process

All trade shows have a selection process when assigning booth locations. Larger companies with both seniority and deeper pockets automatically get dibs on the first round, but that does not mean you’re out of luck. Here are some tips to give you an edge:

  • Book early: Before you book, know where you want your brand located and be ready to submit the moment your selection round opens up.
  • Money talks: Are you willing to pay more for a better booth? If so, sponsorship opportunities are a sure bet to improve your position when you’re up against more established exhibitors.
  • Size matters: Larger and/or perimeter booth spaces allow for taller 16-foot exhibits, hanging signs, canopies, and ceilings. The amount of traffic along the perimeter is high-value because your signage is seen from multiple directions.
  • Talk to the organizers: Besides offering to pay more for a select spot, find out if you have lucrative services or appealing products and can offer special deals to the trade show staff. Tell them—either flat-out or roundabout—that you’re willing to pay more, or do more, for better positioning and see what happens. You may be surprised at how much you can get with a single phone call.
  • Pay close attention to last minute cancellations: Keep a close eye on cancellations and you may well find yourself procuring a prime spot. Cancellations are generally not announced publicly by the show, so be a friendly presence with or chat up the organizers to keep yourself higher on the contact list to fill a newly vacant space.
  • Split an island booth: One excellent way to make your booth appear larger is to split an island booth with another company. Better yet, find a strategic partner or a company with synergies between your service or product offerings. That way, visitors will make their way through both booths from each direction without being thrown off. It’s a total win-win for both companies.
  • Ask for the numbers: Sometimes the show will offer statistics on attendees and foot traffic—you just have to ask directly. This can be extremely advantageous when choosing one spot over another if you’re hesitant on the best location for your company.

With so many variables, it’s easy to get lost in the details when setting up the perfect trade show booths. But, if you follow our tips you’ll be well on your way.

Psst… If you’re wondering how you can get started on all of this with minimal funding, check out our boostrapping guide here!

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