How to Choose the Best Trade Show Space

choosing trade show spot

Trade shows give marketers and sales professionals the ability to reach their target market and generate a lot of leads in a short period of time. Choosing to attend a trade show can prove incredibly beneficial for a business, especially when 49% of trade show attendees come to trade shows with the intent to buy within the next 12 months.

Once you make the choice to attend a trade show, the next step is selecting your exhibit location. Why consider one space over the other? The reality is not all trade show booth locations offer the same advantages, and some spots may not be worth the money. Opt for the spot that will benefit your company the most.

Many marketing and sales professionals attending trade shows find themselves weighing the benefits and disadvantages of certain booth locations. While it is important to keep in mind the unique layout of the trade show you will attend, there are many ways that you can maximize your investment by choosing the right space.

If you have not exhibited at a trade show before or you want to secure more traffic, picking the right trade show exhibit space is critical to your success. Take charge of your booth space, and do not leave your company’s success up to chance and the show organizers. While it can be daunting, this guide will make it easier.

right space critical

Just like with any aspect of sales and marketing, you need to evaluate your audience to see what you can do to benefit it. You can do this by employing psychology and trade show economics to help you select the best trade show booth location for your company and attendees. Keep reading to learn how you can pick the best exhibit spot.

How to Pick a Trade Show Space Using Psychology

While every trade show location differs in what it offers for exhibit space, there are ways to make a calculated decision and choose the best spot for your company. When you closely review the different locations of booth spots in the hall and examine the psychology of the attendees, you will be in a better position to have a successful show.

When you look at the trade show map, try to think about:

  • The behavior of the attendees
  • What your visitors will be doing
  • How you plan to interact with them

You should also employ trade show psychology when it comes to the colors and design of your booth space as well as your layout. However, your primary concern should be in selecting the best location within the exhibit hall for your company. Picking the best trade show space is important because it can dictate how things go at the show.

buying power

The location of your trade show booth can significantly impact how many qualified leads you receive. Some spaces will receive more traffic than others, and more exposure to people can mean more opportunities to make a connection or a sale. After all, 81% of trade show attendees have buying power.

Using Trade Show Tendencies to Pick Exhibit Location

When you secure a trade show spot, it is important to choose one that will be seen, and sometimes that means picking a particular side of the aisle for your booth. Some exhibitors swear by the right side because attendees may be more likely to make right turns, garnering more traffic. Think of how we read and our traffic patterns.

Because we read from left to right, most people are right-handed, and it’s easier to make right turns, common sense, and maybe a little bit of psychology, tells us the attention of people walking the exhibit halls will be directed at booths on the right-hand side.

wide show aisles
Booth locations in wide aisles are also typically favorable because you avoid highly congested bottlenecks but still have the benefit of seeing a lot of people pass by. When you have a winning team and an attractive booth, you can easily secure more leads from the higher traffic flow area than if you were in a spot with less traffic.

Corner locations and islands can give you access to attendees from multiple directions, which can help you improve sight lines and offer you access to more attendees walking the exhibit hall. You put yourself in a position to reach more potential customers due to the higher amount of traffic, which is something most companies want to see. But consider, for a moment, that you want more than just traffic passing by and tossing a business card your way.

Examining Attendee Behavior

In thinking about your booth location, examine who your prospective customers are and what their behavior will be at the show. While it’s true you want to generate a lot of leads, you also want to make sure your booth space will bring you qualified leads. Too often, companies only worry about the sheer volume of attendees who visit the booth.

That’s why it is important to think beyond just being in a high traffic area. Think about your prospects attending the show. Exhibit attendee behavior can be split among three phases that take into account the visitor’s attention and time at the hall. The three phases of attendee behavior that explain how an exhibit attendee feels include:

  • Inspiratory phase
  • Saturation phase
  • Fatigue phase

three show phases

best trade show spots

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Best Trade Show Spot: Inspiratory Phase

The inspiratory phase occurs early on in an attendee’s visit to the show. For example, when an attendee first arrives at the trade show, he or she may be excited and ready to engage. At this stage, the individual would likely be ready to check out the exhibit space but may breeze past those they first see. To engage them, pick a spot that is near the entrance.

inspiritory phase

Many exhibitors choose booth locations in the front of the exhibit hall near the entrance for this reason, especially because it is sure to be a high-traffic area. You will be able to capture people while their attention is fresh and their spirits are high, which is ideal if you know your target market may not have time to walk the entire hall.

Despite this, be careful not to select the very first booth as some people will walk past your booth to see the rest of the show. If they do stop, they may only stop at your booth briefly before they move on. You cannot be certain that they will circle back, especially at large exhibitions with multiple exits.

Best Trade Show Spot: Saturation Phase

During the next phase, the saturation phase, attendees will be fully involved in the trade show, making lengthy visits at booths they find interesting or that have engaged them. It is at this point when a sale is most likely to happen. Choose a booth location nestled in the prime areas of the exhibit space that maximizes visibility.

saturation phase

Best Trade Show Spot: Fatigue Phase

The fatigue phase is one that every attendee has felt whether they are exhibiting or simply attending. Trade shows are exhausting, and during the fatigue phase, the visitor is ready to leave. If your booth is located at a secondary exit, you can be sure tired attendees will dip out right past your booth on their way out of the hall.

Additionally, you may want to weigh the benefits of selecting a booth near the registration area. Because a large number of businesses and attendees register for the following year’s event during the current year’s exhibition, you can almost guarantee people will visit that booth. It will be up to you to make them visit yours, though.

fatigue phase

Again, remember it’s not just foot traffic that makes the difference. For those visiting the registration area with a purpose, once they have completed that task, they will be ready to network. Capitalize on that knowledge and snag the attention of those renewing either before or after they have completed their task.

Identifying Your Target Market

This may seem fairly obvious, as anyone in marketing or sales knows they must know their target market. We’ve discussed how most attendees behave at an exhibit. However, have you thought about how your specific target market may feel during a trade show and how they may behave?

Knowing and taking into account your target market’s behavior may help you better select a location. First, make sure the show you attend will have your target market. Smaller trade shows are a great way to increase opportunities and reach a more specific audience. The exhibit halls are also smaller, which gives you more visibility.

You may want to ask a series of questions to help determine the potential behavior of attendees who visit the trade show to help you pick the best exhibit booth location. These questions may help you uncover their potential behavior and help you determine your booth location and size:

  • Will my target market spend the majority of their time at information sessions or in the exhibit hall?
  • How much time will my target market spend in the hall?
  • How many people per company are sent to the show?

If you know how much time your target market will spend in the exhibit hall, you can better plan your space to be in a position that will give you the best chance of interacting with them. Information sessions, client meetings and tourist activities can all take away from an attendee’s time in the exhibit hall.

Other Factors in Selecting a Trade Show Booth Location

Furthermore, if you know how many people from one company attend, you can determine your odds of running into a representative. More people means more chances, which means you might not have to worry about having a premium location. Opt for a location that will give you the visibility you need but that will be within budget.

If your target market will spend the majority of their time at information sessions, you will want to make sure your booth is closer to the entrance near the prime areas previously mentioned. Those on a time crunch may never make it that far in, especially if it’s a large show. Another great option would be near the session rooms.

These are just a few ideas that may help you hone in on your target market’s exhibit hall behavior. While all of this is important, you must still acknowledge your budget.

Economics of Trade Show Space

Trade shows are expensive, especially when you add together giveaways, travel expenses and the booth itself. It is no secret premium trade show booth locations come with a premium price tag. When choosing an exhibit booth, you need to review your budget and whether or not your company can afford to exhibit in a costly location.

trade show budgeting

When budgeting for a trade show, plan to put aside at least 40% of your trade show budget toward renting floor space and the booth itself. The actual cost of floor space varies by show and location within the exhibit hall, so you will want to confirm those costs before committing to paying them.

The best locations, as with anything, cost more and go fast. However, keep in mind that by booking in advance, you can typically take advantage of deep discounts. You also get the added benefit of securing your desired spot. This is why you should plan your trade show budget far in advance.

Other Factors Impacting Trade Show Costs

If you have already exhibited at a trade show but wish to change your booth location, you may still be able to take advantage of discounts by booking early. Talk to your trade show organizer to see how you can secure a prime location without having to pay full price.

Sometimes, sponsorships can give you a discount on a premium location with the added benefit of having your business name advertised throughout the show. You don’t have to spend top dollar to have a large banner. Sponsorships can come in many forms, from your logo on a napkin at a session lunch to sharing a spot on a sign.

Budgeting for Trade Shows

Before spending top dollar on a large exhibit space, think about all the trade shows you plan to visit throughout the year. Certainly, some shows will be more important than others. Plan to spend more where you will make the most impact, and always consider where your customers — and competitors — will be.

You can save money with inline displays because they are not as costly as the larger island or corner spaces. We have all attended the shows where the center island displays go up to the ceiling and feature food, drinks and entertainment. Sometimes it is almost as if they have their own show right within the hall.

If it is not in your budget to pull out all the stops, don’t. You can attend a show with a tabletop display in a smaller booth at shows where your competitors are not present or not making a large appearance. This will save you money as the smaller spaces won’t be as expensive, and you will spend less money on carpet, displays or other furnishings.

Because your ROI isn’t guaranteed, you do not want to risk blowing all your marketing dollars on an expensive spot if your company won’t be able to recoup its expenditures from the show. Make a trade show budget and stick within it. There are plenty of profitable spaces in a trade show that are not at the highest price point.

Since you will spend a large portion of your budget on your exhibit space, you want to ensure your funds are being put to good use. This means being smart about your trade show booth location. While we have given you tips on which booth locations are better for both your business and your customers, there are spots to avoid.

Trade Show Booth Spaces to Avoid

Every trade show is plagued with dead zones or areas to be avoided. While each of the following situations or booth locations may not necessarily ring true at all shows, you should take extra consideration and precaution before choosing one of these spots. If possible, talk to others who have exhibited at the show to get their experience.

Stay Away From the Competition

You may want to avoid choosing a location right next to or near a direct competitor. While it will give you the opportunity to outshine your competitor, it could also give them the opportunity to do the same to you. Since you do not know what your competitor will be bringing, do not to leave it to chance. Choose a spot away from a competitor.

Another reason you should avoid a booth location next to a competitor is you want to think about the attendees. Although your services or goods should be more attractive to a consumer, the bottom line is you are competitors for a reason. You offer similar products or services to your customers.

As a best practice, don’t overwhelm your attendees. By choosing a booth away from your competitors, you give attendees the time and space they need to thoughtfully consider your products or services. This way, attendees won’t end up inundated with information, which they may end up ignoring.

Stay Away From Far Corners or Dark Spaces

Far corners in the front or the back of the hall are often less traveled. Exhibit booths off the beaten path should be avoided at all costs, especially if they are in a dimly lit area. Not only will you have to find a different way to draw people to your booth, but people may not even know your company is there.

avoid show corners

Exhibit spaces located in dark or dimly lit areas are quite literally left in the dark. Attendees might feel as though they are entering a closed area or may not even realize that space is available. It may be difficult to show off your swag if no one can see it — unless, of course, you have light-up giveaways.

Carefully Consider Your Surroundings

Booths next to show sponsors or large displays can actually prove detrimental. Sure, traffic will come near you because people are attracted to the large exhibit. However, it won’t necessarily bring traffic into your booth. Additionally, it can make your display appear inferior. Be wary of choosing a location adjacent to sponsors.

Similarly, high congestion areas and spaces with loudspeakers or PA systems can ruin the experience for visitors and for your company. If you are not able to have a meaningful conversation, you may as well not be there at all. Networking is critical, so if your booth location prevents that from happening, it is a bad spot that is best avoided.

Bathrooms, for some reason, seem to be an area some exhibitors find appealing. Perhaps they want to put a positive spin on a terrible location. The reality is unless you’re near a separate bathroom exit, people who need to use the restroom are not going to want to stop to listen to your spiel when nature has called.

Overall, every trade show has undesirable booth locations. It just happens because not all conference buildings or areas are designed the same way. Sometimes you have issues with poles, accessibility to electricity, or other problems. You will want to make sure you carefully evaluate the space you want for any potential pitfalls.

Select Your Trade Show Exhibition Spot Carefully

Now that you have some insight as to where you will want your booth location, you’ll want to register for your desired trade show. Remember to do so early so you can have your pick of the best available spots.

Interested in more tips on trade show exhibiting? Sign up for our newsletter to gain insider information on exhibiting at trade shows delivered straight to your inbox. And if you need signage for your next trade show, check out APG Exhibits’ options or contact us for more information.

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