10 Things to Consider When Selecting Your Booth Location
At a trade show, booth location can be beneficial or it can be harmful. One way to be sure you've got a prime spot is to survey all the parameters that can go into selecting your booth space.
Here are some considerations that can help you prepare to go about selecting the best possible booth location for your company.
- Do you really want to do this alone?
Your business has stockholders, a board of directors, CEO, CMO, CFO, vice presidents and directors. But the onus is on you to select one of the most valuable tools in the marketing toolbox. Don't go it alone. It's patently unfair to make a critical business decision of many thousands of dollars by yourself. Get others involved. Your boss, his/her boss, your peers. They will have insights, recommendations, and preferences you may not have considered.
Make a list of the most likely questions you can think of. Where are your competitors? Should you be upfront or further back? Whose the big guy at this show? Get input on these questions. Weigh those answers and give yourself a total. It will help you represent the requirements of your company in the five minutes you get to select next year's booth space.
Considering these variables up front, lets you manage expectations way before the selection process.
- There are no absolutes.
Every show has its own particular method for assigning booth location. Some of the most common schemes are:
- The points method. This is based on weighted points for booth size, seniority (number of years at the show), support of the show (meaning, what other spend will you allocate to the show in sponsorships?)
- Indication of preference order. Here the hosting association makes the final selection.
- Assigned spaces.
- First buy, first pick. This is usually for new shows.
- Show management can be an information resource.
To get a very clear understanding of how the mechanics work for booth location for the show, ask show management. The selection method can be different from show to show. If you don't know or are unsure if you know, find out.
- Will sponsorship make a difference in your booth location?
Which sponsorships are more valuable to the show – and to you? If you are willing to pay for preference, this can be a way you can better your position when you are up against established, senior exhibitors who would naturally get the best locations.
Look at it this way, trade shows are a profitable business for show management companies or associations. You don't have to be afraid to talk money. Find out if certain sponsorships have an influence on booth space. Your strategy is to purchase the right sponsorship for your company and gain the most points for your booth selection. Show management influences the hall with their biggest most senior exhibitors in mind. Where you both meet in the middle will depend on your knowledge of the game.
- Is research necessary?
The more you know about your shows, the better decisions you will be able to make when the time comes. Start by examining floor plans for previous shows. Keep an archive from the show kits from other years. You'll see who draws what from year to year.
While you are at this year's show, take notes on the layout. It's likely to be much the same next year. Check out where the competitors are and list physical considerations like columns, traffic flow, and main traffic aisles.
- How “advanced” should advanced preparation be?
You need time to collect the factors that will influence the decision. Start early. If you are called for 1:20 pm on the opening day of the show to pick your space for next year and you don't have a plan, it's too late. You don't want the show sponsor to tell you, “Time's up pick or go to the back of the line.” Get out in front of the choice. It's too late to devise a plan in the middle of the draw.
Many shows provide space selection on or after the first day. This means that any data you have on ROI will come after you select your booth for the next year. So when choosing next year's space, pay close attention to your first day's performance. If the show is in the same venue, be sure you are familiar with last year's stats.
- Do you have a location plan for different venues?
Long before the current show, you should be thinking about what changes will be in place for the next year. Are you coming back to the venue next year? Your show is in Chicago this year but in L.A. next year. The game can totally change. Different floor plans mean a different exhibition layout. That space that was prime for you in Chicago turns out to be nowheresville in L.A.
- Does attendee traffic matter?
Well, yes — and no. This is something that is difficult to predict. Yes, you can make practical inferences though. Call the venue and ask about traffic for most of the shows that come through their facility.
Which is the “main” door for the show? The one most of the attendees will be using? Where do the busses drop off? Where's the registration area? The restrooms? The food court? What door is near the breakout sessions? The general session?
Then along comes “no.” You've nailed your traffic flow and your neighbor has a celebrity book signing every half hour on the “traffic” side of your booth. Now everyone's coming from your blind side.
- Should you re-define your company?
In many shows, how you define your company puts you in a certain category and you compete for space in a certain part of the hall. Change your company definition and you'll find yourself in a different section. This can influence the spaces you have to select from. It can also change the pecking order.
- Some practical considerations
- Watch out for columns indicated on the floor plan. They are often not well marked. Or if they are, the sheer scale of the show floor makes that 6-foot column look minuscule. But in your booth, they can become a monster that blocks your traffic flow and sight lines.
- You've got a new product introduction planned for next year. Maybe a hefty sponsorship is in order.
- The show is in a different city and you want to break into that market. You might think about cross aisle locations. Or take what you can get and invest in a party after hours.
- Do you want a bigger space in a less desirable location? Or a smaller space reaching a larger audience?
- Do you have a booth selection plan A? Then, plan B, C, and possibly D?
There's a lot in play, so for an initial summing up:
- Know the rules of booth selection for your show
- Get the input of others
- Know your show
- Do your homework
- Come to booth selection prepared
Booth location is important, but complicated logistics should not disguise the real importance of being at a trade show—what you do with the space once you get it. Are you at the right show? Do you have the right presence? Are you using the right marketing vehicles (booth, sponsorship, activities)? These criteria can beat booth number every time.