As in buying in real estate, the guiding tenet in selecting booth space on the trade show floor is Location, Location, Location. We all know bigger is better, but what about when you can’t afford to get bigger? Fortunately, a limited budget doesn’t have to limit your success at a tradeshow. 

If you are shopping for a larger space, one measuring 20 feet by 20 feet or more, you’re definitely at an advantage. Because big spaces cost more, they are usually given preferential treatment when show management lays out the floor plan. The largest booths are placed in the highest traffic areas. The remaining space is divided into 10-foot by 10-foot blocks. These smaller spaces usually ring the outside of the exhibit hall and make up the majority of booths that will be available. 

In order to pick your best booth space, you have to think like an attendee. Take a moment to recall the last show you visited. On what areas of the floor did you spend the most time? Which parts did you gloss over? Were there spaces that you skipped altogether? Most trade show attendees will exhibit certain behaviors that are generally consistent, no matter what kind of hall or event. 

For example, the majority of people will rush past the entrance to a show, anxious to get to the “good stuff” inside. For this reason, booths located in the first 20 or so feet from the entrance, known as the Transition Zone, are easily overlooked. This would be an area to avoid in general. 

Upon entering the hall, in keeping with North American driving practices, most trade show visitors will naturally drift to the right. Accordingly, the right side of the hall is always a better choice than the left. The opposite would be the case in Britain , where you would find that most visitors bear to the left.

Since people who are entering a trade show are usually moving at a rapid pace, the first few booths on the right hand side wall may draw fewer visitors that those further down the aisle. Generally, however, those exhibitors on the right of the hall floor will have more traffic throughout the life of a show than those on the left. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), the average attendee spends 8.2 hours on a show floor. At a big show, if you’re in the far left hand corner of the hall, the crowd might never reach you. 

Experienced exhibit managers often use the “Triangle Zone” principle to pick their booth space. They know that a booth in this zone has a better chance of getting more traffic. The next time you are exhibiting, try drawing a triangle on the show floor plan with the point positioned about 20 feet from the entrance. Be sure to measure your traffic and compare your results to other shows. Of course, I recommend that you stay in the right hand side of the triangle.

To optimize your exposure with a smaller booth, always try to secure a space on the end of an aisle, preferably at the centre of the show floor (versus the outer edge). This prime position gives you many more sight lines to passing attendees, allowing you to draw traffic from your own aisle as well as the aisle behind you and the main centre aisle that divides the show. Make sure you play up your booth’s unrestricted open end, perhaps by hanging banners that face the other sight lines in the hall. Always ask about height restrictions. Although your budget may not provide for a wide booth frontage, you might be able to build up, giving your exhibit greater visibility from across the show floor. 

Make the most of a well-selected booth location by promoting your participation to potential attendees long before they set foot on the trade show floor. According to CEIR, 65% of attendees are influenced by pre-show marketing. On average, trade show visitors today spend two to three hours researching a show prior to leaving their office.