The Perfect Stand Location within the Exhibition Hall
The stand location can be one of the most important factors for success or disaster. I say “Can”, not “Will”, because every exhibition and trade show is different.
It depends on the size of the show (one single hall with 2.000 sqm exhibition space has to be seen completely different from a gigantic exhibition like Hannover Messe, Germany with 26 halls, 330.000 sqm exhibition space, and more than 4.900 exhibitors.
It also depends on your exhibition strategy. If you are primarily focussing on meeting your existing customers and not on generating a maximum of fresh leads, then location is only a secondary matter.
Stand location is one of those questions for which almost every exhibitor has an own idea or theory. To say it clearly, in my opinion there are no exclusively right and wrong answers available. There are definitely some really bad booth locations available. In every hall! If your stand location is beyond the “horizon”, it will be more difficult to catch by walking attendees.
In reality you always face influence of all the different factors which are mentioned below, some less, some intensive.
Right Turn Rule
Due to some European Visitor behaviour analysis literature 85% of the attendees entering an exhibition hall tend to turn rather to the right side areas of the hall than to the left side. So far I was not able to detect any reliable first hand publication which is showing any real practical data proof. Everybody is referring to some unspecified knowledge which is primarily based on sophisticated supermarket traffic analysis of former years.
There may be some tendency to fall into these rather automatic human patterns, especially when visitors are new to that exhibition or no far visible big market leader brand attracts them more.
Hall Entrance Rule
The hall section directly behind the hall entrance is a preferred location for many market leaders, especially for smaller exhibitions. They argue that it’s better for brand building and brand enforcement to meet the potential prospects before those visit the competitor booths. Not all exhibition market insiders are convinced that this is the best location strategy.
It is a fact that everybody needs to walk by these booths on the way in and out, especially if there is only one single entrance. But some exhibitors have experienced incoming attendees which see these booths and then just pass by to see “who else is exhibiting?” Mentally they may think to themselves that they will return and visit that booth later on. At many larger exhibitions they might not even find back to that entrance and leave the venue by another exit.
First Third Rule
This theory is based on the 3-phase visitor behavior during a show attendance. The following three phases characterize the process of an exhibition visit:
- Inspiratory phase
- Saturation phase
- Fatigue phase.
At the beginning of an exhibition attendance, in the inspiratory phase, the typical visitor is open-minded to new information and experiences. He wants to explore things and can sometimes be inspired by something he actually did not plan to look out for.
He spends more time on certain stands and his gait is quite slow. His brain reception capacity is large, and it can handle quite well with the massive overstimulation of visual impressions.
In the second phase, the saturation phase, has the visitor already visited some stalls and focuses almost only on those stands which have been selected for a visit prior to the show. The information reception capacity decreases, visitors cannot be involved into new discussions as before.
The visitor gets increasingly impatient and selects the stands still to be visited rigidly.
In this phase, the restroom and the food and beverages lounge will be visited. There the visitor notices how tired he is now and how strong is the sensory overload. He decides now to stay only for as long as absolutely necessary on the fairground.
This is the transition phase to fatigue .
At this stage only a very few additional booths will be visited, visitors run through the rest of the program. The walking speed of the visitors increases, they are hardly approachable for anymore new products or contacts. Their move tendency towards the exit areas increases greatly.
But what is now the inspiratory phase in practice? One thing you can say for sure: The inspiratory phase is located in the first third of the exhibition visit in the main direction of the visitors. Thus the exhibition hall entries gain enormously importance.
The sooner a clear visitor walking direction can be detected the more clearly you can identify the visitor inspiration phase. It becomes more difficult when a main direction trend is disturbed by multiple entries and thematic booth clusters within the halls.
In practice, however, it becomes obvious in most cases that one or a few main passageways of visitors are recognizable.
Summary: Look for a booth location within the first third of the exhibition area, preferably rather on the right side of the hall or at a main aisle.
Restroom Fairy Tale
From my experience it is a silly strategy to look for a location near the toilets. In my opinion somebody walking by your booth on his urgent way to the restroom, is not in a mind-set or mood to think about new business.
Food & Beverages Area
Without doubt, food and beverages attract many hungry, thirsty people. But looking for potential business solutions is not really on those peoples radar at that time.
Main Aisle Strategy
The main aisle is of course a very attractive location. Typically the main aisles are significantly wider and the security exit aisles will be a bit wider than the normal secondary ones. These main passage alleys allow attendees to get from one end of the hall to the other, and provide therefore lots of traffic.
On the other side should you avoid the secondary aisles. Secondary aisles are those which do not traverse the complete exhibition floor. The further away an exhibit can be recognized by visitors, the higher is the chance to attract additional by passing folks. Secondary = short = narrow aisles limit and reduce the visibility angles and are therefore less attractive.
The Triangle Rule
The triangle method is based on creating a triangle with one corner point at the hall entrance and the other two corners extending to the opposite far corners of the exhibition hall. This theory implicates that all stand locations inside of this triangle will face more by passing attendee traffic than stands outside of the triangle. Therefore a stand location within the triangle would be advantageous and should be achieved.
The two hall corners located nearest the entrance section are definitely less trafficked in most cases and often overlooked. Therefore you should avoid those locations.
There is not one single true rule and all others are wrong. In my personal opinion the right placement solution could be based on a mix of Main Aisle and Triangle rule, extended by the First Third rule in case of larger exhibitions with more than 3 halls and 400 exhibitors.
At the end I need to mention that I was inspired to write this article by Anders Boulanger, the famous Canadian trade show infotainer. His thematic thoughts are also referred to in this article and have been enriched by my own practical experiences from more than 35 years in the exhibition industry.