Do you want to improve the quality of outcomes at your next exhibition?  Are you providing the best possible experience for your delegates and sponsors?

How many of us would rather touch and see a real product or talk with an actual human being than read a brochure or take an anonymous sale call?  This is why the live experience of an exhibition cannot be beaten.  Exhibitions offer a unique opportunity for visitors to experience a product or service first-hand.  They are hotbeds of ideas, innovation and expertise, providing incredible platforms for information sharing, networking and experiencing live demonstrations.  Many industries solely depend on exhibitions to connect with essential suppliers.

Here at Brightelm, over years of experience, we have learned that the best way to increase sponsorship and exhibition sales is by focusing on the needs of the client.  Exhibitors and sponsors are happiest when their expectations are met, practical arrangements are delivered and the event runs smoothly and professionally.  Similarly, delegates are also happiest when their needs are met.  If they can navigate easily through the crowds and find the suppliers they need, they are highly likely to return to your next event.

A key factor in creating a positive experience on both sides is effectively managing the organisation of the exhibition, and in particular, paying careful attention to floor-planning.  Equipment, allocated space, facilities and delegate movement are all key elements in the exhibition experience and can mean the difference between repeat business and negative feedback.  It is estimated that repeat business can save you 90% of the cost of acquiring a new client, so it is well worth investing the time and energy into getting it right from the outset.

Follow our 8 steps for best practice in exhibition floor-planning and captivate everyone who visits your next event.

1. Site Inspection

Practical considerations must come first with optimal floor planning.  Consider the shape and size of the venue; entrances, exits and fire regulations.  It is also important to consider your site limitations.  Are there areas which should be avoided due to low ceiling height?  Can you integrate existing pillars into the design of your exhibition?  Make sure you note the location of any services infrastructure in order to ensure access – this will affect the location of exhibitor stands and the flow of visitors.  Map out the square footage available to scale, block off space for walkways (see point 2 for further detail) and calculate how much floor space you have available for exhibitors.  Your chosen format of exhibitor space will dictate how many exhibitors you can accommodate.

2. Walkways

There is an endless myriad of ways in which delegates can be funnelled around an exhibition space.  However, simple is often best in this scenario.  Complex floorplans with multiple walkways and many possible directions can mean that sponsor stands are missed by delegates, resulting in low engagement and poor footfall for your exhibitors.  For the best delegate engagement and happy sponsors, planning a large, central corridor that runs through the exhibition space from end to end will allow people to get into the exhibition quickly and easily locate essential suppliers.

3. Shell Scheme or Space Only?

The biggest advantage to an organiser of using shell-scheme is that it denotates clear lines of responsibility – the walls and headers clearly show the space for which the exhibitor is responsible.  Practically speaking, this is useful for logistics and space planning, plus the easy provision of lightning and power.  The flat surfaces of the stands provide a simple display method for exhibitors, who can quickly customise their space with minimal hassle (read our shell-scheme blog for further details on this topic).  An increasingly common shell-scheme format is for exhibitors to purchase ready-made graphics packages that are installed on their behalf, making for a really straightforward exhibiting experience.  This has the added advantage of creating more space and an open feel as it removes the need for pop-ups and pull-ups (you can see an example of this here – the Brightelm stand at the UK Associations’ Congress in December 2018).  On the other hand, space-only formats can be beneficial in terms of revenue as sponsors will provide their own stands, thereby reducing organiser costs.  Whilst this gives the exhibitor greater flexibility, it will inevitably create logical complexities such as building time, liaison over planning and restrictions, the  provision of lighting and power, and give the event organiser less overall control from a health and safety perspective.  Most exhibitors will have a mixture of shell-scheme and space-only formats, so it is important to define in advance how much of each to have.  Your chosen scheme will affect the logistical planning in terms of division of the available space, equipment and furniture hire costs, sponsor revenue and build time.  Don’t forget to communicate exactly what facilities will and won’t be made available to your exhibitors in order to best assist them and maintain positive relationships.

4. Prioritise your Key Sponsors

Securing the main sponsors for your event can feel like the hardest part is over.  However, in order to build long-lasting relationships that provide repeat business year-upon-year, you need to nurture your partnership.  Optimise their experience of the event by keeping their profile as high as possible, so they are getting value for money.  Offering them the first choice of location is key.  An island or corner display may help them stand out from the rest, certainly being near the entrance is a must and be thoughtful about who your place on neighbouring stands – a key competitor may not be the wisest choice for gaining repeat business!

5. Concession Stands

Strategically planning the quantity and location of the catering stations at your venue can make a huge difference not only to your delegate experience but also to the exhibitor footfall.  It’s worth taking advice from the event caterer as to the number of concessions stands required.  Unsurprisingly, exhibitors positioned closely to concession stands benefit greatly from increased visitors, so try to be strategic about their location.  If all catering is grouped together, then certain exhibitors are likely to be missed by delegates.  Distributing your stands carefully around the floor plan will assist the movement and flow of delegates, ensuring all exhibitors are easily accessed and traffic jams avoided.

6. ‘Zone’ different exhibition areas with themes.

‘Zoning’ exhibitions with themes can make it easy for delegates to find the exhibitors with whom they need to meet. This is particularly useful at large events. Navigating a large exhibition can be daunting for visitors, so any useful signposting and grouping will benefit both delegates and exhibitors alike. Joining together exhibitors with an industry or service in common creates areas of expertise. Colour-coding, signage, carpet or lighting can all help to characterise and give atmosphere to a particular zone. Colour coding also translates well to the floor plan or map provided to visitors.

7. Guide your Exhibitors

To ensure the best experience for all participants, do not be afraid to advise and coach your exhibitors into making the most of their stand. Do not assume all of your exhibitors are experienced in this environment. An important component in the exhibitor experience is their trust and faith in your expertise. After all, it is in your interest that they receive a maximum return on their investment for participating in your event. Simple suggestions about layout and presentation which seem obvious to you, may not be to them and could make all the difference to the number of delegates who engage with their stand.

Make sure their service is clear, not just their branding. Offer suggestions about visuals, encourage them to focus on broadcasting their key message, and put thought into how they plan to interact with delegates. If they have brought branded marketing items such as pens and keyrings, how are they planning to distribute them? Taking an interest in each exhibitor will make them feel valued and increase the likelihood of repeat bookings in future.

Believe it or not, there is an etiquette to manning a stand professionally and creating the best impression. Whilst some of these tips may seem like common sense, it is surprising how often the obvious gets overlooked! For example, good etiquette means making stands mobile and laptop-free (unless tech is part of the exhibit), limiting refreshments to water and ensuring everyone who passes is greeted with a hello and a smile.

Which staff members should you choose? Our experience suggests that the best people to man stands are those who are used to a customer-facing role, such as receptionists and customer service staff, and whilst the first choice is usually the sales staff, they can be unintentionally forthright which delegates can find off-putting.

8. Consider everyone

Each one of your exhibitors is as important as the next, even your smallest partners need to feel that they are important. Small businesses often grow into large organisations so it is well worth listening as carefully to their needs as to those of your bigger clients. Let no exhibitor be left in a dark corner with zero footfall. Ultimately, taking the time and consideration to carefully plan your exhibition layout will make a positive difference to everyone involved.

If you are an association leader, event manager, or simply wish to improve the effectiveness of your next exhibition or conference, Brightelm can help. Our focus and expertise in improving the quality and volume of interactions between delegates and exhibitors is second to none. With a clear focus on exhibitor satisfaction, careful delegate management and attention to detail, Brightelm is the key to creating the best experience at your next exhibition.

Contact us here to find out more.