Trade shows can be a mysterious and enigmatic adventure for any exhibitor and there’s a universal guarantee that the one and only surprise you will never encounter is having too much space.
It’s amazing how much smaller a booth can be once it’s in the arena versus floating about in one’s mind. Imagination can do special tricks with 10 feet that the real world 120 inches it represents, cannot replicate. That’s why the only sure way to know how your booth is going to look is to set it up completely, exactly as if on the show floor. This is the best way to prevent tight booth space syndrome.
We encourage people to do a dry run and tape off their booth dimensions on the floor and then imagine a wall on each end of your space that becomes a vertical block to everything beyond. You may not encounter any such walls but there can be a thousand other surprises that do not show up in the online floor plan but may well make an unexpected appearance in the venue. Variables abound from things like unexpected curtains, pillars, all the way to finding oneself sandwiched between two fellow exhibitors who erect behemoths that make your space feel like a matchbox gone awry. Be ready!
The good news is that for the myriad of things that cannot be controlled, there are an equally promising number of fundamentals you can always affect. They yield practical and simple solutions to exhibiting successfully in any booth, and especially a tight one.
Fabric-based back-wall units are becoming increasingly popular.
Back to Basics
First and foremost is remembering that as an exhibitor you are there for one basic reason—to share with others what you do in some form or another. Big booths are luxuries on all counts, but they by no means eliminate the power and dynamics that a well-executed smaller booth can deliver, in spite of a diminutive size.
Here are some exhibiting basics:
Remain Flexible—Always plan to adjust your plans as necessary, once you see the actual arena and your exhibiting neighbors. Traffic flow and other variables often mean some slight tweaking of the layout, onsite.
Catch the Eye—Regardless of booth size, your visuals should be eye catching and instant. Space or not, you do not have five minutes to dazzle the crowd as they stampede by. You literally have only seconds to slow them down enough to see and hopefully, hear your message. Stop them with great visuals. Well-designed and eye-catching graphics, monitors, anything and everything that will make them glance your way. It must convey enough of your story to make them want more. Do not overload things with text and facts. Pull them in first, and then deliver your prize.
Avoid Clutter—Remember that clutter is never your friend in a trade show exhibit booth, but it is especially problematic in a small space. The more open and inviting your space looks, the easier it will be for the potential client to spend time hearing your message. Pay close attention to how big a footprint your display will require and try to find the best possible size with the most bang and the least girth to deliver your message.
Account for Visitors—You must account for every square inch of space and one oversight that’s easy to make is forgetting to allow for the square footage (both vertically and horizontally) that your trade show visitors will occupy. The average visitor will take up almost 5.8 vertical feet with a minimum square footprint of about 3' x 3' not including any bags or other accessories they might be carrying. A good test is to put your hands on your waist and do a 360. Any space in your layout that’s tighter than this is going to feel awkward and uncomfortable to the visitor and staff. So always account for several visitors plus staff when you are designing your exhibit’s floor plan.
Physics—Now that you’ve allowed for giants on each side of your property, and hopefully at least a small gathering of interested prospects—you can deal with the best display options that will deliver your message and not overwhelm your space. Pay close attention to details needed to deliver the necessities like whether you need a table or podium in the space and what products and samples you may need to demonstrate. Here’s where you have an array of options and opportunities to customize your look and presentation.
Freestanding Floor Units
One of the most affordable and flexible in terms of space in a small booth, are the freestanding floor units like retractable or non-retractable banner systems. They average around 34" wide and about 80" in height and present almost 18 square feet of viable message in very little floor space. Three or four used together can convey plenty of message, either as a mural look or with individual statements, that still allows more flexibility in arrangement that larger more static systems do not. There are also wider and taller versions as well as non-retractable stands that can seam together with magnets on the back edges to give a full mural look without the break between units that the regular retractable units require.
Another consideration are the big-fabric-graphic and standard pop-up systems that may be ideal for conveying your message in a format that’s not only very lightweight and portable, but also offers fast setup and break down with a minimal footprint. Some straight-wall pop-up units with removable graphic panels or attached fabric mural graphics will only take up about a foot of actual floor depth yet offer an expansive visual that can range from 88" x 88" up to 117" x 88" or greater. That’s 71 square feet of image that only consumes one foot of depth at the back of your booth.
If you require a table in your booth, consider the use of tabletop displays that may work in conjunction with your table needs to help deliver your message. There are a host of products to choose from including many that are self-packing (meaning the unit has its case built in for fast setup and breakdown) or others that may range from a tabletop pop-up to traditional folding panels. When set up, they can create a sizeable visual that still rises above the crowd and reinforces your message and demonstrations. You may also elect to include a freestanding unit in conjunction with the table like a banner stand or other display that doesn’t take up but 2-3 feet of floor space but still yields a significant vertical impact.
Tabletop pop-up units offer a great way to deliver your message in a small space.
It’s becoming more commonplace to see large monitors and other electronic media and message boards that provide live messages and recorded demonstrations of products and services. When used wisely, these systems can be powerful and efficient and can offer a flexibility that many find appealing. When considering them, bear in mind that they may require stands (sometimes quite large) and other accessories that may need floor space and other special considerations that may affect traffic flow in the booth. Many also require special handling such as shipping crates and other costs that should be factored into the practicality.
Fear not! Your options are many, so make sure you explore the dynamics and limitations of each system and ask your dealer to explain in-depth the assets and challenges. Knowing these can help you make wise decisions that may eliminate unwanted surprises later. In limited space, your ultimate choice will be the balance between square footage versus message. You must find the best possible partnership between the two and when you do, your small space can deliver some very big returns.