Floorplanning: a balancing act

Every event needs features, seating and stands, but what’s the perfect combination? Two organisers share their thought processes when it comes to floorplanning.

Sam Cande, group commercial director – travel portfolio, Centaur Media

Sam Cande

Actually, there’s no magic ratio for the best split between exhibitor stands, content (ie for B2B, the educational programme), feature areas and seating but, if really pushed for a number, I’d suggest the 80/20 rule. The proportions are thus: 80 per cent of the floor reserved for stands and the remaining 20 per cent given over to a combination of content, features and seating.

Why is this a good guide? Because with too much seating buyers may be tempted to spend time sat down rather than walking the floor, visiting stands and whilst an excellent content programme is key to attracting the right buyers, again, you want them to spend the majority of their visit with exhibitors, not sitting in the conference theatre. It’s crucial to include exhibitor features in your 20 per cent, too and are a great tool for guiding visitors around your exhibition hall. Think about the four corners of the hall – especially at the back where organisers can experience the biggest turnover of exhibitors – these are prime spots to have feature areas.

On every floorplan I’ve done, I’ve made sure that, from left to right and front to back, the aisles always run uninterrupted… Sounds obvious, but not all organisers do this

One of the most enjoyable elements for me is designing the floorplan; it’s like being tasked with solving a giant jigsaw puzzle, all the while considering visitor flow. On every floorplan I’ve done, I’ve made sure that, from left to right and front to back, aisles always run uninterrupted. Sounds obvious, but not all organisers do this! It does, however, make life much easier for visitors to navigate your event. When you’ve been looking at a floorplan for 12 months, and know it like the back of your hand, it’s easy to forget that for your visitors it can be, at first glance,  – especially if it’s a large exhibition where much of the floorplan is space only, which looks great but there are no stand numbers!

So, when planning the floor, always, always put yourself in your visitors’ shoes – and think about your own experiences at events you visit. When you arrived where did you go first? And then? What pointers did you use to guide yourself around the hall? How long was it before you needed to take time out and sit down? How did you find the conference theatre? Did you get lost? And if you did, what did you use to get yourself back on track? And was the floorplan in the show guide a worthy navigation tool? If not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board – because a frustrated visitor is the very last thing you want.

Katy Roberts, This Morning Live event director, Media 10

Katy Roberts

As event organisers, most of us are proficient in the art of designing our floorplans, with the overriding aim to create captivating areas in every corner of the show space: even a seemingly ‘dead spot’ is transformed into a ‘hot spot’ destination with clever planning.

We are not immune, though, to constant dilemmas such as: ‘what should be the ideal number of features in an event?’ I often wonder if there is a mathematical formula for how much floor space you should allocate to features vs exhibitors, but if there is, I have yet to find it!

Ultimately, a good decision is informed by instinct, as well as empirical factors, ranging from budgets to visitor type, venue to industry sector, plus the decisive element – what will this feature add to my event and what is the ROI?

Visitors are increasingly favouring events that offer extra, inspiring content. This trend presents a dilemma to the organiser: if I put more stages or features onto my floorplan, will that distract footfall from the floor or increase dwelling time with exhibitors?

More than ever, exhibition spaces need as much buzz and excitement as we can generate, whether trade or consumer. Allowing exhibitors to benefit from this energy and steady traffic flow improves their overall experience

 Getting the right ratio of features to exhibitor space – and furthermore the amount of content allocated within those features – is a fine balancing act. As a rule of thumb, designating around 35 per cent of the net space to features is sensible. This often allows multiple stages to be positioned in strategic areas, creating exhibition destinations and attractive marketable areas for the sales team to promote higher footfall to potential exhibitors.

I have never been a huge fan of closing off features or stages. In fact, more than ever, exhibition spaces need as much buzz and excitement as we can generate, being it a trade or consumer environment. Allowing exhibitors to benefit from this energy and the steady traffic flow certainly improves their overall experience of the event and will help bring them back year after year.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of the feature that appeared in the August issue of EN. The digital edition is available now.

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