Won’t You Be My (Tradeshow) Neighbor?

You may have secured the best location on the expo hall floor, but what happens if your booth’s neighbors—whether directly next door or down the aisle—are an eyesore? Are your lead-generation tactics destined to fail?

[Blogger’s note: Before I begin, I first want to say thanks to all those who participated in this week’s #expochat, who were my source of inspiration for this post as I lurked and listened in on their conversation.]

What can exhibitors do to reduce the chance of landing next to bad neighbors?

Whether you rent or own your current residence, we all know how much the annoying things your neighbors do—big or small—can get under your skin. Whether we’re talking moving furniture in the middle of the night in the apartment above you (that’s a shout-out to my current neighbor, who I have yet to meet but who I have definitely developed a mental picture of) or deciding to finally mow the lawn as you’re hosting 70-plus people in your backyard (that one’s for my parents, who to this day still tell the tale of my high school graduation party), it can really put a damper on an experience.

Take this back to meetings: Imagine you’re an exhibitor who has spent a good amount of money to both exhibit at an association’s tradeshow that you think could generate a lot of business for your company and design a booth that will grab attendees’ attention. You show up, get your booth set up, and feel good knowing that you’ve put together the best package you could. And then your tradeshow neighbor sets up, and it’s not exactly up to your standards or seems behind the times. Will it hurt your traffic? Most likely. (Although the argument could also be made that your booth will stand out more, drawing more attendees.)

But if it does indeed affect traffic, the next question becomes this: What can exhibitors do to reduce the chance of landing next to bad neighbors?During this week’s #expochat, some participants said they select space based on who is around them, particularly who has that prime aisle spot, since that can greatly affect traffic to their area. Others said they pick their location based on exhibitors who are currently doing business with people they’d like to do business with in the future or who have a “good buzz” around them.

While these are great ideas, in many cases, location logistics are outside an exhibitor’s control. Tradeshow aisles are often divided up based on industry segments, and many shows use a lottery system that doesn’t allow exhibitors to know ahead of time who’s next to or near them in the hall.

So if exhibitors have limited options for avoiding bad neighbors, what can the host association can do to alleviate this problem?

One interesting idea was proposed earlier this week by Donna Kastner on the Midcourse Corrections blog: a call for exhibitors. Most associations use a traditional call for presenters at their events; Kastner suggests using the same model to vet exhibitors and identify topics and categories your tradeshow audience is most interested in. Even better: She says  you may able to limit the number of exhibitors you select but charge them more, since you’re creating “a richer expo experience” for both attendees and exhibitors.

One other idea would be to have minimum technology or display standards that exhibitors must meet in order to have their booth located in a high-traffic area of the exhibit hall. Or to give your exhibitors an even clearer idea of what your attendees expect, you could feature on your website a few mockups of what your members have found to be excellent booth setups.

For all you exhibitors out there, what traits make for the best or worst tradeshow neighbors? And for association expo teams, how do you make sure your exhibitors have booths that meet expectations? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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