Cheat Sheet: Floorplans

What you need to know about designing your floor plan, including tips and tools on stand assignments, safety considerations, floor plan design software and traffic flow

Start with the right blueprint

Be sure you and your contractor are working with the most current blueprints from the facility. Construction, a major civic event, or security concerns, may alter things between signing the facility contract and the day of the show. Keep checking with the facility about any changes that could impact your floor plan. Make sure the blueprints are:

• Up to date, including any recent renovations.

• Show locations of all entrances, exits, restrooms and lower ceiling areas.

• Include placements of all columns and utility/service connections.

Inspecting the site and plan

• If you book a facility years in advance, be sure to schedule a site visit nearer the event so you’re familiar with any changes.

• See the space while empty and while a show is in progress.

• Inspect the space with your contractor.

• If your show doesn’t occupy the entire facility, find out what other events may be in the building at the same time.

• If your contractor is submitting plans to the fire marshal, be sure to get a copy of the conditional and final approval.

Safety considerations

• Fire ordinances vary from venue to venue, but contractors should be familiar with the differences. Ask them for advice.

• Be sure your initial floor plan is workable with the fire marshal before marketing stands. Some departments respond within a day; others take weeks or months. Rely on facility contacts and contractors to help you speed things up if necessary.

• Some fire marshals approve final plans in advance; some inspect during installation; and some may never come on site.

• Usual fire issues include adequate entrances and exits for the expected crowd; blocking egress, freight doors, fire extinguishers or alarms; and sufficient aisle widths for traffic flow in case of emergency. Special consideration or application may be necessary for cooking demonstrations, indoor fireworks or other unusual elements.

• Never attempt to slip anything by the fire marshal’s inspection. It could risk closing or delaying your show.

Options for stand assignments

• Organize by product, such as similar technologies or types of wares  Pro: It makes things easy to find. Con: Exhibitors in some industries will not fit neatly into categories.

• Largest players, first choice  Pro: Creates good will with the companies likely to spend the most. Con: Doesn’t create an incentive for companies in a second- or third-place position to spend more on the show.

• Previous exhibitors, first choice  Pro: Rewards loyalty. Con: New exhibitors in an older show have no hope of getting “first choice” positions.

• First come, first serve  Pro: Democratic approach. Con: The first to sign might not be the exciting stand you’d like to use to draw attendees into the floor.

• The trade show as shopping mall (Think of your anchor exhibitors and then smaller ones, positioning them to keep the mix fresh and interesting while accommodating traffic flow)  Pro: Gives the show manager a lot of control over who goes where. Con: Exhibitors can easily blame management if they don’t like their position.

Finalizing the plan

Final show floor plans should:

• Include as many cross aisles as possible. It creates more corner positions.

• Show which doorways will actually be used as entrance/exit ways.

• Have a legend so all abbreviations are understood.

• Avoid placing large stands too close to freight doors. Installing and dismantling may block others’ access.

Traffic flow considerations

Calculate 50 percent of the gross space of the exhibit hall to determine the number of stands it will hold while creating optimum traffic flow and density.

Tip: Attendees tend to go right after entering a doorway. Floor traffic usually moves in the same direction as street traffic.


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