Site Inspection – Floor Layout
Approximately, 12–14 months prior to your event, request a maxed out plan from your general contractor to take with you on your site inspection. With your general contractor and the venue staff, carefully review the plan for accuracy during the site. Examples:
• Make sure the floor ports, columns and ceilings are depicted correctly. • Are there airwalls? • Do the ceiling heights vary in your space? • Mark off areas where booths cannot be placed given limited ceiling height or other prohibitive factors.
As you consider the layout of your floor plan work to optimize traffic flow—much like a grocery store does. Consider what activities and functions will get the most people circulating throughout as much of the floor as possible. Think about locating food and beverage, internet cafes, recharging stations, career fair, presentation theaters, education, membership areas, show management and service areas at locations which will encourage traffic flow.
Ideally, you will want your floor plan complete at least 14 months before the show date so exhibit sales for the next year’s show can take place at this year’s show.
Be sure to inquire about a specific list of fire marshal requirements as the regulations vary from city to city. Examples:
• Are double decker booths allowed? • What is the minimum aisle width? • Are “no freight aisles” mandatory? • Is there a minimum front aisle width? • Are there columns with Fire Hose Cabinets on them that require a clear space around them?
Questions to ask the venue include:
• When were the floor plans developed and have they been updated recently? • Have there been renovations to the space? • Are all my contractors are using the latest versions from the venue? • How do trucks unload and what is the accessibility of the loading docks? • What are the location and dimensions of the freight doors? • What are the locations, sizes and capacities of freight elevators? • What are the ceiling heights? • What is the floor load? • What are the capacities, usable and/or restricted areas on the floor plan? • Does the facility have their rules/regulations in written detail?
Ask the venue for a reference of another client with a similar size show in the same space. Ask the reference about any helpful hints about laying out a floor plan in this venue or challenges they faced.
Be sure to take a camera or smartphone with you— a picture is worth a thousand words.
Also, if your show does include an opening and/or closing reception, consider locating them on the show floor in an area where traffic may be light. Finally, cross aisles present tremendous benefit in terms of traffic flow and sales of valuable corner booths—so use cross aisles to your organization’s benefit.
Once you have the activities and functions identified that will go on your floor, your general contractor can begin floor plan development.
Floor Plan Development
In addition to the ingredients above your general contractor will consider the following in your floor plan development:
• Fire marshal regulations • Floor port locations or electrical drops from the ceiling • Air, water, gas, data, internet port locations • Air wall locations • Hanging points • Max layout for 10×10 vs 10×8 etc
• Size and requirements of all activities on floor such as registration, food and beverage, meeting rooms, entertainment, etc. • Empty crate storage • Accessible storage • Ceiling heights • Deadlines for final floor plan
Once you established what elements will be included on the floor plan, your contractor will refine the original maxed out plan to include all the elements you have identified as well as storage areas and fire marshal requirements.
There may be multiple players involved with the development of the floor plan including a third party exhibit sales company. Ensure a specific dialogue occurs between all parties to determine compatibility of software. Clear lines of communication must be established about how changes are managed and by whom. Specific areas where problems can occur between multiple parties include double bookings, changed booth spaces and exhibitor cancellations. It is important to develop a check and balance system for data entry to correct errors as they will undoubtedly occur.
More helpful hints:
• Ensure no booths face a blank wall
• Make sure booths at front of the hall are facing the entrance
• Ensure clear paths exist to fire exits
• Show location of fire hoses
• Maintain at least a 10 foot perimeter aisle
• Depict storage areas in 20 x 20 spaces with fire extinguishers
• Factor in a double back wall on an 8 x 10 grid to eliminate gap created by 10 foot standard aisle carpet
• Factor in double-decker booths and hanging signs when analyzing ceiling heights
• Make sure hall entrance is as close to the educational sessions as possible to improve traffic flow
• Consider incentives, treasure hunts or prize drawings to encourage traffic flow
• Consider drape location, and ensure all drape is marked on the floor plan.