Here’s the convention floor schematic again:

Most people choose their booth location based up on the idea that people will maximize their convention floor time by going to the very edge and walking the perimiter, like this:

I revised the pictures, as the NFDA is blocking the middle entrances – TBT

But humans are usually more savvy than that, and getting their bearings in a new space trumps the most “efficient” use of time.  So most attendees will move toward a wide open space in the convention hall.

This is a more accurate depiction of the typical convention-goer’s route:

I revised the pictures, as the NFDA is blocking the middle entrances – TBT

Why do people walk a floor this way?  First, let’s remember that many attendees have only scheduled one visit to the expo floor.  They’re here to see what’s new and maybe chat with a few company reps they’ve met before.

Or, they’ve got a specific goal, like “finding a new mortuary cot” or “seeing the embalming machines” that will drive their plans.  Others simply want to walk the floor to say they’ve done it and see what jumps out at them.

Either way, for an attendee, keeping equal numbers of booths on either side during a walk maximizes the opportunities for surprises and interesting sites.

The convention givers know this, so when they lay out the floor, they provide for wider aisles 1/4 of the way in from at least two sides, as they’ve done here.

But what about the two sides that don’t have aisles, you ask?

Here, the convention makers know that once an attendee has her bearings, she’ll cut up through the large center booths to find the big aisles at the other end.  The designer of the convention can do this because he knows that the larger booths are more visually exciting and will “pull” the attendees through the hall.

Because of this “pull,” a floor walker won’t just go to the end of the hall and turn 90 degrees.  Usually, the attendee or the group of visitors will ask the question “Is there anything interesting down there?”

If they don’t see anything good, they’ll execute this turn:

And while it’s hard to see in this picture, there are two or three more rows of booths, all costing the vendor upwards of $2000, that will never get visited, unless they create a visual excitement that will entice the visitor to walk out of his way.

One special area of interest and concern for vendors is the “entry zone.”  often, vendors want to be near the doors, since they’ll be one of the first things the attendees see when the doors are thrown open to the public.

While entry zone booths get a lot of first day traffic, most of the visitors are moving quickly away from the entry doors, since the steady stream of visitors will put pressure on those in front to “make room” for the rest. 

Few attendees feel comfortable stopping so close to the doors on the first day because they’ve yet to get their bearings.  And because of the aversion to perimeter skirting as previously discussed, this is the most likely way attendees will react at the entrance:

Being in the “line of fire” as attendees move quickly toward that big aisle and the open spaces will at least get you a brief glance and maybe a return visit at the end of the trip, but being just a few rows away can mean you’ll be skipped.

Is there a bad spot on the convention floor?  Yes and it’s at the very edges or the corners of the space.  I walked the floor of the 2007 convention twice and the saddest-looking vendors were the ones who were stuck in the corners.

Slightly happier were the folks on the east wall who were near the Eternal Image booth.  Eternal Image, an urn and casket maker who specializes in licensed products (AKC Urns, Star Trek Caskets, etc.), had built a large, white-columned booth that drew visitors over to it.  But had Eternal Image not set up such an elaborate and interesting space, many of the side-wall vendors would have seen less traffic.

Interestingly, Eternal Image has already secured their booth for 2008 and it’s not on the perimeter; it’s a 1600 square foot space in the middle section, between the largest block (Batesville Casket) and the center stage of the general session.

These are just some of the issues to consider when planning your location.  But, if you need further proof of the best spots on the floor, check out the updated expo map to see the booths that have already been taken.