Have you ever visited an exhibit hall only to find out that the event exhibitor booths block the aisles, are difficult to get to and not well planned? This is often due to event planners misunderstanding some basic traffic flow truths and planning ahead for high traffic booths.

While you can’t plan for everything, you can think through the layout of your exhibit hall so that people can travel through the area without being hindered. This not only benefits your conference attendees but the exhibitors themselves. There is nothing worse than getting zero traffic at your booth because the one next to you has the entire aisle blocked.

Step # 1: Research Past Events

If you’ve held this event in the past, then you’ll want to think through where traffic jams occurred in the past. Is there a booth that tends to draw a crowd and clog up the traffic in that area? If so, can you locate this booth in another location or perhaps work with the booth exhibitors to create a different flow, such as having observers move into the booth itself rather than standing on the outside edge.

Sometimes, something as simple as adding another booth space to their space and setting the display in the back portion will move traffic inward.

If this is your first event with exhibitors, then find an event that is similar in size to yours and chat about ideas for traffic flow with that event organizer.

Step # 2: Draw the Layout

The next thing you should do is create a scale map of the exhibit space. Draw out your booths and where traffic can flow. Use sticky notes at first to easily move exhibitors around until you have the perfect layout.

Some events allow exhibitors to choose their own space on a first come, first serve basis. This can be beneficial for attracting exhibitors back year after year as they will be assured of a particular spot. However, this can also create situations where traffic doesn’t flow properly, so take this into consideration and be willing to have tough conversations when adjustments are necessary for the benefit of all the exhibitors.

You can also consult with the venue organizers for additional ideas for layout as they are most familiar with the layout of their exhibit halls and past issues with traffic flow.

Step # 3: Plan “Hallways”

If you’re going to have long rows of booths, plan in some cut throughs or hallways where people can avoid traffic and cut over to another aisle easily. While there is no set in stone spacing for cut throughs, it is probably smart to have one about every 10 booths or so.

This is going to help your traffic flow and if there is an emergency at the event, emergency personnel will more easily be able to get to anyone in distress.

Step # 4: Be On Hand During Setup and the Event

On the days when exhibitors set up their booths, be on site. If you see a display and realize it is amazing and will likely draw a crowd, think through what might need changed in order to keep traffic from jamming up in front of this booth.

It might be smart to reserve an end booth or two so you can move these hot commodity booths to an area where traffic will flow better.

Once the event starts, take the time to walk around your own event. Go from one aisle to the next, up and down each aisle. If you notice that traffic doesn’t flowing in a particular area, take note of it. Is there anything you can do to help it move better? If not, at least take note so you know to move that exhibitor elsewhere the next year.

When Your Plan Fails

No matter how well planned your exhibit booths are and how prepared you think you are, you can be certain there will be a point where your plan fails. People will gather in front of a booth you never thought they would, another booth that is in an ideal spot for high traffic will have few visitors, and some exhibitors will feel slighted.

Change what you can, apologize for your mistakes, and move on. There isn’t an event planner alive who never makes a mistake. All you can do is prepare the best you can and learn from experience. If you can apply these principles, your events will grow better year after year.