Revolutionising the floorplan

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Over the past 20 years, exhibition floorplans have evolved from a basic necessity to a key tool for adding value to both stand sales and the event experience. All organisers have different needs, but it’s always crucial to get the basics right. When talking about floorplans and how they can help solve challenges, we should to expand the conversation to floorplan solutions, which includes the technology that is used to create and manage floorplans. Lots of new technology promises the earth, but when it comes to the crunch some just don’t get the job done. Making the wrong selections might put organisers off new technology for life, without ever understanding the potential it has to help them. There are two main advancements in organisers’ approach to floorplans; one comes from a gradual shift in perception, and the other from technological developments. It’s not all that long ago that these plans were drawn out by hand, but even CAD plans are printed out and scribbled on as the layout changes and stands are booked. Event sales and ops managers are steadily growing to realise how their floorplan gives them more stand space to sell and improve aspects of their show such as visitor flow, access to key areas and improved visibility for exhibitors. Additional resources are now required to turn all the notes and documents coming in from different salespeople and operations staff into something the floorplan designer can make sense of – otherwise there could be a long wait to get the finished plans back. It used to be odd because the floorplans were often a free add-on in a shell scheme package, so even though there was no pressure on contractors to provide a specialised floorplan service, the knowledge required simply to use CAD software and understand which pitfalls to avoid meant that operations managers couldn’t do their floorplans in house. Now there’s software available that allows stand bookings to be recorded, with several people making sales at a given time and instantly seeing updates made by others.Enhancements One of the key developments is the rise of visitor apps and online interactive floorplans – these can add value to an event, but there is a risk too – exhibitions are face-to-face, not virtual reality, and technology needs to enhance this interaction rather than replace it. Another thing I touched on earlier that I’d like to reiterate is the opportunity for experienced operations staff to really be the gatekeepers of their floorplan management. Because they’re not floorplan designers, for this to work the tools they use must be created by a skilled service provider who understands floorplan best practice and how to turn it into user-friendly technology. If designed and managed correctly, a floorplan is the biggest source of income for an event, but cutting corners can have disastrous effects. Helping clients feel safe with technology and supporting them when pitching to the key influencers in their organisation, who are often sceptical, is an important aspect that is often overlooked by technology suppliers – as is after-sale support and help with promoting the technology to the visitors and exhibitors who will benefit from it. There’s a lot of room in the industry for new technology, and plenty of early adopters who are willing to keep competition alive by taking risks on promising new solutions rather than just going for the established ones, but the specialist nature of floorplans means that any technology in that area is easy to get wrong. Because of that, the floorplan technology providers who survive will be those who truly understand floorplans and get their customers.   This article was first published in the July issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne
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