October 2, 2011

Convention Space Layout

Okay, I admit it.  I’ve been slack.  I woke up the other day and realized it had been two months since my last blog update.  Fortunately, this isn’t a paid gig, or I’d have had my boss breathing down my proverbial neck by now.
Anyway, I’m back at it.  And I’ve talked my wife into doing a guest blog as well, so look for blog on Programming, sometime in the next week or so.

Convention Space Layout
Today’s topic is convention space layout.  This seems pretty straight forward, but I still run into conventions that do not do this particularly well, so I’m making it a point of discussion.

There are two main issues in this topic, flow and walk spaces.  Flow is sort of the larger view of where you put each main piece of your convention (Dealers, Programming, Gaming, etc.) and walk spaces, well, that’s fairly self-explanatory.

For flow, this is partially a matter of personal preference… your attendees’ preferences, not yours.  When trying to decide what pieces to put where in the space, I recommend keeping a couple of things in mind.  First, where are your attendees likely to spend most of their time?  Second, is the dealer room near the main flow?  This second point is critical for future success of your convention.  Placing the dealer by the main flow of foot traffic means folks have easy access to the Dealer Room.  That makes the dealers happy.  Happy dealers equal a greater potential of cash flow for the convention from the future sale of dealer tables.

In general, the layout of the rest of the con should be based on what rooms are best for each area of your con.  I typically determine which rooms are of the appropriate size for each part of the con and then determine how the flow of traffic will work.  For flow, you need to consider where folks are going to be most often.  I like to group things like Programming and Dealers together.  If the con has an Art Show, that needs to be close to Programming as well.  Gaming is best placed slightly away from the main flow, unless you’re running a gaming con, then it should be your primary focus.  For Programming, I usually like to have all of the panel rooms within quick walking distance of each other.   They do not have to be literally next to each other, however.  In fact, I suggest dedicating one large room for Main Programming (GoH’s, Opening Ceremonies, Masquerade, Dance, etc.) and then have a number of smaller rooms for panels that are not adjacent to Main Programming.  This helps to reduce the noise level in the panel rooms.

Walk Spaces
This part should be pretty easy to figure out, but it I end up attending conventions where I have to squeeze through people to get somewhere in the con that I need to be.  This is bad when it happens to your attendees, it’s even worse when it happens to your guests.  I’ve seen more than a few Guests of Honor make apologies for being late because they could not walk 20 feet from one panel room to another in a timely manner.

So, how do you alleviate this?  Well, most bottle-necks occur where there are tables.  Whether it’s in the Dealer Room, or out in the Prefunction Spaces, conventions need to provide adequate space for people to walk.  By adequate, I don’t mean just adhering to local fire codes.  I mean wide enough spaces that people can actually get past the tables when they want to walk by.  Keep in mind that you have to allow for space behind the table for someone sit comfortably, space for the table itself, space for someone to stand in front of the table and room for at least two people to walk past the table, side-by-side.  If there are tables on both sides of a walk space, that same amount of space needs to be provided on each side of the walk area.
Too often I’ve seen cons cram tables into a space to try to get more exhibitors (dealers, fan tables, etc.) in the convention.  This usually only ends up irritating everyone involved.  Attendees get frustrated because they can’t get to where they want to be.  Dealers get mad because people can’t get to their tables.  And guests get upset because the crowds make them late to panels.  My suggestion is to figure out how many tables you can comfortably fit into the space, and stick to that number.   

Warning: Do not be surprised if someone comes up to you once all of the tables have been allocated (sold out) and says, “hey, X group wants to set up, can we find a place to put them?”  That answer needs to be “no,” unless you remove something else to make room for their table. 
Well, That's it for this post.  As usual, I probably could have covered a lot more, but this is where I'm going to stop.  Look for Tera's guest blog on Programming soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment