Getting Your Exhibitor Priorities Straight

Have a question you’d like to ask an industry expert about trade show management? Maybe exhibit sales, attendee promotion, technology? Or anything else having to do with the business?

Send your question to Executive Editor Michael Hart at and we will contact the appropriate trade show professional to get the question answered.

This week’s question is directed to Sean Lenahan, CEM, assistant vice president of convention operations for the National Association of Home Builders.

Expo Reader: We’ve used the same point-based space selection process for at least the last 7 years and are considering other options at this point. What are some ideas we could use?

Sean Lenahan: Most shows use some version of a point system. There’s really only two other options. The first is, first-come-first-serve—which is extremely hard to manage—and the other is assignment by size, which really ends up coming into a priority point system anyway.

For us, we have a priority point system that’s based on size and then points within that size frame. So each year you’re going to get your 4,000-square-foot and 10,000-sq.-ft. exhibitors in to make sure your floor looks right and flows well and get your floor plans drawn accordingly.

Some people just kind of throw the biggest ones in wherever they want to go and go down the list from there. Their floorplans tend to not be as smooth and tend to be a little choppy in my opinion as a result.

But within point systems, there are a thousand different varieties of how to institute it. The simplest way is to use seniority. There are also systems based on the spend of the exhibitor, either from one year to the next, or for spend with the association or on things outside of the main show like sponsorships or ancillary events. You can also penalize exhibitors who don’t exhibit [consistently] to keep the playing field even for those who are continuing with you year after year.

You can pick and choose which one works best for your particular set of exhibitors, how they come in and what you’re trying to reward and encourage.

Posted by Michael Rondon

Michael Rondon is a senior editor for Expo. Reach him @Mike_Rondon or View all articles by Michael Rondon →