Trade Show Flooring: More Than Meets the Eye

It’s no surprise that when it comes to trade show aesthetics, flooring often comes last on the list of priorities.

It’s not flashy and it doesn’t grab your attention like bright lights or a strategically placed digital display…flooring seems like a downright snoozefest in comparison.

So I’m writing this in an effort to shift your mindset on trade show flooring because it’s more important than you may think -it’s the underestimated underdog of event planning that can steal the show.

Or at least make it vastly more appealing.

The Exhibitors

If you think about it, usually the first physical interaction that an attendee has is with the floor.

It can leave an impression on how they view the entire exhibit.

Lucky for exhibitors – unless rules state that they must use a certain type of flooring – the sky’s the limit when it comes to options for flooring.

Exhibitors often wonder what the big deal is about flooring and my knee-jerk reaction is…

You’re kidding, right?

Unfortunately, many exhibitors aren’t even aware of all the options out there and often underestimate the importance of having a good strategy when it comes to choosing a type.

This is what I tell my exhibitors who need some guidance in this area…

Don’t Skimp

It’s tempting to spend the majority of the budget on things like technology and signage. I get it, been there, done that – but, there is so much potential when it comes to your ROI (if you choose your flooring wisely). Studies have shown that attendees are likely to linger if their feet feel relaxed, which can translate into more sales. Bump up the padding and the comfort factor to bump up your ROI.

I recommend choosing a type of flooring that not only has good visual appeal but will also withstand all the traffic wear and tear that is bound to happen. Choose something sturdy like trustworthy (and gorgeous) hardwood. If you go with carpeting, choose a darker color that won’t show dirt as much as a lighter color would.

Elevate It

Most exhibitors are going to have standard flooring and if there is anything I dislike, it’s doing what everyone else is doing. Raised flooring is a great way to set your exhibit apart from the rest and while it seems like more work, it’s actually easy to install. It also solves the problem of having to hide cables and other accessories since they can be neatly hidden underneath. Two birds, one stone, er..floor.

Match Your Design Concept

Commit to your design concept 100% and that includes the flooring. If you have a modern or rustic-style booth design, choose a floor style that coordinates. I can’t help but shake my head when I come across an exhibit that boasts a sleek modern design and then the floor is classroom-style peel and stick tile, or worse, shag carpet.

I just can’t.

The Show Manager

This is where choosing flooring gets tricky for Show Managers because it often ends in compromise.

I dread that word when it comes to design and function, but sometimes it’s necessary to get your show off the ground.

As a Show Manager, you don’t always have many options or much flexibility when it comes to flooring options due to the vast amount of space you need to cover inside a convention hall. The cost to cover aisles and large management areas can often be a large percentage of your service contractor’s invoice.

Plush or padded carpet is ungodly expensive, laminate flooring is unrealistic, and leaving your aisle-ways and pavilions bare can be just sad.


If you have a large space look into installing a custom floor and creating a pavilion or a theatre.

They add texture and visual interest and cover a sizable amount of flooring real estate…enough to cover a multitude of flooring sins. Just make sure to weigh the cost over the need.

I often approach my GSC and ask them to extend aisle carpet into large management areas or pavilions on the show floor. The billable rate is often cheaper when billed at aisle carpet rates versus discounted exhibitor rates as it is tremendously more cost-effective than area carpet, which can double the price. Be sure to put these area requests in along with your meeting resume and specs to ensure your contractor brings enough onsite.

More Than Meets The Eye

Flooring often doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. After all, it’s hard to give much credit to something that we literally walk all over. But in the end, it’s an important aspect of the overall trade show experience and it contributes more than we may ever fully realize.