Last week, I attended The Philadelphia CVB and Pennsylvania Convention Center’s Meeting Metropolis event. That event included a trade show of local businesses and venues that cater to meeting planners. As soon as I walked into the trade show I felt that something was different here. In my defense I was hungry and a bit tired so my brain was not firing on all cylinders. At first I just noticed I felt relaxed. It was not that normal…ok, here we go, let’s run the gauntlet feeling I often have. Instead of immediately heading left or right it was as if the trade show floor just absorbed me and I found myself wandering all around. Anxious to see what might be around the next corner. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was beautiful. And not in the way I find every show floor beautiful…this one had asthetic beauty.

Once I got some food into me I started to look at everything a bit closer. That’s when it suddenly struck me…there was no pipe and drape. I could basically stand anywhere on the show floor and see clear across to the other side. There were some blocks to my line of sight but not one right next to another. There were huge open spaces with ecclectic seating that said, “it’s ok, have a seat, do some people watching and figure out where you want to go next…let your mind wander…your feet will follow.”

my apologies for blurry photo

As planners we’ve been taught it’s better to cram 1000 people into a space that comfortably holds 750. It gives the illusion that the place is packed. And as trade show organizers we know that our exhibitors are happiest when the place is packed. It is the illusion that becomes reality. At this show turnout was poor. The place looked empty. Just a hundred or so people were wandering around in a room built to hold 2000 comfortably. They could have put all those vendors in a small space and perhaps the illusion would have been effective. Perhaps 100 people or so is never going to look like more. I’m not sure what the answer is. As an attendee I loved its elegance. The exhibitors loved its elegance too. At least the ones I spoke to did. But they didn’t like it’s emptiness. No one ever does.

What do you think? Should our show floors be beautiful and welcoming to our attendees or is it safer to go with the old standby of pipe and drape and crowd them in?

substitute for pipe and drape was stretched fabric on frames…very clean


How beautiful is this booth? No pipe and drape with edges set through the use of “sculpture”

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