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Surf Expo's Roy Turner on video study

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  • Surf Expo Show Director Roy Turner at Liquid Nation last year. Shop-eat-surf file photo.

Surf Expo invested $100,000 at the January 2010 trade show to videotape and then study every space of the trade show floor.

The findings include the style of booths that attract the most traffic, how events draw people and how traffic flows throughout the trade show floors.

“We wanted to find ways to keep buyers coming on the floor, excited and happy, while maximizing the show floor for all exhibitors no matter booth location or time of day,” said Surf Expo Director Roy Turner.

Roy shared some key takeaways Surf Expo learned and how it is using the study to revamp the September show.


Pre –registration obviously works. When you have enough staff for registration, lines flow fast and people stay happy. Surf Expo’s wait time was below the industry average, but since they had one hour of peak traffic during the first day, it is hiring more staff for the next show so lines will be even faster.



Food is the number one reason people leave trade show floors at lunch since trade show food is notoriously bad, Roy said

Surf Expo added a sushi bar at the last show, and is thinking of adding a Cuban restaurant next.

“You can still get bad trade show food if you want it, but we’re adding some variety as well,” he said.

Last day

Day three of most trade shows usually sees a mass exodus of people, so Surf Expo wanted to know if it should shorten show hours on the last day.

The study showed Surf Expo retained 70% of its attendees on the last day, which is about 20% above the industry average.


Roy also found that most of the people leaving were sales people and exhibitor staff, not buyers.

“The last day is a full working day that exhibitors should look to take advantage of and not break down early,” Roy advised.

On site events

The Bangers for Bucks skate contest and fashion show resulted in strong traffic flow in the afternoon, proving that onsite events really keep people on the floor. Roy said 65% of the show floor watched the skateboard demonstration.

On page 2: Aisle patterns, one floor, exhibitor booth design and new technology

Aisle patterns

At the last show, Roy’s staff strategically placed events in the corners and back of the show to drive traffic. They also intentionally created wider aisles and experimented with adding two main cross aisles to drive traffic east/west as well as north/south.

Surf Expo found that this worked and for the most part, traffic was distributed evenly on the show floor, with a bit more traffic along the drive and major cross aisles as well as near the skate park and fashion show stage. (Drive aisles are wider aisles or aisles with key show features that are intended to draw attention in order to “drive” attendees from one area of the show to another.)

Placing the skate park, food court, and fashion show stage in the back of hall helped draw people in, and sustained traffic levels. Additionally, simple things like placing benches and numerous lounges along drive aisles provided convenient resting places for attendees, keeping them on the floor longer.

One floor

Roy said the biggest reason that Surf Expo’s traffic flow and attendance was above the industry average is because everything is on one floor.

In September, Surf Expo will have two water pools, a redesigned skateboard section and all the BRA trainings, fashion show, and Bangers for Bucks contest located in one area on the trade show floor.

With additional food stations, Roy thinks there will be even more reason for attendees to stay at the show all day long.

Exhibitor booth design

The study showed that exhibits with multiple points of entry had substantially more retailers in their booths.

New technology

Lastly, Roy said Surf Expo is launching a new mobile application in July that will show attendees how to get from booth to booth at the show. After the show, he said the application will be very useful for retailers as an ongoing, easily accessible exhibitor database.

“We’re not a consumer show. We are here to do business and if I can keep everyone within these four walls without walking across the street, they will do even more business and I can keep a contained audience.”




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