The Trade Show Conference Room: Privacy Out in the Open

Incorporating private meeting space during a trade show or conference is not a new phenomenon. It just makes too much sense to take advantage of key company resources – executives, product managers, other subject matter experts — all available in one location where many customers and prospects are also present.


In the past, exhibitors would secure private meeting space in a small ballroom or hospitality suite near the expo hall. While that is certainly still the case for larger group meetings or extended meetings with special presentation requirements, it’s not a one size fits all option. For smaller groups and more casual business meetings, taking advantage of the exhibit booth space whenever possible makes sense. The investment to exhibit has already been made so no additional fees need to be incurred.

When exhibitors first started using a portion of the booth real estate for a private meeting area or conference room, they wanted to “hide” the conference room as much as possible. It was almost an optical illusion to tuck a conference room in next to a storage closet in the booth. The emphasis was on privacy and clever utilization of the space. Privacy is still a requirement in certain industries for regulatory reasons. And for other situations where a “still in development” new product concept is being shared, there remains a need for secrecy.


However, in most situations, there is a recent trend toward conference rooms that are integral to the design of the booth allowing a certain level of privacy while also remaining somewhat visible to attendees.

The reasons are twofold. First, design thinking, attendee experience, and visitor flow are paramount. 3D designers have increasingly focused on balancing eye-catching design with functionality. They embrace the challenge of integrating a private or semi-private conference room into the booth design so that it appears a seamless and integrate part of the plan rather than an afterthought. (How often have we seen situations where the booth design was essentially done and then said, “We love the design but just realized we need a conference room for 6 people.”?)


The second reason for the trend toward visible yet private conference and meeting areas is about mystery and intrigue and the psychology of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). When we see glimpses into a meeting space, silhouettes, shadows and have the impression that people are involved in something important and we are not included, that draws us in. It catches our eye and gets us wondering what is happening in there? What are they discussing? Am I missing something? This was a big trend we saw at CES, which featured our favorite meeting space: a car!

So, the next time you are faced with the need to add meeting space to your booth, think about how you can add an element of mystery and exclusivity. Consider semi-opaque walls or small gaps between panels so that other attendees can get a glimpse into the space while still meeting your needs to conduct business. Challenge your exhibit house to make the conference area physically and psychologically functional.


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