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double decks
Q.
We want to expand our exhibit size, but the cost of concrete is prohibitive at many trade shows. Someone suggested that we build a double deck instead of increasing our footprint. What are the advantages of going up versus out?

A.
When most U.S. exhibitors consider switching to a bigger booth presence, their thoughts automatically fall to a larger footprint, which means more money not only for exhibitry but also for the concrete underneath it. In other parts of the world, however, most exhibitors choose to go "up" instead of "out."

Particularly in Europe, exhibitors consider "cubic content" during the initial exhibit-design phase. Cubic content is the entire exhibit space from top to bottom and side to side. While many U.S. exhibitors add an ID tower or a hanging sign almost as an afterthought, Europeans consider the entire cubic content of their purchased space and look for ways to extend their structure into every inch of it.

Granted, country-specific regulations and exhibiting norms can make second-story structures more or less feasible depending on your location, and sometimes, a double deck simply can't meet your unique exhibiting objectives. But when you consider modular (and perhaps rental) constructions as opposed to custom creations, double decks offer a host of benefits. Here's a brief rundown of some of their key advantages.

➤ Cost effectiveness – Simply put, "up" usually costs less than "out." To illustrate the point, Highmark TechSystems of Fort Wayne, IN, recently created average cost comparisons. By its assessment, it costs between $160 and $200 per square foot to add concrete or, more precisely, to expand an exhibit footprint on the ground level (i.e., to purchase a larger space in the desired location). While it can cost in the same range to "go up" with a custom purchased deck, it costs quite a bit less – between $50 and $70 per square foot – for a rental deck option. Adding a deck to the space you already purchased is often more cost conscious than buying more space and the exhibitry to fill it.
➤ Show-floor presence – Indeed, a traditional tower or hanging sign can fulfill identification- and presence-related demands, usually just not to the same extent offered by a double-deck structure. Plus, if you suspend anything over your space, you're looking at serious money for rigging. So if you want people to spot your exhibit from aisles away and you hope to build a more commanding presence on the show floor, few exhibit structures meet your goals better than a double deck. Such a structure lends a sense of permanence and importance while creating an eye-catching beacon that will lead attendees to your space.
➤ Seclusion – In addition to providing more display and presentation space, double decks are the perfect environment for VIP lounges and meeting areas, as they inherently offer a sense of privacy and exclusivity. Literally elevated from the show floor, the upper deck is physically and psychologically separated from the frenetic energy of the ground level. Plus, if you regularly hold meetings off the show floor, an upper deck is a valuable asset. Having the meeting in your booth eliminates the costs of renting a meeting room. After all, you want your attendees immersed in your environment as long as possible.
➤ Ability to limit access – Double-deck structures also allow exhibitors to restrict access to the second level by monitoring the stairways leading to it. Thus, you can provide attendee-specific content on the upper deck. For example, due to pharmaceutical regulations, health-care exhibitors might offer info for international attendees only on the upper deck. Similarly, gaming exhibitors sometimes use the second level to house adult-content video games. Or you might display expensive products or secret prototypes on the top floor to keep them away from prying eyes. Note that Americans with Disabilities Act requirements indicate that the general information you offer on the deck must also be offered at ground level.
➤ Flexibility – While custom double decks certainly have their place in the exhibiting world, modular decks are perhaps the best option for any exhibit program that requires some flexibility. You can modify the size and location of the upper deck to accommodate various shows and show-hall parameters. Plus, aluminum (which comprises most modular systems) weighs less than steel (which comprises many custom builds), and this can be a key consideration with decks in the U.S. market where weight is a cost driver when figuring drayage and transportation.

Clearly, double-deck structures should figure in your discussion about booth design. Particularly when you need to add space, functionality, or flexibility to your trade show presence, building up instead of out has its advantages. E

— Kerstin Mulfinger, independent exhibit-management consultant, Toronto
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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