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For on the Floor
It used to be that the biggest decision exhibitors had to make about booth flooring was what color carpet to roll out, and whether to use one pad or splurge for two. But today this wallflower component of a trade show display can be as highly designed as the rest of an exhibit, a veritable blank canvas upon which exhibitors can build their brand and solve some of their perennial exhibiting problems.

The themes emerging in modern exhibit flooring center on two distinctly different ideas: making surfaces that are lighter, easier to install, more comfortable to stand on, and easier on the environment, or turning the floor into a center-stage spectacle by infusing it with attention-grabbing features previously found only on booth walls. To that end, manufacturers have devoted endless energy into developing products that ease aching backs, lighten loads, save on labor, soothe environmental consciences, and provide the exact style exhibitors crave for their brand image.

Now, whether an exhibitor is in the market for convenience or style — or both — the array of trade show flooring available is a far cry from the blah industrial carpet of exhibits gone by. So to help you update what's underfoot, here are some of the industry's newest and most unique offerings. By Cynthya Porter

ShowDeck Raised
Raised exhibit floors are nice for hiding cables and wires, though the additional shipping and labor cost to install a subfloor can be a drain on any trade show budget. But Exhibit Flooring Solutions (a division of American Turf and Carpet LLC) soothes the raised-floor headache with ShowDeck Raised, an all-in-one subfloor and surface combined that provides channels on the underside for wire management as well as stylish vinyl inlays that allow the surface to match any surrounding booth décor. Each 1-foot-square tile is constructed of heavy-duty plastic, weighing in at a featherweight 2 pounds each, and tiles come preconnected in 3-by-3-foot sections for speedy snap-together assembly on site. Exhibitors can choose from vinyl inlays in two shades of faux wood parquet or 19 colors to complement a booth's color scheme. When finished, the floor looks like you spent back-breaking hours on it rather than a few easy minutes of installation. ShowDeck Raised includes sloped edging to ensure easy access for all booth visitors and wheeled equipment. Contact: Exhibit Flooring Solutions, Baltimore, 800-778-8112, www.exhibitflooringsolutions.com

Attendees will be tripping the light fantastic when they walk into a booth with a Smartfader interactive floor that reactswith touch-sensitive LED light to each footstep across it. In Smartfader Matrix tiles, embedded, quarter-sized lights in red, blue, green, white, or a mix of colors, react to footsteps by fading off wherever pressure is placed. Smartfader Reloaded does just the opposite, with lights being triggered to turn on under the weight of each footstep. The subtle yet mesmerizing effect keeps attendees engaged and walking around your exhibit just for the fun of it — the perfect avenue for striking up a conversation. The effect lasts for about a minute until it gently fades away and the floor returns to its previous lit or unlit state, and floors can withstand 550 pounds of weight on each 39-by-39-inch tile. Up to five Smartfader tiles, which are 1.75 inches thick and weigh 44 pounds each, can be linked together to a single power source, and tiles can be installed over any flat surface to create whole floors or pathways through a display. Contact: Technical Architecture Lighting, Pittem, Belgium, 32-51-46-43-41, www.tal.be

GTEK Interactive Video Floor
Exciting isn't a word often used for exhibit flooring, unless, of course, you've installed the GTEK Interactive Video Floor from Telematics Canada Inc. The motion-sensitive LED tiles turn the underfoot area of your space into almost anything you can think of, from a sea of fire that parts as you walk through it to a fireworks spectacle with bursts of color activated by attendees' steps. Each 30-inch-square tile weighs 74 pounds and installs easily into an aluminum frame that, together with the tiles, can support the weight of a car. To create the flooring's unique effect, a computer relays flash files for changing images to the floor with the help of an LED controller and signal splitter, and the result is 4.4 trillion colors of awe-inspiring coolness with a resolution sharp enough to display logos and other detailed images. In fact, the only limit to what the tiles can display is your imagination, because any image or video that can be saved in a flash file can become part of your dramatic flooring ensemble. Tiles are constructed from scratch-resistant plastic and are weatherproofed for outdoor applications. Contact: Telematics Canada Inc., Vancouver, BC, Canada, 604-331-8795, www.dilad.ca

EZ Down
Wood and stone make a sophisticated statement, but they can leave your staffers with aching feet, and their weight can leave you with an aching drayage bill. But you can still get the look of cherry wood or the finish of Colorado stone when you use EZ Down planks by The Inside Track. Each 10-by-42-inch plank is crafted from nonskid, vulcanized rubber durable enough to withstand years of traffic but pliable enough to be cut with a utility knife. Planks come in a variety of finishes, including cherry, natural, dark wood, and Arizona stone. The reusable planks need only a strip of double-sided adhesive around the edges, staying put thanks to their rubber underside, and can be laid directly on the floor.
Contact: The Inside Track, Atlanta, 888-806-7308, www.theinsidetrackinc.com

Slate flooring is an elegant way to show attendees your brand is serious about style, but using it is not without its downfalls. The weight and fragility of slate or stone tiles make shipping them to a trade show and installing them in your booth space a costly proposition. But Brumark Total Flooring Solutions has reinvented stone flooring with EverSlate, comprising thin slices of slate laminated to a bendable cork backing, which gives exhibitors the beauty of slate with the ease of installing a vinyl floor. The material, which is 5 millimeters thick, is cuttable, and each 2-by-4-foot tile weighs less than 7 pounds. Slate surfaces are available in 10 colors, from the sophisticated look of black slate to the warm hues of terra cotta. The reusable tiles require no grout or caulk, and the cork backing gives them sound-dampening qualities.
Contact: Brumark Total Flooring Solutions, Atlanta, 800-291-9606, www.brumark.com

Holo-Floor SL
Nothing attracts attention like a little glitz in a booth, and nothing screams glitz quite like a sparkling, holographic floor. But dealing with typical holo- graphic films and adhesives can be a time-consuming hassle, and premade floor tiles often are a heavy burden for exhibitors. Now Westlake Village, CA-based Holo-Walls Inc. is giving exhibitors all the dazzle they can dream of in a lightweight package with Holo- Floor SL, an interlocking tile system with hypnotizing holographic surfaces that are virtually effortless to install. Each 2-by-2-foot tile has a prismatic design laminated to scratch-resistant polycarbonate sheets that are in turn adhered to lightweight plastic. Pieces snap together without tools for quick and easy installation, ultimately creating a seamless light-refracting surface. Each individual tile weighs a mere 6 pounds and has a slender five-eighth-inch profile, making transporting the tiles in bulk a breeze. Contact: Holo-Walls Inc., Westlake Village, CA, 818-735-3565, www.holowalls.com

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