by Cynthya Porter
Whether completing a theme, promoting a company name or creating a brand image, custom flooring has a lot of power as a design tool. But when budgets get cut for events or exhibits, it’s often the first thing axed off the list as an unnecessary luxury for the space, leaving drab, gray show-hall carpet or chaotic ballroom prints as the focal point underfoot. But considering that the floor is usually one of the largest surfaces in any space’s design, spurning the opportunity to own it is a decorating blunder that flooring experts say should be reconsidered.
Flooring has come a long way in the past two decades, evolving from inexpensive spun polyester yarn that developed tumbleweeds of fuzz when walked on to custom-printed carpets and vinyl that reproduce high-resolution images with razor-sharp detail. A tradeshow or event manager today has virtually endless choices when it comes to designing the floor, and they can strengthen their overall design exponentially even if the budget they are working with is just $1 per square foot.
On a competitive tradeshow floor, you need to step up your exhibit’s game if you want to get noticed, and a cohesive design punctuated with coordinated flooring sends a different message about your brand than the venue’s generic carpet does, says Dave Sterne, founder and CEO of The Inside Track, an exhibition flooring and furniture company. While an exhibitor may think of costly custom printed carpet or vinyl when they think of stepping up that game, the reality is that they can do so with just a strategic color choice on the floor.
“Are you high tech? Try using silver or white carpet for a sleek look,” Sterne offers as an example. “Are your products used in a medical environment? Then you’ll want white vinyl. Are you high end? Maybe your floor should look like marble.” Sterne says that creating designs on the floor out of custom-cut pieces of carpet and/or vinyl is a great trick for creating a high-design aesthetic on a budget. Even something as simple as a brand-coordinated color of carpet with two layers of 0.5-inch padding will set you apart in an attendee’s mind, Sterne says, because they will walk into the booth with their tired legs and say, “Aaaaahhh.”
For those looking to invest more in a custom floor, Sterne sells a product called Custom Printed Textured (CPT) flooring that can reproduce literally any image onto a durable vinyl that, because it is reverse-printed, will last for several shows. Need a floor to look like a strawberry patch? No problem. Like ocean waves? A blueprint? A bottomless pit? Whatever a design team can dream of can be rolled out onto the floor using the product, which received a Buyer’s Choice Award at EXHIBITORLIVE! for its innovative qualities (pictured right).
In the case of custom-printed carpet or vinyl, the goal is to put the floor to work towards a company’s branding or theme. “Hanging signs are great for helping attendees identify exhibits,” Sterne says, “but cool flooring is novel enough that it will draw the eyes right into a display. And on a crowded show floor, that’s half the battle.”
On the event side of the business, Gauro Coen, who heads up the event division for Signature Systems Group in Los Angeles, says he uses custom printed flooring in some applications. But for others, the goal is to have the floor fade from view. “If the floor is wrong, everybody notices,” he says. “If the floor is perfect, nobody notices it. That’s really how that works.” And in any given ballroom, the chances that the flooring is going to be wrong is probably pushing 100 percent. “If you google ‘ballroom carpet,’” Coen says, “you’ll see that it’s usually a printed carpet designed to have lots of different colors and shapes in it—really to hide dirt and to try to be less boring. But if you’re hosting an event and bringing in décor, the ballroom floor makes the room look even more confusing. If you put down a single-color carpet like a white, medium gray, black, or red, then your themed décor becomes the centerpiece or the focal point.”
Taking control of the flooring, Coen says, is more or less like taking control of the whole room. “Before we started carpeting ballrooms or doing flooring, event companies used to put flowers four feet above the ground; they’d bring in all these beautiful boxes in an effort to keep the person’s eye off the floor,” he explains. “Once we started carpeting floors, suddenly the events started on the ground—everything got lower.”
Also, planners should not underestimate the importance of the floor when it comes to the photography that will happen inside an event, Coen says. “If the flooring is perfect, it’ll make everybody look fantastic, it will make the photos look awesome, and then people will show the photos around and create a positive buzz about an event.”
As is the case with a tradeshow, flooring for an event doesn’t need to break the bank. For high-end functions, the company rents a plush product called Event Carpet, and for affairs on a lower budget, they can lay a carpet called UltimaTurf (pictured right), and event managers can get into those options for between $1 and $3 per square foot.
One kind of carpet that Sterne wouldn’t necessarily recommend for the floor of a tradeshow display is the same kind used in the aisles. “Tradeshow carpeting is produced in a variety of weights, but trying to save money by using a 13-ounce aisle carpet in your exhibit isn’t a good idea as it can come off as cheap,” Sterne explains. “Most exhibit houses recommend a 30-ounce carpet as the minimum weight along with a 0.5-inch, 6-pound pad for channeling the electric and offering underfoot comfort.”
From rubberized flooring to that made of recycled materials, or laminate, wood, a dozen kinds of carpet and just as many varieties of vinyl, there are a lot of choices that can be made with regard to flooring material. An event company or exhibit house would be a good resource for a manager sifting through information looking for options, the men say, and for planners and exhibitors looking for design inspiration to complete their space.
With so many variables, the most important rule of thumb is that people start to look at their flooring as a valuable piece of real estate in the event or exhibit space. It might mean juggling the budget or printing one fewer sign or borrowing from the marketing kitty, which Sterne says he has clients do when they realize that a plain floor is a big marketing opportunity left on the table. The bottom line is that whatever it takes to own that floor space—if done well—will be worth it for the impact it can have, and penny pinching planners who think they can’t afford to do it would be wise to realize that they can’t afford not to.
This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Exhibit City News, p. 46. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecnflipbook_julyaugust_2019_web