The Truth About Exhibition Venue Size.
Updated: Jul 26
A MUST-READ FOR EVENT AND VENUE OWNERS.
If you own an exhibition event, you’ll know what I mean when I say that you are in the real estate development business.
To put it simply, exhibition owners generate the majority of their revenue by:
Renting a large space at wholesale (a venue), in advance for a short period, and creating an event value proposition for attendees.
Then leasing individual small pieces of that space (a stand) to their customers at a premium.
Exhibition Gross Profit = (Exhibition Space Sales Price x # sqm/sqf) - (Venue Rental + Event Costs)
It is like a short-term accommodation rental business. By the way, just like in a hotel, event organisers also have to ensure that essential services such as water, electricity, and good WiFi are available.
Exhibition square meters are therefore precious inventory - they are the lifeblood of the business. Knowing how many square meters are available when choosing a venue is critical: renting too many square meters is an oversupply which may drive the price down and be a wasted expense, and having too little inventory prevents revenue growth, or may take a venue out of consideration during a location bid.
If growing the exhibition matters, then every square meters matters.
But if venue space is so critical, why have I had to spend hundreds of hours on venue websites, reading brochures and floorplans to get accurate and useful information during the location search process?
Not all venue space is created equal.
When a venue reports "total venue space" or "exhibition space," experience has taught me not to take the number at face value, and certainly not to assume that all venues are using the same definitions.
Let's start by clarifying the different types of spaces in a venue:
There are many different types of spaces in a venue, isn't it?
While venue owners often report the total size of their exhibition halls consistently, there is currently no standard regarding how they define "total venue space" - it may include some or all of the spaces described above.
Exhibition space isn’t just in halls
Exhibition and hospitality space can be created outside of exhibition halls. It can be created in hallways, outdoor areas, and even on loading bays. While space specifications may vary regarding height, for instance, space outside exhibition halls can be turned into precious premium areas.
Before discarding a venue for being too small based on its reported size, we recommend that you go a step further and work with the venue owner to create a more accurate picture of the space and which indoor and outdoor spaces are available.
On the flip side, you may learn that the pre-existing conference or catering facilities are insufficient to meet your needs. In this case, you may have to use exhibition space to build new facilities for other purposes. The venue you thought was large enough for your exhibition has now become too small. For example, the Mobile World Congress uses an entire Exhibition Hall in Fira Gran Via to build a top-notch conference center at the heart of the venue.
Sometimes not having enough space creates opportunities.
The GSMA Mobile World Congress Barcelona is an excellent example of creative use of space. In Fira Montjuic, the GSMA (with the support and authorisation from the City) temporarily closed down a road to create premium outdoor hospitality space, and even had meeting rooms in the parking lot. Today in Fira Gran Via, the loading bays are used as a central networking and catering point and the GSMA recently developed hospitality chalets at the entrance to the venue.
In 2018, we revisited our data regarding the size of exhibition venues in Europe. Here is a glimpse of what we found using publicly available information:
Let's do better together.
I want to call upon my venue friends and say that we welcome your contributions and clarifications about this information and this challenging subject. After all, you know your venues better than anyone. It is essential that event owners be able to easily compare exhibition and convention centres accuratly.
Why not create an industry working group to set standard definitions for the types of spaces and to assemble a central detailed database of venues details? I would spend less time searching out this information on your websites in the future, and we would all benefit.
Laurence Mourasse is the CEO of Equimore.
Equimore is an advisory and services agency helping convention and exhibition owners make event location choices and business strategy decisions.
We help #createbetterevents
Drop us a line if you would like to know more about the size of exhibition centres around the world and how to choose your next event location.
Reach out if you would like to contribute information or be part of a working group to accurately report the size of exhibition and convention centres.