Think like an Architect: Connecting People, Space and Time

On Thursday May 2nd, we attended the Danish Furniture Exhibtion Trends & Traditions. With inspiration from the Danish Architect Jan Gehl we look into how his philosophy connects with trade shows and how we can use these principles to optimize exhibitions.  

Connecting people and space

How do we connect the dots between architecture and trade shows, exhibitions, conferences and in general everywhere people meet in person?

At its core, architecture is about designing spaces that evoke emotions, tell stories, and create memorable experiences. Trade show needs to do the same – they must to do more than just showcase products. They need to create space(s) that invite to great personal meetings. 

Both architecture (public squares, landmark buildings) and trade shows have an ability to bring people together. At trade shows and events, we need to create the necessary space where people meet to exchange ideas. Network. Inspire. Connect. And create meaningful experiences. 

Hear Jakob Dyrbye, Founder of The Trade Show Academy thoughts on the topic in the video below.

I truly believe that the future of trade shows is about creating spaces, where people can connect and engage not just at booths, but also in the areas between them. The idea is to encourage longer stays, meaningful conversations, and deeper connections, potentially reshaping the very concept of trade shows as we know them.

Creating spaces where people meet

Architectural principles play a role in the design of trade show exhibits. From spatial planning to lighting, materials, and aesthetics, every element needs to carefully mapped out to enhance the overall experience. Just like in architecture, form follows function in trade show design, with each element/area serving a specific purpose, whether it’s to showcase products, facilitate networking, or provide information. 

For a great booth experience with a people-first mindset, we can draw inspiration from Jan Gehl. At Trends & Traditions he said that only when the building interacts with life does it become architecture, for architecture is the framework of life.

7 things you can do to design exhibitions that make people want to stay

1. Communication is Key

Show them what you and your products can do for them, not which products you brought to the event. Use graphics, [interactive] displays, banners and clear signage that reflects your brand identity. It’s important that it can be seen from afar. Use the space above the booth.

Cut down on your text messages. No one reads walls. 

… Ask yourself: if you only had 3 seconds, what do you want people to remember? 

2. Make Your Guests Feel Welcome

Create an inviting environment with great lighting,  decor, natural elements like plants and wood, and other [positive] sensory cues to set the stage. These are elements that capture the attention of your visitor. 

3. Lighting Matters

Use dynamic lighting like LED (e.g. panels, frames, lightboxes, spotlights) to set the mood and positively affect people’s emotions. Nudge them towards specific products or services that you want to stand out. No light will kill your trade show booth and dim the effects of your efforts. 

4. Play Your way to Leads

Integrate interactive technology and playful activities into your booth via gamification. This can help increase time spent in your booth and make it a memorable experience for your visitors. This can also help teach your guests something. According to CEIR, 79% of exhibitors use interactive technology to help drive greater value and differentiate them at exhibitions.

Discover more on trade show trends and interactive technology here. 

5. Keep Your Booth Simple

Design your booth for functionality and easy flow – no obstacles. Be careful not to declutter your booth by bringing too much furniture, products or other disturbing elements that make it hard to move around or shifts the focus away from your brand messages. If possible, do a test-run to experience how your visitor would act and how your own staff moves around prior to the show.    

6. Design Designated Areas

Create designated areas (we call them zones) that each serve a specific purpose. For example, where they can find out more about your products, socialize and network. This makes it easy for your visitors to navigate and use your booth how you intended for them to use it.

Interested in learning more about designated areas and booth zones with real-life cases? Explore our online course ‘Zone Tool & Mindset – Customize your Booth and Design a Memorable Customer Experience

[Bonus] 7. Comfortable Settings

If your objective is to network, meet business partners and other industry co-workers, it is a great idea to open up for seating arrangements (comfortable furniture), refreshments (water) and even charging stations. Let them stay for a long time. This positive setting naturally opens up for the possibility of engaging in meaningful conversations and building strong relations. 

People first. Booths second.

“Start with life and wait with the houses.” This is Jan Gehl’s mantra and at the core of everything he does.

For over 40 years, he has researched the life (people) between the buildings and what constitutes a great city [space]. At this years Trends & Traditions event Jan Gehl spoke with fellow architect Ane Cortzen about his future vision for cities and how we need to design space that encompass the human aspect – because how interact with each other greatly influence how we design space. And vice versa. 

I had measured church ceilings and I had measured ruins [...], and when I was about to study people, I started measuring people. That means I used the same techniques, counting how many there were, registering what they were doing, where they stood in the room [...], essentially using architectural methods of observation. [...] In the same city, there could be one square where there were plenty of people and four other squares where not a soul came. And then comes the question, why do they go there? [...] What is it that [one square] can do that the others cannot? And in that way, you can start making some lists. If all these activities come together, they go here, and if you can't make it [fit], they go somewhere else.

Using Gehl’s ideas and the architectural methods of observation for your own exhibition booth, you can observe and count: 

  • Where do people stand?
  • For long how do people talk?
  • How do people interact?

This can give you insight into the behaviour of the visitors. 


Protection against traffic and accidents

Protection against violence and crime

Protection against uncomfortable sense-triggers (e.g. noise)


Options of walking around (Great surfaces, no obstacles)

Options of sitting down (sitting zones, people to look at, comfortable furniture)

Options of standing up (e.g. zones that invite for a longer stay)


Clear visuals (Clear eye sight, great lighting)

Clear speak/hearing (Conversation-friendly environment)

Activities (gamification, entertainment, physical activity)


Scale (Dimensions and space in proportionate people-levels)

Weather/Climate (sun vs. shadow, hot vs. cold)

Positive sense elements (e.g. great design, great material, trees, plants and water)

Table of Contents

Discover How to Optimize your Exhibition Booth Flow with 5 Zones

Zone Tool & Mindset

Customize your Booth
and Design a Memorable Customer Experience

Effectivize the way you plan, design and measure your booth activities by adapting the zone mindset.