What Does The Future Hold For The Trade Show Industry?

TEASER – “No one can see into the future with certainty, but I have a few thoughts about the future of the trade show industry. Changes will be most evident in three specific areas. If you want your trade show exhibit program to be successful in the months and years ahead, here’s how to get your company ready for these future trends.”

No one can see into the future with certainty. But I have a few thoughts about what may be on the horizon for our industry. If you want to be successful with your trade show exhibit program in the months and years ahead, you’ll also want to be ahead of the curve.

Here’s how to get your company’s exhibiting plans ready for future trends.

1) In the Future of the Trade Show Industry, Technology Will Be King
Technology will touch virtually every aspect of your exhibit program in the future. And it’s already started. Interactive experiences are commonplace in trade show exhibits these days. Tools like badge scanners, tablet kiosks and customized apps have changed the way we interact with attendees. But that’s just the beginning.

Imagine a future where your booth staffers could wear internet enabled glasses and an earpiece. The glasses would scan an attendee’s badge from a distance. The earpiece would provide specifics about that person, allowing your staffers to engage in a dynamic conversation.

More technology is on the way. In a web-based world, it’s no longer necessary to wait until the next show for attendees to find what they’re looking for. The trade show experience must offer something that can’t be delivered through the internet.

The primary ways this new value can be added is through education and entertainment. These are much easier to provide in the face-to-face environment of the trade show floor.

Product demonstrations will take on a more theatrical flair, with increased technological support (interactive screens and content delivered to attendees’ cell phones). Gaming will find a place in some exhibitors’ booths, too. Attendees could engage with the product in ways not possible elsewhere. Some brands will create new showcases for their products using “wearable tech” virtual reality devices.

Some futurists have even suggested that the trade show itself should be completely rethought. They would create a scenario where top representatives of the industry would choose the best products and services. These would then be showcased in this new environment. Think less like traditional trade shows and more like the Academy Awards ceremony.

I think this is too drastic a change for our industry to embrace, but we must be open to change.

2) In the Future of the Trade Show Industry, Exhibitors Will Make It Personal
The kind of personalization that has found its way into other forms of modern marketing will make its way onto the trade show floor. Exhibitors looking to make the most of this trend will begin customizing their trade show marketing efforts. They will appeal to individuals, not groups.

Effective marketing in this environment will require anticipating the needs of prospects. Next, trade show appeals must be tailored to their specific preferences. Providing these customer-centric, personalized experiences will create a deeper connection with the exhibitor’s brand. The result will be a richer, more memorable experience for the prospect, perhaps even shortening the sales cycle.

Savvy exhibitors will focus more attention on market research. Why? Because there will be more data available, and it will be more easily accessible. Their goal will be to learn all they can about their target prospects. They will then be capable of predicting attendees’ behavior. That gives them the ability to create these personalized in-booth experiences.

In my opinion, embracing this change is necessary for successful trade show exhibiting in the years ahead. Solutions and practices that worked in the past are becoming outdated and ineffective.

3) In the Future of the Trade Show Industry, Social Media Will Continue To Be Relevant
We all recognize the revolution that social media has brought to the trade show floor. I’ve heard it said that social media seems to have been designed with trade shows in mind.

Think about it. These events are chaotic for attendees, because exhibitors bombard them from all sides. Shows are also just a few days long, so attendees can’t possibly see everything they would like to. Social media channels allow you to connect with these attendees. You can easily offer them incentives to visit your trade show exhibit. You couldn’t do this effectively in any other way.

Social media will continue to support the power of face-to-face interactions. These can only happen on the trade show floor. Think about how you’ve used (or should be using) Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. They enhance your exhibiting efforts, offering content that’s relevant and delivered in real time.

Now imagine what might come next that could offer even better ways for you to connect with show attendees. If you’re not making the most of what’s already available, you won’t be ready to embrace the next new thing.

I believe social media is a valuable tool to help trade show exhibitors. It allows them to reach prospects and offer information to act on immediately. This has real value for those who embrace it and make the most of it.

4) Summary
Whether we realize it or not, trade show exhibiting is constantly evolving. We can continue to do the same old thing with the same old tools, if we choose. But it’s likely that doing so will only lead to the same old results. And those results could be much better if we take on the changes that are happening in our industry. We must position ourselves to meet them with new plans and new tools.

If your trade show exhibit isn’t prepared for the future, we can help. Whether you need a few new accessories like lighting and literature racks or new modular components for your booth, we’ve got what you need. We can also help with new custom graphics to breathe fresh life into your current exhibit. And if that display of yours isn’t ready to face the future, let us help. We can design a brand new trade show booth that will meet your current and future needs. Give us a call at (888) 977-8076 or email [email protected]

For more, check out our article on webrooming or how to use video in trade show displays.