Top 6 Creative Trade Show Marketing and Event Trends for 2020 and Beyond

It used to be that trade shows were used for a big reveal of an exhibitor’s new product; however, now that we are fully digital, those reveals happen in real-time every day. This means that for a trade show booth to be successful, vendors have to be creative.

Here are the top ten emerging and evolving event trends for 2020 and tips for implementing them successfully.

1. Mobile Event Apps

custom media kiosks are definitely part of the event trends for 2017

Custom Media Kiosks Get Your Message Out!

Most major events today are going to have created a dedicated mobile app just for the occasion. In fact, around 86 percent of event planners expect to have an app at their events in 2017. But what features are important to attendees? And most importantly, what features can planners add to increase engagement? The article Event Apps: What people want includes a few tips for crafting the perfect event app.

  • Start with signups. If you have a very in-demand event such as Dreamforce, you can require the app to sign up and pay for tickets.
  • The app IS the official guide. Consider it a “going green” initiative. Don’t waste time, money, and trees printing agendas and maps; encourage users to download the app.
  • Allow users to create a personalized schedule of sessions and exhibits that are important to them.
  • Book meetings with various speakers, sponsors, or reps
  • Digital scrapbook of beautiful graphics and event handouts
  • Create polls and surveys and share the results in real-time

2. Beacon Technology

Once you have your event-specific mobile app, you may want to increase exhibitor engagement by allowing exhibitors to communicate with event-goers in real-time by using push notifications. This technology uses geolocation and beaconing to send messages to the attendees’ mobile devices when they are near a booth or location. They may offer special VIP access or promotions or simply invite visitors to their booth.

Beacon technology is a more modern tool to use when it comes to trade show and event marketing. While more popular in the retail industry, they are continuing to gain popularity for use in trade shows and conferences to achieve the following:

  • Gamification
  • Registration
  • Networking
  • Sponsorships and promotions
  • Navigation and heat mapping
  • Content delivery
  • Automatic check-in

3. Virtual Reality

VR experiences are a crowd-pleaser at trade shows. They are also a really great way to draw attendees to otherwise stuffy corporate booths. At SXSW, one booth allowed event-goers to try out two consumer-friendly VR cameras and create their own immersive videos that the attendees could later watch on their own VR headset, or a Google Cardboard viewer only costs around $12.

According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, Scott Fauteux, director of sales for Somniacs, had this to say about the VR trend: “It doesn’t just use visuals; it brings your whole body into the experience”.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are some of the fastest emerging technology trends. You can use VR applications to fully immerse trade show attendees, either physically or virtually, while engaging all five senses to create a much more interactive world.

Augmented reality can be layered with digital overlay graphics and different sounds to mimic a real-world environment for booth visitors.

Mixed reality falls between virtual and augmented reality and blends the real and virtual world to create a much more complex environment. It is interactive and allows booth visitors to manipulate digital objects while remaining in their physical space. It is good for product demos and engaging your target audience.

4. After Parties or Post Show Floor Events

Exhibitors used to use their booths strictly to make deals and engage with buyers. Today companies are leveraging their space to host hospitality events that begin after the show floor closes. After-hours events can also be held offsite; these were particularly popular in larger cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, and Orlando, where offsite venues are plentiful.

5. Gamification

More and more exhibitors are using game-like elements or ‘gamification’ in their displays and booths. These items are well thought out and not just quickly thrown together. They are designed to provide memorable experiences for every attendee. In their section Ideas for Trade Show Contests and Games, Nimlok Marketing says exhibitors should “take advantage of the natural human inclination to compete.”

6. Digital Recharging Lounges

People get tired at trade shows —thirsty and hungry too. They need an oasis where they can rest their feet, indulge their appetite, and, importantly, recharge their mobile devices.

charging stations are also an emerging event trend for 2020

Charging stations like this coffee table offer your visitors a place and a reason to stop and chat!

Digital recharging lounges combine old-fashioned hospitality with the mobile age. By providing a recharging and refueling station, you will be the attendee’s hero and have a prime opportunity to gain insight, collect data, and possibly win their business.

Recharging stations should be hardware agnostic and include:

  • Multiple AC power outlets
  • USB ports
  • Micro-USB for Android
  • Lightning connectors for Apple

In their article 10 Reasons Why Charging Stations are a Must-Have for Trade Show Booths, Corbin, Ball & Co. suggests that while your visitors are recharging their devices, you should:

  • Offer Them Food and Drinks: Beverages and snacks can be great icebreakers before engaging them in a pitch about your company and its offerings.
  • Promote Social Sharing: Decorate the booth with your chosen #hashtags and catchy taglines that attendees can include in their messages. Have photo-ops in the recharge booth like life-size cutouts of your celebrity endorsers or influencers.

7. Balancing In-Person and Virtual Trade Shows

We are immersed in a virtual world, so when we can have face-to-face interactions, they can prove valuable. A live trade show allows you to create a more memorable experience for attendees who are there, but virtual alternatives should also be virtual alternatives for those who can’t be there physically.

More and more companies are beginning to engage in virtual trade shows, making them find better ways to engage with virtual attendees online. To capitalize on virtual and physical audiences in 2020, you need to gain an understanding of who they are, what they want, and how they choose to engage. You can still create a memorable experience and spread brand awareness virtually.

8. Wearable Technology

When attendees frequent trade shows, they are expecting some of the newest technology. The newer technology allows exhibitors to create a more memorable and engaging booth display and a more custom-built experience. Touchscreen technology and other data-driven technology helps monitor your target audience. It can help you determine what is working and what needs some improvement.

For example, wearable tech is just one thing you can use to measure the movement and behavior of booth visitors and trade show attendees. Wearable technology helps you digitally store each event attendee’s information, which can result in quicker registration and admission and can help maximize your trade show management revenue.

It is also a much more environmentally friendly solution. Instead of having brochures and other printables littering the trade show, you can cut that out and use wearable technology instead with no mess and no waste.

Smart badges, for example, can provide you with real-time analytical data and allow people to view each exhibitor’s popularity. It is also great for learning better ways to optimize trade show layouts and designs.

9. Smart Mats

Looking for easier and more effective ways to measure traffic at a trade show event? Then smart mats are the answer. You can either lease or purchase this technology. It provides you with real-time information without being intrusive. You will find some trackable stats with smart mats, including occupancy, wait times, traffic flow, rush hours, and congestion. The downside? Only the areas with a Smart Mat can be measured.

10. 360-Degree Cameras

Another way to see what is happening at the trade show from different angles is by using 360-degree cameras. An image analyst can use this information to estimate the size of the crowd in attendance. Drones are another option if you are looking to take photos of the crowd and gain some knowledge about who is there and how many are in attendance.

Don’t Forget

While it can be fun to learn all about the new technology and trends that can be found and used in upcoming trade shows, you also need to remember that it is important to stand out from the competition and find unique value with your trade show exhibit that you can’t get with other marketing mediums.

Think Outside of the Box

Instead of looking at your booth display as something with graphics and information, consider it the hang out spot for attendees. You can incorporate a snack or drink bar into your booth space to create an area event attendees will want to visit and hang out. This gives you the opportunity to spread brand awareness and build relationships with prospective customers.

Rethink Your Marketing Material

As already mentioned, with all the new tech available, you can begin to rethink your marketing material and make things more digitally accessible for each booth visitor. Having a QR code for the booth visitor to scan is a good way to provide them with all the info they need about your company without loading them up with brochures and other literature that will end up getting tossed later in the day.

Digital promotional material is also much more memorable and is easily accessible for all in attendance. It is also a viable solution if you participated in a virtual trade show event rather than show at one physically. Giving out promotional material digitally is also a great way to stay connected to your existing customers while updating them on everything happening.

Pre Show Marketing

Pre show marketing is just as important as the marketing you do while at the trade show. With your marketing goal in mind, come up with a surefire marketing tactic that will reach your target audience ahead of the trade show. You can place an announcement on the landing page of your website for a physical or virtual event or share a live feed of the event on your Twitter or other social media accounts.

Share your ideas and connect with us today to learn how our experts can make your event ideas a reality.

Want to learn more about marketing your exhibit? Check out our articles on Going Mobile with Your Trade Show Display and Making A Product Demo Go Viral.