What used to work at trade shows four or five years ago isn’t necessarily what’s going to work now, or in the future. Attendee expectations become more sophisticated every year. As a result, exhibitors have to work hard to continue impressing their audiences. Here, we discuss how trade shows have changed over the past few years and what kinds of booth strategies are now most effective.
The Public Health Influence
Some new trends in booth design developed in response to the need to help attendees feel comfortable about returning to live events. These small but significant changes are likely to be maintained and not only for public health reasons. In fact, they can genuinely enhance the booth experience.
Less Clutter, More Space
The average trade show booth is very often a crowded space. Few companies can afford the luxury of a huge custom exhibit. For most, it’s a matter of packing in as much as possible within the space allotted and trying not to leave out anything important.
Now, many attendees prefer to maintain a little distance from the people around them. This means exhibitors need to be more selective about what they put in their booths. As a result, there’s a new emphasis on streamlining the layout of an exhibit to create space and improve the flow of the footprint. That might mean scaling back the number of products you showcase or switching up your displays to better utilize your vertical space.
High-Tech, Low-Touch Booth Design
In today’s world visitors are less likely to want to touch hundreds of displays and other booth assets over the course of their trade show experience. Touchscreens had previously been popular because they’re more active and dynamic than a printed brochure. But they’re high-touch objects and have recently become a little less popular as live events made their comeback.
Rather than requiring visitors to touch a digital display to activate it, a voice activation or motion sensor lets them do it hands-free. And instead of picking up a brochure, many attendees would prefer to download a copy to their phone or tablet. As an added bonus, eliminating hard copies means you save on printing costs too.
Another possibility is the use of tech that eliminates the need for gathering contact information and other lead details by hand. Most trade shows now provide the option of renting scanners that let you scan visitor’s ID badges. This means you can quickly gain their contact info without having to collect business cards or write anything down.
Scanners are no longer the only option, however, as there’s now lead-management software that turns your own phone or tablet into a scanning device. Check out apps such as iCapture or Zuant, which allow you to scan ID badges, business cards, and more to instantly capture lead information.
Experiential Exhibits and Immersive Technology
Experiential exhibits have been steadily gaining popularity for several years, with a big spike this year thanks to a surging interest in the metaverse and mixed reality.
The average booth experience provides plenty of information, but it generally positions booth visitors as passive recipients of that information. Experiential exhibits change this dynamic, with features that provide more immersive ways of interacting with booth content. Some ways to do this can include:
- Providing product samples or demonstrations that let people take a closer look
- Interactive presentations that let visitors choose what information or product demos they want to see
- VR or AR tech that provides an immersive branded experience
Experiential features can pull in more booth traffic and let visitors engage more fully with your exhibit content. And often, these features have high social media potential, with visitors being more likely to record and share their exhibit experiences.
The Virtual Booth Experience
Virtual and hybrid events are increasingly an integral part of the events industry. Now, brands don’t just have the live booth experience to consider, but the virtual experience as well. And there’s a lot to think about when developing a virtual booth, whether it’s in addition to or instead of the live experience.
Not all trade shows offer the option to exhibit virtually. But when they do, it’s definitely worth considering what kind of value a virtual booth might add. Some questions to consider include:
What kinds of people are likely to show up at your live exhibit versus your virtual one? This is an important question because you can end up with quite different audiences at each kind of booth. For instance, a more global audience might visit your virtual exhibit, while your live audience is more local. You may find that your virtual visitors are from small businesses with small event budgets. Meanwhile, bigger companies tend to visit your live booth because they have the budgets to travel to events.
How can you cater to the live versus the virtual experience? Or, how can you make both the live and the virtual experience interesting and engaging? For in-person visitors, this might mean holding live product demonstrations. But for virtual visitors, it could mean developing an interactive presentation that includes a pre-recorded demo. This lets you provide a similar experience across both channels, while catering to the specific needs of the live or virtual audience.
What kind of virtual experience does the event allow for? The virtual platform an event uses is highly influential because it determines what kinds of content you can include. It can even dictate your entire booth format because some events platforms offer 2D web-based booths, while some are set in 3D metaverse-style environments that more closely resemble live booths.
Trade Shows Have Changed—So Should Your Trade Show Booth
Whether you’re planning to upgrade your existing trade show exhibit or are thinking it’s time for a completely new setup, it’s definitely important to consider these current tradeshow trends. Exhibitors who keep up with how trade shows have changed over the past several years are likely to see more success than those who are still working from booths that are stuck in the past.
Our team has over 30 years of experience building award-winning trade show exhibits. We combine our hard-earned wisdom with a knowledge of current trade show trends to influence the booths we build today. Ready to work with an expert team? Contact us.