Trade Show Trends for 2013


Jack Kerouac wrote, “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”

We all want to be trendsetters, not followers. So why learn about what’s current in the trade show world? Why not create your own trends, forge your own paths? You should! With a caveat. You could be a few years behind the curve, and your audience will write you off as hopelessly obsolete; or you could be five years ahead, and no one will understand you. Trends give us a baseline; they help us gauge public and corporate expectations and hit the mark with our exhibits and booths. And when we’re aware of the trends, we can push them and be just enough ahead of our time to be edgy but understood.

Here is a look at what’s big in the trade show world this year:

  • Attendance. After a dip during the 2008 recession, attendance at trade shows is on the rise. Online and virtual tradeshows have not killed in-person events. People, particularly first-timers and those in the market for expensive items, prefer the face-to-face environment of live tradeshows.
  • Sustainability. Many venues have declared themselves “green,” and presenters themselves are increasingly concerned with exceeding existing requirements and doing more to reduce waste, reuse products, recycle, and use sustainable products and materials, such as bamboo flooring or digital promotional materials.
  • Social media. Not only does social media allow companies to decrease paper marketing materials, it can be an effective way to reach an audience before and during a show. A presenter might, for instance, ask attendees to follow his/her company on Twitter and tweet to win a prize.
  • Use of technology. Everything from touchscreen plasma TVs to iPads to smartphone apps help engage the audience with great demos and presentations – and maybe a lucky attendee can walk away with an iPad, courtesy of your brand.
  • No-hassle zones. If an attendee wants to find out more about a brand but doesn’t want to interact with the ambassadors, why force it? No-hassle zones are becoming popular so these people can look, see, and feel on their own terms. A shipping container display is ideal for this because you can create a variety of different brand experiments within one display. A cabana style display, for instance, has a number of brandable nooks and corners that could be designated as no-hassle zones.  Engagement is actually higher when people can explore on their own, and then seek out a rep.

Brands are called upon to make a huge impact on the audience, and a little impact on the environment. Technology helps; stellar design helps; a comfortable, inviting display helps. The key, though, is ensuring your brand is on target with industry trends, but willing to push it to the next level to break through the crowd and get the audience’s attention.

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