5 Hot Trends in Trade Shows

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The way people visit and experience trade shows today has changed dramatically from just a year ago. It used to be all about giveaways, networking, finding out who's speaking, and what parties are the best to attend. Trade shows have outgrown most of these areas, and event managers have tweaked them in ways that force attendees to pay attention, gain knowledge, and be proactive in participation. So, what are the latest and greatest trends seen at trade shows today?

Below are five hot trends seen at trade shows that event managers can start to incorporate into their planning meetings today. You never know what changes may happen with a few tweaks to your event plan!

VIP Treatment

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Your number one focus when working in a trade show booth should be customer retention. Make sure your sales and marketing teams aligned prior to the event to create lists of any current customers and partners you know will be stopping by your booth at the event. It’s always nice to have little gifts or information set aside ahead of time for customers to continue to engage with them and make sure they are having an awesome experience working with you.

One way to ensure your customers are happy is to give them the VIP treatment at events. Utilize the trade show arena to treat customers and partners like they are rockstars. Invite them to team dinners, give them all-star access to networking events that are hard to get into, and make time for them. It’s all about those little face-to-face experiences that keep customers happy for the long run.

Personalization is Key

Personalization has been a trend for trade shows for some time now, but it’s time to take it up a notch! You can start by listening to attendees and creating a customized plan that appeals to their interests and needs on an individual level. For example, if you have a group of people interested in your product, watching a long demo in your booth and are close to closing a deal with you, go out of your way to personalize that last touchpoint for them. What are they looking for? What needs do they have? Communication goes a long way when trying to meet a customer’s needs on a personal level.

Take a look at the feedback you receive after each trade show. What did your booth visitors like and dislike? Be sure you’re asking questions from product demo needs all the way to how the staff greeted visitors in the booth. The little things make a huge difference when tailoring trade show experiences from one event to the next.

Data is so Hot Right Now


Once you have your personalized experience mapped out, take a look at visitor data from the previous trade show to incorporate other ideas into your plan – this will drive deeper engagement and create richer experiences for audiences. Without spending time reviewing the data and analytics on your booth attendees, you may be missing out on a huge opportunity to engage and sell at trade shows. Data plays a huge role in personalization, and helps to segment the correct group your booth staff needs to be focused on at the event.

It’s All About the Experience

Focus on a unique plan for your booth. It’s important as an event manager to stay on top of the overall trade show theme, but it’s your job and responsibility to create a customized, unique experience within your booth that will attract visitors. Get away from the old school mentality thinking that the larger expo booths get seen more or have more booth visitors. This is not the case at all. It’s all about what you’re providing, how you market your brand, and what you’re doing to stand out from the crowd.

For example, when planning your overall booth theme, be sure it incorporates every detail – meaning, the look and feel of the booth, staff shirts, collateral, giveaways, marketing pre and post show and any attendee touchpoints happening at the event. If your theme is around Star Wars for example, make sure your entire trade show experience includes an element from the theme. Have your emails designed to match your booth look and feel and give away light sabers! You want to look like a complete, professionally pulled together package, not a sloppy vendor hanging out in a 30×30 booth with no idea what they are doing.

The Un-Booth Wins

Besides pulling together your overall event theme for the ultimate experience, make sure you think about how the booth itself can stand out. It should of course play along with your event theme, but go above and beyond by creating a cool and unique experience within your booth. The un-booth is picking up as a major trend right now. You want attendees to feel welcome as they flow along your booth. Think of your booth space more as a shop or hang out, rather than a boring old booth with graphics on panels.

For example, some of the best un-booths have food or a bar to provide a fun hangout area for attendees to chill and mingle with booth staff. Create a fun, but laid-back atmosphere for attendees to feel like they are at home. This is very important – attendees want to feel relaxed and at ease when exploring the trade show floor, so be sure you plan a fun way to incorporate that feeling of relaxation into your booth plan. Booths with blinky giveaways (light sabers, light-up sunglasses, neon rings) are where the fun is happening! And don’t forget the space above the booth is the most coveted area of all! Add in a large LED panel mentioning a fun contest, or have a large creative logo displayed above your booth. It makes it so much easier for attendees if they can find you in the middle of an expo hall by following your hanging pieces of art!

Photo Credit: AlienVault booth at SpiceWorld Austin 2015

In Conclusion

Trends at trade shows are constantly changing. One trend may be hip and cool during one event, and then be a complete bore at the next. Do your research and stay on top of what’s going on at trade shows. it never hurts to test a new idea and see if it picks up or is a total flop. The best way to be a trendsetter is to get out there and just do it!