The trade show industry has always been dynamic, but the pandemic quickened the pace of change. Unsurprisingly, we’re seeing massive shifts in the industry that will rebuild the trade show playbook in the next few years. As such, trade show organizers must be nimble and agile to stay ahead.
The writing is on the wall: Trade show organizers can't afford to lag behind.
In this article, we discuss the five strategies that help trade show organizers like you thrive in this dynamic landscape: Smart Events that leverage technology, harnessing data for targeted marketing and personalization, creating tailored experiences, fostering lasting communities, and championing sustainability. In this exhilarating future, trade shows evolve from events into extraordinary experiences that redefine connections and create lasting magic.
Before we jump into it, let’s take a step back to understand the current state of the trade show industry.
5 Current Trends in Trade Show Industry
1. Increase in competition
In 2022, trade shows made a triumphant global return, with exhibitors eager to showcase their offerings. In fact, a staggering 64% of exhibitors expressed their plans to increase their presence in 2023. With so many players in the game, standing out from the crowd has never been so important.
2. Attendees want more
Attendees desire more than just brochures and handshakes. They crave interactive and memorable experiences at every turn, innovation, choice, eco-friendly options, and seamless experience, and that's only the shortlist of their demand.
3. Rise in event technology
From chatbots to augmented reality, new technologies are emerging at a rapid pace, revolutionizing the trade show industry. These advancements have the power to reshape the way we plan, execute, and experience trade shows. It is crucial for trade show organizers to stay informed and embrace these technologies to remain relevant and provide cutting-edge experiences to their attendees.
4. Shrinking budgets and leaner teams
The trade show industry, like many others, has felt the impact of the economic downturn. Decreased budgets, layoffs, and uncertain market conditions present new challenges that require innovative solutions to attract attendees, secure sponsors, and achieve a positive return on investment (ROI)
5. Thinking about Sustainability
Trade shows aren't known for being the most planet-friendly of activities. They require substantial resources, including energy, water, materials, and transportation, contributing to carbon emissions and waste generation. However, much like other sectors, the trade show industry can no longer turn a blind eye to its ecological impact. The call for sustainable practices is louder than ever before. According to Trade Show Labs, 92% of businesses plan to be more sustainable when exhibiting at trade shows.
The Future of Trade Shows: A Bold Prediction
Kai Hattendorf, CEO of UFI, has a bold prediction for the future of trade shows. He anticipates that trade shows will be less about presenting products and more about facilitating conversation. That trade shows will become a more intimate experience. They will also offer additional services, values, and experiences but will remain driven by people wanting to spend time with others.
We’ve distilled those predictions into 5 strategies that trade shows must adopt to elevate engagement, maximize ROI, and stay competitive. Let’s take a closer look.
Embrace Smart Events
Smart Events are in-person events that leverage the power of technology to increase the value of meeting face-to-face. Smart events will transform your trade show, increasing NPS, onsite efficiency, exhibitor ROI, and collecting more insightful data.
Here’s how you can offer a smart journey for participants from start to finish:
Being the future of in-person events, Smart Events offer:
- Smart registration:
Contactless and fast registration processes that are seamlessly integrated with your event management system.
- Smart engagement:
AI-powered attendee recommendations and networking tools to facilitate meaningful connections and interactions throughout the event.
- Smart monetization:
Upsell and retain exhibitors by offering enhanced sponsorship opportunities and premium packages.
Harness the power of data
Data is arguably the most valuable currency today. It allows businesses to make informed decisions and optimize their strategies for maximum returns.
Here are five ways you can leverage data to increase ROI for trade show events:
- Targeted Marketing:
Utilize data to identify and understand your target audience, enabling you to create personalized marketing campaigns that reach the right people with the right messages.
By collecting data on attendee preferences, interests, and behaviors, you can provide personalized recommendations, tailored content, and relevant networking opportunities, enhancing attendee satisfaction and engagement.
- Exhibitor and Sponsorship Optimization:
Data on exhibitor preferences, booth traffic, and attendee interactions provide valuable insights for optimizing booth placements, sponsorships, and promotional opportunities, enabling exhibitors and sponsors to reach their target audience and generate meaningful leads.
- Performance Measurement:
Track and analyze data on key performance indicators such as attendee engagement, lead generation, and revenue generated to measure the success of your trade show event and identify areas for improvement.
- Continuous Improvement:
Continuously collect and analyze data from each event to gain insights and make data-driven decisions for future events, ensuring ongoing improvement and maximizing ROI.
Offer Personalized Experiences
Trade shows are moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to tailored event journeys.
Here are five ways to make your event a more personalized experience for your attendees:
- Tailored Communication:
Use data to segment your audience and deliver targeted communications that resonate with their interests and preferences.
- Customized Agendas & Map Geolocation:
Provide attendees with the ability to create their own event agendas, selecting sessions, workshops, and activities that align with their interests. Additionally, offer map geolocation features to help them easily navigate the event venue.
- Matchmaking and Networking:
Utilize data to suggest relevant connections based on attendees' professional profiles and interests. Enable networking opportunities through AI-powered matchmaking, facilitating meaningful connections between attendees.
- Personalized Recommendations:
Leverage attendee data to provide personalized recommendations for sessions, exhibitors, and activities, enhancing their event experience and ensuring they don't miss out on valuable opportunities.
- Interactive Experiences:
Incorporate interactive elements throughout the event, such as live polls, Q&A sessions, gamification, and interactive exhibits, to engage attendees and create memorable experiences.
Transform One-Off Events into 365 Communities
Events are all about connections; transforming one-off events into 365 communities allows you to create a lasting and engaged audience.
Here are some core benefits of transforming your event into a community for both you and your audience:
By transforming your one-off event into a 365 community, you create a valuable and engaging ecosystem that benefits both you and your audience, fostering lasting connections, generating new revenue streams, and maximizing the impact of your event.
How can you get started on building a community? Join Swapcard Connect to network with event profs, access educational content and training, and stay up-to-date with industry news.
Prioritize Sustainable Practices
The topic of sustainability in events will only gain momentum, becoming a core component when discussing the success of an event. Leveraging event tech apps and platforms can help you build a more sustainable hybrid and in-person event.
Event tech can support your sustainable practices through:
- Paperless Operations:
By embracing digital solutions, you can eliminate the need for printed materials, such as brochures and tickets, reducing paper waste and promoting a paperless event experience.
- Virtual Attendance Options:
Offering virtual attendance options reduces the need for long-distance travel, minimizing carbon emissions and expanding access to your event for a global audience.
- Efficient Resource Management:
Event tech platforms enable efficient resource management by optimizing logistics, reducing energy consumption, and minimizing water usage, resulting in a more sustainable event operation.
- Green Vendor Selection:
Event tech tools can assist in identifying and selecting vendors with sustainable practices, ensuring that your event partners align with your sustainability goals.
- Carbon Footprint Tracking:
With event tech solutions, you can track and measure the carbon footprint of your event, allowing you to make informed decisions and implement strategies to reduce environmental impact.
In the future of the event industry, success will be defined by integrating smart event technologies, data-driven strategies, personalized experiences, thriving communities, and sustainability practices.
Embracing these emerging trends will allow trade shows to beat the core challenges of increased competition, changing attendee expectations, and economic downturns.
In one sentence: Trade show organizers need to adopt assisted serendipity, i.e., take luck out of the equation. When serendipitous behavior and interactions are given a nudge, it makes magic. You connect the right attendee with the right content, with the right exhibitor, buyer, and seller.
And that’s going to make all the difference.