Tips and Trends

Six Hot Trade Show Exhibiting Trends for 2018

Thursday, January 04, 2018


Now that 2018 has arrived, it’s time to ramp up our trade show exhibit design and marketing programs. We’re all wondering what the next hot thing is going to be. Based on what we have seen lately on the show floor, our top trade show exhibiting trend predictions for 2018 are:


1. Open and enclosed. Our 3D Exhibits design team expects to see more exhibits that include both open areas and enclosed areas. Triad, pictured above, utilized this approach by leaving roughly two thirds of its exhibit open and accessible to all attendees—and then closing off the remainder of its booth with walls and a ceiling. This scheme provided experiences for a wide range of attendees. Those visitors who were browsing could access the open area, while the enclosed area provided more intimacy for attendees who were ready to interact with a demo.


2. Dramatic messaging. Exhibitors are taking advantage of the evolution of digital display technology (lighter, thinner, more flexible and less expensive) to expand their messaging beyond their exhibits’ walls. For example, this company took its digital display sky-high and overhead. These LED displays’ unique orientation drew attendees into the exhibit and, once they were inside, enveloped them in immersive messaging. The selection of moving shapes and patterns—rather than words or product images—resulted in an experience where attendees were able to intuitively understand the brand’s personae.


3. Demos made possible via technology. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and other technologies are enabling exhibitors to create demos that would otherwise be either impossible or too cost prohibitive to produce. When Textron Ground Support Equipment wanted to demonstrate a new airplane tug that had not yet been launched, they turned to virtual reality. Attendees experienced what it would be like to walk around the product, go inside the tug, and even drive it—all without a physical product present.


4. Increased adoption of measurement. We are seeing a growing number of companies embrace measurement as they become aware of the successes of the early-adopters, who already have well-established exhibit measurement programs. Syngenta has used exhibit audits to measure their trade show marketing program since 2015. Via exhibit audits, Syngenta identified key opportunities for improvement including engagement, traffic flow, and staff behavior. Through a continual process of observation, analysis and improvement, Syngenta elevated its audit score from 73% efficiency to 92% efficiency in just two years.


5. Simplified representational structure. Companies want it to be immediately clear how and where their products are used. At the same time, they don’t want to fabricate structure that will obscure attendees’ view of their products from the aisle. So rather than going full representational structure (like the old Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles), many exhibitors are taking a minimalist approach and creating just enough structure to communicate what the environment is.

For example, a manufacturer of cow milking equipment might hang a barn roof over their exhibit—but forgo the doors and walls. Or a camping equipment company might erect a tent frame in their exhibit—but skip the canvas walls and flaps. UTC Aerospace Systems used a wireframe representational structure to showcase that their products are used inside of airplanes. The wireframe fuselage ensured that the product displays mounted inside the plane could be viewed clearly from the aisle—while no one missed the point that these products are for use inside of airplanes.


6. Brand authenticity. What makes a company unique can also be what helps it stand out on the trade show floor. In 2018, we expect to see more companies embrace exhibit design elements that speak to their brand identities. Look for quirky details and materials that mirror what you’ve seen in a company’s ads or the way its corporate headquarters is decorated. Medora Snacks utilized reclaimed wood and metal piping accents to give the exhibit the same urban chic vibe that its corporate office has. Using these materials allowed the brand to stay true to who they are, and reinforce their appeal to their target demographic of 18 to 35-year olds.


Do you have any trend predictions for 2018 that you’d like to share?


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