Every year we send a team to EXHIBITORLIVE, a conference for trade show and corporate event professionals. This year we enjoyed spending 5 days learning about emerging trends, tactics and technology, as well as practical tools and best practices. Now we get to share some of what we’ve learned with you!
Data/Analytics: We saw a strong focus on the collection of trade show marketing data and analytics. Real time data collection through emerging technologies is becoming a reality with floor sensors and other new systems. This enables exhibitors to review common entry and exit points, their most and least popular areas, and average time spent in the exhibit. This will allow exhibitors to refine and improve on their displays and further improve their reach at the next show.
Virtual Reality: The dream of virtual reality (VR) in every booth remains just outside the reach of the exhibit industry. The hardware is attainable: a smartphone and a pair of special goggles is all you need. It is the front-end work that keeps it from being an affordable option for most exhibitors. The software, animation, and videography needed to create a VR experience is still many, many work-hours. Because the trade show industry and individual exhibitors are constantly creating new products and new displays, it is hard to amortize the cost of a VR package over several shows. Rest assured, the industry is pushing (and clawing and fighting) with all our strength to bring the entry costs down and make VR as ubiquitous as light-boxes.
LED’s and Fabric: Color-changing LED’s are a technology that has been available, but pricey, for several years now. Two things are happening: the expense is coming down and creativity is on the rise. One new use for color-changing LED’s combines the color control of the LED’s with the clean look of fabric graphics. By selectively printing opaque and translucent inks on fabric, the color from the back-lighting LED’s can change the color of selected parts of an image. Now the purse on a lady’s arm can cycle through the catalog of available colors while the Parisian background stays true.
Touch panels and large LED displays are also becoming more common as their relative expense decreases. Exhibitors with large product offerings, dynamic brand content, or customized catalogs seem to find the most benefit from these tools.
Building Up: Rigging, hanging signs, lights, etc., from the ceiling, is expensive. It is an extra step in the set-up process and any time you add an extra step, you add cost. Several exhibitors this year displayed solutions that create height—and thus visibility and presence—from the floor up. Weight is the enemy to height, so one solution offered is tube structured custom pillowcase fabric wrapped “legs.” You can take a lightweight, but colorful and bold header up to 16 feet or more without the need for a lift and cables running into the darkness of the ceiling. There were also lighting options designed to bring light from above without hanging truss from the ceiling. One option was a cleanly designed light tree with six aim-able heads. We saw more horizontal light-boxes; light-boxes as ceilings to create bright, controlled space. These can be used with a simple white diffuser or can be another branding element with a printed fabric graphic.
Portable SEG Exhibits: SEG (silicone edge graphic) fabric exhibits are not a trend, SEG is industry standard! However, for a long time now SEG has meant either custom or complex system frameworks. In the past couple of years, and more so this year, there has been a push to marry the clean, sharp look of SEG fabric graphics with the ease and value of portables. Both full-service graphic providers and hardware/frame fabricators are offering pop-up frames with SEG accepting edge grooves.
Flexible & Innovative Booth Design: Aluminum structures remain wildly popular due to the ability to customize displays from show to show and accept fabric or hard panel coverings to give the appearance of a fully custom booth. Booths with exposed extrusion were few and far between this year with most exhibitors choosing to give their modular extrusion systems the custom appearance treatment.
Wood and other natural material facades and facings remain an omnipresent focus in many displays. This year it’s been taken a step further by not only using sintra or laminate materials, but 3D synthetic materials that mimic the real deal.
The industry continues to trend towards lighter weight materials and collapsible structures. Numerous vendors who specialize in tension fabric were on hand at EXHIBITORLIVE to show off their wares. One of the most interesting innovations was an SEG pop-up display – no assembling of extrusions required, yet you get the crisp look of SEG and can even back light it.
Color Graphics (Fabric): Every year fabric graphics get cheaper and better. This year more large print houses are offering 4K fabric graphics. Just as television has advanced from 720p to 1080p and now 4K resolution, printers and fabric graphics have continued to get sharper and brighter. With the new 4K printers, fabric graphics, especially bright colors, are sharper and more vibrant. Fabric graphics are nearing the crisp resolution of traditional hard panel graphics.
3D printing and CNC machined components showed up in an increasing number of booths this year. Given their light weight and infinite number of iterations, it’s an ideal way to portray product models or bring large marketing pieces to life while lowering their cost and shipping constraints.
It’s always exciting and energizing to see what is being developed to enhance face-to-face marketing. In the coming weeks, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the up and coming developments in the trade show industry. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to be the first to know what topic we are blogging about next! If you would like to learn more about any of these trends or need help with an upcoming trade show or event, feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll put our expertise to work for you.