Future trade shows: Interactivity as a game changer

  • Digital transformation has come to fundamentally disrupt structures in most industries. It does not only change the game for companies, but more importantly: it keeps altering the expectations of the customers. That’s why companies need to reflect on necessary changes to make in order to satisfy their target groups. The exhibition industry counts to those with a very long tradition. What actual options are there to further develop the trade show business into our digital days?

    First of all: trade shows as such have proven their relevance despite all the virtual possibilities that have developed in the past years. The need for physical business platforms remains evident as the visitor numbers show. But the shift towards digital consumption might bring up certain new aspects when planning and designing exhibition concepts.

    Our times are interactive

    One major difference to older days is the rise of interactivity in almost all aspects of communication: Customers are not just talked to top-down anymore, but the internet taught them to expect inclusion and dialogue. That’s why visitors of trade shows also might expect to become part of the event and will appreciate helping to design a customized experience for themselves and others. If trade shows want to satisfy their attendees, they need to understand this expectation and create opportunities to interact.

    Attendees are eager to learn – also from each other

    One way of including trade show attendees is to offer ignite-style talks, in which presenters are asked to share a topic in a restricted amount of time using only 20 presentation slides. Other measures of inclusion could involve work groups or pop-up presentations on the exhibition grounds. These formats keep attendees engaged with the trade show and stir up the interaction between the visitors. According to David Solsbery, Vice President of Hargrove Inc, trade show attendees “embrace fresh learning environments in one room with multiple speakers and learning groups.”

    So, despite of all technological advancements, the future of the exhibition concept might not necessarily depend on a flashy festival atmosphere overloaded with virtual gadgets. The key might rather be offering actual value and integrate smart ideas that invite visitors to contribute to the event. Of course, this also is a true boost for the networking aspect of trade shows.