2020 Trade Show Trends – Sure Didn’t See That Coming

Crystal Ball of 2020 Trade Show Trends

There is a funny TikTok video where a woman, eating a bit of chocolate, says she just had a thought…that back in 2015, absolutely no one in the world got the answer right to the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Forget about 5 years, back in December, who would have predicted that after Q1, live events would cease to exist or that the majority of us would be working from home for months on end? 

2020 Trade Show Trends


In a “normal” year, we publish a trade show trends blog highlighting trends and innovations that we are following for the upcoming year. And in a “normal year”, we revisit those predictions in the middle of the year and provide an update if something was a fad more than a trend, or if we’re seeing something noteworthy and new. Well, one thing we know about 2020, it sure isn’t “normal”. 

But, if there is one thing we know about trade show and event professionals, they always have a back-up plan. Few other professionals are as ready to pivot on a moment’s notice, canceling the live event and changing tactics. Trade show and event professionals learn through experience to expect the unexpected.  

So, what are the new trends?  


At this point, most brand marketing teams have considered and some have implemented digital components and virtual events into their marketing efforts. In some cases, this might take the form of a webinar while others are participating in the virtual event offered by the show organizer. Innovative companies are hosting their own events so that they can customize the entire experience: timing, duration, content, and engagement for their target audience. 


Surprised at laptop


Everyone has experienced screen fatigue at least once (per day?) while working remotely. And webinar fatigue and virtual event fatigue are quickly setting in. Why? Because most marketers adding these elements to the mix are following the same boring formula: a bad web camera angle, a monotone speaker and death by PowerPoint. Successful brands recognize that they need to make their virtual event an experience. And the most memorable experiences are those that incorporate the senses.

APPROACH VIRTUAL LIKE IN PERSON Some marketers are intimidated by the prospect of a virtual event because they don’t consider themselves “technical enough”. And let’s face it, many of us understand how a trade show booth is designed and assembled, but we don’t understand “the cloud”.  Approach a virtual event using the same strategy and planning process as an in-person event focusing first on your audience and what you want them to think, feel and do during and after the event. Find a good virtual platform partner for the technical aspects, just as you do with your exhibit house partner. 

Self Development



One of the positive developments of is that the shutdown of face-to-face events has created some time and room for trade show and event marketers to pursue professional development. Maybe you want to conquer Pivot Tables in MS Excel or advance your Adobe skills. Numerous training videos and tutorials are readily available. Exhibitor Media Group offers the eTrak option for those pursuing their CTSM or wanting to enhance their skills. 


And no, this isn’t about handwashing. Another trend we’re seeing is marketers using this less hectic period to work with their exhibit house to purge outdated property, print new graphics, and rework the booth layout to allow for social distancing and hand sanitizer kiosks. 

Obviously, the trends we were expecting in booth design did not come to pass but new trends have emerged. 2020 has thrown everyone a curve ball. It’s not the year anyone was expecting back in December, and definitely not in 2015, but trade show and event marketers are up to the challenge. 


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