Checking In: Were We Right About Trade Show Trends for 2018?

Trade Show Floor

You don’t need a crystal ball to tell the future. In fact, making an educated guess is possible through research and thought. While it’s true that anyone can make a prediction, but making the right prediction is where things get a little tricky.

As 2018 winds down, we are already thinking about trade show trends for 2019. But before that happens, we wanted to look back at our predictions for trade show trends in 2018. Were we right? Were we kinda right? Did we miss the mark?


Were we right? Yes, but with a twist.

It’s still true that great booth design is not simply about architecture. It’s about the total visitor experience, from start to finish and spans well beyond the confines of the booth. Time and time again, clients ask for a space that will not only draw a crowd but draw the RIGHT crowd. This is achieved through strategic engagement that could incorporate technology or invites visitors and prospects to engage their senses and leave with a memorable experience that will motivate them to act.

The twist is this: great experiential design must evolve and push the envelope to remain relevant and speak to the right audience. Travis Stanton, editor of EXHIBITOR Magazine says it best:

“The challenge of engineering legitimate experiences has never been more difficult, and it’s only going to get harder. In fact, many of the things we would have labeled as “experiential” a few years ago wouldn’t even ante up alongside the experiences readily available today. Consumers’ experience addiction makes the jobs of exhibit and event professionals exponentially more difficult. But it also offers a silver lining: As consumers increasingly seek out and come to expect immersive experiences, the demand for experiential efforts within the modern-day marketing mix is likely to increase.” 


Were we right? Absolutely.

For most companies, events on the trade show calendar are not isolated projects, they are part of a much bigger picture. This approach has been a big hit this year, with companies realizing the incredible value of a consistent message across every event and environment. This translates from the show floor to lobbies, customer experience centers, mobile vehicle tours, and demand generation campaigns.


Were we right? Kind of.

LED lighting comes in many forms and offers both versatility and a cost-effective solution. There are many options beyond LED that offer brightness and quite literally shine a light on a trade show booth. However, lighting is an investment and it can be heavily dictated by show rules and exhibit hall lighting. For some clients, it may make sense to invest elsewhere, like in technology that will turn heads.

So, it’s accurate to say lighting matters—but it could be trumped by another (more important) expense when the budget gets tight.


Were we right? You bet.

Tech is and will continue to be the hottest game in town. Projection mapping, AR, VR, and OLED monitors continue to dominate tech-driven exhibit spaces. Technology is constantly evolving, and exhibitors have and will continue to ride that wave to make a big impression on the show floor.


Were we right? Yes and No.

It will always be true that a great experience is one that is multi-sensory. This could mean things like incorporating tactile elements that are inviting to touch, incorporating sound into the booth, or piping a nostalgic scent into the air. While it may be difficult to involve all the senses, a few of them paired together can be a compelling experience. We’ve seen booths that invite attendees to touch, visualize, and even listen.

One of the trickiest sensory experiences to execute successfully is scent. First, it has to be true to the brand; for example, a mortgage technology company trade show booth with a smell could be a bit of a stretch. Also, it may prove challenging to maintain a scent in a vast convention center and these days, many people have scent sensitivities. This isn’t to say incorporating scent isn’t possible or is a bad idea, it’s simply that it could be more difficult to execute successfully.


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