Top 11 Trade Show Trends to Watch for in 2020

It feels like this year just started. The year brought trends that continue to crop up on trade show floors across the U.S. If you’re a Trade Show or Event Manager, it’s important to watch these trends, so your booth’s impact is maximized.

If you haven’t read our blog on trends in mid-2019, make sure you check that out for lighting, directional architecture, living walls, in-booth meeting space, nostalgic engagement, and data collection trends you need to know in 2020.

Let’s get into it.


Right at Home

Booths are moving away from futuristic, Apple-esque looks. White, clean, crisp atmospheres can make attendees feel as if they’re stepping into an office or laboratory, which can feel intimidating. Exhibitors are opting for a warmer, home-like vibe in their booths to make attendees comfortable. This includes incorporating home furnishings into exhibits, opting for fabric, stylish seating and tables rather than leathers or vinyl. When you check rental furnishing inventory websites, you’ll notice more of this style appearing in their catalogs.

Aaron Scarlata, Account Executive for Exhibit Concepts is beginning to receive requests for this warm, lounge vibe from his clients. “They’re looking to bring comfort and warmth to their exhibits. It’s a great way to open up to attendees and spark conversation.”

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Traditional, hanging signs are beginning to bore attendees. Exhibitors are opting for more exciting, creative hanging signage to define their space from overhead. “This requires additional budget, but it creates an immersive environment and makes your booth more visible from afar,” said Stephanie Matlock, Account Executive for Exhibit Concepts. Scarlata adds, “If you’re going to spend a large chunk of change to put something in the air, you better go all the way.”

A great example of using overhead real estate comes from our client, World Fuel, who piqued interest in attendees with a fabric globe and illuminated chandelier at NBAA-BACE 2019 (National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition). Chris Beckstedt, Account Executive for Exhibit Concepts worked with the Las Vegas Convention Center to turn down the hall lighting in World Fuel’s booth space to make the signs pop.

In addition to attractive hanging signs, exhibitors are using each tier of their exhibit to solidify their brand’s identity. From the reception level to the highest point, exhibitors are incorporating graphics, lighting, and other eye-popping tactics to draw people into their space. “Since you never know what exhibitors are going to do around you, utilizing each tier of your exhibit to showcase your brand and messages gives your booth better visibility in the hall,” said Matlock.

Walking on Sunshine

Just as exhibitors are making good use of the space overhead, they’re maximizing the impact of their flooring, too. From decorative to interactive, attractive flooring can create flow in your booth or entice wandering eyes inside the space. This goes back to the “Right at Home” trend, as exhibitors are using interesting flooring to bring life and warmth to their booth.

“What’s happening is, it’s expensive to do carpet inlays. People are tired of carpet and it’s difficult to match to a booth’s look. With vinyl or printed flooring, you can customize and easily install for a fraction of the cost,” said Scarlata.

Recently, our clients AccessData and Deceuninck latched onto the trend and ran with it, both winning booth awards from their respective shows. AccessData’s M*A*S*H themed booth at ILTACON 2019 created a complete experience for attendees. We digitally printed a “dirt” floor to match the terrain in the iconic show, which made the booth stand out in the aisle. Deceuninck used an inlaid floor timeline graphic that directed attendees through Deceuninck’s historical evolution, to a seamless AV presentation presenting their vision of their industry’s future.

To differentiate your brand from those around you, don’t limit yourself to the booth’s walls. Take advantage of your floor and overhead space, too.


Make an Impact

Giving back to a cause near and dear to your heart can bring you a sense of accomplishment and warmth. Marketers are tapping into those emotions and allowing attendees to create memories with their brand while giving back to causes and communities.

Chicago Pneumatic, one of our clients, created an engraving wall in partnership with Vycom that attendees could sign with a tool they manufacture. For each signature, Chicago Pneumatic donated $1 to their local breast cancer foundation.

“Attendee participation counting toward a charity donation they care about means a lot to them. It’s a great way to make a difference and start a buzz in your booth,” said Matlock.

Artsy AV

Using a single monitor won’t do in 2020. Exhibitors are getting creative with the way they’re arranging their AV engagements. When stepping into a booth, you might see monitors arranged in portrait, angled, or stacked configurations. “The way exhibitors are arranging their AV is more artistic. They’re getting more creative to captivate their audiences,” said Matlock.

Video walls, touchscreens, and projection mapping are also prominent in show halls, as they create sensory, immersive experiences for attendees. Video isn’t just king online; video is king in the face-to-face marketing space as well, and it’s becoming more important that marketers invest in this engaging content format to elevate their brand and messages.

Scarlata notes that exhibitors need to be cautious with their AV experiences, as to not detract from their overall brand messaging. “Your AV should add to your messaging, rather than take away. If it’s not clear what your brand’s message is to the attendee, it’s time to reevaluate that engagement,” said Scarlata.

Give it Away

Giving away a branded pen is becoming stale. Exhibitors are getting crafty with their giveaway items, opting for sustainable things that are relevant to their brand’s message. Scarlata notes that attracting attention with a giveaway isn’t limited to the items themselves, as exhibitors are using engaging methods to distribute them.

On the show floor, vending machines are a creative way to distribute items, rather than displaying them on a tabletop. For example, at WBENC 2019, Facebook® gave away a branded bag full of things by women-owned businesses, to show that they were there to support and grow them through their platform. The vending machine distributed the items with the scan of an attendee badge, and representatives were stationed nearby to assist and talk with prospects.

Another popular method of distributing giveaway items is by allowing attendees to add customizations. Exhibitors are using press technology to stamp desired messages or designs from the attendee onto items such as bags or keychains. Stationed at the press, a representative can spark a conversation with prospects as they acquire their memorable gift.

Impromptu Presentations

Rather than hiring dedicated presenters or emcees from an outside source, many brands are tapping into their in-house experts to engage attendees. In 2020, there will be a greater desire to hold impromptu, in-booth presentations. “Before, with clients, it wasn’t expected that their people present. Now, they’re looking for trained employees who are willing to do it,” said Scarlata.

By taking an impromptu approach, exhibitors are creating the illusion that presentations are scheduled one-on-ones, which creates an element of FOMO (fear of missing out) in attendees. If they inquire, trained staff can jump on the opportunity to go through their presentation and get to know the prospect, which keeps the conversations flowing.

Digitize Your Meetings

Technology is ingrained in our everyday lives. As much as we utilize digital to organize our personal day-to-day, exhibitors are taking advantage of it on the show floor as well.

Outside of in-booth meeting spaces, tablet devices are beginning to pop up, showing attendees or Sales Representatives when meetings are happening, coming up, or the room is free. “Leveraging this technology is a game-changer. It really helps Sales Representatives make better use of their time and the meeting spaces in the booth,” said Matlock.

While this isn’t a prominent phenomenon yet, our Account Executives are beginning to see exhibitors use “virtual” Subject Matter Experts or Sales Representatives in their booth. On video monitors or robots moving around the booth, attendees can meet and interact with staff members who are back at the office rather than at the show. As 2020 unfolds, we’ll keep our audiences updated on whether or not this tactic takes off.


Be Flexible

Exhibitors and Exhibit Houses alike are moving toward sustainable architecture. “More exhibitors are thinking about how they can extract a 10×10 out of a 40×70,” said Scarlata. Rather than creating a custom booth for every single show, exhibitors are opting for flexible structures that can handle all the shows within their program. The use of system construction, such as beMatrix, supports this trend.

At each show, flexible structures can be configured into a variety of sizes and shapes and re-skinned with different graphics. “Having a flexible structure keeps your brand’s look and feel consistent at every show,” said Matlock. “This consistency will help elevate your brand’s awareness, and every time you’re in a face-to-face environment, you won’t look like a different company every time.”


There’s a mobile device in the hands of every person on the show floor — guaranteed. Also, they might be carrying their laptops around to keep up with what’s happening back at their offices between meetings and speakers. Or, maybe they want to ease their minds and giggle quietly at their favorite memes.

As another way to accommodate attendees and make them feel comfortable, exhibitors are incorporating charging stations into their booth architecture. Once hidden for booth staff to use, charging stations are becoming more pronounced and available. When folks need to charge, they’ll potentially linger a little longer until their device is sufficiently charged, which allows your booth staff to have a conversation with them. It’s convenient for them and an insanely easy way to start a discussion.

This trend isn’t limited to the trade show floor, either. Scarlata notes that he’s seeing this trend at events or pop-ups as well.

Have a Seat

At a trade show, you’re on your feet all day long. Of course, including seating in your booth to give tired feet a break isn’t a trend. But, we’ve begun to see seating incorporated into the architecture. Simple benches and tables are showing up on the back ends of exhibits, providing attendees with a spot to plop down and relax.

Rather than renting furniture at the show or creating something custom, this is a cost-effective way to add furniture if you’re exhibiting at multiple shows. This also easily creates a meeting space for Sales Representatives and attendees without expanding the exhibit.

2020 will be an exciting year in the face-to-face marketing world, and we can’t wait to see all the trends that will come and go. Here’s to another year of making memories and connecting brands with their audience.


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