Trade Show Trends: Reflecting on 2022

With 2022 churning along, we’re already halfway through the year.

It’s been a hectic 6 months as the world slowly climbs out of the pandemic and returns to a new normal. It’s no different for trade shows, which have excitedly rebounded in recent months to near pre-pandemic levels. Fueled by new technologies, growing networks, and more of a focus on quality, the exhibit industry has shown great resiliency in the first half of the year. But whether it’s overcoming ongoing Coronavirus concerns or battling supply chain woes, there are still plenty of obstacles facing the expo world.

As marketers look toward the final months of the year, we’re taking both a look back and a look ahead at what we think is to come on the horizon.

In January, we released our predictions for the year. We focused on quality over quantity, a move toward sustainability, a different approach to networking, a high-tech boom, and a more comprehensive take on show marketing.

What did we get right?

Let’s find out. 

Stealing the Spotlight

Trade show technology has never been brighter, both literally and figuratively. LED monitors and lighting have taken over show floors. Designers are now turning to the next-generation technology to help amplify engagements. From LED skins displaying custom content to new lightning styles drawing in crowds, LED has become a staple in trade show tool kits.

“As they say, content is king and delivering that content to users will continue to evolve in the new year. Whether it is augmented reality, virtual reality, podcasts, social media or another medium, capturing your audience’s attention will continue to become an ever-changing, yet critical, creative endeavor. We will see an increase in screens on the exhibit floor.”

As we move forward, we expect marketers to come up with new, innovative ways to utilize these LED technologies to drive meaningful engagement even further.

Climbing Costs

While Coronavirus concerns have gradually declined, there’s a new, unintended side effect from the pandemic. Inflation has caused costs to increase. Whether it’s material or shipping costs, budgets are being stretched thin by skyrocketing prices.

As we mentioned in January, marketers are becoming more selective with their trade show dollars. That’s never been as apparent and needed as it is today. As we said then, and as we are saying now, expect more of a focus on quality over quantity to help offset budget constraints. 

“This is prompting companies to go back to the basics and reevaluate their programs; including what shows to go to and how to get the most benefit from every dollar spent.”

Rapid Return

While we expected shows to return to a new normal in 2022, we didn’t expect such a rapid return. Attendance at shows is quickly building to pre-pandemic levels. While CES 2022 saw fewer attendees compared to previous years, many other shows are back in full force. In 2019, before the pandemic, EXHIBITORLIVE welcomed more than 4,000 attendees. In 2022, that number was well above 3,000.

We believe (and hope) this trend will continue.

With that in mind, attendance numbers will also continue to rebound with international attendees once again becoming a more regular sight. The U.S. has lessened restrictions on foreign travelers, making for easier accessibility moving forward. 

Networking Knowledgably

While show floors are (fast) returning to a new normal, face-to-face interactions are taking on special meaning. Marketers are getting back to business and reconnecting after a 2-year hiatus.

This networking is bringing with it new opportunities for companies already back on the show floor and marketers are capitalizing on the pent-up interest. 

“With in-person events returning, face-to-face marketing will once again play a pivotal role in 2022. In the 2021 Omnichannel Marketing Insights by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 96% of exhibitors placed high importance on maintaining relationships through face-to-face interaction.”

Moving forward, we expect more companies to rise to this occasion and return to their trade show campaigns to meet this demand.

Rethinking Sustainability

Sustainability is certainly something that the industry craves, but with costs rising on materials, there’s little expendable money in trade show budgets. Marketers are not being afforded the opportunity to select more costly, eco-friendly options.

However, the “reuse, recycle, repurpose” motto isn’t water under the bridge. More marketers are turning to custom designed rental properties utilizing lighter materials and fewer promotional items. This more deliberate approach to trade show programming is bringing with it more cost-effective, custom booth designs that better fit budget constraints while also offsetting rising shipping costs. 

“More scalability with a greater focus on attendee impact will become an industry standard. Displays will yield to more customizable, flexible options that provide greater adaptability on the show floor.”

While green initiatives aren’t taking the trade show world by storm just yet, we do see light at the end of the tunnel. We expect more industry-wide sustainability once costs begin to subside. So, don’t give up on that greener world just yet.

Marketing Mania

While the pandemic kept us from face-to-face interactions, omnichannel marketing vastly grew in its importance to the industry. Through the remainder of 2022 and moving forward, expect marketers to utilize all available methods to target audiences. From social media to email campaigns to virtual experiences and in-person interactions, this trend will continue to grow in the coming years. 

"These hyper-focused communication efforts will allow brands to provide a consistent, dedicated approach to capturing audiences."

Looking for more guidance? We are always here to help. Be sure to check out our work and connect with us today to plan your next project. 


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