Current trends in the trade show market

The trade show market has been keeping strong, with year 2013 seeing the 11th consecutive quarter with growth, as observed by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. The industry is also being shaped by new trends and influenced by technology more than ever.

We’ve decided to prepare a list of the most important market tendencies that professionals should acknowledge and act on.

There’s lots of change going on and it’s important you stay informed – these trends entail a somewhat radical departure from what the market used to represent.

1. All hail the new kings

White papers report that the market sees a global change on higher managerial levels. Professionals in their 30s are expected to take over a lot of key-decision making seats within the next 5 years. It basically implies that the majority of trends that are presented in this post will only be reinforced. Younger members of the industry are the dominant part of the force carrying reliance on technology – and it is here to stay (and disrupt).

2. We need more (and more, and more) data

The majority of industry sectors see consistent growth in attendance rates. Lots and lots of people will be coming to trade fairs and organizers and exhibitors should prepare for that accordingly. Increasingly more professionals turn to big data in order to understand the market, analyze the trends, target and deliver services and stay ahead information-wise. It’s becoming more available and accessible, and as it provides an unprecedented amount of information, you better get aware of it. The amount of information that can be obtained will probably cause a shift in approaching leads and their qualifications. It is already argued that:

“The company’s overworked sales force can no longer afford the luxury of chasing unqualified leads via business card collection or information gathered from a list. They are only willing to follow up on qualified leads that have more information than just the prospect’s contact number.”

It seems that the big data and other lead-oriented solutions will have the answer to that. All in all, one of the biggest challengers for organizers is still lack of detailed data on participants.

3. Social media continuum

Not surprisingly for a growing group of employees from the industry, social media platforms create the buzz and are becoming indispensable to ensure reasonable performance. Most of the mobile apps provide feeds to platforms already, so it’s better to include this channel to connect with your audiences. If for some reason you’re not convinced, think about this – only 7% of professionals don’t use any social platform to engage.

What is more disruptive with regard to this is the continuous character that the events are shaping in. Event communities are active before, during and after the show and trade shows cease to be one-off festivities, they’re rather becoming an all-year experience.

4. Not ‘do you attend?’ but ‘how?’

All the interactivity has started to change the perception of attendees and the focus of the organizers. In the old days, the advertising channels were kind of limited in their impact and what mattered to the most significant extent was the actual turnout at the show. Now events run campaigns most of the year using SM, SEO and other channels, provide full livestream or go hybrid in some other way. The very line between an attendee and a ‘non-attendee’ has gotten blurred – it’s not going to back however. The data complexity described in point 2 will serve extraordinarily to measure and analyze people’s preferences in all kinds of ways. This will in turn help organizers target more and more potential attendees and engage those who won’t physically be around.

5. Need to charge? Do the networking!

For the reason that everybody now has at least one phone on them, plus depending on the situation we carry a laptop and/or a tablet with us, there’s a growing importance of all kinds of interactive kiosks as points where people spend much of their time and become part of the community. They’re getting more and more cool features, too – it’s now a standard to have a screen with a kiosk on which people can check out event info, maps, flight information, play games, etc. It’s also supposed to serve customized purposes – there are charging stations for organizers (to put them in accessible areas around the venue) and exhibitors (to facilitate them to their booths and liaise with sponsors for brand exposure and visitor time captured at the booth).

It seems that these trends are getting stronger and stronger as we speak. What’s particularly interesting is that the data about attendees and their behaviors, preferences, interests is going to get really specified – which must ultimately lead us to a more customized, more personalized attendee experience at all levels.

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