The Future of Trade Shows

The Future of Trade Shows

What is the future of trade shows? They will deliver engaging event experiences to today’s savvy (and increasingly demanding) attendees.

Trade shows are a key part of the marketing mix for many companies. They provide a live platform for face-to-face interaction, enabling companies to reach lots of potential customers at the same time. Yet some trade show organizers and exhibitors are worried about the future of trade shows.

In particular, they’re worried that trade shows are becoming irrelevant. It’s not hard to understand why. Today, consumers research online, buy online, sell online, and network online. Some consumers would rather learn about products by reading user reviews, watching videos, and skimming industry articles. And there’s another factor to consider – the expense of shipping and building exhibits, booking flights and hotels, etc. Putting your products out there isn’t cheap.

Will online experiences be replacing trade shows in the not-so-distant future? Should social media and virtual trade shows be viewed as threats?

The answer is “no.” However, the future of trade shows will involve an intentional design in order to deliver engaging event experiences to today’s savvy (and demanding) attendees.

Engagement on the Trade Show Floor

Because consumers can research, buy, and network online, shouldn’t they save time and money by popping on a virtual reality (VR) headset and talking to salespeople in virtual booths?

Both virtual attendance and telepresence robots at trade shows are becoming more popular. While virtual attendance is a fairly passive experience involving watching streamed sessions, telepresence seems much less passive, at least on the surface. Telepresence attendees can stroll the aisles of the expo floor and interact with exhibitors and other attendees. Telepresence interaction can nonetheless seem impersonal (and uncomfortable for other attendees), limiting true engagement.

When you attend a trade show, on the other hand, you can actually see and interact with exhibits, as well as shake hands, look people in the eye, network, and ask questions in person. If you’re looking to gauge whether products are built to stand the test of time, you may want to experience those products firsthand to get the deeper story. How are they designed, manufactured, tested, and used? What makes them stand out? Onsite attendance gives you a deeper understanding of the R&D that goes into products, enabling manufacturers to convey another level of understanding to consumers in an impactful way.

At trade shows, people build relationships and reinforce credibility in ways they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Trade shows remain relevant because the need for face-to-face interaction will never go away.

Online Communities Boost Onsite Attendance

Many once predicted that computers would eliminate the need for paper, but the opposite has occurred. The same holds true for the idea that online communities will replace the need for in-person networking at trade shows and other events. On the contrary, social media has increased the desire to meet offline.

The future of trade shows will keep trade shows relevant by using online content and social media tools to promote content, showcase connections, and broadcast live video. In fact, the event industry is harnessing the power of online communities to secure and even boost attendance.

Content and Technology Are a Winning Combination

Trade show planners and producers are also ensuring trade shows stay relevant by focusing on content that filters out the noise and gives a clear direction to consumers. The future of trade shows includes content, speakers, formats, and room layouts that support active participation. It also draws attendees with onsite certification programs and valuable learning opportunities.

And while telepresence may not be the best option, VR and other innovative technologies can be used to tell a richer story so long as they’re integrated into trade shows in a thoughtful way. For example, instead of spending money on a stage and a sound reinforcement system, some organizers are using VR headsets to produce a more visually impactful show that gives attendees a window into different worlds. Hoping to see how products are made? Want to visit different geographic areas – west coast, east coast, Europe, Asia – to get a digital picture of how products are used? VR technology can take you there.

The Future of Trade Shows

Trade shows aren’t dead. Far from it. But they are undergoing dramatic changes. Many trade shows are staying relevant by reinventing themselves and capitalizing on opportunities to give attendees better shows.

Let’s say you want to change up your trade show. Let’s say you’re ready to do something new but don’t know where to start. That’s where your AV production partner comes in. Your partner can share ideas and then help design and create the trade show content that enables you to build real-world connections. Your partner can help you incorporate technology into your trade shows in ways that capture and hold attendees’ attention.

A trade show that adapts to changes, embraces technology, and takes a face-to-face, human-centric approach – that’s the future of trade shows.

Why Total Show Technology?

TST is the total show production solution for anyone who hosts, plans, manages, or produces events, meetings, and trade shows. We own the Pacific Southwest market and travel with our clients all across the country. Our clients have relied on us to deliver audio, video, lighting, equipment rental, and show production for conventions, corporate meetings and events, and trade shows since 1996.

Whether you’re looking for audio visual support or advanced event technologies that enable you to deliver your message effectively, we help your shows go off without a hitch and always make you look good. In an industry where almost anything can go wrong, we make sure everything goes right.

Let’s have a conversation! Call us at 702-897-8508, email us at, or visit

Rick Pollock