Exhibit Design...Where is the Future Going?

Exploring the past, present, and future trends of trade show exhibit design....

Ask seasoned trade show professionals… some may say that exhibit design is not new, it is simply a new application based on historical designs. In the ever-changing industry of trade shows and events, one thing is consistently desired: intriguing design. We wanted to explore the history of design and felt there was no better place to start than with 30-year veteran, Greg Mathieson, a Senior Exhibit Designer at Skyline Exhibits and Scooter Hendon, Skyline Sector 5 Exhibit Designer with multiple industry awards under his belt.

Technology and social media have changed the demands of what clients want within their trade show exhibit, though one factor has remained constant through 30 years according to Greg: “impress me.”  It is cliché, but we do only get one chance to make a first impression and we need to make it a good one.


According to Greg, “The client is becoming harder and harder to impress. With the advances in CGI (Computer Generated Imaging), digital imaging, and technology capabilities, we are finding it harder to show the client something they haven’t seen before, which makes for an exciting challenge.”

Island Designs

Significant advances in technology; like video walls, social sharing, and experiential marketing have all drastically changed a factor of exhibiting that was previously an afterthought: digital content. “Content development is now more important than ever,” said Greg. “What’s the point of having a 14-foot video wall if all you’re going to share on it is a PowerPoint?”  Standing out among a sea of competitors is a top priority.

BRING THE UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE
Skyline Sector 5 Design Manager, Scooter Hendon also commented on how he sees the future of exhibit design “The marketing needs of businesses have diversified to the point that showing up with nice architecture and graphics just isn’t enough to distinguish you from your competitors. A memorable, purposeful experience in your space is what really engages people and connects them to your brand. It seems common these days for that experience to be digitally-based, but there’s plenty of room for a well-thought analog experience that is designed to make visitors interact.”

Skyline recently published an article on the evolving role of a trade show manager, and there is no doubt that trade show exhibiting is evolving as well. In the next 10 years, “exhibiting will transition into more experiential environments rather than displays,” said Greg.  More emphasis will be placed on the value and the emotional experience a person received from stopping at a booth.

DIFFERENTIATE WITH YOUR TECHNOLOGY
According to Exhibitor Magazine, over 90% of exhibitors are utilizing technology to help communicate their brand and set themselves apart.  That said, the technology must be distinctive, memorable and the right tool to deliver the message.  Current trends are Augmented Reality, Live Polling, Virtual Reality, Gamefication and RFID. 

BRING IN ATTENDEES
Follow me on this, a business person most likely stops by your booth because they feel that your company can satisfy their business needs. In the future, your trade show exhibit will not only need to satisfy the business goals of an attendee but the personal goals of stopping by. What activity or digital content within your exhibit will draw the attendee in? What part of the experience will help them determine that your company is the best option?  What game or activity piques their interest to stay a little longer? What types of food and beverages will make them feel at ease as a person, and then help them transition into getting down to business? Exhibiting will transform into more than, “just a bright light shining on a product.”

HAVE A SOLUTION TO NEW CHALLENGES
Get out in front of trends, and learning how to solve new challenges will always be a part of exhibit design for Greg. “A great design area that’s being overlooked is flooring. We are seeing a demand for flooring beyond carpet; something that could be raised or has LED lights within it. You have a wonderful graphic opportunity below your feet that can attract a lot of attention from people.”  For Scooter, the possibilities of Virtual Reality becoming more common on the show floor is what excites him. “Virtual Reality is obviously an exciting development that will become more and more common at trade shows. Being able to transport attendees into a completely different environment can be hugely impactful and impressive. Imagine the difference between showing a looping video of a manufacturing process on a standard TV versus being virtually present in an environment while the process happens. Content development can be expensive, but virtual branded experiences last well beyond a trade show and can make an impression that sticks.”

Whatever experience you decide to create with your exhibit company provider, make sure that it relates  to your brand and marketing goal. Don’t let the bright lights of Virtual Reality and digital content distract you from what matters most: a face-to-face interaction.

This article is inspired by "The Future of Exhibit Design" by Kayla Goeman and first appeared at www.skyline.com

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