2016 will be a year of contradictions as we continue to see the Trade Show trends that move in two very different directions at the same time.
1. Big Shows get bigger:
The largest shows, especially those in construction and agricultural will continue to trend larger for 2016 in exhibitor space. Though they may not grow in attendance. With the US economy very well into recovery and continued steady growth in China, exhibitors will be looking to make big presentations at this year’s shows. With the continued fracturing of audiences into smaller and more tightly focused groups, attendance numbers will not increase with the same (or possibly any) rate as the net square footage.
2. Consolidation/ Co-location:
One of the ways the big shows are going to continue to trend larger this year is via consolidating smaller shows or co-locating with smaller shows. It’s in smaller show’s interest to try to grab onto any of the positive momentum the larger shows have by being near them at the same time. But with the fracturing of the audience into smaller and more narrowly focused groups, audience overlap might not be what the smaller shows hope it is.
3. Small Shows get smaller:
Call it more focused or how ever they want to spin it, the smaller shows are going to have smaller audiences. Trends indicate that in 2016 audience density may reach a low of 2 people per 100 ft2.. This does not have to be a major problem. Trends also indicate that the people who are attending shows have more buying power and are higher level decision makers than in the past. Companies are not spending the money to send lower level employees. Companies are more interested in maximizing their travel dollars.
4. Tech Overload:
Tech toys in booths can be fun and the newest of the new tech can catch attendees’ eyes but unless companies plan on spending thousands of dollars every few months to update to the newest wiz bang gizmo, they will never keep up with the curve. In 2016, the industry is going to see a trend toward low tech and even “no tech” booths. Companies will begin moving back to what has always made the sale; face to face time between two human beings. At the dawn of the internet, marketers would have you believe that the trade show industry was going to be wholly replaced by the internet. This didn’t happen and will not happen because people like to buy from other people. In 2015, the the beginning of a trend to booths feature wood, bare metal, and more “stripped down” look began. This will continue as companies move back to what is important; face to face interaction.
5. More Focus:
Everything that goes into a trade show exhibit is going to become more and more focused on narrower and more vertical markets. The days of the “one stop shop” are over. Also, over are the days of the “just a pretty face” booth model that doesn’t know the product or services. A few decades ago, the trade show booth was where some companies dumped their least experienced sales people for the day. Now, everyone in the booth must be an expert, including any third party brand ambassadors.