The exhibition trends driving the exhibition sector all recognise that face-to-face business matters. As organisers of trade exhibitions, we facilitate events where businesses thrive, evolve, and foster valuable connections. Trade exhibitions are one of the best marketing tools for big and small brands. They offer opportunities to showcase the uniqueness in the various sectors we represent and small industries get the chance to stand on par with big brands and enter the world of competition to make their mark. In-person exhibitions remain a vital way of bringing people together. While digital offerings have reach, face-to-face interactions have value. The in-person connection supports commercial success and makes business stronger.
EXHIBITION TREND: Encompassing ‘belonging’ and ‘experiences’ at in-person events.
Community and belonging: The exhibitions industry is all about people. Human connection and fostering a sense of belonging are the cornerstones of successful exhibition design and will become even more important in 2024. It’s a place where you can meet in person with one’s community. A place to gather together as industry peers. Specialised Exhibitions fosters an approach of collaboration between industry stakeholders. By ensuring the exhibition serves all relevant stakeholders, a sense of belonging is created providing a platform where all industry stakeholders can come together and connect.
Human connection and fostering a sense of belonging are the cornerstones of successful exhibition design and will become even more important in 2024.
Delivering experiences: Exhibitions not only need to focus on content, but they also need to deliver on experiences. Those attending exhibitions are looking for meaningful connections and entertainment, in addition to the content shared. This is a growing exhibition trend as we head in to 2024. Purely content is not enough. Entertainment in the trade exhibition environment includes live demonstrations, free-to-attend seminars presented by industry experts, interactive displays or touchscreen activations, and virtual reality. We’re also getting closer to AI powered chatbots and facial recognition technology offering personalised assistance and creating a more engaging experience. Multi-sensory experiences: Trade show stands in 2024 will continue to focus on engaging all the senses. Incorporating elements like captivating scents, background music, food tasting and enhanced lighting can set the mood and create an inviting atmosphere. This is incorporated in our trade shows such as Hostex, and even with shows such as Electra Mining Africa, albeit in different ways. Interactive displays that allow visitors to touch and feel products create a holistic and impactful brand experience. A radio outside broadcast also adds to this multi-sensory experience. Lounge areas and relaxed environments: In a noticeable recent shift (globally), many designs of exhibition stands have allocated a significant portion of their floor space to lounge areas, creating relaxed and informal areas. This exhibition trend intends to establish trust and foster open, friendly conversations that feel less like sales pitches and more like collaborative exchanges. This trend is expected to continue into 2024 and beyond as more exhibitors recognise the value of creating comfortable, relaxed environments that encourage open and sincere connections.
In a noticeable recent shift (globally), many designs of exhibition stands have allocated a significant portion of their floor space to lounge areas, creating relaxed and informal areas.
The future of hybrid events:
If hybrid, it will be a ‘light’ hybrid event in the sense that further use will be made of latest digital tools and digitisation, but still very much enhancing the in-person exhibition experience.
It is harder to provide networking opportunities in the virtual world. The unique value proposition of exhibitions is the people you meet, and the things you are able to experience. There are some very successful hybrid exhibitions, but they haven’t had the expected impetus that many were predicting, especially within the trade exhibition environment. The industry is very much leaning towards in-person events and will continue to do so throughout 2024. If hybrid, it will be a ‘light’ hybrid event in the sense that further use will be made of latest digital tools and digitisation, but still very much enhancing the in-person exhibition experience whilst also providing opportunity for live streaming of some selected exhibition seminars and for digital visitor/exhibitor interactions.
All of these exhibition trends will translate locally according to the exhibition, the industry it represents, the size of the exhibition, and the geographic location and venue.
EXHIBITION TREND: Evolving exhibition marketing: further embracing digital and attracting the right audiences.
Technology advancements/digitalisation: Increased digital services provided by exhibition organisers that serve to complement and extend in-person exhibitions will be a continued exhibition trend. Digitalisation has impacted the manner of execution of marketing techniques. 2024 will bring more of this with new technologies such as digital and online platforms for organisers and exhibitors – and organisers looking at how they can incorporate artificial intelligent (AI) technology into the expo experience. We also see the incorporation of AI powered matchmaking solutions with video calling features and further enhanced attendee and exhibitor networking and live discussions. We also see the incorporation of AI powered matchmaking solutions with video calling features and further enhanced attendee and exhibitor networking and live discussions. Social media is transforming event marketing, an exhibition trend that was evident during our trade shows this year. Platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn are playing a key role in how people are engaged in events and how they experience events of all sizes across every industry. This engagement is seen before, during and after the event. Incorporation of futuristic technologies: The incorporation of futuristic technologies could revolutionise trade show stands in 2024, and beyond. Digital Twins technologies and simulations work well in exhibitions as they offer a digital representation of real products, eliminating the need to physically transport numerous items to trade shows. Exhibitors can showcase their flagship products while digitising the rest. Also being developed, and interesting to many, Hologram technology enables the live beaming of individuals into exhibits from remote locations. The beamed-in person can even interact with the crowd, creating a truly immersive and realistic experience. Only likely to be used/considered in South Africa beyond 2024. 3D Content is also beginning to make its way into event spaces becoming popular for showcasing 3D logos and visual effects adding an extra layer of depth and engagement.
3D Content is also beginning to make its way into event spaces becoming popular for showcasing 3D logos and visual effects adding an extra layer of depth and engagement.
More data collection during and after events: Gathering the right customer information and data is central to the ability of exhibition organisers’ to facilitate customer (exhibitor and visitor) interactions and connections, and to bring the right people together. This exhibition trend will grow in the coming years, as advanced digital tools and platforms are also able to capture and analyse ‘industry insights’ which is invaluable to business, marketing and communications strategy and to enable organisers to tailor exhibitions to the specific needs of industries.
Data will be the key to helping organisers stay a step ahead of the customer’s wants, needs, and intentions.
Big data can help exhibition organisers meet the rapidly changing customer expectations. Data will be the key to helping organisers stay a step ahead of the customer’s wants, needs, and intentions. If we fail to harness data to understand them, someone else will take our audience from us. Research and data-driven insights are critical in order ‘show up’ effectively in marketing (stakeholders research and conversations, sponsor/exhibitor interviews, data trending and analysis, personas and audience segmentation) and to develop communications and messaging in support of this. Surveys: Global exhibition industry is experiencing dynamic shifts The exhibition industry is experiencing dynamic shifts in response to evolving global trends, according to UFI (The Global Association of the Exhibitions Industry). UFI is committed to understanding these changes and preparing for the future effectively. They are currently conducting a survey where they are inviting professionals in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s, who currently hold decision-making positions or aspire to do so in the future, to share their perspectives regarding the role of exhibitions as the most traditional meeting platform in an increasingly digital world. It is an opportunity to better understand the exhibition industry’s significance in the survey respondents professional sphere and their insights will help the industry to enhance their exhibition experiences and adapt to the changing landscape of our industry in the future. Images supplied by Unsplash.
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