Trade show marketing has origins in the markets of medieval times, where farmers and craftspeople brought their crops and goods to sell to townspeople and villagers. Renowned trade shows like The Chicago Auto Show started debuting new autos in 1901. Conventions promote the latest and greatest innovations and inventions to the public and investors. Getting attention is important at trade shows, and strategies have evolved over time.
Show and Tell
Trade shows are venues to explain new concepts, demonstrate products and services, and engage the customers you hope will buy your goods. They have evolved from using a blanket approach that gives every visitor the same information to a creating opportunities for a more custom, engaging experience. While exhibitors today still need attractive and easy-to-assemble banner displays, they also need to provide an interactive experience to attract customers. Much of this experience today is created and displayed using technology. It has evolved from using props such as actual car and architectural reproductions like the façade of the Salt Lake City Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
Make ‘Em Wait
Modern trade show preparations include building anticipation for new products and services. Nintendo built excitement for its 2008 Macworld exhibit by making people line up outside the exhibit to see demonstrations. Placement of products and exhibits is important to generate excitement and interest, too. Showcasing products at the center of exhibits gets people to come inside the booth to get a demonstration and make passersby curious.
Technology for marketing at trade shows has changed right along with the products and services being promoted. Carousels and projectors have been replaced with slick, highly graphical multimedia decks shown on brilliant high-definition screens. Scenery and props have been replaced by interactive touch screens that show off product features and services with captivating graphics and video. Sometimes they show games or other interactive attractions like music and light shows. Sales brochures have been replaced with interactive slideshows on tablets and iPads. Mobile credit card payment options enable consumers to make purchasing decisions on the spot. Other technology used at trade shows includes QR codes, LED lighting and digital music.
The future of trade shows and exhibitions includes even more advanced technologies to bring products and services to life without using paper-based marketing materials or huge investments in props and scenery. Look for lighter-weight displays of electronics and computing equipment to replace laptops and even tablets, such as cloud services to deliver presentations and videos right from smart phones. Technology will be used to entice and interact with audiences and customers at trade shows, whether to generate sales, education, or good will. With projection equipment becoming smaller, brighter, and more affordable, projector technology will be used more and more for memorable effects. Michael Douglas, writing for Trade Show News Network, predicts more and better use of data from trade shows so businesses and sales people can better understand attendee behavior.