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What’s trending at tradeshows

Welcome back, students! I know we all want to be ‘cool,’ so this class is on something we all know about: being ‘trendy.’

Trends of tradeshows are trends as with anything else. They mark what is current, fashionable, cutting edge and competitive. Tradeshow success is defined in a number of ways, including how much traffic a booth draws, how much PR/media coverage an exhibitor receives, best-of-show recognitions and most off all, how this all translates to revenue. In order to achieve overall tradeshow success, exhibitors need to, above all else, stand out, especially in a strained economy when the pressure to outshine the competition is at an all-time high. Staying apprised of all that is hot and trendy will ensure that your tradeshow exhibit reflects a forward-thinking company that is progressive and enthusiastically in tuned with the market.

Some of the following trends are costly and while others can be small investments for big impact.

Bubbles
Bubbles can be an affordable way to catch attention and create booth “buzz” and really, who doesn’t love bubbles? Materials and equipment can be rented or purchased providing exhibitors the option of managing the components on their own or the more costly yet hassle-free alternative to have the special effects fully outsourced.

While clear, traditional bubbles can be magical and nostalgic, beware of spin offs and gimmicks. Although color bubbles matching a company’s corporate color scheme sounds good in theory, it can be risky because the dye/chemicals used to colorize the bubbles can leave stains or film on materials, flooring, furniture and clothing. Bubble machines start around $450 and work their way up to more extravagant costs depending on bubble size, volume and frequency.

Phone charging stations
Recharging stations can be a veritable electronic oasis amidst an attendee’s exploration through endless products and services. This feature, a courtesy most established at hi-tech shows, offers visitors the convenience and luxury to refuel their communication devices and peripherals while drawing traffic and creating good will toward an exhibitor.

Many exhibitors will offer booth visitors the option to securely leave their electronic device to be charged while circulating the exposition hall by signing a simple liability release in exchange for an ID/reference number of the gadget. This almost guarantees the exhibitor double (drop off/pick up) exposure of their booth at the very minimum. And for those who stand and wait while their gear is getting a power boost, the exhibitor has a captive audience. For hi-tech exhibitors who have endless and easy access to electronics, the costs involved can be virtually nominal while for mainstream participants – an initial investment of $500-$1,000 can contribute to a priceless return.

Photo booths
Photo booths, reminiscent of the festive nature of amusement parks and state fairs, not only create that traffic-drawing booth “buzz” but also can serve as a powerful marketing tool when an exhibitor customizes the photo printouts, CDs and booth with their logo and website. Photo booths are available for both rental and purchase and offer an extensive variety of ‘mementos’ from the traditional black and white photo strip to full-color portraits, CDs with electronic files, photo cubes and more. Some more sophisticated machines even offer lead-capturing and data-entry features. Photo booth costs start at approximately $750/show for rental and $5,500 and up to buy.

QR/Two-dimensional codes
A QR Code is a two-dimensional barcode derived from the “Quick Response” concept and is designed specifically for the ever-expanding market of smart phone users. Exhibitors can electronically produce QR codes directly associated with their tradeshow exhibit and related events and promotions through specialty technology companies easily found online. Most commonly “scanned” by a QR code reader on a smart phone, the phone’s browser will be directed to the programmed information embedded within the codes.

This information can be anything the exhibitor wants to highlight, from sales promotions and coupons to events and presentation schedule. QR codes basically serve as links offering the exhibitor a user-friendly, hassle-free manner in which to direct an attendee to information. In an effort to increase traffic, networking and lead management, some show producers are starting to use QR-type codes to exchange information, while others offer prizes for those with the most “scans” at the end of a show.

iPads and tablet devices
Since the introduction of iPads and PC tablet devices in the last few years, they have flooded the tradeshow floor.  Benefits include moving with ease from application to application, continuous wireless capability and an extensive 11-12 hour battery life (although, always keep your charger handy). Additional hardware enhancements include mounting units, counter inserts and swivel presentation stands. These devices affordably start at about a $500 price point.

Other ‘trendy’ movements include “Going Green,” which we have touched on in previous classes.  Also, less commonly seen are exhibitors offering shoe-polish stations, video games, 10-minute mobile massage sessions and three-dimensional presentation screens. One thing is certain, be on the look out. There is always another trend around the corner.

Homework

  • Meet with other tradeshow team leaders and planners to discuss “trends” and initiatives that will fit both your budget as well as your corporate image.
  • Implement agreed plan of action.
  • Smile, have fun and be trendy.

About Linda Musgrove, The Tradeshow Teacher
Linda Musgrove is founder and President of TradeShow Teacher, a full-service tradeshow training and management firm. Through her result-driven formula, she specializes in teaching companies to significantly improve tradeshow results through strategic, customized tradeshow management and training for individuals, departments or entire teams. Training options include phone consulting, webinars, seminars and one-on-one in person coaching. Musgrove authored “The Complete Idiots Guide to Tradeshows,” published by Alpha Books/Penguin Publishing. Learn more at http://www.tsteacher.com and follow on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/tsteacher

Posted in The Tradeshow Teacher
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