ExhibitorLive 2015 Caters to Millenials, Shows Off Tech and Sticks to Old School

March 11, 2015

Going to ExhibitorLive, the annual gathering of trade show and event industry pros and rebranded from EXHIBITOR, is like going to a candy shop.

With so much talent, ingenuity and innovation on display, it’s easy to remember why you fell in love with trade shows in the first place and stayed with them even after swearing off them more than once.

This year was no exception. Though the industry as a whole has been showing only modest growth since the recession and the spending sprees of mid 2000’s are a thing of the past, there were plenty of ideas to create meaningful engagement in the world that increasingly demands measurement, accountability and delight.

The show itself did well with 280 exhibitors, including 70 new ones, 66,670 square feet of exhibit space and professional attendance of about 5,500.

Here are few tasty treats from the floor:

Tech-focused design. Exhibits got smarter, not just by featuring a few random screens, but by having tech at the core of the experience. This was part of the philosophy at just about every major exhibit. Tech allows exhibitors to re-purpose elements of an exhibit for different shows and audiences, turn product display content into a multi-use sales platform and bring interaction where none existed in the past. This is not tech for tech’s sake. It’s tech as the nuclear engine of the experience.

Blending real and virtual. A trend that’s been going on for a while keeps finding new iterations as tech gets better. Global Experience Specialists (GES) impressed attendees with an interactive with Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets that on top of just being a fun experience were a reminder of finding new angles to get the brand message across. “It’s a way to show how we bring the art and science of engagement together into one package,” said Detra Page, PR manager for GES.

Getting Millennials on board. Freeman showcased their proprietary FXP Touch tool that turns any presentation into an interactive tool that offers real-time engagement for attendee (share, vote, ask and answer questions), as well as feedback for the presenter. “The millennials want to contribute to the dialog and co-create content,” said Freeman XP Executive Vice President Chris Cavanaugh.

Unlocking the RFID power. With RFID getting a wider adoption by show organizers, the industry seems to be getting a better understanding of how to use this tech for a seamless experience on the floor from access control to custom content and measurement. “Right now we’re mostly getting questions about heat maps to see where people are on the floor,” said first-time exhibitor Julia Deets, vice president of sales and marketing with Metalcraft that brought a lineup of custom badges and wristband. In the next year, she hopes to see the RFID-powered elements as triggers for in-booth engagement.

Interactives all grown up. Inhance Digital brought a 3x2 foot multi-screen LCD wall that had been a hit with Intel and Audi to showcase how a) size matters, and b) a CRM-connected and Cloud-based interactive that helps dive deep and is impossible to resist is a powerful tool.

Old School is Cool. With all the tech stuff around, the appeal of a giant hand-crank gumball machine at Acme Made in America seemed to be even stronger as attendees wanted to know how to scale it to their events.

Design still counts. MG Design got the “Best of Show Large Booth” award for their reiteration of a coffee house complete with comfy chairs, ceramic mugs and live music. “They created a welcoming and comforting environment where attendees could sit back, relax, have a mug of coffee and engage in a targeted conversation with the company employees,” said attendee Emilie Barta, a trade show presentations expert. The space was packed the entire time and served as an unofficial industry gathering place.

Hard candy. So what was all the rage on the floor a few years ago, but gone for good? Twitter walls. Not a single one this time. QR codes. Maybe, but far few in between. Memory sticks – no. Email straight from an interactive – yes.

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