5 Strategies for Reimagining Your Trade Show 

February 14, 2024

Dan Sundt

Dan Sundt is an adjunct Brand Strategist and Master Designer for Design Studio by Maritz. By applying advanced experience design tools to events, he helps organizers deliver much better satisfaction and business results to all stakeholders.

How do you completely reimagine a trade show after a global pandemic and a three-year hiatus? Helping trade show organizers rebrand to boost attendance, increase engagement and deliver greater ROI/ROO for stakeholders is never easy. 

But with a proven process, a committed organization and cross-functional teamwork, it can be done – and done successfully. Here are five strategies from our work with the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), as we helped them transform their event from “Convention” to “Access Live.”

1.     Dive Deep
Any event reinvention requires empathy and a thorough understanding of the needs and wants of the host organization, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees. Be sure to unearth all existing research and knowledge while identifying and pursuing any gaps in intelligence. There is no such thing as too much information, so long as it’s sound research that is well-organized and easily understood by all parties. If needed, deploy additional research so you are working with the latest data.

2.     Identify Meaningful Personas
Without a personalization process in place, it’s tough to address the needs of diverse sellers and buyers, which is critical to crafting meaningful and rewarding trade show experiences. Take the time to identify the most meaningful personas at your show to fully optimize experiences that resonate with the audience and create the right atmosphere for the buy-sell dynamics critical to success.

3.     Create the Journey Those Personas Crave
It’s not enough to understand the primary personas at your event, you must then activate around their needs and wants, while connecting sellers and buyers before, during and after the trade show. Guide stakeholders to discover what they need to know, see, feel and do to accomplish their objectives and ultimately create a more rewarding experience. Matchmaking is an excellent, complementary strategy to help create those journeys.

4.     Design Compelling Experiences Everywhere
Too often, we rely on history to inform our event design, when audiences crave novelty and discovery. Designing compelling experiences that speak to the needs and sensibilities of both buyers and sellers can buoy emotional resonance, drive interest, and foster inquisitiveness. 

5.     Help Close the Loop
It’s never over. But sometimes we, as busy professionals, tend to move on to the next thing too quickly. Consider what you can do to help drive relationships before, during and after the event days. How can you extend the experience by fostering deeper relationships that create continued ROI/ROO/ROE?

The result? WSWA found great success with a refreshed event for 2023. Find more details in our case study here.

Are you exploring the idea of redesigning your trade show? We encourage you to ponder these tips as you begin to reimagine your event as more immersive, more personalized and more effective at pairing like-minded buyers and sellers.


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Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact