7 Event Trends That Will Make Your Brand Stand Out in 2018

February 15, 2018

Scott Schoeneberger

Scott Schoeneberger is the executive vice president of marketing and a board member at Bluewater Technologies, a company devoted to helping enterprising brands bring innovation, experience and messaging to life.

We saw a lot of trends emerge within the trade show circuit in 2017. Virtual and augmented reality became ubiquitous, mobile technology was used almost everywhere and even Amazon’s Alexa found its way to a more corporate setting. Brands upped the ante by bringing experiential marketing to new levels with pop-ups galore while offering niche entertainment and culinary offerings.

The bar will only continue to rise and the stakes are getting even higher in this nearly $13 billion industry. According to a recent Bizzabo survey, 63 percent of marketers plan to increase budgets and participate in more live events moving forward. In fact, event marketing is viewed by most marketers as far more effective than any other avenue – that includes content marketing, email marketing and digital advertising.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, keep an eye out for seven emerging event marketing trends that will dominate 2018:

1. Contextual booth designs: Brands are moving away from boring billboard-style booth setups and toward immersive, contextual designs. Customers are seeking the unexpected and gravitating toward displays that have a “wow” factor. Traditional trade show booths look more like an amateur science fair display covered in marketing language. This simply won’t cut it in today’s market. Instead, use technology and art to create an interactive experience that envelops your entire space and captivates anyone walking by.

2. An increase in nontraditional events: A trade show booth can be expensive and not everybody can attend a major show. Bring the experience out into the wild with pop-ups in unique and unexpected places. Portable activations that can travel are going to create big wins in 2018 for the brands bold enough to position them in the right places at the right times. It’ll drive a higher ROI for the money spent on the booth experience by keeping conversations going on social media long after the trade show ends.

3. More personalized experiences: We’re seeing demand for personalization skyrocket in everything from retail products to experiences. The event marketing industry is going to follow this lead with more direct interaction that makes passive messaging obsolete. Create a game show, gamify your message, encourage user-generated art and do whatever you can to put the power into your customers’ hands. People don’t come to events to see the same ads they can read online, they come to participate. Make it happen.

4. A focus on entertainment: There’s more noise introduced to the marketplace every day and breaking through it means connecting with audiences in more entertaining ways. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your trade show booth. Invite special guests and host an event that makes people feel like they’re the star of their own show. Whether it’s a talk show, a cooking show or a game show (or whatever fits your brand), the desire for entertainment will bring more people in who will stay longer. At the end of the day, trade shows are about business but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun along the way.

5. Integrated large-scale LED: Advances in LED video technology with decreasing costs mean marketers can create high-resolution video displays anywhere. It’s modular, scalable and bright enough to be used in any lighting situation, and the pixel counts are high enough for close-proximity use. Stop wasting paper and plastic when you can create an entirely digital LED installation to offer virtual environments that leave visitors in awe.

6. Increased pixel mapping: Don’t just stop at LED; high-tech companies have been mesmerizing audiences with jaw-dropping pixel-mapping presentations. New software, better media servers and more trained professionals mean pixel mapping is more attainable than ever. We’re going to see these become more common in 2018 and beyond, so now’s a good time to start integrating the technology into your own trade show booth, showrooms, lobbies and retail locations.

7. AI and data analytics: AI and data analytics are more than just buzzwords. They represent the new way of doing business and everything from wait times to inventory control to customer tracking can be accomplished with them. These technologies are elevating the trade show game by providing faster responses, better customer experiences and moments of sheer delight. Think beyond Siri and Alexa to discover how these technologies can turn your trade show booth into an unstoppable marketing machine.

Event and experiential marketing will only continue to grow. You already know these events are important to attend but showing up empty-handed is like going to prom in torn blue jeans. To achieve a healthy ROI, you need to stand above the crowd – these trends will help you do exactly that in 2018.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.