Post-Pandemic Exhibit Trends With Anthony Floreano, CEO, Skyline Exhibits

September 14, 2022

As the trade show industry continues full speed ahead into the post-pandemic era, exhibiting companies are making their return to the showfloor, resuming their live marketing programs in an effort to reestablish a brand presence among their competitors. But while many exhibitors may wish to freshen their showfloor image with new or improved trade show booths, intense budget constraints are forcing companies to get uber-creative. One person who knows this well is trade show industry veteran Anthony Floreano, CEO of Skyline Exhibits, who for the past year has led the company through its post-pandemic recovery and continues to shape its evolution as a global leader in high-impact, custom modular exhibits.

TSNN had a chance to pick Floreano’s brain about the latest trends in exhibit design, how the pandemic has played a role in the kinds of booths popping up on showfloors right now and how exhibitors can liven up and reimagine their existing booth structures without going over budget.

What are the biggest trends right now in trade show exhibits, and do you see them continuing into the foreseeable future?

We are seeing activity increase and are nearing our business levels of 2019. Increased and consistent activity is by far the most exciting trend. However, our clients’ budgets are constrained along with shorter lead times to commit. Many marketing departments remain understaffed and are adjusting to intense cost constraints, driving the importance of quickly getting a return on investment. 

In exhibit design, we are seeing the integration of digital at every stage, from pre-show marketing to activations and metrics. During the pandemic, marketers relied almost exclusively on digital. They want to leverage the assets they have developed and are accustomed to the detailed metrics that digital marketing provides. Brands are using digital to take the exhibit experience beyond the structure. 

We also see more requests for our rental offerings. Decisions to attend shows are being made later, and marketers are doing more with less. We see clients trying out new shows and experimenting with different footprints than they had previously. All of this plays well to rentals, however, they are approaching rentals quite differently. Today, marketers do not want standard, off-the-shelf, “kit” rentals, they want custom graphics and high-impact visual presentation. They want the ease, timeline and cost of rentals, but with the impact of a custom booth. 

Did the pandemic have any impact on exhibit design overall?

The pandemic impacted how we approach exhibit design. For one thing, the way business is done has changed. People, in general, are more comfortable working together virtually. From the first strategy session, whether it’s a custom build, refreshing an existing structure or rental, we are looking at how to integrate the space with virtual, digital and social, so we can engage more online attendees and improve ROI measurably. 

People are also more conscious of personal space. That has a significant impact on the build of the structure and the exhibit experience as well. We evaluate how attendees interact with booth staff and each other, and how to make that interaction safe and comfortable. 

In the past, clients approached us first about the structure and sometimes, the graphics, and then we’d attempt to guide them to a discussion about the exhibit experience. Now, we have clients coming to us with the experience top-of-mind. That aligns well with our Skyline Design Methodology. Given the budget and resource constraints and having come through the pandemic, marketers are evaluating everything, and they are starting with the environment experience rather than the structure. 

Are any of these trends a product of the post-pandemic recovery the industry is currently undergoing? 

The cost equation has changed. Budgets are constrained, and marketers continue to face resource and supply chain challenges. We see clients looking more at their entire exhibit program rather than show-by-show. We approach the design more in terms of structures that can be reconfigured and refreshed for various shows. Issues like the structure’s weight and subsequent cost of freight are being addressed in the design process. For example, we see much higher use of fabric panels over rigid panels because of freight cost, installation and dismantle costs, and sustainability. Our latest numbers indicate that at least 90% of clients are using fabric for graphics over heavier rigid materials. That’s up from less than 70% pre-pandemic. 

Post-pandemic recovery plays into all the trends we are seeing now: digital, rentals and overall cost consciousness. Everyone is stretched thin as companies recover, but they are recovering—and the exhibit industry is, too.  

Can you describe some of your favorite new builds that represent these trends well?

 ECI booth

Our work with ECI Software Solutions showcases the trend we are currently seeing with rentals. This past year, ECI was integrating several stand-alone brands into one corporate brand—a “branded house.” The company was focused on building a brand with design continuity while keeping a solid eye on costs. We designed an award-winning 30’x 40’ exhibit that debuted at the International Builders Show. 

The booth is elegant and refined, with a strong brand presence. To passersby, it looks custom, but what isn’t apparent is that at its core there’s a significant amount of rented hardware and structure. We finished the rental with high-impact graphics, and ECI purchased some elements to align with their brand’s look and feel. The combination of rental and custom helps brands of all sizes get the look of custom and the ease, flexibility and cost savings of a rental. 

ECI’s booth also embodies the move toward digital, with the inclusion of digital activations with multiple demo spaces and touch screens. They were mindful of health and safety, so we designed an open concept with considerable spacing. Additionally, we elevated the conference room to allow for privacy, which also provided more floor space for flow and presentations. 

For exhibiting companies facing financial constraints while still needing to create fresh exhibits as they resume their trade show programs, what are your top tips for staying on-trend without breaking the bank?  

1.     Refresh graphics: If you have a modular exhibit system, refresh your graphics rather than build an entirely new structure. We recommend refreshing graphics that promote a new offering or message. While you’re at it, look at the overall costs (freight, I&D, storage, reusability) of the graphics and structures you choose. 

2.     Go rental: Without a large investment in a new exhibit, you achieve the custom look without the expense. Plus, when you rent, most of the planning and executing services are managed, so you can focus on marketing and sales. 

3.     Deploy a couple of digital activities focused on attendee engagement. Examples: deploying RFID, virtual reality, augmented reality, low activation touchpoints and anything fun that can electronically engage attendees. 


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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.