Tradeshows of the Future: Our Predictions

Will physical, in-person tradeshows go by the wayside in the near future? Hardly. Although the popularity of virtual tradeshows continues to grow, the brick-and-mortar tradeshows of the future will provide unique sales and marketing opportunities for exhibitors — opportunities based on strong business intelligence, big data, advanced technology, and personalization.

Here are our predictions for new developments in the tradeshows of the future:

Trade show venues and event organizers will embrace the new LiFi technology.

With the current emphasis on content marketing and prospect education, fast and efficient digital information delivery will become critical to the tradeshows of the future. WiFi platforms can be unpredictable in terms of both access and speed, but LED light-based LiFi technology appears to be much faster, more reliable, and more secure.

Owners of convention centers and tradeshow venues would be wise to take a look at this TEDTalks video, wherein Professor Harald Haas demonstrates how easy it is to stream video without WiFi. Upgrading and outfitting convention center spaces with overhead LEDs and solar cells will afford exhibitors the opportunity to stream online content in their booths at 100x the speed of WiFi, using only a special laptop plugin device called a dongle.


Forget WiFi. Meet the new LiFi Internet.

RFID-based “article” intelligence technology will migrate from the retail world.

Currently, RFID-based systems like iSense help retailers keep track of merchandise inventory and prevent theft by triggering store alarms. However, we predict this same technology will be used to alert tradeshow staff when pre-qualified, top-tier prospects get close to a particular exhibitor’s booth.

RFID chips or tags can easily be attached to marketing materials, name badges, or swag bags that a potential prospect might receive at the front entrance of the exhibit hall. Ceiling-mounted RFID readers can then track attendees as they make their way around the tradeshow floor.

Smart products will continue to evolve and proliferate.

In the tradeshow of the future, business intelligence and data analysis programs will make it easy for exhibitors to assess the success or failure of a particular exhibit layout, booth location, or special promotion based on foot traffic.

In a previous blog, we told you about how floor sensor technology can help exhibitors to measure the traffic patterns and “dwell” time of booth visitors. We predict that a proliferation of additional smart products like this will emerge onto the market over the coming months, making it much easier for exhibitors to justify their trade show ROI.

Booth display assets will become larger, yet lighter and more portable.

Starting with Cees Smit’s March 2016 announcement that they had just released the world’s largest dye-sublimated printer, it became apparent that trade show manufacturers are willing to invest in satisfying exhibitors’ needs and desires, particularly when it comes to requests for seamless “jumbo” sized displays using soft, lightweight fabrics.

Their Durst Rhotex 500, for example, is capable of printing textiles up to 16 feet wide, eliminating the need for separate pieces, and also reducing the possibility of ink color variations across multiple panels.


The Durst Rhotex 500 is the world’s largest dye-sub printer. Photo courtesty of Cees Smit.

This is just one example of the kind of innovative ideas being put forth by tradeshow manufacturers. We predict that these companies will continue to wow us with their creativity and their willingness to raise the bar — and the possibilities — for exhibitors everywhere.

Personalization will find a new home on the tradeshow floor.

A recent study revealed that 26% of Gen Z shoppers (the mobile-first generation) expect retailers to offer a more personalized experience based on their shopping habits and preferences. In the tradeshow of the future, the ability to offer personalization will become a huge asset in an exhibitor’s marketing playbook.

Here’s how that might look:

Imagine you’re a trade show attendee. Earlier this morning, you took a redeye flight from Chicago to Vegas, and after a quick cab ride from the airport, you’re now walking into the exhibit hall. After checking in at the registration table, you enter the showroom and immediately notice a hanging digital sign with your name on it offering you a pre-paid, reserved seat at the hotel’s oxygen bar to help alleviate your jet lag and fatigue – courtesy of one of the businesses that you had planned on visiting here at the show.

The person who walks in behind you, however, sees an entirely different message up on that digital screen – one that has been customized to their own particular needs and circumstances. 

Later, as you walk the show floor, you receive text messages from various exhibitors and/or the show organizer alerting you to come to the main stage area for a keynote address, or to visit Booth #329 for a special product demonstration, etc. In this way, your smartphone becomes your personal concierge, guiding you through the show based on your recent travel history, information mined from your LinkedIn profile, or even your facial expressions.

It may sound like science fiction, but in fact, this type of technology already exists. However, in order to make it work, the convention center or exhibit facility itself would need to purchase the software platform and then offer the service to exhibitors as an add-on to their booth registration package.


ADVIA AMP offers personalized in-venue marketing based on a variety of multi-sensory input data.

We predict that large municipal governments will begin outfitting their convention centers and tradeshow venues with this kind of technology in order to remain competitive.

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