Have exhibitions changed?

Published on July 26, 2018 by By DMN

In such a progressive and innovative industry it’s hard for businesses to know how they should evolve their exhibition in a way that works for their company. To help, DMN are looking at what’s changed at exhibitions in recent years and why.

The changing face of exhibitions

In recent years there have been 3 areas of change that are really shaping exhibitions – they are:

  • Technology: using technology to give your audience a taste of something beyond the show.
  • Engagement: using tools and people to start real conversations with your audience
  • Theatre: bringing production and wonder to amaze your audiences

However, these are not totally independent areas. In fact, any modern event/stand/solution will usually involve a combination of the 3. The difference is simply how much focus or emphasis your concept places on one over the others.

TECHNOLOGY

Tech’s always been a developing part of events. But in recent years its use has exploded. So what’s causing a stir now and what does the future hold?

VR, AR and 360 Video

These technologies have been the cause of a lot of excitement at recent events and exhibitions. If you are willing to brave the expense and complexity, then the benefits are boundless. This technology, used correctly, not only draws footfall to your stand, it allows you to communicate concepts or show equipment in a way that has never before been possible. Imagine being able to have potential customers view your entire range of vehicles on a 3m x 3m stand!

Uses like VR art exhibitions:

Live streaming

Live streaming takes many forms at modern exhibitions. You can stream something in or just as easily stream something out. So those present can see something no one else can and those who can’t make it can still benefit from what you have to say. Streaming has become a favourite tool at B2B events as it offers exhibitors a more significant audience without any additional work and its popularity is only growing.

Uses like Ted Talks streamed to cinemas:

Apps & Gamification

This is still only a relatively small part of the exhibition scene, as apps and gamification are considered by some to be niche tools. However, used correctly they help bring ideas to life and make your stand or whatever a more comprehensive part of the experience.

For example, you could use something like Geocache or Mapdash to create engaging treasure hunts for exhibition attendees to find prizes and goodies and share online.

IOT

You may have heard of IOT, short for the Internet Of Things. If you aren’t aware, it’s connecting technology to the internet to do things. In it’s most basic format, the ability to take payment on the stand with a card reader. In more creative applications, you can use speakers to store voice, convert it to text and use it to power a competition on a large screen. We recently saw a company experimenting with Google Home to play a huge game of ‘Play Your Cards Right’ and store the entrants details in their database.

Connecting technologies in this way not only helps you stand out from the crowd but can also allow you to gather essential data about your stand visitors.

Look at how connected Google is making everything:

Big Data

Speaking of gathering data, by 2020 it is predicted we will create 44 trillion gigabytes of data every year. Making sense of all that data is becoming big business and businesses who can visualise that data in a consumer-friendly way are starting to lead the way within their sectors. We are seeing a trend of bringing this data visualisation to exhibitions to not only entertain but educate as well.

Classic media

By ‘classic’ we mean screens, lighting and other technology that has become reasonably standard at exhibitions. These technologies still have huge possibilities and are still being used in exciting ways. They’re also usually a lot more affordable for those on tighter budgets. Classic media’s success (as with any technology) comes down to how companies use them. What matters is that you have the right concept for your brand and the tech that fits and not the other way around

ENGAGEMENT

The goal of any event or exhibition has always been greater engagement with your audience, but how? Everything in this article is really about engagement of one sort or another but technology is now allowing for engagement to creep outside the confounds of the exhibition hall.

Social media

Tools such as Twitter and Facebook mean you have an open line to your audience. However, with recent events in mind companies are learning that how you use this information is crucial. Customer trust is built around the responsible use of these channels and their data. Companies who engage honestly and openly tend to succeed. Using these tools as a means to educate, entertain and promote your stand, product or service can be fun and exciting for your audience if done well.

Remarketing

As responsive websites and apps can now be easily delivered on Smartphones – getting visitors not only to your stand but also to your website or app opens up the ability to communicate your message to them after the event.

Sustainability

Sustainability is an indirect way to use technology to generate engagement at your exhibition. Unlike social media, this isn’t a tool for direct engagement. Instead of using advances in technology to become a more sustainable company can make your offer more engaging. People want to do more and want to work with companies who are doing more to help the environment. Being more sustainable makes you more approachable.

THEATRE

Exhibitions have always been about putting on a show. The only real change for modern exhibitions is the scale and scope and often the boldness of what “putting on a show” means.

Bigger Exhibition Stands

Exhibitions have grown and so have the stands at them. It’s not unusual today to find huge, multi-floored platforms containing anything from cars to luxury yachts and beyond. To stand out, many companies have decided to impress with scale and grandeur. With the right concept, it works too. These stands can become the focal point of many shows causing a tremendous amount of excitement.

Experiential events

Bigger isn’t the only change. Not every company can afford the scale of the large stands, so they’ve focused directly on the “show” element of what they do. Experiential has exploded onto the scene and is only getting bigger. Its cleverness and success comes from the theatricality and directness it provides, which can be fitted perfectly around whatever your brand stands for. Experiential has become a great leveller at exhibitions – a good idea can compete with the huge stands on a far smaller budget.

Guerrilla or challenger exhibitions

The other way for companies or brands to make a splash at exhibitions is to turn expectation on its head entirely. A platform for your brand doesn’t have to be a literal platform and you don’t even have to be inside the exhibition. You just need an exciting concept and the willingness to stand out. You can then capture peoples attention outside the event or go further and take your “show” to them wherever they are. This could be on high streets, at festivals or even in their workplaces. There’s no real limit if the idea is engaging enough.

So why are we seeing changes?

It’s down to several reasons. Partly ‘because we can’, the technology is out there, more people know how to use it, the cost of entry has drastically reduced, and it’s partly to do with science. In recent years, we have gained a greater understanding of how the human brain works. We remember ‘experiences’ and ‘stories’ far better than we do just words and pictures.

Companies wishing to build their brand were quick to recognise the enormous importance of this and began to deliver ‘brand experiences’. The rest, as they say, is the future!

So what’s really changed?

Today’s exhibitions may look vastly different than they did in the past but the reality is they’re still just the same exhibitions. The objectives, goals and tactics are still the same. Companies are all still there wanting to engage with and sell to their audience.

The only difference is the tools they use, how they use them and where these tools can take them before, during and after the show. The right blend of technology, theatre or engagement for your brand can benefit a business long after the show itself. People will share great experiences, giving companies the sought after “buzz” that everyone is looking for.

A great exhibition lives beyond the show. Smart companies are then leveraging these benefits and experiences after the show to build brand awareness and help them push their companies past their competitors on Google and in the minds of their customers. Meaning with the right idea the impact of your exhibition can be greater than ever before.

DMN have been delivering successful exhibition stands and experiences for nearly 60 years. If you have a ‘big idea’ that you want to turn into reality – give us a call, let’s see if we can help make it happen.

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