Thursday, July 25, 2013

How Technology Has Changed Trade Shows

The trade show has been revolutionized by technology over the past 10 years. 

In trade shows, technology can often make or break sales. by presenting a neat, professional, and captivating attraction and experience for passersby. Trade show trends, especially in the use of technology, were quite a bit different ten years ago than they are today, though the core principle remains the same: attracting you, the consumer, to the booth with the latest gadget.

Technological Improvement

Video wall at trade shows like NeoCon2013
Video walls are ubiquitous at major trade shows today. 
Ten years ago, technology was already improving. 

Presenters at trade shows were beginning to move away from heavy carpet panel systems and into lighter, more streamlined set-ups to display their ads and other information. 

Though we weren't at the point of today's reliance on smartphones, QR codes, and tablets, displays were still becoming more attractive and better able to appeal to a society where speed and short messages are key.

Virtual Events and RFID

Two of the big trade show trends in 2002-2004 were the rise of virtual events and RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology. 

Virtual events began to replace trade shows held in an actual physical location, and instead brought people together in a virtual place on the internet. This enabled people to attend the trade show no matter what their geographical location was, and to interact with vendors and other attendees in a completely virtual landscape. 

Vendors were still able to set up booths and advertise their companies and wares, if they wanted to, or the format could be geared more towards a live chat between vendor and attendee or attendees. Some virtual events could also be combined with a traditional trade show, thereby creating a hybrid event.

With RFID, trade show booths are able to create specific actions through the use of a tiny chip attached to or embedded within their display, and a reader that reacts to the chip's signal. This can include certain objects used throughout the display, or the chips can be included in an attendee's badge, enabling them to trigger a reaction just by approaching a booth containing a reader. As an added bonus, it allows the vendor to gauge the reaction of the attendees.

Technology Trade Shows

Combining technology and trade shows results in trade show fairs like COMDEX and CES. The focus on combining technology with trade shows began in the late 1990s and continued into the early 2000s, integrating the emerging e-commerce world with the traditional methods of trade shows and business conferences. Now it's a given.

Rather than splitting between technology and e-commerce, the trend became to present them both within one single trade show.

Technology will continue to shape trade show trends and the world we live and buy in, perhaps more in the next five years than in the previous 20. 

What will Smartphones do for us in 5 years? Or iPads? And that doesn't even take us to the revolution coming from Google Glass

John Dubielak is the Vice President of Operations for Rentfusion, which offers AV rentals, computer rentals, and all manner of equipment for meeting planners, tradeshows, convention hosts, exhibitors and event planners nationwide. Follow Rentfusion on Twitter at @rentfusion and on Linkedin.