Amp Up Your 2018 Trade Show Game by Focusing on These 4 Things

2018 wide open road

By Stephanie Van Ness


Chief marketing officers typically spend a quarter of their annual marketing budgets on live events — think trade shows — to connect with customers and generate new leads. But wringing the most value from limited marketing dollars means keeping pace with industry trends and spending on tactics that deliver the greatest ROI.

So what should you focus on in 2018?

According to Jay Cheney of Sacks Exhibits, a global provider of exhibits, events, and show environments, exhibitors have always looked for effective ways to stand out. And 2018 will be no different. “Bigger, brighter, bolder remains a method to achieve a leg up on the competition,” Cheney said.

Clean, crisp messaging using large-scale seamless fabric graphics, for instance, will continue to be popular in 2018," Cheney said. "But engaging interactive presentations on large monitors are becoming increasingly popular as a way to attract attention. And, they make it easy to customize messaging.”

“Of course, more LED video screens virtually ensure a ratcheting up of the visual noise and chaos on the show floor,” he added. “That’s why companies need to make sure their exhibits aren't just flashy, but make business sense. Games, challenges and competitions, for instance, can be effective ways to generate interest and build a crowd but these tactics alone don’t guarantee a valuable lead or conversation.”

The takeaway? While creative engagement and the use of in-booth tech, from digital signage to virtual reality games, continue to be important ingredients for a successful exhibit in the upcoming year, these (and all) tactics only work if you’re using them to carefully communicate your key message and deliver a personal, custom interaction with your prospect.

And to do that, you need to focus on four general categories when planning your 2018 exhibit.

According to Event Marketing 2018: Benchmarks and Trends, Bizzabo's survey of more than 400 event marketers, and anecdotal information I collected from discussions with several exhibit house and corporate event executives, you should spend money on: technology, personal connection, customization and continuity.

1 Interactive Technology

Eighty-six percent of marketers believe technology can have a major positive impact on their show success. From captivating touchscreen presentations to proximity beacons that integrate with client’s products, interactive technologies draw people in. ViewPoint is one example of a technology that not only engages but delivers data and insight that can be mined once the show ends.

“ViewPoint’s interactive touchscreen experiences showcase products in a dynamic way while also collecting aggregate user analytics about the information booth visitors found most (or least!) interesting,” said ViewPoint Director Philip Chila. “This is valuable data that can help exhibitors better understand customer behavior so they can refine their messaging for future shows.”

 2 Personal Connection

Of course, technology should support not supplant human interaction. Authentic conversations continue to be pivotal to a great in-booth experience so make sure your booth is properly staffed, and your reps are trained to effectively convey your brand story. “Whether you're using technology or person-to-person interaction or a combination, visitors expect you to offer a meaningful message delivered in an honest and compelling way,” Cheney said.

 3 Booth Customization

Nearly 65% of the marketers surveyed by Bizzabo said they plan to spend more on live events next year. That’s a good thing since cookie-cutter booth exhibits are out. For 2018, custom exhibits will be more popular than ever as companies search for unique ways to show the flavor of their brand and stand out from competitors in a memorable way. Fortunately, custom does not need to bust the budget. You just need to work with a flexible exhibit partner known for creativity and ingenuity.

4 Brand Continuity

A cohesive brand experience delivered across all branded environments will be even more important in 2018. That means you need to communicate a consistent message at every touchpoint, from your retail showroom to your trade show booth. “This is an area where ViewPoint really shines,” Chila said. “With it, you can deliver a consistent brand experience across multiple environments, from your corporate lobby to your employee training center to your retail outlets to the trade show exhibit hall. By meeting your customers where they are, with a cohesive message, you'll build brand awareness, appreciation and  customer loyalty.”

Raise Your Game

Trade show attendees today are savvy. They understand their value to exhibitors. They’re willing to spend some of their limited time with you exploring your products or services, but they expect meaningful engagement in return. Keep them interested by offering a compelling, highly targeted user experience built on innovative technology, personal connection, customization and continuity. That's the key to trade show success in the coming year.

For interactive in-booth technology solutions designed to help you better engage your visitors, give me a call at 781-552-3700. And if you’re looking to create an overall exhibit environment, reach out to Jay Cheney at

Stephanie Van Ness

Assoc. Director of Marketing and Chief Storyteller at ICS, Boston UX and ViewPoint Interactive Solutions

An experienced copywriter with a Boston University J-school degree, Stephanie Van Ness writes about user experience (UX) design and innovations in technology, from self-driving vehicles to gesture-controlled medical devices. Her work has appeared in a number of industry publications, including Medical Design & Outsourcing, Mass Device, Connected World,Medical Device + Diagnostics, UX Collective and Prototypr.