In-Person Trade Shows are Back!

CES 2023 crowd

By Stephanie Van Ness


Photo courtesy of Consumer Technology Association.

Last month, 3,200 exhibitors and 115,000 attendees, including 40,000 from 140 countries (and our own Viewpoint team), brought new life to CES 2023, the world’s most influential tech event. In 2022, only 45,000 attendees made the trek to Vegas for the event. But this year represented a rebirth of sorts for CES, a bellwether for the trade show industry in general. 

That’s because in general people are now more willing to travel, and a sizable number are willing (and eager!) to attend large-scale events like CES. According to Skift Meetings, nearly all markets globally are expected to reach two-thirds of their pre-pandemic 2019 revenue by the first half of 2023. UFI Global Exhibition Barometer predicts that global trade show revenues for 2023 will reach 87% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Even more significant is the fact that many businesses are once again prioritizing the in-person experience. In a recent survey by UFI Global Exhibition Barometer, 78% of businesses (up from 68% in 2021) said face-to-face interaction with key audiences is a key priority for this year, and that trade shows offer a unique experience that can’t be replicated. 

Nearly 60% of responding sales and marketing professionals when asked how Covid has impacted their trade show strategy said they planned to exhibit at more trade shows this year, not fewer

As CES 2023 has shown, the pandemic has not destroyed our appetite for live shows. Over the past three years, the steep decline of trade shows led to decreased sales, fewer opportunities to meet new customers, and more difficulty staying current with market trends. 

Virtual (and hybrid) events did a creditable job standing in for live events during the worst of the pandemic, but, Zoom fatigue is real. Businesses in 2023 are primed for face-to-face interaction. That means exhibiting at in-person trade shows can once again be an invaluable part of your marketing strategy. 

If it’s been awhile since you’ve done a live show, remember this: while they can be the perfect venue to distinguish your brand, today’s world-weary attendees have heightened expectations.

In exchange for breaking out of their three-year isolation, they want more than to look at booth after booth of same-old, same-old. They want to be enthralled. They want something fresh.

To capture their attention, your booth needs to be something special, to present your innovative products in a compelling way that not only showcases your brand but helps you foster a closer relationship with your customers. Blending engaging digital content, virtual reality demonstrations and real-world products in a captivating spectacle is the place to start. 

If you’re heading back to the show floor and want to create an experience that delivers a persuasive narrative around your brand, get in touch. We’ll help transform your content and your message into a memorable experience attendees can’t get from Zoom. 

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.