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Technology and the Future Of Trade Shows

From wireless connectivity to LCD displays and more, the last 10 years have been a technological golden era for trade shows. Technologies that were once off limits for most exhibitors have since become today’s trade show essentials.

Given the immense amount of change that’s occurred in the trade show world over the past 10 years – all of it positive – it’s exciting to think about what the future has to hold for trade show exhibitors.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at trade show trends that are currently emerging, their benefits for future trade show exhibitors and their implications for the trade show world as a whole.

As you read through our list of trade show trends, ask yourself how many you are currently using. Being on the cutting edge makes a huge difference at many trade shows and events, so make sure you’re aware of the latest trade show technology.

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Teleconferences (and telepresence robots)

Next year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will take place in sunny Las Vegas from the 6th to the 9th of January. Will you be attending in person or via an electronic surrogate?

Electronic what? Yes – you didn’t misread that last sentence – many of today’s trade shows are being attended virtually by guests who, due to location-based constraints, are sending telepresence robots in their place.

Teleconferencing has been a big part of trade shows for the entire last decade, with applications like Skype making virtual conferences and remote keynotes quick and simple. But telepresence robots are something entirely new for the industry.

Telepresence robots incorporate HD and 3D cameras into a mobile, two-wheeled device that’s driven remotely. Think of them as like a Segway with a camera, iPad-like tablet display and a microphone mounted at the top.

The effect is incredible: you can attend a trade show remotely and do far more than just take part in teleconferences. With a telepresence robot, attendees can navigate the sales floor, chat with reps and more, all from thousands of miles away.

Innovative telepresence robots have already been put to use by some of the world’s most innovative technology figures. Earlier this year, Bitcoin pioneer Charlie Shrem, currently under house arrest for allegedly laundering the digital currency, made an appearance at the North American Bitcoin Conference in Chicago using a robot.

Although telepresence robots are currently a favourite of the tech industry, their use extends far beyond the high-tech field. Telepresence robots have also been used by the disabled to appear at trade shows and events that are otherwise inaccessible.

Expect to see the majority of people attending trade shows in the future entirely in person, but don’t be too surprised if you run into someone attending remotely from Berlin, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney or any other international location.

Super-simple information transfer between devices

Although we’re firmly in the digital age, trade show staples like business cards
and brochures remain as popular as ever. At the same time, digital information transfer is becoming an essential component of sales at most trade shows.

We’ve seen the era of USB sticks packed with brochures and sales information come and go – they were too bulky, gimmicky and easy to lose. Today, it’s all about the QR code and wireless file transfer for giving out sales and offer information.

Expect electronic literature to become more prominent at trade shows and industry events, and the traditional brochure and business card combo to decline. After all, it is far easier to scan a QR code or two than to fit 10-plus cards into your wallet.

Another potentially revolutionary technology for trade shows is Bluetooth beacon engagement. Beacons allow event organisers and exhibitors to communicate with iOS and Android devices based on their location within an event environment.

The possibilities of location-based Bluetooth technology are immense. Exhibitors could send out discount offers to people close to their stands, offer an interactive map of the event floor or even send attendees on exciting scavenger hunts.

Sound too futuristic to be possible? Beacons are actually already in use – recently, a New Zealand-based startup called ShowGizmo rolled them out at conferences using its own in-house conference and trade show app.

There could soon be the opportunity to attend a trade show and receive pricing and product information remotely using your iOS or Android device, avoiding the often slow and tiring negotiation and sales process altogether.

"Creating a 'virtual event' through pre-networking on event community platforms or tracking visitors interactions in the hall will become a key part of the event experience."

Craig Beddeson - Event Technology Consultant

Massive growth in social media trade show promotion

Many savvy exhibitors are already using social media to advertise their presence at a trade show before the event itself. Despite this, many more advertisers ignore the potential of social media and lose out on an incredible marketing opportunity.

Social media is, bar none, the best way to develop an audience that’s guaranteed to visit your trade show exhibit. It’s particularly powerful in tech-savvy industries and best of all, it’s something that you can do before the event even begins.

From posting to your Facebook Page to let fans know you’ll be attending an event in the future, to offering discounts over Twitter, social media has huge potential for the promotion of your trade show exhibition.

We're offering 10% off orders placed at @TheVenueExpo. We're at G22 (by the @PickledWalnut Keynote stage) #TVE2014 pic.twitter.com/WP6qRfOBR8

— Display Wizard (@DisplayWizard) September 1, 2014

Better yet, thanks to the geo-targeting options offered by websites like Facebook, it’s possible to laser target your status updates and social ads to only target people who are in the region of your next event.

Technologies like Facebook Connect also make it easy to generate leads using social media at trade shows. The old email opt-in form – once the foundation of the digital lead generation world – is being swiftly replaced.

Social media is already the backbone of today’s most influential trade show brands’ pre-event marketing strategies. Expect to see many more exhibitors using it to its fullest in the lead-up to events over the next two to three years.

Is your business keeping up to date with trade show trends?

From eye-catching telepresence robots to more practical technology like Bluetooth beacons and social media lead generation, today’s trade show trends range from the bizarre and unbelievable to the simple and easy to implement.

Is your business using social media, QR codes or Bluetooth beacons in its trade show exhibit? Falling behind the curve can cost a significant amount – make sure you keep up to date to avoid being left behind at your next trade show or industry conference.

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