How Tech is Transforming the Trade Show Space

Customers have more choices and power than ever thanks in no small part to technology. They can shop around, compare brands, and read reviews before they ever come into contact with a brand.

Trade show trends, too, have evolved alongside consumer expectations. Where the trade show was once the main stage for buyer and seller networking, that relationship has changed.

Today, the trade show booth is an opportunity to take customer relationships to the next level through immersive experiences that inspire loyalty and word of mouth marketing.

Below, we’ll look at how technology is changing the way we think of the trade show booth.

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Embracing the Activation Factor

Events offer the rare in-person opportunity to create connections and engage in a hands-on experience. While the trade show space takes place in the “real world,” the best brands have created multimedia experiences that are far from analog. Instead of handing out business cards, companies are using the trade show stage to create this “activation” moment.

While the trade show space takes place in the “real world,” the best brands have created multimedia experiences that are far from analog. Share on X

Brand activation is how you show customers the promises you’ve laid out in your usual channels. If you haven’t heard the term before, the “activation” happens when customers can literally touch, feel, and learn about a brand and its products/services.

In this example, you’ll see a brand activation project we did for Accenture’s Dreamforce booth. Here, attendees can use touchscreens to learn more about Accenture’s value proposition or relax in the booth.

Use Technology to Create an Interactive Experience

Interactive elements like touchscreens, tablets, and VR headsets are a great way to generate leads and start a conversation with attendees.

Whether your goal is to entertain, educate, or sell more products, you need to create thoughtful content that resonates with your audience. Consider what you want to share with your audience before you get too attached to a particular piece of technology.

Gamify the Booth Experience

An opportunity to win a prize or play a game means participants spend more time in your booth—and often that means they’ll tell someone about the experience later on.

Who doesn’t love a game or giveaway?

An opportunity to win a prize or play a game means participants spend more time in your booth—and often that means they’ll tell someone about the experience later on. If video games have a connection to your brand in some way, a short game might be a good way to attract booth traffic and encourage a little competition.

You don’t need to incorporate a full-blown game into your strategy. Something like spinning a wheel or participating in an AR scavenger hunt might work better. Activities should be more of an attention-grabbing tool that provides a lead-in for your product or service.

Tight Integration with Social

Trade shows and events now represent one touch point in a more significant marketing strategy, so it’s in your best interest to create a campaign ahead of the event to foster connections with prospect well before you meet them in person.

One example here is Sonic’s Square Shakes campaign, where the fast food chain brought Instagram-friendly shakes to Coachella. Festival-goers were encouraged to post about the milkshakes and order them using the #squareshakes hashtag. Shakes were delivered free, so long as consumers used the dedicated hashtag in their post.

The Multi-Sensory Experience

Want to engage with audiences? Try building your display around their five senses. One of the best ways to engage the senses is by creatively leveraging technology.

A multi-sensory exhibit plays into the customer’s desire for a tactile experience where they can participate in a hands-on activity.

Here are a few ways to play into the senses by way of some high-tech additions:

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a perfect match for trade show marketing. For one, it’s like a magnet for customers eager to immerse themselves in a whole new space. And two, the technology gives visitors hands-on experience inside the booth.

Show customers what you can’t bring with you. Brands selling a large product or who want to show off the company headquarters can take advantage of virtual reality to transport the viewer to a whole new environment.

Budweiser’s SXSW Beer Garage exhibition included VR tours of their St. Louis Brewery. Here, Budweiser used VR as one of several sensory experiences—as attendees got to taste different beers, interact with touchscreens, and hang out in the Garage installation.

Augmented Reality

The powering technology behind Pokemon Go is actually a really practical addition to your trade show strategy.

Augmented reality can help brands show off their products in 3D, rather than relying on 2D printouts. Give customers a product tour, showing different perspectives.

Or, use it to create visuals that help clarify a speaker’s point during a keynote presentation. Or, as a way to increase engagement during a live demo.

Another benefit is, AR allows you to bring as many products, features, and experiences as you want into even the tiniest booth. This means you can bring fewer boxes with you and instead, focus on creating a comfortable experience that draws visitors in.

Use Video

Increasingly, brands are beginning to see that video is a great promotional tool for trade show marketing.

There are several places where you can use video as a complement to your trade show marketing strategy. The idea here is to get potential attendees to picture themselves attending the event. Share testimonials, footage of people mingling at a previous event–you know, play into their sense of FOMO and make it look fun.

Before the event, a video campaign can help you share your story and drum up some drama before the big day.

During the event, short video demonstrations can give attendees more context for your product—show footage on large touchscreens or use them as a way to introduce a product or speaker on stage.


Holographic projection, like augmented reality, allows brands to maximize limited booth space—while providing an interactive environment for attendees.

Holograms present opportunities both educational and fun. Projecting visual aids or a remote speaker to an audience helps make presentations more engaging.

Or, use a hands-on approach to projection, like this example from BMW. The luxury car brand rolled out its 7-series model by way of an experiential campaign that brought the audience directly into the design process.

Leverage the Power of Big Data

Because we’re talking about how technology is changing the trade show game, we’ve got to give big data a shoutout.

While adding games and headsets and colorful photo ops to the booth is sure to delight the audience, event marketers depend on data to make sure those elements deliver the intended effect.

Here are a couple of key areas where data can be used to inspire lasting loyalty and better ROI.

Deliver a Personalized Experience

Sure, big data is a marketing staple when it comes to creating targeted email and social campaigns, but those insights can be used on the trade show floor, too.

According to AdWeek, customers want to see more personalization at live events. Marketers who can successfully create personalized experiences have this massive opportunity to build better relationships with their customers on the scene.

Big events like SXSW or CES offer an overwhelming amount of content from speaker sessions to workshops to everything happening in the booth.

Brands can capitalize on behavioral data to meet up with a prospect at a specific session or make tailored product recommendations.

Measure ROI

Trade show tech goes beyond dazzling customers. Harnessing the power of data can help you prove that your trade show strategy works.

ROI measures more than how many business cards you collected. AI in the booth means you can review things like traffic patterns, demographics, and frequently asked questions.

Now, you can track consumer behavior and use those insights to improve your messaging, branding, and design ahead of the show—based on customer profiles, etc.

Artificial intelligence can process information faster than humans, making them especially useful in a trade show context.

Consider how AI could help you boost efficiency at the show—quickly analyzing a visitor’s stats—what size company do they work for? What products are they looking for? Is this person the “decision-maker?”

The point is, AI can help you qualify leads quickly and present the right offer to prospects. Without those insights, salespeople will run out of steam pitching everyone that comes through the booth.

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Tech Sets the Stage for an Integrated Brand Strategy

Most brands know the importance of creating a unified experience across social media, their website, and print materials. Trade show marketing has long been siloed off as its own entity.

With access to exciting new technology such as VR and AR, plus powerful insights from big data, the trade show booth may be more a valuable marketing tool now than ever before.

Whether you’re looking to level up your booth design, amp up video, or stimulate that brand activation you’ve been waiting for, we’re here to help.

Contact Echelon and we’ll put together a tech-forward booth that inspires IRL connections.

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