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10 success principles for a rewarding trade fair appearance in 2022

By Guest Contributor

20 Dec 2021


After multiple online editions Who's Next in Paris took place in real life again in September 2021. Foto Quentin Chevrier

New year, new impulses: Dr. Marc Schumacher, co-CEO of Avantgarde and expert on the Experience Economy, provides tips for the development and design of trade fair stands that are worth the investment.

An industry in on/off mode: The pandemic has also taken its toll on the trade fair sector. Swinging back and forth between the classic indoor stand and the completely virtual presence, many companies have lost optimism since 2020: In a survey conducted by IG Messewesen, 48 percent of the trade fair exhibitors surveyed said they were planning fewer trade fair appearances for 2022 / 2023; just under 58 percent also want to reduce their trade fair budget for this period. Shifting trade show activities entirely to the Internet? So far, only 10 percent consider that to be a real alternative.

However, shrinking budgets mean that the expectations for the return on investment (ROI) of a trade show presence are much higher. So how should the 2022 trade show booth be designed to generate as much attention and sales leads as possible, as well as getting people excited about a product? Here are my 10 principles for success:

1. Objective: What is the message?

The temptation is great to present the entire product range in square meters available. But less is more - especially when budgets are tight. Ideally, a trade show booth should be limited to one theme and then give it a true stage. The message of the stand must clearly and precisely formulate the unique selling proposition of the company or product and convey it so unambiguously that visitors can understand it even when they just pass by.

2. Experience: Experience instead of product display

Around 80 percent of the perceived stimuli reach the human brain via the optic nerve. That's why trade shows offer one thing above all: visual stimulus overload. The human short-term memory mercilessly sorts out and disposes of what does not appear significant at first glance. It is therefore especially important not only to present something visually appealing to the visitor, but also to make him part of the experience - more of an experience, less of a presentation. Immersive booth concepts not only appeal to the senses of trade show visitors, but also trigger emotions. And these resonate much longer than images do.

Marc Schumacher. Image: Avantgarde

3. Sensory technology: A booth for all senses

What really touches us? That which appeals to as many of our senses as possible and not just to our already overstrained eyes (see above). Therefore, design your stand accordingly "sensually" and check which sensory paths can be used to communicate the message. Don't leave the music selection to just any playlist and the snack selection to the standard caterer, but create a sensory all-round experience in which the brand message can ideally also be felt, heard, smelled and tasted.

4. Adventure: Festival feeling instead of Trade Fair chillness

Why does Hanover's CEBIT no longer exist, but other tech events like South-by-Southwest (SXSW) or the Computer Electronic Show (CES) continue to attract thousands of visitors? Because these exhibitions rely less on the goods-per-square-meter success quotient and more on the product-plus-party formula. What applies to the big trade shows can also make the individual trade show booth a magnet for attraction - everyone likes to be inspired by a casual festival atmosphere.

5. Surprise: Create added value for the visitor.

Anyone who goes to a fashion trade show expects fashion. But the stands that stick out from the crowd are those that think beyond what's expected. Integrate other industries or enter into unusual stand cooperations, for example with tech companies or representatives of other creative sectors such as music or art. Wherever filter bubbles are purposefully popped and comfort zones are expanded, space is created for innovative thinking and inspiring conversations - and thus the added value for people who continue to visit real trade fairs.

6. Proximity: From trade fair to life

Berlin Fashion Week and the IFA in Munich have shown the way: An exhibition does not necessarily end at the exits of the exhibition halls. Extend your stand with on-site locations - in public spaces, clubs, parks or pop-up stores. Linked together by clever storytelling, the individual touchpoints complement each other to create a coherent overall picture that leaves more of an impression than a brief brand contact at the booth.

7. Expansion: Extending the booth digitally

Purely virtual trade shows in Corona times have drastically increased the development and acceptance of new digital possibilities among exhibitors and visitors alike. In hybrid trade show booths lie countless possibilities for digitally expanding the booth, which is limited in real life to a certain square footage, through immersive media: virtual reality transports guests into another world: via VR glasses, interested parties can accompany fabric production or visit the virtual showroom, for example. With augmented reality, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets can be used to set a sewing machine in motion at the booth, or insert a top model in a selfie. The modern trade show booth should always be a technical playground as well.

8. Gamification: We just want to play

Speaking of gamification; use gamification in your booth to attract visitors and win customers. Digital opportunities have given the classic raffle a new appeal. Smartly designed tools and challenges based on your product or the company's central message awaken the playful child slumbering in everyone, open up new communication channels and - through active engagement with the brand - a high level of customer engagement.

9. Reach: Thinking about digital extension

Presence at the trade show is no longer enough: apps, games, and Instagram-ready photo options not only increase customer engagement on site, but also open up exciting ways to stay in touch with prospective clients beyond the trade show and spread the brand message to the target group via social media. Livestreams of trade show events can be converted into video-on-demand content that prospects can access even after the show closes.

10. Sustainability: long-term is better than short-term

Less extensive trade show budgets require being thrifty. A virtue can be made out of necessity, if reusable materials are used in the design of the trade fair stand, which are not only kind on the budget in the long term, but are also visible evidence of sustainability and conscious use of resources. Alternatively, recycled materials can be used, such as flooring made from marine plastics. Either way, communicate sustainability in action. If this also makes your stand a topic of conversation, all the better.