The traditional purpose of trade shows has been to serve as an open platform for companies to “strut their stuff” and offer insight into the latest trends and innovations for the products and services in their industry. With a competitor only a few booths away, the hard sell has been inevitable – until now.

Current trends are creating a different climate at trade shows these days. With competition for the customer’s attention stronger than ever, exhibitors are no longer fixated on separating themselves from their competitors by focusing on a particular product and simply talking about solutions and benefits. Which leads us to the first, and probably most profound, trend in trade show exhibiting.

Experiential Exhibits:

Product pitches and demos are “out” – at least they are no longer the centerpiece of a trade show exhibit. Instead of the literal, one-on-one, “we’re better because . . .” spiel, the challenge has become creating an experience for the potential customer that leaves them in awe, or at least makes a strong enough impression that they forget about the competition. While the trade show booth is a temporary fixture, the idea is to create a space that has a feeling of permanence and keeps the customer engaged. So engaged, in fact, that the customer has a memorable experience, and associates that experience with your product – eliminating the need for the hard sell, and creating a smooth landing for the soft sell.

Each element of these “experiential exhibits” is crucial and must be carefully selected to effectively execute a cutting-edge, yet warm and inviting, space. Any sort of “edutainment” feature anchored in technology, such as interactive computer games that test knowledge or popular television game shows as a template for a game featuring facts and information about your company or industry, are a must-have. Making this part of your trade show booth space gives you an opportunity to make your booth more of an interactive space.


There are many different types of materials that can be used and are used to make trade show displays. But because of it’s versatility and low cost in comparison to other materials, fabric is one of the trendiest materials to use for your booth. Metal and wood are used less frequently because of their weight, bulkiness and inflexibility.

You can use fabric in a subtle way, almost like a canvas, to create a backdrop for the theme of your space. And often, the light, airy nature of the fabrics used for today’s exhibits create a light, airy feeling for your trade show display. But more often, you will find fabric being used for the banner stands, such as the Allure tensioned fabric banner displays that have recently hit the market. These high-quality banners are quickly set up (about two minutes with no tools needed) and easy to put together, convenient to travel with (even on an airplane,) economical to ship, and, shelves can be added to the banners for a more sophisticated look. These advantages, along with the long life and durability of the Allure banners, makes them slightly more expensive than typical banner stands. But the extra money is worth it - these banners create such a strong presence that they can be used by themselves or combined with a pop-up or custom booth to really make your space “pop.”


Whether you are going for a more traditional trade show booth or the cutting-edge experiential, lighting is crucial in creating the mood for your space. Because of this, custom lighting is becoming more mainstream.

Using filtered or wash lights creates a mood that drastically contrasts with a trade show display that uses spotlights. But ambience is not the only reason custom lighting has become more popular. You can also use lighting – however dramatic or subdued – to bring attention to featured products.

The Final Touches

Today’s trade show visitors are limited on time and bombarded with a flurry of sales and marketing gimmicks. To “stand out in the crowd,” here are some additional trends that have emerged in recent years.

Booth Details – Once you have gotten a visitor’s attention and they have entered your space, you must give them a good reason to stick around for more than a couple of seconds. This is the time for you to immerse the customer with your brand. Visitors want to see how your product or service will benefit them – so show them. Testimonials are an easy way to achieve this, in addition to marketing materials featuring people using your product, as well as the standard product demonstration. And because presentation is everything, additional pieces in your booth, such as literature racks, are a good way to keep your space organized while attractively displaying your marketing materials without overwhelming prospects with too much information.

Time is of the Essence – With the demands of today's busy work schedules, most visitors do not have an entire day to spend at a trade show. Their time at the event is valuable, so you must be able to get their attention and quickly and easily explain what your company offers. Some of these visitors will come to the trade show as a team, and the team will include decision-makers who evaluate you, in comparison with the competition.

Get the Word Out – This is a trend that has been around for awhile, but one that is often overlooked. Prior to the event, let your clients and potential customers know that you are participating in a trade show – use every promotional opportunity to mention it, use direct mail, email and other traditional marketing avenues to drive more traffic to your exhibit.

Trade shows are an essential piece of an overall successful marketing strategy. And implementing these trends for your trade show space will help create that memorable experience for clients and potential customers that will hopefully make follow-up a breeze.

About The Author

Mat Kelly is the president of ExhibitDEAL, the Original Exhibit Wholesaler specializing in trade show exhibits from portable trade show displays to large custom displays. On the Web at