Blogger: Barry Siskind, Author of Powerful Exhibit Marketing

A decade, or so, ago our industry was in fear of losing its place in the marketing world by virtual shows. If you asked anyone to predict ten years ahead you would have had a difficult time finding much optimism for face to face events.

Crystal ball gazing is important in any business hoping to remain relevant in the long term. Aptly named for example, the theme of this year’s 90th  UFI Congress in Milan, Italy, November 4-6, tilted, “Exhibition Industry 2030.”

The first step to making predictions is to look at those variables that will most likely affect the look and feel of an exhibition in the future. In my opinion there are two: technology and demographics.

The impact of technology is not something new; in fact exhibitions have embraced technology for years. Think back to such things (as primitive as they sound now) as cell-phones, fax machines, laptops, Wi-Fi, and lasers. Some are still around and some have outgrown their usefulness. This short list can be expanded but for those of you who have been around these last few decades you know that each new bit of technology quickly found its way onto the exhibition floor.

Demographics are the other variable. In the future the impact of baby-boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) will decrease and quickly be replaced by Gen X (born between 1965 and 1981) and Gen Y (born between 1982 and 1997). These new generations are not the same people as their boomer predecessors. They have their unique perspectives of exhibitions, very clear likes and dislikes and are technologically savvy.

The combined impact of technology and demographics will have considerable influence on exhibitions in the future.

Here are my top five predictions for the future.

  1. Exhibitions will no longer be a place where visitors simply attain information but where they can experience and interact with products, services and the people who sell them.
  2. The physical layout of an exhibition will change to accommodate Gen X and Gen Y shopping preferences.
  3. Buyers will need information that goes beyond the narrow time parameters of a trade show schedule to a 14/7/365 model.
  4. Exhibitions will become more family oriented to accommodate the needs of Gen X and Gen Y visitors.
  5. Visitor’s experiences will require a great deal of customization rather than a one-solution-fits-all approach.

We all have our own crystal ball. What’s yours telling you?