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Beyond the Surface: Revitalizing Trade Shows with Immersive Trends

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Lauren Wight
Lauren Wight

Senior Manager

Brand Experience

How to refresh events by inspiring attendees

A version of this article originally appeared in the IAEE CEM newsletter

It can be easy for show organizers to find themselves overwhelmed with the many event trends coming across their path. They may even be tempted to retreat back into the tried-and-true initiatives that they’ve been using for years (or even decades). However, by ignoring new trends, event organizers run the risk of their events growing stale and uninteresting. Why would attendees want to visit the exact same event, year after year?

By incorporating small trends that are relevant to the attendees and the event brand, organizers can reap big rewards: a refreshed, revitalized event that builds excitement for the next one. Here are a couple of trends that can easily be customized, breathing new life into events:

Think Like a Brand: How Brand Experience Improves Valuable Audience Connections


Think Like a Brand: How Brand Experience Improves Valuable Audience Connections

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Building Worlds

Pop quiz time: Which is a more pleasurable experience: a gourmet dinner served on beautiful china, with a comfortable chair, soft lighting, and lovely music? Or a gourmet dinner served on a paper plate, while eating on a hard bench under fluorescent lights, while listening to a couple argue bitterly?

These examples might be a touch extreme, but they do illustrate the point that focusing solely on the main aspect of an event can lead to unsatisfactory results. Instead, the storyworlds trend for events is to create multidimensional brand experiences, where every aspect of the event, from the colors to the scents to the sounds, complements the overarching theme or story.

As an example, we recently hosted an “Experience San Francisco” luncheon in partnership with the Hilton, in which the sounds, sights, scents, and tastes changed with the theme of each course, creating an immersive culinary story that was not only delicious, but memorable.

How to Master This Trend: Take a look at what makes up the overall experience for your event: the colors, the lighting, the materials that are used, the digital integrations. Do they all complement the theme or story that you’re trying to tell? The more cohesive the sensory experiences, the more persuasive the story. 

Creating a Sense of Community in Large Events


Creating a Sense of Community in Large Events

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Growing Community

One of the best ways to feel good is by doing good. By weaving purpose and community into an event, attendees come away feeling not just that they’ve been to a great event, but that they have learned and grown as human beings. The result? A bone-deep emotional connection with the brand and the event, helping to turn attendees into evangelists.

One sterling example of this was at the chapter meetings held prior to the larger International Association of Exhibitors and Events’ (IAEE) conference. Each chapter participated in contests where they had to assemble flat-pack furniture within a set time, to be later donated to schools or shelters. In a twist, however, none of the chapters had all the pieces they needed, and had to barter pieces with other chapters, planning and working together to accomplish a worthy goal.

How to Master This Trend: Look for ways in which your event can give back to attendees, and ways in which attendees can give back to the community at large. Sustainability initiatives, field trips to do volunteer work, and activities that result in a net gain for the needy are all worthwhile efforts. The win-win-win of this is a successful event, engaged and connected attendees, and a helping hand to a worthy cause.

A well-planned event can engage and delight attendees. But an event that engages the five senses, or one that connects to a deeper purpose, can bring an event from engaging to inspirational. Getting outside of the same-old and adopting trends that bring greater meaning to an event can result in a significant payoff: attendees who carry their excitement about your brand far beyond the location and time of the event itself, and who are already looking forward to what you’ll do next. 

Want more trends for your next trade show? Visit the Freeman Trend Lab.

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