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Expanding Reality and Designing Experiences at EXHIBITORLIVE 2017

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Beth Martin

Beth Martin

Vice President, Marketing

Freeman

The latest in digital tech, booth design, and event marketing met for a singular event in Las Vegas

EXHIBITORLIVE came and went with a big bang at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, leaving behind an aftershock of valuable education, products, and insights on the brand experience category. That’s not surprising, with more than 6,000 attendees and 169 sessions, as well as a bounty of workshops, ancillary celebrations, and tours providing insights that will help exhibitors upgrade future experiences and in-booth engagements.

As a matter of fact, there were some striking developments and breakthroughs at the conference that every marketer and planner should pay heed to as things evolve rapidly in the brand experience industry. Let’s find out what’s “it” this year in the dynamic landscape of exhibitions.

Designing the booth of the future today

EXHIBITORLIVE attendees know that in the competitive events world, simply putting up a booth is not enough. As many of the speakers noted, booths need to be an integral part of a company’s overall marketing plan, as well as an extension of the brand — and at the same time be as agile and practical as any sales process. EXHIBITORLIVE was a living case study for all of this, an elegant array of exhibitions made of and promoting the trendiest design and materials. Many booths were constructed entirely from modish and eco-friendly fabric, including the pioneering SmartFabric — a very stretchable, durable, and portable material exhibitors can even take home with them.

During our design thinking field trip, attendees saw one of our own displays built from robust cardboard, decorated in such a way it appeared swanky. On the show floor, there were movable booths, inflatable booths, booths constructed from large Lego-style blocks, and even fascinating accessories like massive T-rex heads or giant gumball machines next to booths, underscoring that being unique is as important as being practical.

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In digital we trust

Without a doubt, the buzz on digital tech was deafening, or more like music to attendees’ ears. EXHIBITORLIVE taught us that digital tech is dazzling but now has become extremely functional.

The best illustration might be the Freeman virtual reality presentation. Sure, VR tech has received a lot of press the past year for its dizzying capabilities and potential, but at EXHIBITORLIVE it made the case for its applications. Attendees were allowed to work with designers to sketch a booth to their specifications. The personalized design was placed into AutoCAD and then uploaded to VR software. Minutes later, attendees could use VR headsets to take a digital tour of the booth they had just designed! Beyond this, other intriguing VR solutions were available from other brands, a true display of reality expansion where the virtual and physical worlds work together to enhance the buyer’s journey.

The latest in LED screens, touchscreens, signage, video walls, and more were also available for eager crowds. Projection mapping took a front seat at various exhibitions, including one where the entire ceiling of the booth was made into a beautiful day sky, truly bolstering the décor. The increasingly popular augmented reality tech got some love too at different exhibits — in one presentation taking the form of a hand-held screen that allowed attendees to engage with virtual scenarios in high definition, without the need of a headset. Another booth offered a 9-inch tall glass container that could create interactive 3D holograms of any product or visual.  

The sky was the limit with the tech available, and we don’t just mean the one created by projection mapping.

The thinking behind the design

Design, design thinking, and content creation were prevalent themes in many sessions. That’s not surprising, as the digital revolution has stressed the need for human creativity as a complement. Imagination should supplement algorithms.

This was highlighted by AV guru Mike Wohlitz during his session, “The Intersection of Vision, Strategy, and Technology.” For Wohlitz, design thinking starts with the “why” — why a brand exists — and then moves to the story of the brand and its relation to customers. After that, tech and logistics should be woven in to create a phenomenon modern audiences want as much as products: an experience. He presented growing evidence showing that exhibitors who focus on customer nurturing instead of customer acquisition do much better in the long run.

In the end, according to Wohlitz, word-of-mouth is still the greatest marketing tool. An event marketing campaign may culminate with the mind-blowing tech and emotive experiences, but it starts with booth workers being engaging and authentic.

Something relevant for everyone

EXHIBITORLIVE made sure to provide abundant and relevant marketing, sales, and management solutions for audiences, most found in the many eye-opening workshops and sessions. These included attracting booth traffic, social media marketing, measuring ROI, all levels of budgeting, and creating more leads at exhibits. From managing healthcare exhibits to understanding the latest in audio visual techniques, EXHIBITORLIVE covered every conceivable base.

We particularly liked the practical session “Bulletproof Your Exhibit Shipping,” where event expert Candy Adams related how transportation is one of the biggest problems in the event industry — simply because most people don’t understand what is involved. Adams came a long way to solving this in her session, mainly through communication and transparency…which will be highly upgraded with the advent of VR (combined with 3D printing), paper-thin but resilient portable booths, design-thinking organizers, and other exciting innovations happening right now.

But that is the great takeaway and promise of this year’s EXHIBITORLIVE: upgrading the production of exhibits, made even more seamless with an amazing mixture of nimble marketing and inspiring digital technology. 

{Read this next: Exhibiting at a Trade Show? Here Are Six Easy Ways to Customize Your Booth for Attendees}

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