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Gaze Into the Crystal Ball | A Potential Future of Tradeshows

What Tradeshows Might Look Like in 2016

A new report examines the future of tradeshows and identifies five scenarios for what they might look like in 2016. It maps out different projections, and it might be worth having a look to see how your big meeting or event may change in the coming years.

The buzz involves transforming the way exhibitors network, connect with customers and display products. Industry leaders agree that replicating the same tradeshows year after year is not an option. They also understand that the tradeshow world tends to be conservative about change, more often watching other industries and responding accordingly.

“Scenarios for the Future: Convention Exhibits & Tradeshows of 2016,” (PDF) a recently released report funded by the ASAE Foundation, Center for Exhibition Industry Research Foundation, Freeman, Gaylord Entertainment, and PCMA Education Foundation, examines what change might look like. Ask yourself, “Where are we vulnerable? Do we have a plan? Are we guilty of tunnel vision?” Use the report to guide you as you consider the five scenarios.

1. The Future Is Now

No matter how spectacular the technology, it cannot replace powerful face-to-face meetings and large-scale, annual gatherings of like-minded individuals that have been the backbone of the tradeshow industry. Change will happen gradually, and the fundamental metric is reaching attendance goals in the exhibition halls.

2. The Future Is the Future

Technology is so disruptive that the entire essence of the tradeshow must be rebuilt. It envisions a self-contained world where the show is digitally sealed off to all outsiders and non-partners, and the benefits are intended for the participants only.

3. Slow Walk to the Future

This scenario embraces gradual change and provides plenty of time to adapt. It takes time to build relationships with the right technology partners. The idea here is that tradeshows will become largely customized experiences for participants. Education and entertainment are paramount, and information flows freely.

4. Show’s Over (But Keep Playing)

The idea here is that the tradeshow as we know it will be extinct by 2016, and organizers need to figure out a new model to bring together exhibitors and attendees. These future events will be smaller, will move faster, will focus less on buying and selling, and the atmosphere is more relaxed.

5. The Big Reset

In this scenario, the tradeshow is rebuilt from the bottom up. The outcome will be something never seen before, where top industry professionals select the best products and services for showcasing. Direct business-to-business will be a thing of the past, and the emphasis will be on promoting the industry and its star products. This event will be to an industry what the Academy Awards are to film.

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Another Idea For Tradeshows: Co-Location

This year in Atlanta, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, American Feed Industry Association, and American Meat Institute joined forces to create the International Production & Processing Expo. The three shows operated under one structure, creating one of the 50 largest tradeshows in the United States, with more than 1,000 exhibitors.

The integrated show benefited exhibitors and members whose work spans multiple protein sectors, and the expanded education program further enhanced the value of the show for attendees.

As tradeshows try to cut costs and maximize exposure, sharing show space—called co-locating—has become a viable option for some associations. It can be especially beneficial when two organizations complement each other. In addition to sharing space, they can share education sessions, meals and special events.

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