In the 21st century, every industry is ripe for disruption. From clubs to transportation to fashion, all major industries are on the brink of being disrupted thanks to an emerging reliance on digital technology. While each of the above sectors are vastly different, one commonality is that their teams are attending tradeshows to acquire business-to-business knowledge, insights and trends. Thus, as industries face disruption, tradeshows are not immune. In thinking about Conference in Dallas, it begs the question, how might tradeshows evolve over the next decade?
While some lament the effectiveness of tradeshows and conferences, citing their high costs of entry, unguaranteed consumer conversion rates and sometimes low attendance, the fact is the tradeshow industry is expected to remain robust. Research estimates that the tradeshow market generates annual revenues of $36.35 billion, with expected growth of 4.88% between 2018 and 2023. In the club space, our Conference is very strong. In fact, Jeff Morgan cited 15% growth each of the past two years.
Technology presents the biggest opportunity for tradeshow exhibitors. Historically, exhibitors have faced an uphill battle to capture the interest of and connect with attendees. That’s because exhibitors are put on the spot to learn who an attendee is, and what will motivate them to purchase a product or service. Given that tradeshows feature hundreds of companies, individual exhibitors face uphill battles to attract and keep the attention of attendees. Like it has for other industries, technology provides exhibitors competitive advantages to successfully disrupt a marketplace ripe for re-engaging its consumers.
The first benefit technology presents tradeshow exhibitors is an opportunity to know who is headed to their booth before the attendee arrives. Thanks to scannable badges, in-venue WiFi and event smartphone apps with geolocation tracking, exhibitors are no longer surprised by who arrives at their booth but can prepare targeted marketing messages directed specifically to individual attendees. This may be a bit much for our smaller Conference, but by gaining access to information about attendees, exhibitors can maximize their trade show conversion rates by presenting individual attendees customized messages that the exhibitor knows are targeting the individual’s needs, goals and interests.
The next benefit of technology for tradeshows is the ability to personalize the experience. If we want to think about the next level, virtual reality and AI can create one-of-a-kind, personalized interactions for attendees that literally put them or their brands into the exhibitor’s product or service. Rather than exhibitors handing out brochures advertising their product, virtual reality and artificial intelligence allow consumers to actually experience and feel a product. These technologies erase the access limitation presented by tradeshows, wherein individuals must travel to and spend top dollar to attend the events. Through virtual reality and artificial intelligence, exhibitors can take their booth’s presentation global and are no longer limited to presenting to individuals that walk into the tradeshow itself.
As much as I want to see our industry grow into these deeper tech experiences, Conference is about the people. Relationships are formed and memories are made. I hope we never lose that.