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Trade events must face these five trends in the near future
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Trade events must face these five trends in the near future

With the year change, it’s time to look back and see how far we have come. But it’s also a time to plan, set goals and look ahead. Now, those familiar with these pages know my orientation towards trade events. Based on experiences and readings, I am convinced that fairs, and to some extent big congresses, will evolve and be affected by the same factors.

Some of the trends following in this article already have appeared, and you can be sure that their impact on the industry will continue to increase.


The 5 main trends to come in the trade fair business

1. Hyper connectivity will be a must, and more efficient.

Many of you already noticed that events offer free Wi-Fi connections, or a mobile application for you to prepare your visit or manage your agenda. Wi-Fi seems to become more essential than heating or electricity nowadays; and many fair grounds are equipped with it. However, the current systems are not always reliable. So expect organisers to get stronger equipment in the future.

Concerning the apps, well there also you’ll see some changes in the future. I expect many organizers who will step on the wagon as so far only some of the major events invade your mobile devices. Efficiency will also be key, as like me I guess, you don’t want to install a new developed app every year (I am ok with updates though).

2. The sharing economy is making its way

Lately, I hear many are using platforms such as Uber or AirBnb to book their accommodation or arrange their transport to an event. But I expect it’s only a matter of time before someone launches a platform to help you with setting up your booth, getting your supplies and materials to the right place, or help you have a translator or hostess…

3. An event is a network on a global scale

ANUGA, BIOFACH, SIAL, and many more tend to develop satellites in different parts of the world. Their motivation can be seen in various parameters. The main event can only reach a certain level (due to limited places etc.). Therefore growth can only be found if one develops similar events elsewhere (of course at a different time). Also, some regions of the world are still very attractive as the business there still offers much potential. That’s why you see so many satellites in Asia and South America. One can only expect Africa to see the birth of new satellites in the future.

4. The event lives all year round

Many of you are in sales. Do you think your client will keep you in his top of mind and be loyal if you call them only once a year? Especially, if it’s only to ask them to spend money. You can make the link to trade fairs quite easily. Events are spread over a couple of days, and some of them are not taking place on a yearly basis. So what’s happening for the rest of the year? To stay top of mind, and position your event as unmissable, the best way is to stay in touch with your visitors and exhibitors all year round. This is why you will see more organizers maintain an active communication unit through newsletters, social media etc. Also, for biennial events, the trend will be to alternate the main trade fair with a more ‘modest’ similar event, and so develop a yearly presence in the calendar.

5. Booths are not enough; learning and fun complete the experience

Finally and last but not least, the final trend a trade fair will have to face in the future is to be creative in offering a complete experience to visitors and exhibitors. Visitors need to be attracted with more than just the prospect of meeting interesting exhibitors. And to be honest, organisers can guarantee the presence of a certain amount of exhibitors. However, if the exhibitor is going to do a good job during the fair by providing “interesting content”, that’s an element the organiser cannot control. So what can an organiser do? Provide extra experiences. And for that two main concepts are obvious: learning and fun. On the learning part, many trade fairs will also be accompanied by extra content. This will take the shape of specific studies of trends of the industry, conferences or congresses with the presence of keynote speakers, field trips outside the fair grounds (e.g. store tours, city tours…) and many more. For fun, I don’t mean that exhibitors and visitors expect the fair organiser to throw a party every night or so. Those visiting or exhibiting know pretty well how to enjoy themselves after a long day on the fairground (you know what I mean, and probably have your own good stories J). I actually think more in the line of organisers making extra efforts in organising for example receptions, which can be used as high-class networking events. It gives the opportunity for participants to meet (again) after the traditional hours in a different context, present products in a different setting for those willing to do so, etc. Meaning offering other visitor-exhibitor interactions than the classic: “Visitor goes through halls and stop at booths”. Or if you are on the other side: “Exhibitor plays fisherman and hope visitors will drop by and get hooked”.


The trade fair concept is not dead

Finally, allow me to add a little note for those who are debating on the future of trade fairs. Obviously I don’t believe in the arguments of some who claim the concept is dying, or even already dead. Yes some events have disappeared from the calendar; others are changing their rhythm and go from yearly to biennial. But that doesn’t mean that fairs become obsolete. One of the best proofs is that new events appear on the agenda, more satellites of major events are created. Moreover, many concepts keep evolving and organisers do bring improvements to their products. I guess the best way is to remind you and paraphrase Arnaud de Lauzières, Director Hypermarkets at Carrefour Belgium who said, “The Hypermarket will never die if it keeps reinventing itself”. (See: http://20100retail.be/fr/articles/132/l-hyper-se-reinvente-au-carrefour-mons-grands-pres). No trade fair, and actually no event concept, is dead when it keeps improving and answers to the requests and expectations of its participants.




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