How to creatively use technology at trade shows Q&A with Joe Ashton

Joe Ashton

In-person events and experiential marketing are becoming increasingly popular for B2B brands. When customers interact and engage with your brand they are more likely to remember you and buy from you. We caught up with Joe Ashton from Exhibit Interactive to discuss how you can leverage technology at trade shows to create more engagement and better experiences for potential customers.

Joe is Managing Director at Exhibit Interactive in the UK. With over 25 years of experience designing and managing exhibition booths and installations, Joe’s focus is to create interactive spaces and use the latest digital technology to help facilitate interactions between people and brands.


In-person events and experiential marketing are becoming increasingly popular for B2B brands.  What is an experiential display and how can this attract attendees to your booth?

An experiential display allows the attendee to experience your brand or product in a way they will remember and share. This experience can take many forms but really should engage one or more of our senses. Traditionally exhibition booth designers have created visually stimulating physical structures to catch the eye of visitors. Today both the exhibitor and visitor demand much more than this and we can help in several ways.

LED walls

Large LED walls are now more affordable and using creative content can create stunning movement to make people stop and look. A simple print can look great, but LED can turn the wall in to a moving waterfall appearing to splash over real products. It can create an illusion that makes the attendee question what they see.

A project Exhibit Interactive created for Fayrefield Foods. The team designed a feature of the venue hall column by installing LED tiles that wrapped around it forming a cube effect. And our own digital team created some amazing informative content that made the visitors stop and look.

Touch table

If an attendee wants to learn more, a touch table acts as a gathering point where the exhibitor can present multiple content to a potential customer. A boring presentation can lose your audience quickly. Multi-touch technology allows you to present your brand in a captivating and memorable way. Store your videos, PDF brochures, datasheets, case studies and more in one place and access and change them with a simple touch.

entegy booth at event tech live with touch screen

Exhibit Interactive designed this stand for Entegy at Event Tech Live this year. The 46″ touch table allowed the team to show a series of brochures and videos and even share the content to the second screen on the wall.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment that can be interacted with by wearing a headset. Inside this headset the visitor can experience a world of your brand not possible at the event. Maybe to see and operate a product that’s too big and expensive to be displayed on the booth. Or to be shown inside a building that has not yet been built. VR is truly experiential.

a person wearing a VR headset

What are some ways event organisers can use technology to enhance the attendee experience at a trade expo?

It’s crucial that event organisers embrace what we call a ‘phone first approach to marketing’. We all use our phones and rarely put them down. And as they get more powerful, they can be of more benefit to us. An event app can enhance the visitor experience but can equally have the opposite effect. Our advice is to keep it simple and easy to use.

Firstly, an event app should encourage a smooth registration. Paper free whenever possible because a waste-free event should be one of an organisers goals. It should link easily with other platforms that can help exhibitors collect visitor data.

I’m not convinced that this app should have social and meeting capabilities because there are established platforms like LinkedIn that are being used already.

Most phones are now ready to use additional technology like Augmented Reality (AR), Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth. Adding AR to the app would allow the visitor to use their camera to see computer-generated overlays such as wayfinding arrows on the venue floor. NFC allows a visitor to collect exhibitor information by simply tapping their phone near a specific location. And Bluetooth technology allows our phones to recognise proximity beacons. These are small objects that give off a signal that an app will recognise. They will send a notification to a user’s phone such as a promotional message about visiting their booth.

What are some of your favourite recent installations and why?

Saint-Gobain Insulation UK at UK Construction Week. We approached the stand build with sustainability in mind using aluminium display system called beMatrix with integrated LED tiles to create a stunning space. The LED tiles are used as a structural element within the stand build so they don’t have to use a wasteful MDF framework.

Saint-Gobain stand at UK construction week

Fayrefield Foods at Anuga. The team designed a feature of the venue hall column by installing LED tiles that wrapped around it forming a cube effect. And our own digital team created some amazing informative content that made the visitors stop and look.

Fayrefield stand at Anuga

Jeldwen at Screwfix Live. The team used a combination of stock footage, custom graphics and green screen productions we were able to visually portray positive messages about Jeldwen’s range of timber products.

Jeldwen stand at Screwfix

Entegy at Event Tech Live. We created a simple sustainable interactive space, including a 45′ touch presentation table to help them engage with the visitors.

Entegy booth at Event Tech Live

How can you use technology to measure and demonstrate ROI to exhibitors and sponsors?

Any ROI can only be measured after the event. Technology can give exhibitors the tools to attract visitors to their booth, present their brand and product in an engaging way, and capture attendee data. By tracking this data, the exhibitor will be able to discover whether attending the event was worth it.

Please please please stop using data pens. They are outdated, unreliable and expensive. Instead an app like Lead Capture works seamlessly with Eventbrite to quickly give exhibitors visitor data.

exibitor using mobile lead capture app to scan a device

How can event organisers use technology to sell more tickets?

The majority of B2B trade events are free to attend and understandably so. Getting people to attend an event is the holy grail for event organisers and I’m not sure there is a magic wand. I would suggest that there should be a multi-platform teaser approach. Many platforms offer promotional adverts that target specific demographics. Ultimately a visitor will attend if they want to go. People buy tickets to attend a Take That concert because they want to see Take That.

What are some challenges or things to be mindful of when organising booth installations?

At the larger trade shows the process of organising a booth installation is a relatively straight forward process. We are guided by the exhibitor manuals which are predominately online and contain all the information we require to manage the project successfully. The biggest challenge today is being a sustainable company in a traditionally very wasteful industry. We are adopting an approach that is mindful of the impact an exhibition booth can have on our environment.

There is also a real trend now to smaller more sector specific events that often take place at venues not exclusively used as event spaces. The challenges we face with these are very short installation times and quite often limited access space. We are installing booths now that install in an hour and fit in a lift. Quite often these venues are in busy cities where vans are not encouraged, and venue parking is not available.

Wavin stand at Ecobuild
Working in partnership with marketing agency Factor 3, Exhibit Interactive created this stunning exhibition stand for Wavin. Wavin are the leading supplier of plastic piping systems for drainage and water, and the purpose of them exhibiting at Ecobuild was to promote discussion around The Future of Drainage.

Watch this space! What are some trends you foresee to be big for 2020?

Esports

While electronic sports (Esports) has been around for many years, the recent meteoric global growth of the industry has created new opportunities of reaching a large and engaged audience.

Esports events are competitive electronic gaming tournaments that pit players or teams against each other. Clever brands are seeing the potential of sponsoring teams, holding tournaments and partnering with influencers who will promote your brand at an event or on your booth.

esports convention

Influencers

An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect a decision of others because of their authority, knowledge, position or relationship with their audience. By partnering with an influencer, a brand can benefit from the increased interest they will bring. An event presents the perfect opportunity for an influencer to record live demonstrations on your booth that will engage both a real and online audience simultaneously.

VR seminars

If you visit an event the chances are you will have a variety of seminars you can choose to attend. A seminar gives a platform for us to hear and learn about a particular subject from an industry expert. But let’s be honest here, they are now saturating events and becoming repetitive. Imagine instead taking your seat and finding a headset for you to wear. Inside this headset you, and the other seminar attendees, are taken to a virtual scene controlled simultaneously by the expert to experience a world outside of the seminar. Virtual Reality (VR) can enhance the seminar experience.