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What will define the exhibitor experience of the future?

by Nicola Macdonald

EN asked a range of event industry figures across the supplier, venue, organiser and tech spectrum how the experience of exhibitors might change in the years to come. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the consensus was largely that the exhibitor experience will become more personalised, making greater use of tech for improved insights, ROI analysis and more effective interactions with visitors.

The exhibitor experience of the future is set to be defined by tech both in terms of the organiser-exhibitor experience and that of the exhibitor and their prospective clients. While it was often feared that technological advances might lead to a retreat from the live, face-to-face experience, in many cases it is working hand in hand to immeasurably improve it.


Shane Hannam, portfolio director, IBTM

“In the future, we expect to see artificial intelligence (AI) enhance many aspects of the exhibitor experience. From predictive analytics showing what buyers need before they ask for it, to facial recognition software offering additional buyer insights to exhibitors ahead of doing business, to chatbots taking over customer service, AI is set to completely transform the exhibitor/attendee relationship and will allow exhibitors to create more tailored and immersive ways to engage with customers.”


Peter Gillett, CEO, Zuant

“The exhibitor experience of the future will be defined by a full digital experience from receipt of ticket within an app that can be scanned by exhibitors to take you through into a new gateway of exciting content and fast follow-up.”


Simon Timmis, brand, digital and impact marketing lead, IET (The Institution of Engineering and Technology)

“Exhibitors need to have the ability and confidence to use exhibitions as a great live marketing opportunity for customers to truly connect with and immerse themselves in their brand and understand what makes them unique – rather than a purely data gathering and click collection exercise. Marketers will need to be confident in judging the success of an exhibition experience in different ways; building success and awareness over a longer period of time and being part of a range of channels which come together to drive a sale – rather than solely focusing on ‘how much did we get?’ 24 hours afterwards.”


Jamie Vaughan, head of European sales, Cvent

“In a word: personalisation. By embracing technology, exhibitors will maximise their impact onsite with a system that will tell them who to meet and what they’re interested in, driving more meaningful and profitable conversations.”


Matt Coyne, commercial director, GES

“Insight-led exhibitor sales will create more transparent and meaningful relationships with exhibitors. As a result, churn will reduce, and exhibitor re-bookings will increase.”


Brecht Fourneau, senior director – EMEA Marketing, Aventri

“The exhibitor experience of the future will be enriched by artificial intelligence, data analytics and facial recognition technology. These three trends below are now in motion and poised to take off in a big way over the next few years:

“AI will transform the experience. Using wearable technology and mobile event apps, more exhibitors will get notifications when good prospects are approaching their booth. Notifications feature a headshot and list of shared interests to spark meaningful conversations.

“Personalisation will take a giant leap forward. Exhibitor booths will be able to greet attendees by name thanks to facial recognition technology. As facial recognition and AI continue to gain traction, more exhibitors will capture leads without having to ask for names or scan badges. They’ll deliver a more memorable experience and give undivided focus to building quality relationships.

“Proving a return on investment will get easy. As more organisers adopt data analytics platforms, they’ll provide robust ROI reports showing: booth traffic, leads captured, year-on-year gains, visitor dwell time, repeat visits, etc. More exhibitors will prove ROI and gain valuable buyer insights their companies can use to build brand awareness and drive revenue.


Christopher Cashman, sales & events manager, LSO St Luke’s

“The days of passive attendance are numbered, so interactivity will certainly define exhibitor experiences of the future. If visitors can get the same experience from the comfort of their computer screen they will, so exhibitors need to focus on the personal touches to truly engage and encourage visitors. This will mean more collaborative seminars, hands-on product testing and closer interaction with key industry names to provide an experience they couldn’t get anywhere else.”

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