Back in 2012, while at my previous job, I was asked by a PR agency to design what I thought an exhibition stand would be like in 5 years’ time. He wanted to try and create an online conversation to help with SEO.
As we approach 2017 I am taking a look back at what I predicted to see what became reality and what didn’t.
Above is the illustration I designed. Lets see how I did.
Prediction: Augmented Reality Glasses featuring facial recognition would provide the wearer with useful information about visitors.
Reality: Although Augmented Reality is more widely used today, it has failed to deliver as a wearable facial recognition solution. The wearable market has moved on significantly but is still very much in early development today. The most talked about back then was Google Glass Most people think that Glass was a failed experiment for Google but their website states that the journey has not ended.
We are starting to see wearable products such as the Microsoft Hololens and the Daqri Smart Helmet being offered to developers but we are a few years away from a mainstream use.
Prediction: Augmented Reality allows the visitor to interact with products in a virtual environment and increase dwell time.
Reality: Augmented Reality (AR) does indeed allow visitors to interact with products. Today we are using AR to help companies show their products in a captivating way. And when visitors see what AR can do they certainly hang around or ‘dwell’ to discover more. What I did say that was someway off was that it would be in a virtual environment. AR allows CAD products and graphics to look like they are in the real world environment not a virtual one.
Prediction: Advances in energy efficient mobile power sources will make it possible for exhibitors to bring their own power supply to the show.
Reality: This is an interesting subject. The solution for this is definitely on the market. Just look at the growing popularity of electric cars today and you can see that battery technology will grow into other sectors. Personally I think this is being held back by a monopoly of rules. When an exhibitor is paying upwards of £400 for a 3kw power supply and £800 for a 3-day internet connection, show organisers and venues are sitting comfortably on an impressive revenue stream. Why would they want to disrupt this? But how will they react when someone says “I don’t need your power, I have my own”. We will have to wait and see on that one.
Energy efficiency is here in the form of LED light fittings which are seen on most stands now and require much less power to run.
Prediction: Social media is already a firm favourite with exhibition organisers, exhibitors and delegates. Looking to the future, this will be much more integrated with Twitter streamer via DOOH screens or LinkedIn networking groups hosted on the exhibition stands.
Reality: DOOH (Digital Out Of Home) is basically a screen that reacts to the current time. A perfect example of this would be the Sky Sports News channel with its breaking news. We have started to see the use of social walls on stands with live tweets and photos appearing on screens, usually using a specific hashtag to encourage online debate. These appeal because those not attending the event can still join in online.
LinkedIn is still a popular tool for professionals but the groups are firmly debating online.
Integrated approach with PR
Prediction: PR and marketing content creates a reason for journalists to attend the stand for briefings with senior personnel. Exhibition stands will double up as venue for press conferences or mini-lectures.
Reality: A mini PR campaign to help launch a product or service at an exhibition can prove a great way to generate online interest, and many exhibitors are doing exactly that. The sight of cameras and people being interviewed on exhibition stands is quite common now. Video is what we all want. It’s pretty obvious that an exhibition is a great place to create content to use beyond the event, and many exhibitors are taking advantage of this. For a while there was a trend to hold mini-lectures or seminars on exhibition stands, but pretty much all shows now host large industry seminars. Organisers use these as a core reason to attend a show.
Prediction: Touch screen technology will enable visitors to catch data faster and more accurately, giving better lead generation.
Reality: Creating leads is the core reason for exhibiting. It’s surprising that even today exhibitors still mainly use data pens provided by the organiser to collect data. Surprising because these pens are unreliable and costly. Some organisers are offering event apps that provide data capture as part of a bigger solution for both exhibitor and visitor. Back in 2012 I was suggesting touch screen technology would help. Touch screens are indeed a great way to capture data and can be used in conjunction with viewing and requesting digital content.
However, despite all the technology we enjoy, today the good old business card is still king. It’s so simple and tactile and remains popular. Our data capture solution is an app that scans business cards.
The end of printed literature
Prediction: Printing marketing literature will be a thing of the past. Content will be shared via NFC or social media and will be downloaded directly onto a smartphone or tablet.
Reality: Having lots of printed literature on a stand seems to be something a lot of exhibitors still like to do, despite the many reasons not to. However, the message is slowly filtering through with more exhibitors now opting for digital solutions instead. Content is indeed shared online but in the form of links. Very rarely will a document be downloaded on a smart device, this is usually on a desktop via an email.
The massive growth in video explainers is also having a big effect. Videos can be viewed and shared much easier than a brochure.
Prediction: Near Field Communication (NFC) is already enabled on some smartphones and will allow for contactless data exchange or product purchase using a simple unpowered chip.
Reality: I clearly had a thing about NFC back in 2012. NFC is the technology we use today for contactless payment. NFC chips are in our bank cards and oyster cards. Nearly all Android smartphones use NFC. Apple use it in their phones but do not allow its use beyond Apple Pay. NFC still offers massive potential but until Apple allow access to the NFC chips in their phones then it will never become mainstream.
What I completely missed
Virtual Reality: I didn’t see this one coming but then 5 years ago who did. The growth of VR is mainly down to the popularity of gaming. Forward thinking companies quickly realised the potential of commercial uses of VR particularly for training and education purposes. It’s now very popular on exhibition stands.
Modular Systems: Modular exhibition stands are ones that can be re-used many times in different configurations. The have been around for many years but the increased popularity of using large scale seamless graphic images on exhibition stands has made them a popular choice today.
Multi-touch: Back in 2012 touch screens were simple. Multi-touch technology now allows for pinch, zoom and spin with multiple users. This creates a great user experience on an exhibition stand.
Facebook: Those of you (including me) that dismissed Facebook have to eat humble pie. Facebook have embraced VR with their acquisition of Oculus, and they allow 360-degree video on their site too. Businesses like mine have realised Facebook is a great way to get content out to people.
On the whole I think it was a pretty good effort for nearly 5 years ago. I’ve already started thinking about the exhibition stand of 2022.
Interested to know more? Contact us here or call Joe on 07973 279169 to talk about how we can help.