Podcast Episode 2: Digital Trade Show Displays

Where does the industry stand on digital trade show displays? In this second episode of Beyond Interactive with Popshap, we discuss adding digital signage to the trade show booth and at what level vendors and clients alike are comfortably adding interactive concepts to their exhibits. Joining this conversation is Mel White, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Classic Exhibits, a leading designer and manufacturer of trade show exhibits and displays. 

Mel brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to our conversation, and we dove deep into the world of trade shows and how companies can maximize their impact at these events. From the latest trends in booth design to the importance of including digital trade show displays, Mel shared valuable insights and advice for businesses looking to make the most out of their trade show experiences. So, grab a cup of coffee and get ready to learn from one of the best in the business!

Partnering to Develop Digital Trade Show Displays

Classic Exhibits is a private label designer and builder of exhibits, working through a vast distributor network of about 200 distributors. They are the manufacturer, producing products for the exhibit industry.

Classic Exhibits has something called Exhibit Design Search, which is a one-stop-shop for exhibits and exhibit-related products. One of the key points Mel made during the podcast was that some of the products on Exhibit Design Search such as flooring, banner signs, or digital trade show displays are not created by Classic Exhibits. Those products come from partnerships, and that’s where Popshap and Classic Exhibits first formed their relationship. 

The type of partners that Classic Exhibits have are knowledgeable about the industry, logistics, and all the ins and outs. On the other hand, the end clients may not know what they want and typically need help with the logistics. Classic Exhibits' relationship with Popshap helps in this regard allowing clients to have a smooth transition into the digital world.

Overall it is very important to have strong relationships with partners in the industry. As Eitan Magid, our co-host, pointed out, working with partners like Classic Exhibits can take a lot of the discovery and finding off the plate for companies wanting to dabble in digital trade show displays. This can save them time and resources, which is especially important given the labor shortages that many businesses are currently facing.

The Trade Show Experience in 2023

Mel shared some fascinating insights into how the industry has been changing since the beginning of the year, and it's clear that it's been a wild ride. One of the biggest changes that Mel highlighted was the increased interest in rentals. With so much uncertainty around what the future of trade shows will look like, many companies are hesitant to invest in custom exhibits and displays. Instead, they're turning to rentals as a way to test the waters and see what works best for them. Mel also noted that their business has been busier post-COVID-19 than it was pre-COVID-19.

Digital Trade Show Displays Impact on Design

As Mel said, the trade show industry has been slow to accept new technology in the past, but once they understand the benefits, it becomes widespread quickly. For example, fabric graphics were slow to catch on but have become popular since their benefits were understood. The same is true for digital trade show displays. While there is a learning curve and a cost to digital, people are eager to approach it, and almost every booth now has a monitor. However, people are cautious about jumping into digital trade show displays completely. Once people feel comfortable with the content, more acceptance is expected, and it will push the industry to design more booths with LED tiles, interactive digital signage, and touchscreen kiosks. Distributors are pushing for this technology, but they need to be comfortable discussing it and sharing it with clients first.

One of the biggest challenges in the trade show industry is budgets. The financial markets can impact the industry, for example, Popshap sees this to be particularly true for exhibiting SaaS companies, which can make up to 35% of Popshap’s clients. While budgets can tie up, it is still possible to create a cost-effective booth that looks attractive and incorporates digital technology. 

For example, Eitan Magid referred Classic Exhibits to a client looking for a 10x10 booth design for the New York Build Show. The booth incorporated two kiosks, which were used as demo stations and collected over 800 leads. The digital technology was complementary to the 10x10 design, and it was cost-effective. While some people may think that a 10x10 booth is not worth breaking the budget over, this example shows that it is possible to create attractive digital trade show displays that draw visitors in without spending too much money.

As digital technology becomes more widespread in the trade show industry, it will be interesting to see how it impacts exhibit design. Digital elements can enhance the overall design and bring in more leads, but there is a balance to strike between cost-effectiveness and the overall design. Trade show exhibitors must create digital trade show displays that work within their budgets while still making an impact on attendees.

Striking a Balance with Digital Trade Show Displays

As the world becomes increasingly digital, there is a growing belief among end clients and partners that the return on investment (ROI) for digital trade show displays is better. However, blending the physical and digital worlds can create a more engaging experience for trade show attendees. This is particularly true when it comes to furniture and other physical elements of trade show booths.

Our guest Mel White has a very strong opinion on incorporating furniture into booth design. Historically, exhibit consultants advised against having furniture in trade show booths because staff members might sit down and not engage with potential clients. However, this mindset has shifted in recent years as there is a growing recognition that attendees want to relax, sit down, and have a longer conversation. This allows exhibitors to determine potential clients' needs and wants, creating a warmer lead post-show.

In addition to furniture, Mel and Eitan both believe that adding interactive elements to booths, such as wireless chargers or kiosks, can encourage attendees to linger longer. Interactive elements, such as games or contests, are also great additions to booths, but exhibitors must be careful to ensure they add value to the experience.

At Popshap, we try to compliment our activation widgets software into the whole theme of the overall booth to provide a cohesive and engaging experience for attendees. We want digital trade show displays to be interactive, but we also understand the importance of having physical elements such as furniture. It's all about finding a balance between the physical and digital worlds. By combining elements of both, exhibitors can create an engaging experience that encourages attendees to linger longer, have more meaningful conversations, and ultimately create warmer leads post-show.

Future of the Trade Show Industry for Classic Exhibits

One of the key trends identified is the growth of backlighting with backlit exhibits. According to Mel, Classic Exhibits are working on making it even easier to backlight smaller displays like 10x10s, so clients can create engaging and effective exhibits. They're also doing a lot of research and development on backlighting solutions to continue designing digital trade show displays, like LED walls and monitors.

However, Mel expressed a concern that at some point, every 10-foot booth will simply be a video wall, posing a challenge to exhibit designers like him. But Eitan sees an opportunity for Classic Exhibits to pivot and leverage their design expertise to create more compelling content and attachment to LED displays.

Another trend that got discussed is the growing importance of the rental world, where clients want to change things up from show to show and incorporate more digital trade show displays. As clients become more comfortable with technology, the rental world will continue to grow.

Eitan also predicted that LEDs will replace backlights in the future, becoming more flexible and portable. He believes that in a few years, you'll be able to roll up an LED display into a case and easily set it up with engaging content.

Finally, they both emphasized the importance of pivoting and adapting to industry transitions, as they did during the pandemic. Even though Popshap didn't start off as a trade show company, they were able to pivot and meet the changing needs of clients. As the industry continues to evolve, there will be new opportunities for innovation and growth.

Conclusion of Podcast Episode 2: Digital Trade Show Displays

It was a pleasure to sit down with Mel White, the VP of Marketing and Business Development at Classic Exhibits, during the second episode of our podcast, Beyond Interactive with Popshap. We discussed the importance of partnerships in the exhibit industry, how the industry has been changing since the beginning of the year, including the increased interest in rentals, and the impact of digital trade show displays on booth designs. As the trade show industry continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how digital technology impacts exhibit design, and how we can continue to help businesses create cost-effective, attractive, and impactful booths.