The future of b2b trade shows: quality over quantity

Now that COVID is (mostly) behind us, many of us are now embracing the in-person trade show once again. These events offer the unique chance to network with industry experts and key opinion leaders and meet with customers, prospects, suppliers, distributors and colleagues. Within the life science industry, this includes getting first-hand insights from the leading researchers.

We’ve highlighted a few key trends that could shape b2b trade shows and conferences in 2024 and beyond.

1. Sustainability

Trade shows attract organisations and visitors from all over the globe – but that naturally bears a cost of emissions from the travel and shipments. As the climate crisis deepens and the need for more environmentally-friendly solutions becomes ever more stark, it has never been more important for b2b trade shows to help ameliorate this issue. Plenty of event organisers are already underway with this, Food Ingredients Europe (FiE), for example, has put in place several measures to make its 2024 trade show in Frankfurt more sustainable. This includes working with local suppliers, recycling 90% of waste, and ensuring that no refuse goes to landfill. FiE has also made a commitment to ensure that single-use exhibitor stands are not used from 2025 onwards.

2. Virtual hybridisation

One way of reducing the environmental impact of trade shows is by incentivising the prospect of joining the event remotely, thus reducing overall carbon emissions. While the benefits of attending trade shows in person are attractive to many, strengthening the experience of remotely joining the event could appeal to those who are unable to or prefer not to travel.

Enhancing the remote experience can be achieved by more virtual hybridisation – that is to say, merging the real-world and virtual experience into one, seamless offering. One example would be live streaming on social media, in which the viewers can communicate with those at the event in real-time. This can be achieved through a digital Q&A, with live comments from viewers appearing on screen at the venue. While a necessity during the height of the pandemic, activities like this are quickly becoming the norm. Naturally, this requires resources and the necessary technology, but would represent a worthwhile investment.

Integrating real and virtual elements brings to mind virtual reality (VR). Trade shows embracing this technology, particularly scientific conferences that are at the vanguard of innovation, are likely to increase adoption of VR in future. Augmented reality could also be used to add an extra dimension of exploration for attendees – offering extra nuggets of content to be found around the venue. This allows tradeshows to deliver more value without extending the floorspace required, making it very likely to be a common practice at events going forward.

3. Enhanced personalisation

For several years we have seen an increase in b2b brands looking to offer the user a brand journey which is tailored to them, customised to their needs. This market expectancy leads to people naturally expecting these concessions to be offered to them in other aspects of their work life – and trade shows are no exception.

Event organisers have begun to respond to this trend by offering interactive workshops that enable a more personalised, hands-on experience, or by tailoring the trade show offering to suit specific audience interests.1 One-to-one meetings between exhibitors, visitors and the trade media are facilitated ahead and breakfast seminars, poster presentations, and evening receptions are great ways for exhibitors to provide a personal experience. However, it is likely that this will be ramped up a notch in future so event organisers and exhibitors can deliver a more customised, fulfilling experience for the attendee.

4. Increased demand for meeting spaces

While the hustle and bustle of the meeting room floor can be exciting, truly valuable networking often takes place in quieter, more private settings. That’s where deeper connections can be formed, and growth opportunities can be explored. Exhibitors realise this and, as such, 2024 could see an increased demand for private meeting spaces, for more personal conversations. Trade show organisers are tapping into this trend and ensuring their venues are able to accommodate. Exhibitors are also building private meeting rooms into their booths. For those managing the booths, usually marketers, ensuring the meeting rooms are reserved for the most important meetings can be a challenge. Setting up a meeting room booking system ahead can be helpful.


The future is now

It will be no surprise to see many tradeshows adopting these trends for the 2024 editions of their event. Virtual hybridisation has already been slowly creeping in since the global pandemic, showing no signs of slowing down. Discussions around sustainability, meanwhile, will continue to dominate the discourse around events across the world. So, while these trends are likely to be a mainstay of trade shows in 2024 and beyond, there is always the potential for surprises in the fast-moving life science and technology industries.

At The Scott Partnership, we regularly assist clients with their planning and marketing requirements surrounding events – get in touch to see how we can support your business.



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About the Author: Harry Crosland