One of the most important aspects of exhibiting at a trade show is booth design, placement, and organization. It can be tough to stay on top of the most up-to-date trade show trends, especially when the only constant is that those trends are always changing.

New design trends, innovative use of materials, advancements in technology – the face-to-face marketing industry is constantly evolving, and we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at the biggest trade show trends we can expect in 2018.

1. Innovative, Customer-Centric Design

Great booth design is all about the customer’s experience, from start to finish. How people see your booth and the way they interact with it can mean the difference between losing interest and landing a sale.

This year, the use of new materials and textures that work to enhance the user’s experience are going to be game changers. Although technology is undeniably a big part of our lives and trade shows, this year is likely going to favor a more “human-centric” experience. How you manifest that is up to you and your individual product and message – it could be as simple as a revamped, more comfortable booth design, or it could mean adding engaging technology (such as VR) or interactive enhancements. Either way, try and focus on how the attendee will experience it.

Tip: We’re seeing a lot of bold, textured details in exhibits this year; bright colors, textured details, and unique signage are definitely going to be trending for the rest of 2018. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and go bold when you’re designing your booth this year.

2. Virtual Reality & Other Technology

It’s a trend we’ve all seen coming – from Google Cardboard to Samsung Gear VR, virtual reality is becoming more accessible and more popular across all industries. It was one of the top five trends in consumer behavior in 2017, and there is no doubt we’ll see that continue in 2018.

Virtual reality offers exhibitors a unique, multi-sensory, and cost-effective way to truly showcase their abilities, as it can take the viewer away from the show and directly to your product. Other up-and-coming technologies, like projection mapping (which is a fun way to project imagery and light onto a static object, bringing it to life), will likely shine this year, as well. 2018 will really showcase technology that can enhance the attendee’s experience, whether that’s something more interactive or unusual and visually stunning.

3. Multi-Sensory Engagement

One of the best parts about presenting your product at a trade show is the possibility for it to be a multi-sensory experience, rather than engaging only one or two senses (much like what we’re seeing with the VR trend). Tactile elements like wood or cardboard, paired with sound, stunning lights, and even interactive games, are all growing in popularity. While engaging all of the senses simultaneously can be overwhelming, finding different ways to pull out those unique elements isn’t – and can bring what would otherwise be a dull, drab space to life.

Look for ways to set up your booth and showcase your product that will really draw the attendee in and engage them in multiple ways. Interactive exhibits, games, and smart booth design are all great ways to increase engagement. Take your exhibit a step further and hire a trade show magician or presenter; above all, entertainment is key!

4. Storytelling

Now more than ever, storytelling has become an integral part of marketing a successful trade show. The people, journey, and even the setbacks that come with building a brand or business are all interesting aspects of the industry that will draw visitors to your booth; and technology has not overlooked the trend.

One example of this is virtual tour apps. These apps allow you to turn your trade show exhibit into an interactive museum that tells your potential customers an engaging story, an experience that really resonates with people and offers a more personalized approach to marketing.

5. Cohesive Themes & Brand Continuity

Just about every trade show or conference has its own theme to support the direction and content that will be featured throughout the event. It helps to solidify the message that the show or conference wants to convey. Along this vein, we’re seeing companies at trade shows in 2018 adopt overall themes to simplify their marketing efforts and create continuity. A truly cohesive campaign that fully represents your company’s message allows you to walk into each trade show with a clear plan.

Think about it this way: instead of approaching each trade show as an isolated project, take a more cohesive strategic approach to your entire calendar of trade shows and events for the year. Choose the trade shows at which you’ll be exhibiting carefully, and work with your team to align the different elements of your marketing plan so that they work in tandem with, and not against, each other.

Even if you choose just one or two of these trade show trends to focus on, your exhibit will already be ahead of the game for 2018. The most successful companies at trade shows always outline specific goals, create unique and engaging exhibit booths, and work with trade show presenters to generate more leads and boost their ROI.