What’s Next for Trade Shows and Exhibits in a Post-Pandemic World?

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In August 2020, Forbes magazine reported that there were nearly 9,400 B2B trade shows and exhibitions in the United States in 2019. According to the Center for Exhibition Research, these events contributed $101 billion to the nation’s GDP. 

However, the sudden outbreak of the pandemic brought all trade shows and exhibits to a screeching halt. Prominent events like The Mobile World Congress, Google I/O, and SXSW faced challenges with their live events and exhibitions.

Since March 2020, people have been wondering when the world would return to normalcy, including the revival of trade shows and exhibits. In January 2023, Travel Daily News mentioned the ‘Global Exhibition Barometer,’ research released by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry that provides an in-depth look at the industry. 

The research suggested that the industry will experience a complete recovery in 2023. These developments propelled industry leaders to share their views on the trade show and exhibit trends in a post-pandemic world.

Trends like metaverse, bleisure travel, and sustainability have made in-person events popular again! Tamara Mendelsohn, CMO of Eventbrite, a global event and ticketing platform, shared that she noticed a rise in searches for in-person events on the platform. The demand surged from 63% in the initial three months of 2021 to 96% during the same period in 2022.

Additionally, in September 2022, TSNN interviewed Anthony Floreano, CEO of Skyline Exhibits, who mentioned that the demand for rental offerings has gone up. Companies are now exploring diverse footprints and trade-show concepts more than ever. Rather than seeking “off-the-shelf” standard kit rentals, marketers are searching for custom convention exhibits that create a significant impact.

Classic Exhibits emphasize that leaders in this industry segment should understand the unique marketing goals of different brands and tailor their services accordingly. They should be capable of designing services for booths of any size and budget to cater to the needs of the event and retail industry.

Other popular event trends to look out for in 2023 include:

Focus On Event Tech

In 2022, a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Cvent revealed that 57% of marketers increased their investment in event technology, encompassing both virtual event tech and technology supporting in-person events. 

Despite the decline of cryptocurrency and waning interest in NFTs, technology continues to be a focal point in 2023, particularly in location-based entertainment, which is projected to sustain growth in the coming year.

Shawn McCoy, Senior Vice President at JRA, emphasized that information-based technology, especially AI, will profoundly impact how events are conceptualized, designed, marketed, priced, and experienced. He mentioned that designers are using AI design platforms like DALL-E-2 and Midjourney during their ideation process. Innovative software can analyze guest behavior and movements in real-time within experiences, facilitating more profitable traffic patterns.

Nicole Falco, Partner and SVP of TH Experiential shared that their agency incorporates augmented and mixed reality technologies in almost every activation to achieve key experiential KPIs, such as product education, content generation, and campaign storytelling animation. 

In a TH Experiential poll, 76% of millennials and Gen Z expressed their desire for more augmented reality experiences from brands.

Holographic technology too is gaining prominence as an event tech. Rafat Ali, CEO of Skift, shares his experience to assert that holographic technology might soon be introduced at most events.

In less than two months, he was presented as a hologram at the ICCA Conference in Krakow in November 2022. Furthermore, Ali also conducted a fireside chat with Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton, who appeared as a hologram at the Skift Global Forum East (SGFE) in mid-December 2022, in Dubai.

Events That Consider ESG Policies

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) policies play a crucial role in showcasing a company’s dedication to vital matters such as sustainability and diversity. As a result, these factors will increasingly hold importance in all aspects of event design.

The concept of sustainability has gained prominence today. According to the 12th annual Global Meetings and Events Forecast, by American Express Global Business Travel, a staggering 80% of respondents stated that their organization considers sustainability when organizing meetings and events. Furthermore, 76% of these organizations have successfully implemented a sustainable meeting program strategy.

Despite being a top priority, sustainability can be a challenge. According to the 2022 ICE benchmarking report, 59% of event planners perceive sustainability as a hurdle for their businesses.

In order to address this issue, event organizers are adopting a strategic approach to measure and report the impact of their sustainability initiatives. This includes establishing measurable objectives and monitoring the carbon footprint of their events, taking into account factors such as catering, energy usage, and the travel distance of attendees.

According to Melissa Riley, Vice President of Convention Sales and Services, Destination DC, sustainability is essential for the evaluation criteria for event planners. She emphasizes that it encompasses more than just environmentally-friendly practices, extending to a socially conscious mindset and a desire to contribute to the local community.


The trade show and exhibit industry faced a significant setback due to the pandemic, but signs of recovery are on the horizon. The industry is expected to experience a complete recovery in 2023, with trends like the metaverse, bleisure travel, and sustainability driving the renewed interest in “in-person” events. Overall, the industry is adapting and embracing new strategies to meet the evolving needs of attendees and create impactful experiences.

Also Read: Outshining the Competition: 7 Key Strategies for Making Your Business Stand Out at Trade Shows


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