Among all of the products and offerings on display, companies want their trade fair stand to serve as an informative and emotive showcase that helps them to stand out from the competition. Digital solutions can be used to achieve precisely this, with trade fair organisers creating the right environment. Christopher Sicurella, Head of Sales at Fairconstruction, the Messe Frankfurt company specialising in stand and trade fair construction, talks about what is currently in demand and gaining ground in this area.
Mr Sicurella, how is the general trend towards digitalisation affecting trade fair construction?
As in other industries, the digitalisation trend is also gaining momentum in the area of trade fair construction. Exhibitors that offer services rather than products can use digital media to more effectively present and explain in detail their company and service portfolio.
Digital solutions can also be used for more informative or even emotive product presentation at trade fairs: touchscreens and stand furniture with interactive displays help to attract trade visitors to the products on show. And emotions can be sparked by playing videos at the stand, an approach mainly used by companies to convey brand values and create positive associations with the stand visit. The entertainment factor is also becoming increasingly important in this regard.
Your customers – exhibitors and organisers – are also having to respond to the digitalisation trend. What ideas and challenges are they presenting to you?
We receive all kinds of different requests, so our solutions are usually tailored to each customer. During implementation, we cooperate with a strong network of regional and national partners. We work together to advise customers on which concepts are useful and effective. At the moment, event organisers are increasingly interested in digital signage, which conveys information intended to aid navigation and indicate themes. Trade fair and convention visitors are guided from one highlight to the next, pointed to important information and given an overview of the current programme of events and presentations.
For example, social media walls that show posts relating to the particular event on social media in real time are in demand. For this, event organisers create a dedicated hashtag in advance which can be used by visitors to the actual trade fair as well as social media users based all over the world with an interest in it to follow posts on the event, ask questions, comment and share. Information about the event is then spread and there is greater interaction between participants. This creates a sense of community.
Livestreams on social media channels are practically a given these days. It is now common to find panel discussions, product presentations and award ceremonies being streamed directly from stands.
Exhibitors are also keen on interaction so that visitors stay longer at the stand and are kept entertained. For example, visitor movements may control effect lighting at the stand.
What is the added value for exhibitors, organisers and visitors of integrating digital and interactive elements?
The ability to interact is a big advantage of digital offerings: visitors can temporarily influence their surroundings or even control certain actions. They are no longer simply a consumer, but can help to determine what takes place. They become an active participant and collaborator within the presented brand world.
When visitors get to control light installations or robotic arms via touchscreen or gesture, they come away with a positive memory. Ideally, they may even tell others about their experience, which in today’s world means this information being shared across various social media channels. This makes the visitor an opinion leader, multiplier, communication channel – which appeals equally to event organisers and exhibitors. Creating positive impressions of the event and trade fair stand for visitors in this way is very much in keeping with the current approach.
Can you give us examples of where digital elements have proven especially useful?
Our interactive light installation as part of the Innovation Awards at the Automechanika show was very well received. For this, we put QR codes on building blocks. Once visitors inserted these handy blocks into prepared slots on a terminal, an LED light trail stretched up to three screens on which the award winners were then presented by means of a product film. Of course, their hall and stand number were also shown in order to guide visitors directly to the manufacturer.
At Servparc, the industry hotspot for facility management, industrial services and IT, our digital signage solution went down well. Large-format, individually controllable LED panels were installed above the central catering area for exhibitors and visitors in the centre of the hall. These floating information sources were kept updated with the upcoming programme items on the three stages, announced coffee breaks and filled the time in between with interesting information.
Where do you see the trend going?
Digital media will become even more important in the future, with its capacity to provide additional information, create emotions and captivate visitors. In addition to the elements that are now already common, such as touchscreens and light installations, augmented and virtual reality – gamification – will further establish themselves as they become a greater part of our private lives.
However, digital offerings are not a panacea. No media production can compete in terms of experience with, for example, a top chef showcasing kitchen appliances in a live demo and then having members of the audience taste the finished creations. Ultimately it’s about finding the right mix that will best complement the trade fair experience. But with all of the digital ‘fireworks’, one thing remains the same: trade fairs are a place where people engage at a personal level, not digitally, in order to do business with each other. And that’s not going to change.