As the year comes to an end, it brought along new trends and influences in the world of trade shows and trade show displays. At Displayit, we’re constantly thinking about what new opportunities there are in the display world, so we’re excited to share what we see as the most lasting and intriguing developments in 2024’s trade show trends.
First, we’ll cover some trends in trade show display technology, including backlighting and modular displays, which have gained a real foothold in the trade show world over the past year. Then we’ll take a stab at some of the trends in overall display designs and materials—boxes are out, curves are in, and tension fabric is here to stay. Lastly, we’ll talk through some of the current trends in content and marketing strategies that can help your exhibit leave a lasting, impactful impression on visitors (and yeah, that includes AI!).
Bright & Versatile Displays Take Center Stage
Every once in a while, a technological development will shake up an industry—in the world of trade shows, we’ve seen two design trends take a rapid rise in popularity, and they show no sign of slowing down.
Backlighting: The New Gold Standard
Way back in the day, trade show displays were often lit by overhead and floor lights, anything that could quickly and conveniently make a visual more prominent. Using backlighting for your display was anything but quick and convenient, as you had to have fabric that could accommodate it, lighting that looked consistent, and a system that didn’t take forever to set up and take down.
In the past few years, though, backlighting technology has become so much more affordable and consistent than it once was, so we’re quickly seeing more and more backlit displays taking up space on trade show floors. If you want to add visibility to your imagery and give your booth a ‘premium’ feel without breaking the bank, backlighting is easily the best way to go—you can check out our Prism displays to see the highest-end backlit booths and kits we have in stock at Displayit.
A Bright Alternative: LED Displays & Display Walls
Beyond backlighting, another full-display lighting system has risen in popularity for those who want more tailored, dynamic visuals that add visibility and convey a luxurious feel: LED walls. Displays with LED walls come in at a much higher price point than a backlit display, but provide unparalleled customization options—you can slap whatever media you want onto your backlit display and adjust it any time, making them easy to tailor for any campaign or event setting.
A lot of the time, these displays come with highly customized rental exhibits, rather than exhibits you buy up front—this gives companies access to the best in LED technology without requiring them to foot the whole bill. Check out our High Impact Services brand of products to see what these sorts of rental displays look like, and find one that might be a good fit for you.
Modular Trade Show Displays
In the 2000s and 2010s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a trade show display that wasn’t just one or two pieces of branded display material, maybe including a wall, a counter, and a table that you could move around however you like. In 2024, however, you probably want the freedom to rearrange your display—even sections of a backwall—and add accessories with ease. Luckily, modular display technology has come into the picture.
Interchangeable Panels & Accessories
With modular trade show displays, you get a multi-section display kit that’s easy to take apart and rearrange however you like. And we’re not just talking about a backwall and a table here—in the case of products like our Ensemble series, the entire backwall can be split into multiple sections and rearranged to give your display a new silhouette, and accessories can be tacked onto each individual section with ease.
With this sort of system, it’s easier to tailor your display’s message and visuals to accommodate for your event space and storage/media needs. Adding monitor mounts here or an additional shelf there can completely change the way you use your booth.
Trade Show Booth Design Trends
Beyond the technological advancements like the backlighting and modularity we talked about above, there are a few trends in booth design and material usage that you should keep an eye out for in 2024: namely, the use of alternative and organic design elements and the long-standing supremacy of tension fabric materials.
Alternative & Organic Shapes
Trade show display designs have often relied on boxy, simple shapes that provide a lot of visual real estate and take up the greatest amount of space in the typical 10x10 trade show lot. In 2023 and 2024, however, we’re continuing to see organic and alternative display shapes on backwalls, banner stands, and other display elements.
When we say ‘organic’, we’re not talking about the use of sustainable materials (though that’s also a trend to keep an eye on)--we’re mostly talking about the use of curves: ‘s’ shapes, arches, circles and ‘blob’-like shapes that are a stark contrast to typically geometric designs you’d expect from your standard, boxy booth.
Our Ensemble series, for instance, features backwalls, banner stands, and other elements that incorporate arches and curves—this is the sort of thing booth designers are using in all areas of booth design. So if you want to show that you’re keeping things fresh, maybe stay away from the sharper edges.
The Material Wars: Tension Fabric & Hard Substrates
Over the past decade or two, tension fabric has become the undisputed king of trade show booth-building material, and it shows no sign of giving up that seat any time soon. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t competitors.
In terms of affordability and simplicity, tension fabric is clearly the best option for a custom trade show graphic. But higher-end displays continue to use more and more hard substrates—metal and polymer surfaces, rather than fabric—to show off their branding. For now, the vast majority of entry and intermediate-level trade show displays continue to use tension fabric as their primary medium, but don’t be surprised if you see more hard-substrate materials becoming lighter and easier to use in 2024.
Trade Show Display Content Trends
In terms of creating content for your booth (i.e., figuring out what to do once someone actually comes to visit it) a boring presentation or basic leaflet just won’t cut it for today’s audiences. With brand-new tools like AI language models and current trends toward interactive, engaging content, your booth should probably have something special if you want it to stand out.
Using AI for Your Trade Show Booth
2023 was a year where all eyes turned to AI—ChatGPT took the world by storm and generative image AI platforms gained massive popularity in a matter of weeks. We don’t think AI image generators are your best choice for creating custom trade show designs just yet, but when it comes to tailoring written content for your booth, AI language models may be an effective tool.
Personalizing Trade Show Content With AI
Today’s consumer-friendly AI language platforms like ChatGPT (and, to a lesser extent, its big brother, the commercial-scale GPT-4) aren’t the best at generating highly specific long-form content. But one of their great strengths is iterating: creating lots of variations on similar content that’s tailored to unique needs.
This can come in super handy when you’re trying to target several demographics at a trade show. Let’s say you have a product description that’s tailored to professional engineers, but are trying to break into the more casual DIYer market—you can plug your product description into ChatGPT and have it rewritten with a more casual tone of voice and language tailored to a DIYer’s processes and tools in seconds.
Using a Chatbot at Your Tradeshow
AI platforms have also become popular at trade shows for their use in chatbots—bits of software that answer questions, provide info to users, and offer product support in a conversational tone. If you’re short on staff at your booth, you may be able to use AI chatbots (on tablets, for instance) to create more personalized, engaging experiences for visitors without having to have multiple salespeople on the floor.
Enhancing Your Post-Trade Show Marketing
In addition, we’re obviously seeing a rise in the use of AI for post-show marketing content: follow-up emails, promotional materials, and other campaign media are all made easier through the use of AI. Of course, AI won’t be able to step in and create everything for you, but it can help you to create more things quickly, and at scale, in plenty of cases.
Interactivity & Involvement
If you really want to give visitors a lasting impression of your booth, though, handing them brochures (no matter how personalized) probably won’t be quite enough in 2024. In the past few years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the popularity of interactive display content and activities.
For some exhibitors, this looks like putting together a full-blown game (like spin-the-wheel) complete with prizes. For others, it could be trivia activities or interactive product demos. No matter what your brand or product might be, adding an interactive element to your display is hardly a bad idea.
If you’re trying to figure out how to incorporate interactive elements into your display, you may want to look at monitor mounts and monitor stands, which are an easy way to add digital media (like online quizzes or slideshows or whatever you prefer) without breaking the bank.
Want to View Our Latest Displays?
If you’re ready to take advantage of some of these trends, take a look at the newest items on our online store, like our Prism and Ensemble displays.