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We like to keep our fingers on the pulse when it comes to exhibition stand industry trends.
Last year, Motive Director Ed Marshall proved this by sharing his spookily accurate predictions for exhibition stand trends for 2023.
He said we’d see an increase in the use of tactile natural materials like wood; sustainable stands coming to the fore; and the use of augmented reality, virtual reality, and even floating holograms to display large products and cut down on transportation costs.
Tick, tick, and tick!
We’ve challenged him to do the same again and sat down to chat about his predictions for exhibition trends in 2024.
Here’s his hot take on what to expect in exhibition stand designs next year, and his explanation of a planning method that he thinks will be super important for marketing managers.
2024 Exhibition stand trends and predictions
1. Sustainability – reduce, reuse and recycle
Reducing, reusing, and recycling will become even more critical in the events and exhibitions industry in 2024, especially as businesses must categorise and report their scope 3 carbon emissions moving forward.
“We’ve always had a ‘reuse, repurpose, refresh’ mentality towards exhibition stands. We only recycle materials when they can no longer be reused or have genuinely reached the end of their lives. Why wouldn’t you reuse as much as possible from an environmental and financial perspective? It’s the right thing to do”. Says Ed.
But historically, the exhibition industry hasn’t been particularly environmentally friendly. “We see huge amounts of waste created at exhibitions: stands built for a two-day event, then broken down and skipped. It’s really disheartening to watch”, says Ed. “But I think that more and more companies will be looking for ways to reduce their use of non-sustainable products while reusing and recycling elements of their old stands, rather than throwing them away”.
Ed’s delighted that many brands are waking up to their environmental impact, and, coupled with pressure from their supply chains, the sustainability of their stands and who they choose to partner with for shows and events is coming into sharp focus.
However, exhibitors now need their suppliers and their supply chain to be accountable for their environmental impact. Because of this, we’re already seeing more and more customers requiring information for their scope 3 emissions reporting.
And we’ll be doing our bit in 2024, too.
Within the next few months, we’ll be able to report accurately on the carbon impact of every stand we produce to support our clients’ scope 3 emission reporting. We’ll give all of our clients information on the carbon impact of their project and advise on how this can be reduced for future exhibition stands.
In the future, we hope this will become a standard across the entire exhibition industry.
2. The use of interactive digital elements
Think LED video walls, touch screens, and iPads.
You might be worried that a small stand will lack impact.
But an illusion of space can be created on a stand of just a few square metres, and video walls will help you achieve this.
“Moving images and videos are a great way of adding depth to a stand”, explains Ed.
“By using a consistent colour palette, you can make the floor and walls appear to blend into one, creating the illusion of space”.
But this comes with a warning: Ed cautions against using too many patterns and colours. “Less is more when it comes to video walls. If you go wild with the graphics and imagery – mixing colours, patterns, and textures – the experience will be way too much for the guests on your stand”.
Whether you’ve got a small shell-scheme stand or a double-decker giant, touch screens and iPads are a clever way to showcase multiple divisions and products without resulting a disjointed and chaotic space.
Touchscreens enable you to have infinite product and technical details to hand. “Brands have realised how easy it is to create a seamless experience with their prospects by using technology to share information with them instantly, and book follow-up meetings before they’ve even left the stand”, says Ed.
“Plus, you’ll also save on the transportation costs of shipping products in”, Ed adds.
3. Illuminated signs and lightboxes
This is a trend we think will continue to grow throughout 2024.
“Illuminated signs and lightboxes, dressed up to match the theme of your stand, are very Instagrammable”, says Ed. “If you create something which looks cool, people will want to take a picture of it”.
Illuminated signage has loads of benefits: it can be made to any size, it uses energy-efficient LED lightbulbs, and it doesn’t get hot – so you’ll not be left with scorched visitors!
We’ve used illuminated signage for our clients at B2C events for quite a while. But this year, we’ve used more illuminated signage and lightboxes than ever at B2B events – and we’ve seen many others using them to great effect, too. (We’ve also seen some really bad examples – but we’re lucky that our sister company is a signage specialist, so collaborating to create custom signs that work with a stand theme is easy to achieve for us!).
“Not every exhibition hall has great lighting, but the effect created by illuminated signs is something we can control as part of the stand design.
“Light can completely transform the mood of a stand and elevate a theme to another level – definitely a tool to consider!” says Ed.
4. Tactile and natural materials
“The use of tactile natural materials was huge in 2023, and I don’t see 2024 being any different”, says Ed. “Harsh lines and rigid exhibition stand designs are losing their appeal. Materials that are warm, welcoming and softer are becoming hugely popular.”
We’ve worked with a client recently who asked us to create a cocktail bar effect for their stand, with natural worktops and a mix of materials; another stand included apple crates and hessian-like textiles. Others have incorporated living green walls, plants, and foliage to create a nature-themed space.
Overall, businesses want to create personal experiences reflecting their brand values and ethos through clever materials and visuals.
5. Hybrid stands and the combination of custom and rental assets
“Prospective clients often think they have to choose between a custom or modular stand – that they have to either hire it all or buy it outright. That’s not the case: combining hired and purchased elements gives you the most flexibility and is often the most cost-effective way to exhibit”, says Ed.
And brands are cottoning onto this fact: “Companies are realising that a hybrid stand is the ultimate chameleon; it can be adapted to cater to different audiences or fulfil the demands of different sales teams relatively easily”.
“Since COVID restrictions were lifted fully, we’ve found that brands have been increasingly creative and willing to push the boundaries more and more by mixing hired and bought elements.
“We love this – it challenges us to come up with creative stand ideas every time, using the different elements at our disposal to create a ‘new’ stand for each exhibition”, Ed comments.
If you’re exhibiting at more than one location, a bank of interchangeable stand assets that you can dip into and recycle also makes for a much more sustainable stand – what’s not to love?!
6. Designing for the whole event calendar
We’ve noticed that brands are feeling more confident in planning well ahead and committing to events up to 18 months in advance.
A few years ago, a stand would likely be created for each exhibition – and then disposed of. And so the cycle of brief, design, amend, build, exhibit, dispose would start again.
But with the increased use of sustainable materials and the ability to create hybrid stands, designing for the whole calendar year (and beyond!) has never been easier, and it has huge benefits. An annual exhibition plan and stand design is more sustainable and cost-effective, and it creates brand consistency across all events with less effort.
“If you’re a marketing manager planning to exhibit more than once or twice next year, then it’s worth building up a repository of elements and kit to use regularly and factoring this into your stand design and brief”, explains Ed. “Designing a stand at the beginning of 2024 that can be reworked and reformatted for different exhibition stand sizes across the entire exhibition calendar is a really savvy thing to do”.
So there you have it. Mystic Ed has spoken and is predicting the 2024 exhibition calendar will be filled with:
- Brands looking to reduce, reuse, and recycle
- Interactive digital elements
- Illuminated signs and lightboxes
- Tactile and natural materials
- Hybrid stands
- Designs fit for an annual event calendar
If you want to get ahead of the curve and jump on these 2024 trends now, then get in touch.