Is the trade show the best representation of industry and innovation? These days it certainly seems that trade shows and large expos are where we can get a glimpse of the future. The future of the interior design industry, the outdoor recreation industry, the consumer electronics industry or what have you; it can all be seen on the trade show floor, embellished in the extraordinary exhibit design and the hundreds or thousands of companies all vying for attention. This is where everyone comes together to showcase their most impressive products and services and to captivate attendees by setting their brand apart and telling their story.
But, it’s more than just shameless self-promotion. The trade show is also the place where the industry comes together to discuss its own future. Bonds are forged. Relationships are created. Networking between firms and with prospective clients and customers takes place. Wild ideas are often discussed and thrown about between industry professionals on the trade show floor, while each oggles the other’s exhibit design; ideas that may later be hashed out in conference rooms and could someday become reality.
The biggest expos, like the Consumer Electronics Expo, are swarming with journalists and media clamoring to photograph and report on the latest and greatest gadget or technological marvel. As a country, and as a species, we are totally obsessed and in love with our own technology. It constantly revolutionizes the way we live, and shows us new ways we may be able to live in the future. It often seems, at expos like CES, that the future itself is on display. And this is where we often see some of the most impressive exhibit design as well, because–if nothing else–the future must be grandiose and flashy, right?
As the meeting hall of an entire industry, the trade show is undoubtedly important. It seems even more so, in an era where so much of business and commerce is decentralized, moved into the digital realm and conducted behind the scenes. This way of doing business may be efficient and productive, but the exponentially increasing pace of the work and the never-ending competition can certainly get tiresome after a while.
In this light, the trade show has another important function. It is not only a forum for selling and buying, doing research on your competitors and building professional networks. It’s also a festival of sorts, and even a temporary community of like-minded professionals. The fact that expos typically only happen once a year, lends even more of a carnivalesque feel to them. The truth is that, at the end of the day, the trade show is not all business. It’s also a celebration; a celebration of industry and progress and of humankind itself.