Technology has always been important to exhibitions. From registration and websites to the latest innovations in AR and VR, technology has transformed every stage of the event cycle. Perhaps nowhere is this as evident as in the world of AV. Walk across any show floor and you’ll be hard pressed to find exhibitors without at least one screen on their stand.
To learn more about the latest developments from the world of AV, EN sat down with Blitz group commercial director Graham Pope, Aztec managing director John Robson and David Barton, group head of video at Hawthorn.
Have you seen an increase in exhibitors making AV part of their stand?
GP: Yes – we’re seeing more and more exhibitors use AV on their stands. It’s apparent that people now see technology as the primary platform for communication and we’re seeing that mentality in the world of exhibitions.
DB: We’ve certainly seen an increase in demand from exhibitors who are looking to use AV in a completely different way. Brands know that they need to create an experience to engage customers and forge an emotional connection. This means that the demand for interactive elements on stands is soaring and with AV tech advancing at a phenomenal pace, the possibilities are becoming limitless.
JR: Pretty much every stand these days will have AV of some sort, especially at trade shows. I think some of this is driven by carefully considered marketing objectives, but a significant proportion is driven by ‘everyone else is using AV so we should too’.
How has AV changed over the past five years?
DB: It’s gone from being a simple 42-inch screen on a stand to exhibitors using the latest technologies to create entire experiences; they're increasingly looking to fully immerse delegates in their brand. At Hawthorn, we’ve seen the exact same developments with our own exhibition stand. Where we used to simply display content on a screen, we’ve now developed a ‘Virtual Venue Experience’ that uses VR to allow visitors to experience our technical production in a range of venues.
GP: The focus for AV has become much more about engagement. This has broadened the scope of traditional AV services to encompass evolving technology. Our focus at Blitz is audience engagement and measurement.
JR: Most of what we consider to be new AV technology has been around for some years, but the price and availability has improved so that it becomes more mainstream, and VR is quite a good example of that.
What's an innovative use of AV you've seen at an exhibition?
JR: Exhibitions tend to adopt AV as it becomes mainstream. For more innovative uses, I tend to keep an eye on retailers. AR is a good example, as retailers use it for promotional purposes, but it’s not widely used in exhibitions, at least not yet!
GP: Earlier this year I saw a major brand utilising the power of clever content design supported by projection mapping. One item of clothing was displayed to showcase a complete range of colour ways by using changing content. This educated visitors about the brand’s range of products, grabbed attention and had huge visual impact.
DB: For this year’s Adobe Summit EMEA, we worked with agency Taylor Bennett Partners to create an interactive LED ceiling throughout their exhibition space. Made from 1,017 panels of LED, the installation was designed to encourage live audience participation. Using a large transparent OLED screen, delegates could choose the 4K Adobe Stock content displayed on the ceiling in absolute real-time.
Do you have any predictions for the future of AV in the exhibition industry?
DB: VR and AR will become ever more popular and really take the lead when it comes to exhibitions. As the technology has advanced, it’s become much more accessible and it has the opportunity to completely transform the exhibition sector.
GP: I think AV and technology will increasingly become a bigger consideration in the exhibition world. The speed at which tech is evolving is placing more importance on companies such as ourselves to deliver different, engaging and compelling solutions. The use of AV extends beyond simply an exhibition stand and will increasingly need to interact with attendees’ own technology.
JR: AV, like all tech, has a bright future in exhibitions. As people see and use more tech at home and in the workplace, they'll expect exhibitors to provide information and to interact with them by using technology within the exhibition space.