Unless you’re a cave-dwelling, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, and I know a few of those in my spare time, you’ll know that virtual reality is hot right now.

Like Carolina Reaper hot.

All the big guns are jumping in. There are headline companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung and Sony; and behind them a whole load of fast-moving, aggressive companies.

The growth is set to be hockey stick but at this point I would urge caution on VR projection figures as they swing massively between highs and lows of $130bn

The wildest market projection is at $150bn by 2020 but that is probably set by investors who are neck deep in the sector.

The future of VR is not the focus of this blog post. I am more interested where it sits with the exhibition industry and specifically with companies that exhibit.


The exhibition industry, and its exhibitors, have always been quite quick to jump into bed with a trend.

It’s down to pretty basic psychology, in fact very basic psychology – that’s not a bad thing.

Exhibiting companies rightly assume that by aligning with hot trends on their exhibition stands it projects a message to visitors that they share similar forward thinking and innovative values as the tech they are using, it catches the visitors’ eye and proves to be a good starter for a conversation.

That’s fine if you are the only one doing it on the exhibition floor but the edge kinda goes blunt when everyone is doing it!

We’ve been here before, right?

Remember 2012, when exhibition halls were jammed with 3D printers and whirring to the sound of them printing err…. well not that much, really.

‘At the moment it’s just a bit of blue plastic but come back on day 3 and it will be an exact miniature replica of the Empire State Building.’

As you walk around the exhibition halls now, where are all those printers?

If you are a believer, they are probably knocking around in the afterlife with iPad completion prizes, photo booths, singing divas, celebrity lookalikes (#RIPCelebs2016) and test drives around a F1 circuit in a static bucket seat.

So what will stop exhibitors moving on to the next trend and dumping the immersive VR experiences that we have seen in the last 12 months?

Well, unlike all the other trends, tricks and gadgets that exhibitors use to engage the visitors, VR is the only one that has an underlying benefit to exhibiting.

Where all the others are additional costs to exhibiting – VR has the capability to hack down the cost of exhibiting – like massively.

You see VR allows exhibitors to showcase their wares in one headset and by my reckoning when the technology improves in the next five years that will only add to the woes of organisers who are already suffering from decreasing mean stand size.

Put it like this – exhibitors who have traditionally required large stands to showcase their wares now have an another option – think of sectors like materials handling, printing, infrastructure and construction.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The exhibition industry has fared well against similar commercial threats like the internet and that demonstrates to me that technology can’t fully replace human experience.

In a good way, VR is slightly different in so much that it can not only enhance human experience but for proactive organisers it can also modify the existing revenue model – but not massively at this stage.

For suppliers, well, the ones who are investing heavily in digital content, it’s good news. For the ones who aren’t  – bad news.

Back to the organisers. When looking at new shows and formats maybe it’s time to just consider the options beyond the obvious trend and look at how the tech can change the way exhibitions are built and the options available to exhibitors.

Maybe. Maybe not.


Sign up for the ES99 Monthly Newsletter

Exhibitor Smarts is a specialist exhibitor agency working alongside organisers and suppliers to maximise exhibitor revenue and performance.

If you want more information about the Exhibitor Smarts please visit our website at

For exhibiting tips and chats follow Exhibitor Smarts on twitter:  @exhibitorsmarts

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment


I want the latest news and trends from Exhibitor Smarts

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt