Salzburg Congress Poster Session
© Tourismus Salzburg GmbH

Are trade fairs and exhibitions a thing of the past? 7 ideas for exhibitions (alongside congresses)

CeBIT cancelled, IAA lacking visitors... How can organisers make their supporting exhibitions attractive in digital times?

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There are actually marketers holding exhibitions and trade fairs for the dinosaurs of the communications industry. Even though the meteor has, in fact, already hit Earth, not everyone has heard the bang yet. It is just a matter of time before the (trade fair) dinosaurs go extinct...


Surely, online marketing is much better… or not?

But wait: just because some formats are not doing well, it does not mean the entire genre of live communication at exhibitions and fairs is dead.


When you experience the annual hype over the latest Apple or Samsung live presentations, it becomes clear that there is another way. Particularly in digital times, people want to be able to

  • touch products,

  • experience solutions,

  • and share their enthusiasm for them with others.


If you organise congresses and business events, then commercial exhibitions are sure to be an important source of income for you. At some congresses, exhibitors generate just as much revenue as the visitors, which is a good reason to invest some thought in how to turn the accompanying exhibitions from cash cows into attractions. Here are some of our tips for you.

1. Placement

Location, location, location... What applies to the property market also applies to the placement of an accompanying exhibition and to the booths themselves. There is a reason why the sales area at amusement parks is always placed in such a way that you have to walk through it on your way out (if you have children, you know exactly what I mean).

An accompanying exhibition in an adjoining room makes little sense. Participants should come into contact with the exhibition as they arrive, which avoids the exhibition being degraded to just an extra. Instead, it becomes an integral part of your business event.

2. Staging

Coffee breaks, lunch breaks, break-out sessions... the more activities take place in the exhibition area, the more traffic your exhibitors and sponsors will get and the happier they will be.

But an exhibition can also offer added value thematically by making the theme of a conference “tangible”. Thematic special exhibitions and individual exhibits round off the event staging. If your participants are then able to try things out for themselves, touch them, or test them, it will round the event off very well.


This is the case at IONICA, the annual e-mobility event in Zell am See / Kaprun (Austria), where business topics go hand in hand with the real experience of e-mobility.

Sufficient time should also be allowed for networking breaks and visits to the accompanying exhibition to avoid participants spending the entire time in the lecture rooms.

3. Communication before, during, and after the event

Which novelties can be seen at the accompanying exhibition? Who is it particularly interesting for? Who can you meet there?

Organisers should not only provide information on the keynote speakers and their topics, but should also widely communicate on the range of goods that will be exhibited. Some congresses offer separate tickets just for the exhibition. You can focus on the highlights of the exhibition and the benefits for visitors in advance.

During the event, it is a good idea to share short interview snippets with exhibitors, post funny or action-packed short formats on your Instagram page or as a Facebook story, or to communicate feedback received from visitors on the exhibited solutions. After an event, exhibitors can have their say on how the event went for them — the best marketing for the next event!

Welcome to our guests from London! #meetsalzburg #salzburgcb #morethanmeetings

17 Likes, 0 Comments - Salzburg Convention Bureau (@salzburgcb) on Instagram: "Welcome to our guests from London! #meetsalzburg #salzburgcb #morethanmeetings"

4. Generating a lead

These days, companies are quite spoiled by the Internet. They want to see measurable results to justify their participation in a (congress) trade fair or a B2B exhibition.

As an organiser, you can support this by making lead generation as easy as possible. By using event apps, barcodes, or QR codes, you can offer your exhibitors the opportunity to easily record the contact details of the visitors who come to their booths and to get in touch with them after the event, making success directly measurable.


There are a lot of solutions in this area, which you can easily integrate into your event planning, among others

  • Lead app,

  •  Pitchview,

  • LeadHound,

  • Snapaddy,

  • myStandLeads.

5. Business matchmaking and speed dating

Organised business matchmaking goes one step further. With the help of search and offer profiles, software supported recommendations on who to meet at an event are made. Platforms such as

  • Convertible,

  • Match leads,

  • Pitchandmatch,

  • or b2match

find suitable “matches” between suppliers and customers. At the same time, meetings can also be arranged via the platforms. It is perfect for both exhibitors and visitors, because they know who they will be able to meet even before the event and can prepare optimally.

MICE Branchentreff Business Speed Dating
© Illerhaus Marketing
MICE Branchentreff Business Speed Dating

The simplest form is business speed dating as it is practised, e.g., by the German Trade Congress. In 2-3-minute pitches, potential business partners get to know each other at a bar table before moving on to the next person. You would be hard pressed to find a quicker and easier way of expanding your network at an event.

6. Gamification

Menschen spielen gern. Noch lieber messen sie sich mit anderen.

Dieses Bedürfnis greifen spielerische Event-Elemente wie Leaderboards auf. Mit kleinen Wettbewerben, Schnitzeljagden und Quiz Einlagen können Teilnehmer in Interaktion mit den Ausstellern treten und Punkte sammeln. Am Ende wird der- oder diejenige mit den meisten Punkten ausgezeichnet.

Escape Rooms, Teamolympiaden, GPS Trophys und Geocaching sind sehr beliebt - und sie können auch eure Begleitausstellung bereichern.

City Escape Game Team
© Montée Teambuilding & Events
City Escape Game Team

7. Layout and design

Event design, catering, and the layout of rooms and areas contribute significantly to how visitors feel at your event. Integrated catering areas, perhaps even sponsored by exhibitors, make exhibition venues more attractive.

Artistic installations, light art, or interactive exhibits create more relaxed surroundings while improving the quality of the time spent there. This also facilitates contact between exhibitors and participants.

Our 7 suggestions

Give these 7 suggestions a try to make your trade fair or exhibition alongside a congress more attractive:

  • find the ideal place for the exhibition,

  • that your visitors will have to pass through,

  • stage the event to match the theme,

  • communicate the themes of the exhibition before, during, and after the event,

  • use lead generation tools,

  • organise business matchmaking and speed dating,

  • use playful elements (gamification),

  • design the exhibition areas to be interactive.

You will find tips on how to put them into practice in this article — or simply talk to us. We look forward to getting to know you!