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Brief Trade Show History

08/23/10 by Brandon

Trade shows, in various forms and venues, have been around since the beginning of time. In medieval times in Europe, produce and craft producers visited towns for trading fairs, to sell and showcase their products and services. Trade shows, as we know them today, became very popular in the 1960s.

The reason to exhibit has always been the same – putting sellers together with buyers. (Be sure to request Exhibit Edge’s “84 Reasons to Exhibit” for additional reasons.)

While the format of trade shows has remained consistent over the last 20 or more years, the increasing cost to exhibit has led to changes in the exhibit product industry. Just less than 5 years ago, trade show exhibits were routinely custom designed and fabricated from plywood and laminates. Fewer exhibits were designed using manufactured exhibit systems. Pop-up (portable) exhibits have always been popular for the 10’ wide spaces and will continue to be as popular.

Today, trade show exhibits have evolved to mostly manufactured exhibit systems with large, high impact graphics and some custom elements. Exhibit companies call this look “Custom Hybrid” or “Custom Modular”.

The graphics are either made out of fabric or the traditional process of graphics mounted on various materials and attached to metal frames. I believe getting your marketing message out to your audience with a great message and image will make your trade show presence more memorable and give you an overall marketing strategy in addition to your collateral, website, etc. When I reflect on the large graphics that we have produced for clients, it’s the elephant trying to slip on a pink high heel shoe or the lady decked out in diamonds and fur that I remember the most.

Manufactured exhibit systems may also assist in the reduction of shipping, drayage (material handling), and labor costs. We will discuss these potential savings next time.