“Everything old is new again.” – Jonathon Swift (or was it Mark Twain or Winston Churchill?)

Whoever coined this iconic phrase realized that some things stand the test of time because, if executed correctly, they work. While trade shows have evolved with technology and the changing business landscape, there are still some old-school trade show trends that have persisted over the years. We were reminded of this when we attended CONEXPO – CON/AGG and the ISC West Security Conference. At these technically forward trade shows we saw amazing booth attract activities such as using VR to provide an immersive attendee experience, fun digital games that kept people interested and engaged, and QR codes taking the visitor to a product experience or company website. However, many exhibitors were using what may be considered old-school engagement techniques to attract visitors into their booths. The reason may be that the tried-and-true still offers personalization and human connection.

  1. In-Booth Hospitality

Brands are returning to providing large gathering areas in their exhibits to offer food, drink, and conversation. Not that we are advocating for it, but booze is back in a big way. Coffee bars, chocolate breaks, and charging areas are also popping up in more booths. These hospitality areas offer the weary exhibitor a respite for aching feet and a friendly environment to talk with other attendees and company representatives. Plus, hospitality areas personalize the exhibit experience.

Pro-tip: Exhibitors should take advantage of the gathered crowds to scan badges, start meaningful conversations, or run a company video that visitors can watch as they partake.

Hospitality area in the Topcon booth at CONEXPO. Refreshments were served everyday promoting goodwill and conversation.

  1. In-Booth Presentations

Using presentations in a trade show booth can be an effective way to engage with potential customers and promote your products or services. Delivering a presentation at regular intervals in your exhibit is nothing new, but since the resurgence of the big, splashy booth, we’ve also seen the return of the professional presenter who delivers a short, targeted presentation in a theater environment – written to capture the most important brand attributes and pique the interest of the audience to stay and learn more from company representatives.

Pro-tip: Keep your presentation short and sweet, aiming for no more than seven minutes, and make it visually appealing by using images and videos to illustrate your points and make your presentation more engaging. Again, take advantage of the ensuing crowds to scan badges and refer interested participants to company representatives for a deeper product dive.

Robin Bell, Professional Presenter, delivers the pitch to large audiences in the Hitachi booth at CONEXPO 2023.

  1. Magicians

Remember them? They’re back. Before the pandemic, magicians abounded in trade show booths, because a good one mixes wonder and excitement with brand talking points, drawing people in and encouraging them to stay longer. A good trade show magician also becomes part of your exhibit sales team and provides plenty of lead gathering opportunities. When trade shows bounced back after the pandemic, budgets had diminished and not many booths were hiring magicians. However, in a sea of similar booths, using a magician can help you stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition. Plus, they generally bring their own equipment and take up very little space in the trade show booth.

Pro-tip: It’s important to ensure that the magician’s performance is aligned with your brand and messaging, and that they are not detracting from the overall goal of your exhibit. Choose a magician who is unique and authentic and becomes a true brand ambassador of your products and services.

Photo credit: Scott Tokar, Magician and Visual Communicator, razzle dazzles audiences at ISC West 2023

  1. Photo Ops

Trade show booths offer photo opportunities that can be used for marketing and social media purposes, while providing free brand advertising for the exhibitor. CONEXPO, with its huge exhibits showcasing even bigger construction equipment, provided a fun and easy opportunity for attendees to take photos sitting on or in huge pieces of equipment without exhibitors having to spend a cent. Of course, you can always set up a photo booth within your space. Attendees can take photos of themselves and their colleagues with your brand in the background.

Pro-tip: Remember to promote your photo opportunities in advance of the trade show on your website and social media channels.

Attendees pose in a huge bucket on display at CONEXPO 2023.


Yes, it’s true that everything old is new again. These old-school trade show trends still have a place in many industries. Ideally, it’s important to stay current with new technologies and marketing strategies to make the most of your trade show investment. Exhibitors can combine the old with the new by incorporating interactive elements into their exhibit such as digital quizzes, polls or games, and VR and AR. Exhibitors can dazzle audiences with the new and exciting, but never forget that trade shows are ultimately considered a valuable opportunity for human interaction, networking, and building relationships. The pandemic taught us that.

C.C. Carr, TPG Talent Manager, Onsite Director, and Contributing Writer

TPG is your one-stop agency for everything experiential. Using everything we’ve learned over the last 30 + years, we carefully create on-brand experiential marketing activities and programs to build brand loyalty, increase awareness, and drive sales. Let’s talk strategy, stye and substance!