How Are Trade Shows Embracing Virtual Reality?



Providing a Unique Insight Which is Unavailable Anywhere Else…



Virtual reality was a matter of science fiction less than 100 years ago, yet today it is very much reality. With a quick search, you can quickly pull up grainy programmes from the 1950s and 1960s which predicted how the future would look. Some ideas such as video messaging and computers in the home have become a reality. Yet, for a while, it looked as though virtual reality would drift into obscurity, much like the flying car. There were shoddy attempts over the next four decades until a breakthrough was made in 2010 by the team which would later found the Oculus Rift.

In the seven years since the Oculus VR and a variety of competitors have undergone development and been released globally. From its original purpose for video games, the potential of virtual reality now lends itself to sectors including; education, medical, mental health, military and the events industry. In most cases, virtual reality has proven to be a revelation for these industries, providing a unique way to immerse people in certain situations without economic and logistical barriers. For example, the introduction of these VR headsets for the trade show industry has provided marketers with a unique tool to appeal to their target audience. Furthermore, the same can be said for brands who can now let their users experience the work they do.


Virtual Reality - Photo: Maurizio Pesce
Virtual Reality – Photo: Maurizio Pesce

Why Virtual Reality is Being Used Within the Trade Show Industry…



The format of trade shows is relatively clear cut for attendees now. You turn up, walk around the show floor until you see a stand which grabs your attention. Usually, it’s a familiar brand name, competition or demonstration which pulls you in. After taking it in for a minute or two, you will probably be approached by one of the team members on the stand who will tell you more about the company and what they are doing there today. Then rinse and repeat for 100 more stalls. Well, when you are attending several of these events every year, the same cookie-cutter sales pitch starts to wear thin and it’s often one of the main reasons why people stop attending.

However, virtual reality has begun to shift this slide. Before you may have had to ‘listen intently’ through a well-rehearsed sales pitch delivered by a beaming representative just to find out a vague idea of what they have to offer. Assuming you did not zone out completely, you can then decide whether finding out more is worth your time. Instead, with virtual reality, it is possible to get rid of that interaction completely. Sometimes, a brand’s mission, products or services cannot be explained with words. Previously, exhibitors would use video to convey these ideas but consider the fact they are readily available online, where is the value in attending trade shows?

This is why virtual reality has become a revelation for exhibitors. Unless their target audience is likely to have a £499 VR headset sat at home. Then, chances are you can offer them an experience unlike what they can try in their living room. The internet had been eating up what could be considered unique about trade shows. However, now there is a reason for exhibitors to continue attending.



How Virtual Reality Works…



Without going into the technical details, describing virtual reality is tough. The headset itself is designed the block out the physical world around you while immersing you in a digital environment. In the past, companies have used it to display 360-degree videos. These keep you on a rail track (meaning you cannot walk around), however, you can look around you and see a completely different perspective.  For example, if you were looking to sell a holiday or excursion, I’d feel more excited after experiencing something like the video below, rather than flicking through a brochure.



Rather than spending 10 minutes trying to explain a complex product or situation, instead it can be summed up in an immersive 3-4-minute video. This kind of technology is exceptionally useful for companies who cannot fit their product or service onto the show floor. For manufacturers, virtual reality can be used to show how products are made. For vehicle producers, they can let users experience their product in action. Or for holiday destinations, the potential client can be whisked away, even just for a few minutes.

This kind of interaction can be incredibly effective in closing a sale. Much of the selling at trade shows now tends to take place afterwards, after the potential client has had the opportunity to weigh up their options. Having an experience like this has proven to have significant sway on a final decision. This especially applies when you are not simply peddling a ‘we’re cheaper than everyone else line’. People are comforted by the idea that they are getting the most from their money and virtual reality provides a guarantee on that.



How Virtual Reality Can Be Applied to Any Business



Virtual reality can be used as an extension to any exhibition stand. Much of the concern from initial users stems from the technicality of creating the product demo as well as the overall cost. Well, considering there are quite a few virtual reality headsets which are commercially available now, the peripherals are likely to cost significantly less than the stand itself. That said, it’s important to consider whether VR is worth your investment. If the product or service you provide can be simply explained in words or with a video, then you are better off using the money elsewhere.

If it provides a rich insight into an element of your business which you struggled to convey before, then read on. First up, identify the hardware you are going to use. Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are the two most dedicated and immersive tools, but that means you’ll need to shell out more of your budget. Alternatively, Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR are significantly cheaper, however, you will have to sacrifice some of that immersion.

Then find an agency to take care of the demo for you. The cameras used to capture these shots are incredibly expensive. So, make sure, you do your research on the developer to guarantee a professional finish which is going to make your exhibition experience worthwhile. From there you should be ready to go. One point to mention, keep the length of the presentation under 3-4 minutes or you might give your potential client motion sickness…



Virtual Reality in action at SXSW (Photo by Nan Palmero)
Virtual Reality in action at SXSW (Photo by Nan Palmero)


About the Author:


Go Displays design and manufacture bespoke pop-up stands and exhibition stands for a wide array of clients. Each is tailored to their individual needs, providing us with valuable insight into how to create an effective exhibition stand. For further information on the services we provide, please call 01733 232000 or send an e-mail to [email protected].


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