Industry Perspectives: Can Touch This—Five Questions About Next-Gen Demos

Trade show attendees want to make the most of in-person learning with hands-on demos and activities, something that they can’t get from pre-recorded video demos and online learning materials, according to a Freeman Trends Report Q1 2024. In addition to experiential learning, attendees value learning from experts most.

How does this translate to demos on the show floor? We turned to the minds behind some of EM’s Experience Design & Technology Awards winners for their perspectives on trends they’re following.


Are touchscreens going away?

As soon as iPads became affordable, it seemed like every brand wanted to have touchscreen interactives in their booth, which quickly went from small handheld devices to table surfaces and even walls. Some 15 years later, there are still plenty of touchscreens powering activations but the tide is slowly shifting. “That experience is ‘normal’ now,” says Adriano Almeida, head of creative services and strategy at Kubik. “We’re seeing a shift away from that.”

Instead, attendees want to be part of an experience—for example, an art gallery, which Kubik created for client Mimaki at FESPA Global Print Expo 2023 (see featured photo above). The manufacturer of printers, plotters and software partnered with Dutch surrealist painter Rik Lina to create an art piece that was digitized and wrapped around the underside of the booth’s arches and backlit to create a vibrant gallery space. In the tunnel, a demo zone showcased items created using the brand’s printers.


Is there tech in this space that excites you?

Almeida says, “In general, I’m thinking in terms of more tactile experience. But as far as emerging technology, it’s AI-powered holograms that you can have a conversation with. It’s almost like talking to a person but a little more engaging.” EM came across a similar concept at Money20/20, where Money-Bot was answering attendees’ questions and gathering a crowd.


How do you spark a connection with the intangible?

Ed Sorrell, group creative director at Hargrove Inc., suggests leaning into people and their stories. For Vestis Analyst Day at the New York Stock Exchange, the team leaned into the mantra, “Where some people see dirty clothes, we see character,” and interpreted it in four vignettes: a restaurant kitchen, auto shop, welding business, and clean room—all powered by stories of people who work there. Overflowing hampers with used uniforms, food stains and all, with names clearly visible, along with the props and the sounds made for a nuanced and authentic experience.


Hisense CES 2024 AI Portrait

A photo booth in the Hisense exhibit at CES 2024 transformed attendee photos into shareable works of art.

Is sharable still a thing?

Sorrel thinks so, and we see it on the show floor, too. Among recent examples: To demo their new smart glasses at Vision Expo West 2023, Ray-Ban and Meta invited attendees to participate in a vibrant art installation and share their creations on socials, while Hisense at CES 2024 presented its Hisense CanvasTV alongside a photo op that used AI to incorporate an attendee’s likeness into a work of art to print or share on social (Impact XM handled).


What’s next?

Almeida predicts that human-guided immersive experiences, similar to those created by Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema theater production companies will take center stage and bring attendees directly into real-world demo scenarios. Guides or docents will help attendees navigate the information.

“We’re already seeing live presenters interacting with the digital assets in a wraparound theater experience and in the future, it could be that realistic scenarios are played out throughout the day,” he says. “Say, a patient suffering from a heart attack comes in, and here’s what you will be doing. Attendees will be immersed in what’s happening and understand the product, of course, in a safe way. I think it’s a huge shift we’re about to see.”

Sorrell stresses the next level of personalization: “People experience things in so many different ways and maybe with new technologies, we’ll be able to make things more personal for a broader audience.”


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