As businesses prepare for 2022, questions remain about the status of cannabis trade shows in the coming year. From the challenges posed by the pandemic to the promises of new technology fueling hybrid or virtual events, companies are navigating new territory in their search for the most effective way to reach customers via trade events.
We turned to industry expert David Torres, founder of David Torres Productions (DTP), a boutique trade show marketing firm, to get his predictions for trade shows in 2022 and beyond. Torres brings more than twenty years of experience in the space, with 150 trade shows under his belt in a range of industries including cannabis, wind and solar energy, electronics, toys, fashion, and licensing.
You’ve worked with clients across many different industries. What makes cannabis different?
The cannabis industry is new and fresh with a lot of innovation and excitement. The industry is becoming more lucrative as well, allowing cannabis businesses to invest in displays that match the excitement and innovation in their products.
Because cannabis is so new, a lot of the companies have not done trade shows before. There’s a learning curve when it comes to the behind-the-scenes planning that needs to happen. A lot of tasks have nothing to do with the booth design itself but are critically important to the finished project, including trucking the exhibit to the show site, getting the freight through the loading dock, and coordinating union electricians and booth assembly labor. One benefit to working with a firm like DTP is we take the time to educate clients and guide them through all those necessary procedures.
Trade shows are back, but the landscape has changed in the past two years. What’s the biggest thing cannabis companies need to know when planning their trade show exhibits in 2022?
Face-to-face marketing will never go away, but it disappeared for a while due to the pandemic. Now that things are opening back up, in-person trade shows are going to be even more exciting because people are looking forward to getting out and meeting with colleagues and clients again.
Looking beyond cannabis to the bigger picture, more than 1,000 different industry trade shows take place in the U.S. each year. Last year was a little funky, and we’re not yet back to where things were before the pandemic. Some shows did okay, while others struggled or were cancelled. Some companies also held back due to uncertainty about attendance.
However, I believe people are going to feel more comfortable returning to in-person trade shows in 2022 as long as [pandemic-related health trends] continue to move in a positive direction. I’m already starting to get more calls from clients to plan for 2022.
To achieve face-to-face engagement, businesses first need to get attendees into the booth. What advice do you have for designing a booth that will bring people in?
A trade show is a unique environment similar to a shopping mall. As you walk through a mall, you peek into each store and get a feeling for what the store is about based on the design and architecture.
The same is true for trade show exhibits. The booth design generates a specific feeling through a combination of lighting, graphics, product display, and messaging, offering an environment people want to visit. People see the environment and may not even know what the product is, but the booth design draws them in.
When people are walking down the aisles at a trade show, your display presentation may be the only thing attendees know about your company. You may have beautiful offices back home, but if your display downplays your company image, then that’s what the attendees will take away—that’s what they’re going to feel.
For this reason, your display should reflect the status of your company. If you’re the biggest in the industry, you want your trade show exhibit to reflect that. When people on the floor see your booth, they should instantly feel your company is very successful and must be really good at what it does. This effect is about the environment you create, not just the booth size. I’ve designed some amazing small exhibits that were just as effective as large exhibits when it came to drawing people in.
We’re hearing a lot about supply chain disruptions rippling through all industries, including cannabis. How have supply chain issues affected trade show exhibit planning, design, and budget?
In the trade show industry, we primarily use wood, plastic, aluminum, and other metals. Getting those raw materials has not been an issue, but the cost of those materials has gone up considerably, along with the cost of transporting the goods.
Hybrid events, metaverse, interactive tech like virtual reality… Everyone is imagining what the future will look like. What are your thoughts about the trade shows of tomorrow? What are you most excited about?
You know, I’m most excited about face-to-face live events. I don’t believe the desire for in-person connection will ever go away. It will only get stronger, even with the technology we have available. People will always prefer in-person contact. You can’t get a feeling for people unless you’re in the same room. There’s something about that energy you cannot fully get over the internet or a phone call. I really, truly believe nothing will ever replace face-to-face, in-person engagement.
Photos: David Torres Productions