Inside Four Multisensory Trade Show Experiences

It can be difficult to make a splash at a trade show. With competitors parked literally next door, the competition to attract attendees to your space —and get them to dwell there for some time—is fierce. So, how can event marketers break through? Elevate your experience beyond the typical design to include captivating digital, visual, and interactive elements. These can include games, demos, tastings, digital screens, smells wafting through - anything that gets people engaging or thinking of your brand in a new way. The key is to create impactful, multisensory trade show experiences. Let’s take a closer look at four examples from brands that have made a difference through tantalizing the senses.


Reebok collaborates with Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club (BBC) and its ICECREAM brand at ComplexCon in 2019 to create a multisensory experience that takes attendees far beyond a typical purchasing experience. The centerpiece: a 19-foot-tall rocket ship (a nod to BBC’s astronaut logo), doubling as a DJ station and surrounded by large replicas of moon rocks. While shopping the exclusive Reebok x BBC capsule collection, attendees periodically experience a liftoff sequence where the rocket shakes, blows colored smoke and emits sound effects and flashing lights. Talk about an out-of-this-world moment in the universe of multisensory trade show experiences. Other décor elements include a life-sized figure in a space suit hanging from the ceiling, shoe displays designed to look like ice cream shop counters and colorful, space-themed wallpaper. A photo moment adds some fun: Using a trampoline and a running start, attendees launch themselves towards a mini basketball hoop for a dunk—caught on a hidden Hypno camera—before landing in a foam pit.


The 2019 Ex Award winning Google Assistant Playground, the talk of the show at CES 2019, is a highlight among multisensory trade show experiences. Google engages attendees’ five senses with two stories of interactive demos and a carnival ride experience illustrating how Google Assistant fits into consumers’ busy lives. The activation’s first level includes a bustling café and networking space serving Nitro Cold Brew and Pizza Hut pizza, and several interactive demo spaces inspired by Google Assistant use-case scenarios. A studio space produces rotating content such as live podcasts from Vox Media’s “The Verge,” a demo from celebrity chef Chris Cosentino and guided meditations with Headspace.

Level two is all about “The Ride”, which feels like it comes straight out of a thrilling amusement park. While waiting in line, Google sets the tone with a pre-show experience. First, an animatronic Grandma—one of the central characters in the story—sits on a rocking chair and interacts in real time with attendees. Next, groups are led to a dark room, full of twinkling lights overhead, and shown an opening vignette introducing the narrative about to unfold: The story of a parent managing a hectic day of running errands while planning for grandmother’s 90th birthday—all with the help of Google Assistant. The Ride itself, experienced in twos from within a series of train cars equipped with interactive media consoles, is full of lights, sound, narration, music and a/v effects that complement the moving vignettes attendees cruise past. At the activation’s conclusion, guests pick up their pics (snapped mid-ride) and enjoy fresh macaroons from a French bakery station. A tasty example of a brand doing it right in the world of multi-sensory trade show experiences.


Mobile World Congress (MCW) Barcelona, the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, is a barometer for the latest trends in experience design and engagement. It’s a trade show of epic proportions; we’re talking nearly 30 acres of space spanning eight mega exhibit halls. The show in its entirety could potentially lead to multisensory overload, but a standout for 2019 is Ericsson’s massive footprint, which sees 10,000 attendees pass through in four days. Through the use of sound, visual effects and tactile moments, attendees experience the power of 5G technology and the role Ericsson plays in it. We love multisensory trade show experiences that incorporate the latest tech innovations.

The space’s eye-catching entrance is layered with electric blue-colored soundproofing material and accompanied by a soundscape of rhythms, setting the tone of the footprint. At the heart of the experience stands a cylindrical structure featuring wrap-around moving graphics, and around its perimeter are interactive demos. Sensorial interaction abounds: Attendees can explore Ericsson’s industrial applications of 5G through an iPad-assisted, augmented reality carousel. The brand brings a complex whitepaper to life by asking event goers to make predictions about consumer interest and using physical dials to respond. An experience invites two attendees at a time to play a virtual reality game using a haptic pen, thereby adding the sense of touch to the collaboration. And, a 5G network band plays tunes that remain in sync despite half of its members playing their instruments in another part of the footprint.


E3, one of the largest trade shows in the video game industry, draws more than 60,000 attendees to its annual showcase in 2019 in Los Angeles. Multisensory trade show experiences AND gaming? A win from the start! One of the most popular stops at the show is the wildly imaginative Fortnite experience, a 15,000-square-foot playground for fans, featuring in-game elements brought to life in a sea of neon. A “Boogie Down stage,” built with mirrored surfaces that increase the dazzle of the space's light design, calls on attendees to mimic the game’s signature dances, or “emotes.” In a green screen photo activation, attendees climb inside the “Baller,” one of the vehicles players can use for protection and flight. Another experience sees fans jump and duck to avoid the handle of a giant inflatable battle-axe. To recharge, attendees sip on Slurp Juice, a healing potion that players use to increase their strength.

Exhibiting at trade shows gives businesses the opportunity to connect with key decision makers and consumers, depending on your target audience. But first, you have to get them there. The bonus is on event marketers to create interactive, memorable, sensorial multisensory trade show experiences that not only lure attendees in, but also keep them engaged. Now that’s something to dwell on.


Check out brand activations designed and produced by Sparks.

Posted by Dyan Cornacchio | Request as a Speaker

Social media and creative writing connoisseur. Obsessed with my golden retriever, pop culture, and pizza. Nothing makes me happier than being home on LI, relaxing at the beach with my family.