The Future of Hybrid Trade Shows and Events

August 11, 2020

Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts serves as CMO of PGi, where he is responsible for all marketing operations worldwide, driving growth opportunities and building brand recognition for the company within the communications market.

In-person events and trade shows are going virtual, a significant shift forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the question is, will these events remain virtual for the foreseeable future?

A recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on PGi’s behalf found more than half (54%) of employed Americans who now work from home due to the pandemic said they are not comfortable going to large, in-person work-related conferences or events this year. This unwillingness to attend in-person events should come as no surprise.

Many organizations are saying that even when virtual events become physical again, they will require a hybrid approach so attendees have options to remain safe and comfortable. This means some aspects of the show, whether exhibitor booths, keynote speeches or networking gatherings, will remain virtual for greater access and reach.

Going virtual is not a sacrifice.

Organizations, both large and small, are transitioning physical events into digital experiences that are equally compelling and engaging. In addition to cutting travel and other show-related costs, attendees find this is a better way to attend an event, while hosts find such events often increase ROI and attendance. That’s because virtual events have the opportunity to be more engaging than in-person events, and they are often more scalable and can easily grow with an organization.

Planning and executing a virtual meeting is more than setting up a camera and hoping it goes according to plan. It requires the same planning and attention to detail — everything from a script for presenters to handouts for attendees and an agenda — to lock down third-party speakers, thought leaders and experts. 

The key to success.

Taking an event virtual isn’t just about executing it quickly. It’s about increasing the connection among attendees. To do that, first, take a moment to define the event’s goals and what you hope to accomplish. Then, create a program around those goals. 

It’s also imperative that an organization look at an event as the audience would. Look at the agenda, the sessions and the schedule’s flow to make sure the event is engaging. 

It also requires laying the groundwork for success before the event. Once the plan is in place, set aside time for ample preparation for everyone involved, including the speakers and the team members managing the technology, so the event itself goes as expected. 

The event is just the beginning.

Remember, the event should serve to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. As part of the process, consider what the post-event steps will be and decide how to launch them to not lose any momentum.

The shrewd organizations employ advanced analytics to measure success and understand how attendees engage with their brand. They also know they can create content based on an event, archive it on a microsite and re-engage post-event with attendees or reach new audiences who could not attend.

Done well, virtual events can lead to more immersive experiences for attendees, offer longevity through recordings and provide an even stronger sense of community.


Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact