How Hybrid Solutions Help Keep Attendance Up At Live Events

January 13, 2021

Briquelle Neyens

Briquelle Neyens is a digital marketer at Skyline Exhibits’ corporate office in St. Paul, Minn. Besides immersing herself in trade show research and the ins and outs of exhibit sales, she also engages with Skyline’s wide-array of products and services from an insider’s perspective. She enjoys generating information to help trade show marketers be successful on the show floor.

As we head back into live events, we’ll see many changes in how each one is fulfilled. One very important aspect for exhibitors to prepare for is how attendees feel about stepping back into public spaces, specifically large events like trade shows. This is why it’s important to start contemplating hybrid events.

What’s a Hybrid Event?

A hybrid event allows for trade shows, conferences, meetings, and other types of events to combine a live, in-person aspect with a virtual/digital component. While your live event is going on, you’ll also have the ability to reach attendees in a mirrored experience online. Your hybrid event should allow your live event aspects including speaking sessions, networking events, product demonstrations, etc. to be available to your online attendees as well.

Why Should Trade Show Marketers Consider Hybrid Events? 

It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone will feel comfortable attending live events right off the bat, among other reasons that may hold some attendees back from visiting trade shows as soon as they are once again able to. Rather than losing out on reaching these potential clients, offering an online attendance option at your next trade show or event is a great alternative for attendees.

Many show organizers will be providing a hybrid platform themselves, but if they don’t – be thinking of ways you can achieve this concept yourself. Keep in mind it entails quite a bit more than just live streaming your in-person event, so planning as far in advance in possible will be key.

First think about some of the reasons why someone who may be interested in your business offerings won’t be able to engage with you live at a trade show. Here are a few of those reasons to consider:

1. Some will still be cautious about COVID-19.

Due to COVID-19, some buyers who would normally attend your trade show will decide that they don’t feel comfortable traveling due to health and safety reasons. Empathizing with these attendees by giving them the option to interact with you in a different format will keep them engaged with your business. Keeping their wishes in mind by allowing them to choose whatever feels the safest for them will help you to continue building a relationship with them until they’re ready to attend live events again.

2. Entire teams may not be able to attend due to decreased budgets. 

Sending a group of people from a single business to a trade show can add up quickly, especially when there’s cross-country travel involved. Not to mention that a pandemic has impacted many businesses and their budgets, as well as their company travel guidelines. A hybrid event allows for a few key members of a team to attend an in-person event while the rest of the team interacts back at the office or from their homes. This helps to keep everyone on the same page by creating a similar experience for all parties.

3. In-person events come with a lot of expenses that prevent people from attending altogether.

This one certainly isn’t unique to the pandemic era! Many expenses come with attending trade shows: from travel to lodging to dining to admission. Unfortunately, some people and businesses just don’t have the time, ability or budget to travel to all the live events they would like to. However, hybrid events now allow digital access to those who would otherwise have no access at all to your in-person event, creating opportunities to increase brand awareness and reach a larger audience than in-person only events.

4. Those who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 recently won’t be able to attend. 

If someone who was planning to visit your booth at your trade show was exposed to coronavirus or has tested positive and is forced to quarantine, a hybrid event will still allow them to engage with your business from the comfort of their own home or quarantine station. Even if they were looking forward to seeing you at your show, they won’t lose out completely as they’ll have the digital alternative option.

5. Venues could limit party sizes.

We will likely see venues implementing capacity limits, meaning that party sizes could be impacted. If this prevents an entire business team from attending the in-person aspect of your event, you’ll be able to reach the others through the alternative online option.

6. International travel restrictions can lower your attendance numbers.

As rules and restrictions continue to vary from country to country, it could result in a decrease in your typical attendance rates. Rather than losing the exposure to these international clients and potential buyers, offering a hybrid option keeps them interested and engaged if they’re unable to attend in-person.

Attendees Will Appreciate Your Sense of Flexibility

Whether it’s reaching a repeat attendee who would normally be at your event but cannot attend in-person or others who haven’t ever been able to attend in the past due to other factors, giving the option of a hybrid event will allow you to reach a wider audience and keep your attendance rates up, maybe even raise them higher than they were before.

Buyers will appreciate the extra steps you are taking to provide them access to engage and learn from your business. Not only will this position you as a leader in your industry, but it will also gain you a new audience from the businesses in your industry that fall short when it comes to providing an online option for their current audience who may now require it.

As an exhibitor, there are now more factors than ever that may prevent attendees from visiting you at your live events. While it’s important to continue creating in-person connections and building relationships with buyers who are quick to attend your in-person shows, it’s also important to keep all potential buyers in mind and offer alternative ways to engage with your business.

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