Not only to reach audiences, but to show an authentic understanding of what they’re looking for and need at the moment, which goes a long way towards deepening connection and trust. We’re taking a closer look at what trade show and event professionals should keep in mind as they develop a live + digital (aka hybrid) strategy.

Approaching a Live + Digital Program 

Before diving into hybrid planning, it’s key to consider that for audiences, they’ll be deciding whether they want to attend a trade show in-person, virtually, or even a little bit of both. And in the preliminary stage, it all comes down to developing a program that will genuinely speak to the needs of audiences and is tailored to meet them where they are, whether that’s onsite or online. 

“Creating a successful hybrid event requires planning and brainstorming,” notes Cvent. “Are you hosting an internal or an external event? Do you have the tools needed to market and promote your hybrid event effectively? What are you hoping your attendees will get out of this event? Answering these questions and more will help you as you begin to build out your hybrid event program.”

If it’s a virtual-based program with smaller, regional meetups, what does that look like? Is it in-person with the option to attend virtually, or incorporate virtual elements

So while, hybrid is an important term during the planning process, when it comes to the actual trade show itself, it’s vital to approach it through the mindset of an attendee, and deliver an experience that will satisfy what they want in any format.

What’s Fueling Hybrid Experiences 

How are audiences themselves feeling about the idea of attending a hybrid type of show or event? According to a 2021 Markletic survey on hybrid events, more than 50% of respondents would prefer to attend an in-person version of a hybrid program, while 72% feel they’d get more value out of going to a hybrid event in-person. What’s more, 43% would prefer to attend an event virtually, while 28% still find value in a digital program.

Looking at this data tells us that planning for an experience that combines both live and digital components is going to be key to connecting with audiences where and how they want to be reached.

Building an Authentic and Engaging Hybrid Experience 

One of the key pillars to any successful trade show or event, regardless of the format, is ensuring the content is relevant and engaging. When designing a program that has both live and digital components, this becomes even more important in that it’s key to tailor the content in such a way that it makes sense and is resonant in either format (especially considering that attention spans, dwell times, and communication can differ greatly between a physical and digital experience).

And while the idea of developing a hybrid show that hits all of the right notes for attendees, sponsors, and even speakers, can seem difficult, there are several elements that can help make it a smooth process, as well as several formats to go with. 

One example? Take ATD21, a conference for HR professionals providing the opportunity for audiences to attend virtually (ADT21 @ Home) or in person if they prefer at their in-person hub located in Salt Lake City (ATD21 HQ). There’s even a third option where people can choose from intimate, more regional event locations (ATD21 Regional). 

At the end of the day, regardless of which formats you choose to go with, the key is to lead with an attendee-first strategy. This means defining what your audience wants, and catering each format to meet their needs, every step of the way. 

“Hybrid events are all about balance,” notes Delta Marketing. “You have two different audiences with two different needs. To make your event successful, you have to find the common ground between these two groups. Start by defining what each group wants from their event experience.”

The Key Takeaways 

When deciding to incorporate live and digital components into your next trade show or program, the best place to begin is taking a close look at your goals and objectives and what you want to achieve. Do they differ between your onsite and virtual formats?

The next step is to define what your audience wants. A good step? Reach out to them directly to gauge what kind of content they’re looking for, their comfort level when it comes to travel, or even the kind of formats they're interested in. Every hybrid program should keep attendees front and center. 

After this, it’s time to determine the right format(s) and begin building out your live and virtual strategy. And make sure to keep flexible as things continue to evolve and shift in the trade show landscape!