What is a Hybrid Event?

Hybrid events are fast becoming the ‘new normal’. Combining both in-person and online attendees, these kinds of events are becoming more and more common.


Hybrid Events are events that take place both in-person and online. They have seen a surge in popularity as event organisers put plans in place for the future. With travel restrictions and social distancing measures still in place, your business will likely be invited to participate in a hybrid event very soon.

Everything you need to know about Hybrid Events

Events can happen anywhere, be it online or in a physical place. Hosting an event is simply the act of bringing people together, usually with a shared interest. 

There are hundreds of subcategories that fall into the ‘events’ title. Think festivals, conferences, weddings, seminars. The list is endless. Every single one of them brings people together in a shared location.

Hybrid events bring together groups of people in a physical location whilst offering a virtual solution to those unable to attend. They seemed to be the perfect solution for live marketers and event organisers to get the ball rolling again.

In-person events were put on hold back in March. Whilst waiting patiently for their industry to reopen, event organisers moved their shows online. 

The demand for virtual events has grown by 1000% since the Covid-19 outbreak according to 6Connex. This shift was a fun, exciting and innovative way to engage with visitors six months ago.

However, now virtual events appear to have lost their mojo.

People are bored of staring at screens, endless Zoom calls and the awkward ‘your mic isn’t working’ mime act. They are dying to get back to physical events. 

And it’s good news for these people.

Across the world, in-person events are starting to come back. Albeit slightly different to how we remember them. But if this lockdown has taught us anything it’s that there is no alternative to face-to-face communication. Especially not in a business sense.

Why do people attend events?

To understand why virtual events weren’t all they appeared to be, ask yourself why people attend events in the first place?

As exhibition stand designers, we mostly deal with businesses who are attending trade shows for marketing, education or networking reasons. They might also be looking for inspiration if they are hunting for new suppliers or to keep up with industry innovations.

People go to award shows for recognition and to treat themselves for their hard work.

Festivals, live music and parties are all a form of escapism. These types of events allow people to escape from their daily lives.

So we know that people attend events for different reasons. These are:

  1. Treat themselves
  2. Marketing
  3. Escapism
  4. Networking
  5. Recognition
  6. Inspiration
  7. Education

Why Virtual Events didn’t work

Now that we know why people attend events, we can start to understand why virtual events weren’t the solution the events industry hoped for. Some of the wants and needs of visitors could be fulfilled in an online environment. Others were impossible to replicate.

Then of course we have to consider the implication of removing the face-to-face nature of events. Live video calling software allows people to meet and chat online, almost mimicking a face-to-face interaction.

Almost.

Communication isn’t just about the words. We pick up on signals passed through body language, such as the angle of feet or small utterances in facial expressions. It’s also much harder to gauge the authority of a speaker online which often leads to lengthy introductions.

 Because of this, it is harder to build relationships virtually.

Networking goes out of the window. As does marketing as businesses are unable to build lasting relationships with prospects and industry-professionals. 

Face-to-face marketing is the core of any live marketing strategy. Take that away and the event becomes meaningless.  

Virtual Events do have some Benefits

Okay, the ability to build meaningful relationships is lacking in an online environment, but virtual events do have some appeal. 

For one, there is little or no cost when it comes to attending the event. No travel or accommodation expenses make the whole thing much more accessible to a wide audience. This is great news for visitors who visit events to learn or find influence.

The educational need for events doesn’t require relationship building. It is easy to transition keynotes, seminars and speaker sessions online.

The second point is important for marketers.

In a virtual environment, it is easier to collect large quantities of data from visitors. If you are exhibiting to generate leads, the added data collection can only improve your ROI. Furthermore, virtual events stay online much longer than in-person events last. If you deliver a keynote or webinar, your marketing efforts could continue to generate leads over a longer period.

Not sold on the whole virtual event thing yet? Me neither. 

Don’t worry. It is clear that we all miss them and in-person events will be back in our venues very soon.

In-Person Events with Social Distancing Measures

However, there is good news. In the coming weeks, the government are trialling pilot events. Venues and organisers have been working with councils and health professionals to work out a way of operating safely. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In-person events will be back. Our exhibition venues will welcome business professionals, media press and exhibitors. Those vital conversations won’t be online forever. And we can all get back to doing business.

Social distancing measures will be put in place to ensure everyone’s safety. These won’t affect your event at all. In fact, they may even increase the value of your exhibiting strategy.

For more information on exhibiting post-Covid, click here to read this exhibiting guide.

Bridging the gap with a Virtual Twist

We know virtual events aren’t the best substitute, but for a while, it might be necessary to keep some online elements in place. 

Travel bans are still in place. In most countries, they are recommending people avoid all but essential travel.   

You can see the problem. The international events that used to attract thousands won’t reach the visitor numbers that participants expect from them. The fear is that with fewer visitors, the event won’t hold as much value to participants. 

This isn’t the case. At All.

But without bridging this gap, it would be hard to get people invested in an event at all.

Introducing a virtual element to a show means that travel restrictions won’t affect the visitor numbers in any way. Everyone, from anywhere in the world, is able to attend. Some events recorded over 100,000 virtual attendees. So hybrid events can only reach wider audiences, right?

It’s fair to assume that hybrid events will offer more value to participants and exhibitors.  

How to Exhibit at a Hybrid Event

If you’re an exhibitor looking for upcoming opportunities, hybrid events are the way forward. 

As you’ve already seen, hybrid events give you the opportunity to meet and engage with people face-to-face. This allows you to build those relationships necessary to make sales and close deals. They also allow you to reach virtual attendees, increasing the visitor numbers and helping you increase brand awareness.

If you get the opportunity to showcase your brand at a hybrid event, take it!

To make sure you get the most out of exhibiting at a hybrid event, here are three steps:

colourful gloss exhibition stand with branded counter

Create A Lasting First-Impression

It goes without saying that you want your brand to stand out. You need to do this online and offline if you are exhibiting at a hybrid event.

For the physical side of your show, it goes without saying that you need a custom modular exhibition stand. Make sure that you integrate some unique design features like high-level branding to be seen from across the venues.

Something simple like a photo-floor can improve engagement and get more people onto your stand. More people means more leads and more chances to build those relationships. 

If you’ve had a custom modular stand designed, replicate your graphics in the online environment. Consistency is key when it comes to brand activation and closing deals. 

Use your online platform to provide information and video product demonstrations. Give visitors access to valuable content, not just a page of text and a chatbot. 

Collect Data

You should already have a lead generation system in place for your live marketing. 

If you think it could use some improvement, we’ve compiled this list of our favourite lead collection apps.

Add a virtual element into the mix makes this process easier and more efficient. But the trick is knowing how to use this data correctly.

Before you exhibit, have your sales and marketing teams work together to put a plan in place for lead capture and lead follow-up. Note: it might not be the same process for virtual and in-person leads.

Face-to-face conversations give the exhibiting team a chance to qualify every potential lead and assess each individual’s value. That can’t happen online so it might be necessary to curate a different approach.

However, just because someone doesn’t appear to be interested in your product now doesn’t mean that they won’t be in the future. Collect data to boost your future marketing efforts.

Get Involved

Don’t just exhibit at your next show. Get involved!

Event organisers are always looking for insightful people to share their knowledge and experiences with other participants and visitors.

At a hybrid event, this gives you the perfect opportunity to engage virtual attendees as well as those who visit the in-person shows. It is the best way to increase your reach and brand awareness at a hybrid event.

Furthermore, the online keynotes and speaker sessions will be on-demand. You have the potential to continue engaging with leads in the days, weeks and months following the show. That means more data collection.

Speak to the event organisers to see if there are any opportunities at your exhibition.

Summary

After reading this exhibiting guide, you’ll know everything you need to know about hybrid events.

You have learnt that they are events which take place both in a physical location and in a virtual environment. Doing so not only combats the worry that travel bans will reduce visitor numbers but means you’ll likely see more people attend the show than ever before.

We’ve also covered some of the benefits of virtual events, such as data collection and the low cost to attend. But we know that relationships necessary to close deals and make sales can only happen via face-to-face communication.

Hybrid events allow you to take advantage of the virtual benefits whilst building relationships in a face-to-face environment. You can collect more data, therefore generate more leads. A strong follow-up strategy will be necessary to make the most of this extra data.

Make an impression by keeping your branding consistent at the in-person and online event. This will help increase brand awareness and ensure you are easy to identify whichever platforms. 

Finally, get involved with keynotes and speaker sessions. Remember, one of the visitor needs that virtual events can satisfy is education. Offer your virtual attendees the chance to learn from your knowledge or be inspired by your story.

And that’s a wrap. Everything you need to know about hybrid events.

To start planning for your next event get in touch with our design team on 01202 723 500 or email them at designteam@quadrant2design.com.


Looking for a modular exhibition stand?

We work with the worlds premier modular stand building system, the Prestige Events System. Using Prestige we create custom-designed exhibition stands that are not only modular, but scalable and reusable over an entire events programme.

 

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Written by Natalka Antoniuk