Before joining Swapcard in the fall of 2020, my first experience in the events industry was on the exhibitor side. I supported companies from all over the world in the development, preparation, and execution of their custom exhibitor booth projects.
With Swapcard I’ve been propelled out of the conventional in-person event format and into the digital world, exploring and learning about the challenges of virtual events in the process. When COVID-19 hit and the digital revolution started, our whole industry entered a completely new era.
From the smallest to the largest North American trade shows, my newfound experience has shown me that the ultimate exhibitor goals for physical or virtual events have remained the same: boosting visibility, learning about industry trends, and networking to generate leads.
The changes over the past year have forced event planners, organizers, and producers to adapt to the virtual event format. At first, most thought that we could simply ‘’copy & paste’’ the usual in-person exhibitor experience or that virtual events were not the same and therefore not worth the same investment. We quickly learned that virtual events do require time and creativity. With hybrid events, we are starting this process from scratch again!
Attracting exhibitors to hybrid events is a new challenge, but also an opportunity.
Hosting a hybrid event will expand your audience by attracting a larger crowd, which includes attendees that cannot travel to your venue. This can include a new pool of exhibitors: businesses that usually don’t spend their budget on conventional trade shows. It’s the golden opportunity to bring together a global group of industry players.
Hybrid models will allow organizers to create new exhibitor package plans, meaning they can choose between virtual and on-site options - or have the best of both worlds! Imagine how excited exhibitors will be to hear that their booth has no physical limits! You can package and sell booths that are not only measured by square feet or site location, but that also include a customizable digital shop window that remains relevant and accessible beyond a few crowded event days.
Hybrid events will also lead to the creation of communities that will be able to meet physically or virtually at key times of the year. These communities will extend the lifecycle of your event with year-long online networking opportunities, virtual business meetings, content delivery, and ways to monetize your event with branding.
How to pitch the hybrid event format to exhibitors
With a community-oriented mindset, it will be imperative to encourage your exhibitors to develop a content strategy to keep their virtual booth active and attractive to their audiences, particularly after the key gatherings of the year. By maintaining a relationship with the audience throughout the year and engaging them on the platform once your event ends, you will easily increase your ROI (and that of your sponsors). Virtual engagement and activities keep the attendee experience alive, which is the secret to an exhibitor’s success.
Let's be clear, hybrid events will require organizers to adapt to this new format and work on creating new strategies. Although this past year has been challenging, it also brought a wave of changes to our industry that included new ways to increase visibility and increase monetization opportunities.
Exhibitor and sponsor packages have no limits. Online visibility won’t replace in-person gatherings, but it does give you the chance to break through conventional boundaries. As an organizer, you have the opportunity and responsibility to "coach" and onboard your exhibitors in a way that will maximize the event’s success. With the hybrid event format, you have the option to sell multiple experiences within a single event.
Are you ready to remove the borders and barriers?