Exhibiting in the Hybrid Events Era

Takeaways from Spark: Reimagine Expos & Events

Developed and designed by Exhibit Marketing Strategist Marlys Arnold to spark conversations, ideas and discoveries about the new era of events, Spark: Reimagine Expos & Events was a 2-day event held June 22-23 with short educational sessions from the pros, roundtable discussions and a virtual exhibit hall.

As the hybrid event era ramps up, exhibitors are struggling with the virtual booth. A veteran in the hybrid events space, JUNO’s own VP of Marketing and Communications Dana Freker Doody shared some tips at the event to “spark” new ways of thinking about virtual exhibit booths in this era of digital transformation.

First, we need to understand that all events are hybrid and what exactly that means. Hybrid means two environments which means two audiences: virtual and in-person. As Freker Doody explains, these two environments can also breed a third bridge of connection beyond the in-person and virtual. Think about livestreams of booth halls on social media. Or about live tweet reactions of the session an attendee is listening to in-person. Attendees at home are eager for these virtual experiences and connections while happy to be experiencing them at home on their own time. And the in-person attendees are happy to be connecting with the event in a variety of ways on their second screen, perhaps even building deeper connections with those that would have never been able to attend in-person. The hybrid environment allows everyone to get exactly what they want, how they want it, all for your benefit. It broadens the reach of your booth, your relationships, and your brand.

But it can be scary! For so many exhibitors that have really honed their live event gameplan, virtual is an entirely different ballgame. And we keep hearing from experts in the space that we cannot attempt to simply replicate in-person components for their virtual counterparts – it just doesn’t work. We need new strategies to tackle these new challenges in a new era.

So how do I budget for virtual? Dana urges us to ask questions so that objectives can really drive the budget conversation. We should also begin to think differently about how we frame the “virtual booth” in our minds and what we expect to realistically get out of the platform. Maybe we move away from calling them virtual booths and call them, for example, engagement suites or solutions centers. Framing the booth as a digital marketing tool that drives MQLs versus SQLs may help you answer some of the questions you’ll need to land on a budget.

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What about staffing?

It helps to get creative. Many have found that while sales staff are great at the in-person events, they might not be the best fit for virtual. This is a great opportunity to bring Subject Matter Experts into your booth that might not otherwise be featured at the in-person show or utilize Business Development Reps or other regional staff to support your efforts.

Engage both audiences simultaneously.

Utilize technology and social media to enable combined experiences and create those hybrid bridges. Be the eyes and ears at the live event for the introverts at home. Put a camera in your booth and livestream to your website or virtual booth space. Strap a GoPro on as you explore the show floor. Interact on social as a brand experiencing the live event.

Measure the KPIs that count.

When the event is over, go back to your initial objectives for exhibiting and be sure to measure if the strategies implemented reflect the KPIs your team was striving for. Joe Federbush with EVOLIO has some great tips on KPIs you should be measuring for your virtual booth, and Dana’s advice for measurement is simple: “When it comes to virtual exhibiting, if you’re going in with the same expectations that you have for in-person, let’s be realistic about whether that’s actually achievable. Instead, focus on what is achievable with a virtual exhibit and how those numbers plus the in-person numbers are going to show you the full picture of your hybrid exhibit success.”

For more insights on hybrid events and digital transformation, follow Dana on Twitter here.