Are Hybrid Trade Shows Here to Stay?

A recent Exhibitor Magazine survey reveals how businesses really feel about the effectiveness of hybrid trade shows since the pandemic.

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What are hybrid trade shows, and are they valuable?

Hybrid trade shows combine digital exhibit halls, virtual exhibits and exhibitor directories with traditional live event elements.

For example, in 2021, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) hosted its annual Xponential conference using both in-person and digital components. Attendees had the option to stream interactive content online or attend the show in Atlanta. 

Hybrid events market their value as saving exhibitors’ shipping and boarding costs while supplying the same quality educational content, industry updates and networking opportunities.

When the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) moved entirely to a virtual venue in 2021, a common complaint from participants was difficulty connecting with industry professionals and prospects.

Ultimately, the hybrid model was created to fulfill exhibitors’ needs to showcase their products. 


After two years of hybrid, what are the results?  

Travis Stanton, writing for Exhibitor Magazine, reports that “while 52 percent of exhibitors say hybrid trade shows are not valuable, 55% percent anticipate hybrid events will continue long after the pandemic.”  

Hybrid events differ from hybrid trade shows in that the primary purpose is education instead of product promotion. This means that shows that are education-focused will outlast hybrid trade shows. According to Exhibitor Magazine, only 5% of exhibitors believe hybrid trade shows will be significantly valuable for their organization.  


The digital component of hybrid shows suffers from the same problems as virtual-only events 

In other words, hybrid events suffer from the poor execution of technology, weak lead-capturing features, time-consuming work of preparing digital assets and the underperformance of virtual exhibits compared to physical ones. Meanwhile, traditional trade shows are rebounding. 

For exhibitors whose focus is capturing leads, attending in-person remains absolutely vital.  

The result is that only 58% of exhibitors say their companies would participate in the digital portion of a hybrid event—even if it were free.

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Will Festivalization take over instead?  

MRO Americas 2022 in Dallas wrapped up last month, boasting a fully sold-out floor plan with 800+ exhibitors. A few weeks before that, Bitcoin 2022 finished its conference in Miami. Unique to both is the larger than normal space devoted to product demos and increasing use of experiential marketing tactics.  

The general trend seems to point to more in-person activity in the form of trade shows, festivals, brand activations and experiential elements than in digital or virtual-only events. This suggests that the way forward is to engage prospects, leads and clients face-to-face.  

The question remains open, and we would love to hear your thoughts. Contact us below.  

Are you looking to produce a live event or need an exhibit to attract more buyers at your next show? Consider contacting us here or giving The Trade Group a call at 972-734-8585 to find out how we can help you achieve your marketing goals.

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