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Making the Transition from Hybrid Back to In-Person Trade Shows


The status of trade shows is still a bit haphazard as in-person event marketing is still coming out of hibernation, but the most common theme we are seeing is a hybrid option– meaning attendees can join online OR in person. This can also mean that your company is participating in both the online portion and the in-person portion of exhibiting, especially if the virtual part is scheduled for after the in-person meeting, or if not all your employees are comfortable with attending live events just yet.

The more time goes on, the more shows we will see continuing in-person. If your business is currently transitioning your online/hybrid exhibit presence back to a predominately in-person exhibit attendance, or if you are noticing more attendees are transitioning to majority in-person events – here are some tips to consider:

Do your research on industry trends

When the pandemic happened, you basically had no other choice but to be online to keep up with your competition. Now that we are seeing trade shows happening live once again, you may not know what trends are happening in person and in your specific industry. Talk to your network and make sure you are keeping up with the latest trends. Are people seeing less tangible giveaway items? Is there even more you can be doing on social media to promote your participation? Are there new in-booth activities exhibitors are using to grab attendee attention? Potentially “touch free” engagements, or games attendees can play on their own devices by scanning a QR code? Do your research!

Get a grasp on what attendees will be deciding to do moving forward

Just because you are seeing more attendees in person doesn’t mean you will see all of them quite yet. While you are conversing with your booth guests, (appropriately) ask them what their plans for attendance are moving forward. This can allow you to plan better for your future shows and attendance. You can also do this off the trade show floor and reach out to clients directly! Remember, not all show cities have the same rules and regulations, so attendance won’t look the same everywhere.

Does your exhibit look the exact same as it did pre-pandemic?

It’s been a while since we have seen pre-pandemic trade show attendance! These attendees won’t want to come to trade shows to see the same-old exhibits. Even if there are a few design elements that you would like to switch up, make sure that your branding and design flows nicely. Was the pandemic a perfect time for your company to re-brand or pivot some of your offerings? Make sure your exhibit design reflects this! If you need help with this in any capacity – feel free to take a look at some of our examples for inspiration!

Make your showcased products stand out.

These attendees and prospects have possibly never seen your new products in person yet – make it worthwhile for them! Schedule your hands-on product demos in advance with your key prospects and clients. This will ensure there isn’t a crowd of people around your products and will also allow for better one-on-one conversation (with a possible sale!) This part holds true from the “pre-pandemic trade show era”, but if you are releasing a brand-new product at your show, make it the very first thing attendees see when they are walking towards – or entering – your booth space. Don’t forget to train your booth staffers on any new products or promotions you are running so that they are able to speak intelligently and won’t be caught off guard when attendees ask about them.

Presentations should grab and hold attention

We’ve said it before, but your presentations should always catch and keep attention. If attendees are visiting the show and are seeing the same old presentation they can view online, change it up! Create a hands-on experience for attendees, tease upcoming products or projects that you wouldn’t add to your online presentation and make it as interactive as possible. After all, that is a huge reason attendees come to shows!

Overall, we want you to be prepared for changes and challenges as trade show attendance continues to rise back to “normal” – and we want your shows to be a huge success! If you need assistance with your transition or have any changes you want to make to your trade show exhibit program, contact Skyline to schedule a strategy session with our experienced team!

About the Author

Nicole Schmidt has been working at Skyline Exhibits's corporate office in St. Paul, Minnesota, since 2016. Her roles include sales operations, search engine optimization, social media management and lead generation. Nicole also works with Skyline's CRM and marketing automation tools, assisting the sales team. Nicole is a graduate of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

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