While those in the events industry are used to adapting to change, the pandemic has forced companies and event planners to become even more flexible than before. In 2020, almost all events were required to be virtual. Since then, many events have been held in person, while others have opted to host hybrid style events.
Orlando is a major destination for trade shows and events of all kinds. But with beautiful weather, exciting attractions, and many interactive events, how will the city respond to hybrid trends? What can event planners, exhibitors, and other industry professionals expect in the years to come?
As a full-service trade show and exhibit services company that provides trade show booth design in Orlando and has decades of industry experience, Cardinal Expo is here to share our expert advice.
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Hybrid Events Are Here to Stay
Hybrid events have been extremely well received among attendees and will not be going away anytime soon. Event venue owners and hospitality event planners should consider having hybrid events whenever possible, as it reduces barriers to entry due to travel and costly accommodations, as well as enables both presenters and attendees to fit more events into their busy schedules.
Attendees Expect More Virtual Opportunities
Because most individuals prefer to interact with other attendees at an event, the virtual component of hybrid events should become more advanced in the near future. While this won’t replace the value of in-person interaction, it would provide a more personable experience to those who cannot attend the in-person portion of an event.
This might include a stronger emphasis on:
- Pre-show networking
- Virtual clubhouses that are open throughout the event
- Rotating one-on-one chats during designated networking times
- Virtual lessons
- After hours events, such as virtual happy hours or even scavenger hunts or other creative activities
Some Orlando Events Offer Hybrid Options
Even a city like Orlando, which thrives on in-person events and attractions, has seen some hybrid options in recent years.
Animal Care Expo, for example, offered its first hybrid conference in Orlando, Florida on April 19–22, 2022. There were over 80 professional development sessions offered at the conference in person, and a selection of these sessions were offered virtually as well. Both in-person and at-home audiences received recordings of the sessions offered virtually to watch again after the event.
BICSI’s Winter Conference & Exhibition was also a hybrid event in 2022. Those who wanted to attend in person met in Orlando, while others accessed the event virtually. Both audiences were able to join live streamed events, and there were extra presentations available exclusively virtually without an in-person component.
In 2023, the TMC Annual Meeting is scheduled as a hybrid event as well. Those who wish to join in person will attend at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, while all other attendees can join virtually.
Create Content for Virtual Events
In order to share industry innovations in the virtual world, exhibitors or other presenters should optimize their literature and presentations for a digital format. By delivering pitches and keynote speeches in real time or with prerecorded video, you are able to share industry knowledge in a safe and contact-free way.
For a virtual event, good content is often more general than localized. One advantage of virtual events is that it reduces barriers to attendance resulting from travel and accommodations. Because you’re communicating digitally with businesses from all over the nation, you must keep this broad geographical reach in mind when presenting content.
Rather than speaking face-to-face with members of your community, you’re sharing knowledge with people from coast to coast. Consequently, you can’t simply transfer your in-person event tactics to the digital sphere—you should use the medium and its perks to your advantage. Emphasize the wide-reaching impacts of your industry knowledge over your in-person, localized services.
Many Orlando Events Are Returning In Person
Of course, many other Orlando events are fully embracing the return in person.
As of July 2022, ASI Show has stated that it will follow local guidance for its Orlando show. In February 2022, the City of Orlando concluded its masking and vaccination requirements for trade shows, hotels, restaurants, and other public venues.
Surf Expo has held its events in person in January 2021, September 2021, and January 2022. In particular, Surf Expo has chosen the Orange County Convention Center to host its events, boasting that it is “among the safest venues in the country” and has Global Biorisk Advisory Council accreditation.
In March 2022, Global Pet Expo celebrated its 18th annual show and returned to an in-person event. Global Pet Expo was held in Orlando, Florida in 2022 but did still offer additional digital events and education in April as an extra component of the show. The 2023 event will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando on March 22–24.
Get Creative When Adapting to Virtual and Hybrid Events
For companies that often pass out product samples for event attendees to handle firsthand, it’s crucial to find creative ways of making these activities virtual. For example, you can share videos of product demonstrations, perform product demos live on video while taking participant questions or requests, or even offer augmented reality experiences with your product, simulating a firsthand experience.
You can also incorporate digital-first giveaway items, such as electronic coupons or free downloadable whitepapers, e-books, or other content. This gives you the opportunity to send potential customers an email later, reminding them about your company after the event. You can also give them the option to easily opt into your newsletter, keeping them in your marketing funnel.
However, if you have the option to offer promotional products, swag, or other branded merch in person, these offerings can be one of the best ways to get your name out there. One of our favorite pandemic-era promotional products has been branded facemasks. Not only are they highly useful, but when guests reach into their bag to grab your promotional mask, they’ll immediately think of your company.
In-Person Activities Remain Beneficial
Another change that has followed the return of in-person events is food at these events. In 2020 and 2021, most events did not serve food out of safety precautions. However, moving forward, more events are opting for individually packaged foods in order to keep individuals safe, while still being able to have food at an event.
Succeed at Any Trade Show with Professional Exhibit Design and Management
Whether you’re exhibiting at an event in person or in a hybrid format, it’s important to stay organized and put your best foot forward. Cardinal Expo has decades of experience in the trade show industry, providing exhibit design and complete logistics management to clients in Orlando and across the U.S. If you’re preparing for one trade show or many, we’re here to help. Call us today at 504-930-3545.