Fairs and events of the future: more hybrid, more social, more effective

The pandemic has clearly accelerated the transformation of trade fairs and events. It has shown where the opportunities – and limits – of digital formats lie. But above all, the reduced opportunities for meeting people during the pandemic have revealed the importance of personal contact and real-life experience, and what it means to be part of a community. Companies have recognised this and are now starting to participate in trade fairs and events physically again. For the event industry, these are excellent conditions for reviving an entire sector. Does this mean that everything will remain the same?

by Juri Camagni

There will probably be no return to the “old” world of experiences and events that we left behind with the various lockdowns. The live presence of companies needs to be more hybrid, more social and, above all, longer lasting. What is the reason for this paradigm shift? Face-to-face events were already under scrutiny before the coronavirus crisis because of their cost. Digitalisation in marketing and the associated measurability of measures have fuelled this trend, and the event industry has not escaped it.

Trade fairs and events must therefore significantly increase their reach and social interaction. This is the only way to ensure that elaborate events and face-to-face activities can regain their permanent place in the marketing mix and, above all, in the budget mix, in the medium term. This is quite feasible, because the event industry has mostly responded with agility to these changes. Companies have used the standstill to acquire the tools and skills needed for this digital transformation and to help their customers to move forward.

Juri Camagni, CMO Andreas Messerli AG

«Many major sporting, entertainment and cultural events have taken place on a hybrid basis for decades.»

Greater reach thanks to hybrid options

Exhibitors and organisers gained experience in dealing with digital events during lockdown. At the same time, we have all learned that live streaming at digital events is not tied to a venue. This makes unlimited reach possible. We have also established that it makes perfect sense to combine the best of the digital and real worlds and to organise events in a hybrid way. When it comes to trade fairs and events with a physical presence, this means that both exhibitors and organisers are well advised to expand their audience and to always include a digital channel on site.

Many of the necessary elements are usually already in place: a professionally designed exhibition stand or event setting as a stage, content, motivated specialist staff for professional presentations and, in many cases, audio and video equipment. This means that it is no longer such a big step to organise live streaming from the venue. This is also one reason why the hybrid approach could become a permanent feature of live communication performances and ensure significantly more reach and success. This approach is actually nothing new, and has been with us (perhaps unconsciously) for a very long time. Many major sporting, entertainment and cultural events have taken place on a hybrid basis for decades: on site with a live audience and at home in front of a screen.

A stage for co-creation and interaction

In addition to expanding reach, increased social interactions with visitors are a key factor for ensuring greater success at trade fairs and events. It is important to design the company’s presence in such a way that it is shared on social media and thus attracts more attention. Visitors want to become part of the story and share this with their community. This co-creator idea must be given greater consideration in the design of exhibition stands and events in future.

A company’s appearance becomes a media springboard that allows visitors and influencers to immerse themselves in events and report on them in various social media channels. It won’t be long before the number of social media interactions with physical events is mentioned in the same breath as actual visitor numbers. The good thing about this is that with creativity and the right ideas, the multiplication potential of this kind of social media boost is huge, whilst the costs remain very manageable.

Juri Camagni, CMO Andreas Messerli AG

«This calls for campaign thinking that begins in the media before the actual event and continues to be used bit by bit afterwards.»

Content is king, if you spread it…

What is more, live communication offers the perfect stage for producing and staging content in a media-friendly way. As well as using the type of streaming and user-generated content already mentioned, companies can produce content specifically for the event as part of their content strategy, and continue to exploit it after the event. This allows them to extend the impact of their performance, which leads to more contacts over a longer period. This calls for campaign thinking that begins in the media before the actual event and continues to be used bit by bit afterwards so that in the best case scenario, it will have a long-lasting effect.

Companies are therefore invited to consider these points when designing livecom measures: How can reach and impact duration be increased? And which measures ensure more interactions in social media? It will be interesting to see which ideas prevail.

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