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Ep 039 – What are Hybrid Trade Shows & are They the Future of Events?

The Trade Show industry is moving toward Hybrid Trade Shows and Events, but what are they? And could they be our Future?

Welcome to Trade Show University! I am your host Jim Cermak and we continue to talk virtual as the entire trade show industry continues to morph and reinvent itself. Ultimately we will get back to live events – we need to get back to live events! So much of the economy relies on live events happening. 

In fact – there is a new effort happening called Go Live Together ( which is being spearheaded by leadership from some of the largest trade show industry associations! I am super excited and honored to bring you a special episode in a few weeks featuring an interview with some of the people behind Go Live Together – you will not want to miss that very important episode! So be sure to subscribe to Trade Show university on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to this podcast!

Also please stay tuned to later in this podcast where I’m going to give share a story of how an organization put on a successful trade show in the middle of Covid! You will learn so much about what you can possibly do right now.

Before we dive in to today’s main topic, let’s talk about something that plagues so many exhibitors out there – and that is having results that underperform and are underwhelming. You know the #1 reason companies underperform at shows? 

The #1 Reason why companies don’t get the results they want from these events is that they don’t set good solid GOALS!

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Okay so in today’s episode we’re going to be talking about a fairly new trend that is popping up in the trade show world, and that is something called Hybrid events.

Like I said we need to get back to live events, and as cities are starting to open up organizers are looking to schedule their in-person events. But as they begin planning, here’s the million dollar question – will anyone come? Will they get the number of exhibitors they have previously? What will the attendance numbers be? 

So many unknowns as many companies have decided to not exhibit for the foreseeable future, and many attendees aren’t going to take the risk. And even those who are open to exhibiting are asking if its worth it if the attendees don’t show up and vice versa. 

So here’s what’s going on. Since Covid started, we have all seen a switch to virtual online events. They’re getting more doable, new software platforms and new capabilities are coming on line.  They have quickly become the norm.

Plus just because attendees aren’t comfortable with or question the value of attending doesn’t mean they don’t WANT to attend!

So the transition to Live events has become a mix of live and online – or a hybrid of the two. So what we are starting to see is a live event happening – and of course they will look different with health and safety protocols in place. Plus these events in order to cater to the audience who can’t make it in person, will be streaming their keynote speakers, workshops and breakout sessions.

Plus they will figure out a way to have the expo hall live, online and interactive as well.

This is going to be a popular option in the short term, and may be the new normal well into the future.

Personally I like the idea as it serves audiences on both sides, and maybe even expands reach for those who want to attend in person but maybe didn’t have the budget or couldn’t have people out of the office at the time of the show.

So what do you think? Are you itching to get back to in-person and live trade shows? Or have you decided you are going to wait for a while? If shows offer this hybrid version, will that affect your decision to travel to an in-person event? Let me know! I’d like to hear from you. Drop me a note at

Now I want to transition from Hybrid trade shows over to a story about an organization which held a successful live event just last month – June 2020!

Saw this article in Trade Show News and it reads:

Finally, some news we all want to hear: trade shows are happening once again! From June 23-26, Dallas Market Center hosted a successful Apparel & Accessories Market and KidsWorld Market, drawing more than 85 percent attendance over the previous year.

Results exceeded all expectations, and show officials report consistent order writing throughout the socially distant marketplace. Buyers visited mainly from the immediate region but also arrived from more than 30 states across the Central U.S. and Southeast.

“Retailers are moving forward, and they’re eager to re-stock and renew their business,” said Cindy Morris, president and CEO of Dallas Market Center.

She continued, “Buyers arrived from many different locations, [and] they were comfortable and cautiously confident in their order writing. Supported by strong new health measures, the Dallas marketplace is safe… and ready to serve customers this summer.”

Attendee Feedback

“It’s been a great market,” said Rhonda Taub, co-owner of the Doug Taub showroom. “We’ve gotten people from all over the country…and a lot of new buyers. They felt like they wanted to get their goods early…and they’re coming back again in August [when] they’re going to do gift and apparel.”

Jaime Glas from Sparkle City, a temps exhibitor, said, “We’ve been busy this whole time…and now we’re really prepared for the next market. We have a lot of orders to go through!”

Trevor Brunt with B. b. Lila Jewelry, a temps exhibitor, agreed. “It’s been great—we have a lot of returning customers, quite a few new customers, and it’s been very busy,” he said.

Health and Safety Protocols – this is the #1 thing for listeners

The show implemented new health and safety guidelines to promote good health for all. These included requiring temperature checks for every visitor every day, mandatory masks and strict social distancing. 

Operational changes included deep cleaning, no gatherings and limited food options such as individually packaged and to-go food service from multiple outlets. 

Along with these new steps, there were safety measures integrated into the design of the marketplace, including open parking, large entryways, quick registration in multiple areas, wide hallways, multiple escalators and showrooms with controlled access to allow for the appropriate distance between customers. 

While on campus, everyone was instructed to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control regarding good hygiene, sanitation and social distancing, according to show officials. In line with health and safety guidelines, most educational events went virtual for the show. 

Here is a link to the article from TSNN – Trade Show News Network:

There are some really strong points for anyone looking to organize a live event. And even for those who are considering exhibiting. 

First and foremost – demand is there and its strong at least for retailers. They’re coming out and they’re buying!

Also – the show organizers did everything they could to raise the comfort level for everyone. Daily temperature checks, social distancing protocols and more. 

And they also incorporated a hybrid model by putting educational events online.

I wanted to share this article and success story because it shows a positive step forward, even while in the middle of uncertainty and cases going up in some areas and down in others. 

As you probably figured out, I want these live events to happen sooner rather than later! There’s nothing that can take the place of face to face interaction and building relationships. But I also understand that there are a lot of people and companies that aren’t ready to venture out yet. So for them I applaud efforts toward this hybrid model.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback! Please drop me a note at! And don’t forget to get over to and pick up your free ultimate goal setting guide – now with a new section on virtual events! My gift to you!

Thanks so much for listening in today! We’ll see you next time here on campus at Trade Show U! But before you head out, I want to let you know about my new Podcast – the Bizfire Business Spotlight – and the amazing opportunities it can mean for your business! Go to today and put in code TRADESHOW for a special upgrade!!

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