Planning Hybrid and Virtual Trade Show Talent

April 30, 2021

Joanne Brooks

Joanne Brooks is president of Creative Impact Group, a full-service production company based in Northbrook, Illinois, that specializes in live, virtual and hybrid events. With an extensive background in show business, Joanne coordinates seamless events that bring together talent, technology, marketing and design.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has brought some much-needed positive news, but it will still be months before associations and businesses can plan the large-scale in-person events and trade shows they once did. In the interim, many are opting for virtual or hybrid trade shows, conferences and meetings. 

Yet for hybrid events to be successful for both online and in-person participants, meeting planners must encourage engagement for in-person attendees as well as for virtual participants. The entertainment and speakers (talent) provide much of that value and help to ensure continuity of experience between in-person and virtual participants. 

Several considerations must be made to help ensure the talent booked exceeds expectations for your entire audience—regardless of whether they are participating online, in-person or both.  

Considerations When Planning Talent for Your Virtual or Hybrid Trade Show

  1. When considering talent for your trade show, meeting or event, take care to consider the demographics of your attendees. For example, a social media influencer could be a great speaker at an event with a large millennial or generation Z population but likely would not be a draw for an older crowd.
  2. Celebrity names draw attendance and publicity. When deciding upon a celebrity speaker or entertainer, first look at the person’s Google News stories. Take care to ensure that they were not involved in any negative press or scandals that could come back to haunt you and reflect negatively on your organization or association. 
  3. Trade shows typically include numerous speakers. Before the trade show, survey your potential attendees to see what topics your participants would be interested in learning about. Make sure that your speakers collectively offer something for everyone and include a variety of topics regardless of industry (e.g. supply chain, personal and business cybersecurity, finance, emerging technologies). After each presentation, make sure to leave enough time for a Q & A for online and in-person attendees. Make sure the questions are vetted by a moderator before being read aloud. 
  4. Keep the entertainment interactive and engaging. Some examples include opening a trade show with a ribbon cutting with celebrity look-alikes. This will work well virtually or in-person. A photo booth for both live and virtual attendees is a fun way for participants to make memories at the event. If you are hiring entertainment for an awards banquet or opening reception, consider having your celebrity guest “appear” in a dramatic fashion on stage, such as amid smoke or some other type of illusion. The celebrity guest could sign autographs in person and mail autographs to virtual attendees who sign up for that perk via a digital sign-up sheet. 
  5. The entertainment selected for your opening reception or awards dinner should suit the theme of that gathering. For example, casino nights work well in virtual and in hybrid cases. Entertainment that would align with a casino night theme, for example, might be a rat pack band or jazz trio. 
  6. Be sure to request recommendations, reviews and a presentation sample before booking your speaker or entertainer.  
  7. Regardless of whether your trade show or event is hybrid or solely virtual, ask attendees to respond to polls to get feedback on the speaker(s) and/or entertainer(s). 
  8. Rehearsals are the key to a successful event. Make certain your talent has a rehearsal scheduled with your audio-visual team for both the virtual and live aspect of the event to ensure a seamless presentation.
  9. For in-person, live portions of hybrid events, make sure there is adequate stage lighting and a reliable sound system. For virtual events or the online portions of hybrid events, be sure to have good tech support.
  10. Have a backup plan or substitute celebrity in place in case the speaker or entertainer is ill or there is an unforeseen act of God. 
  11. Perhaps most importantly, consider contacting a professional production company and event supplier that represents and vets reliable, professional speakers and performers. They can save time and be more cost-effective than planning all of the details on your own. 

Regardless, choosing the right talent for your trade show or meeting can ensure that the event has maximum impact and is both memorable and successful for virtual or in-person attendees. 

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