8 Steps to Hosting a Successful Hybrid Trade Show 

Planning a hybrid trade show might seem like a complex task, and it’s true that it can be a little more complicated to simultaneously pull off live and virtual trade show components to the satisfaction of both your live and online audiences. The good news is, if you’ve been involved in planning a live trade show, you’re already well-acquainted with at least half the job. To plan a hybrid trade show, you’ll just expand your focus to include the virtual aspects of the event.

1. Start with Vision

For any event, it’s important to begin by defining what your vision for that event is. For hybrid events it’s particularly important because you must decide “how hybrid” the event will be. Some events are only a little hybrid, meaning only some of the live event content is available online.

For a hybrid trade show, exhibiting companies must have the option to present virtual booths as well as (or instead of) physical ones. And any other content available at the live venue—such as a keynote address or education tracks—should be available online too.

To develop your vision for the event, consider a few basic concepts:

  • Who is your event audience? Consider demographic info such as location, job title and description, industry, and company size.
  • What is the purpose of the event?
  • What value will the audience derive from the event?
  • In addition to exhibitor booths, what event content do you envision?
  • What content will be available live, online, or both?
  • How will online attendees participate in the event?
  • Where will event promotion take place?
  • What data will you collect, and how?
  • What are your KPIs? What metrics will you track to evaluate the event and assess ROI?

2. Set Your Timeline

The next step for hosting a hybrid event is to set your event planning timeline. This checklist details every phase, stage, and step involved in planning the event. Your timeline might range from one to two months for a small show, up to a full year for a large event.

If it’s your first time hosting a hybrid event, make sure to build in plenty of buffer time, to account for the learning curve.

Your Ultimate Event Planning Timeline

3. Break Down Your Budget

Hybrid events may entail a significant amount of extra work in planning and preparation, but they do so in a very economical fashion. Because of this, splitting your event budget right down the middle, with half for the live portion and half for the virtual, isn’t necessarily a good use of funds. While a hybrid trade show does need a bigger budget, moving from live-only to a hybrid model won’t double your event expenses.

In addition to the usual trade show expenses, such as venue and vendors, there are also virtual expenses, like:

  • Virtual events platform. A website or platform where people who attend virtually can access content.
  • Recording and broadcasting equipment. To make content available online, you need extra tech equipment for recording and broadcasting:
    • HD camera, with appropriate accessories, such as a tripod or shoulder rig for stability
    • Additional audio equipment for capturing, recording, and broadcasting sound
    • Additional lighting
    • An encoder for livestreaming
    • High-speed, stable internet at the venue, if you’re broadcasting live
  • Additional personnel. You may need a larger team to account for the extra work involved in producing content for the online audience, especially if you’re planning live broadcasts.
  • Virtual swag. Digital goodies in addition to swag for the live venue


4. Pick a Venue/Hybrid Event Platform

Once you’ve roughed out a timeline and budget, your next major step is typically to choose a venue for your trade show.

Live Venue

In general, you can select a live venue as normal, but there’s one factor of a hybrid event that may affect your venue choice: A presentation being recorded for a hybrid event needs more space than a presentation at a solely physical event. Whether it’s a keynote address, a panel discussion, or an education session, more space is needed for equipment and production personnel if that content is being recorded or broadcast live. Factor that in when considering room and space requirements, and venue choice.

If you’re planning an annual event and have been using the same venue for several years, it’s worth considering whether your space needs will change significantly and whether the same venue is adequate for a hybrid event.

How to Choose a Hybrid Venue

Virtual/Hybrid Event Platform

At this stage you can also start looking at hybrid event platforms. There’s a lot to consider here, as your platform choices are extensive. The simplest option functions like a website, with content menus, chat functions, and other features. There are also three-dimensional virtual venues that attendees can explore as if they were actually there. In these 3D digital venues, attendees can visit virtual trade show booths in much the same way they’d visit physical booths at a live venue.

When sifting through your options, you’ll need to have a good idea of what kind of content you’re planning for the event. This is important for picking a platform that supports the kind of content you want to produce for your online audience.

Your choice of virtual environment is also important when it comes to integrating the live and virtual parts of the hybrid event. If your goal is a true hybrid trade show, where online and live attendees can have an equally valuable experience, you’ll need a robust platform that can support a wide range of content types. You’ll also need platform features that focus on boosting engagement and allow for different types of attendee communication and networking.

Explore a 3D Interactive Virtual Platform

5. Plan the Event Agenda

Many trade shows have an agenda of educational or informational content in addition to the exhibit hall. If your hybrid trade show will have an agenda of content, decide how much of that content will be broadcast to the online audience. Ideally, any content that’s available at the live venue should also be available online, either as scheduled content or on-demand.

Keep Your Online Audience in Mind

It’s important to be aware that people consume and absorb content differently online than they do in person. Your online audience has a shorter attention span, and it’s harder to keep them engaged. They may even be multi-tasking when they watch event content.

To best appeal to your online audience, content segments should be fairly short, with a break every 30 to 45 minutes. The content should also offer some interaction, such as a Q&A or informal polls, to help boost engagement.

This doesn’t mean you have to produce two different versions of each session. Your live audience will probably appreciate shorter sessions with regular breaks too. But it does add an extra layer of complexity to content production, along with the need for extra equipment and personnel.

Choosing Speakers

Every event needs good content to pull in high attendance numbers, but for a hybrid event you have to be particularly choosy when it comes to selecting speakers.

For keynotes, panel discussions, and any other content you have planned, it’s not enough to just find the big industry celebrities anymore. When your speakers need to present to an online audience at the same time as a live one, having specific experience with online audiences is a huge benefit.

6. Lock in Sponsors and Exhibitors

The hybrid events industry is still relatively new. As a result, many potential sponsors and exhibitors may be unfamiliar with how these events work and how their companies can benefit. It’s worth the effort to put together sponsorship and exhibitor packages that highlight the unique benefits of virtual booths, and hybrid events in general; for instance:

  • For sponsors, there are plenty of advertising opportunities online, from webpage banner ads to sponsored spots on video content. Learn more about getting virtual sponsors here.
  • Access to high-quality demographic data from virtual attendees
  • Affordability for exhibitors. Small companies or startups that can’t afford to attend a live trade show may find a virtual booth is well within their budgets.
  • Affordability for attendees. Online events are more affordable and accessible. People who can’t attend a live trade show may purchase online tickets when they have the opportunity. This means sponsors and exhibitors have the chance to reach new audience segments.

7. Promote Your Hybrid Trade Show

As you start developing a content plan, selling booth space, and attracting sponsors, you can also get started on promotion. Highlighting the hybrid nature of the event is important here, especially if the trade show had previously been live-only. Options for event promotion include:

  • Event website, preferably with integrated registration and ticketing
  • Email campaign targeted to convert existing subscribers into event attendees
  • Social media promotion, with an event hashtag and regular updates as the event takes shape
  • Additional promotion via exhibitors, sponsors, and speakers

8. Execute a Technical Rehearsal/Run-Through

Pre-event rehearsals are essential to ensure your hybrid content works as it’s designed to. Make a point of checking all recording and broadcasting equipment at the same time as you complete your final venue walkthrough.

It’s also useful to complete a schedule rehearsal, if you have a content schedule planned. Rehearsals are especially important if you’re broadcasting live content to your online audience, as you’ll need to ensure sound and video are both broadcasting correctly to the right online location.

The Hybrid Model Adds Value to a Live Event

Making the shift from a live-only to a hybrid trade show model definitely adds more work to your load. But the potential value that the hybrid model adds is much greater. Shifting from live to hybrid gives you the chance to expand your audience, gain new exhibitors and sponsors, and create a trade show that’s more valuable for everyone—you included.

Jack Connolly

Executive Creative Director

As an experiential creative director, Jack prefers to draw outside the lines. He tells stories with original content and impactful design to ignite meaningful conversation.


Jack brings 20 years of event industry knowledge to ProGlobalEvents. He specializes in building live & virtual platforms for audiences to connect, engage and immerse themselves in the power of a shared experience. His skills range from ideation and concept development to defining an attendee journey through storytelling and design.

Jack understands the creative process is not linear, but a collaborative process between agency and client. He manages teams of designers and technology developers to pioneer impactful brand experiences. His diverse skillset and leadership ensure for award-winning results and memorable impressions.


In 2019, BizBash named Jack one of the top event designers in North America. SXSW awarded his work the “People’s Choice in Innovation” in 2021.

Jerome Nadel

Chief Marketing Officer

Jerome Nadel is Internationally experienced design-led marketing executive (CMO and GM) with a track record of improved market position, revenue growth, and M&A. He is an advance degreed psychologist and user experience product/service design expert, board member and advisor.


Prior to joining ProGlobalEvents |ProExhibits |XtendLive, he has had a variety of chief marketing officer and chief user experience officer roles at companies including Rambus, BrainChip, Human Factors International, SLP InfoWare, Gemplus, and Sagem. He started his career in the IBM Human Factors Labs.


He is also an avid cyclist with National and multiple California State Champion titles.

Ivan Fujihara

Chief Financial Officer

Ivan brings 25+ years in senior level management experience from a variety of technology industries.  His background includes accounting management, analytics and audit management for technology companies.  He has worked with companies such as THX, Ltd, Recruitology , Double Click, Creative Labs and more.  Ivan has also served on the board of Lincoln Families, a non-profit that supports East Bay children with the objective of disrupting the cycle of trauma and poverty.

Matt Rulis

Vice President of Sales

Matt is a marketing professional and has been managing marketing strategies, campaigns and environments for a diverse client base for over 15 years. From a service perspective, Matt and his team of Account Executives focus on fostering relationships to uphold a greater than 99% customer satisfaction rating year-over-year. Additionally, with extensive experience on the client-side of the industry, he understands that alignment between expectation and budget is paramount to a successful project. As a result, ProGlobalEvents' clients can expect a competitive advantage paired with top quality products and services. Matt is an avid fly-fisherman, enjoys most outdoor activities and is a true college football fanatic.

Tom Foley

VP of Operations

Heading the fabrication side of ProGlobalEvents is exhibit and event industry veteran, Tom Foley. For over 35 years he has been responsible for building amazing exhibits and environments for clients. Tom started out in the production area and has broad experience in project and operations management. He currently oversees production, warehouse, graphics and project management departments. Tom studied machine tool technology and welding before entering the industry. As a true "builder" he also enjoys restoring and modifying classic American cars.

Dick Wheeler


Dick serves as President of ProGlobalEvents and President of ProExhibits and is a board member of CEMA (Corporate Event Marketing Association). At ProExhibits he has been nationally recognized as an innovator and driving force in the fast-growing trade show exhibit and event industry. Under his leadership in 1997, the firm received INC magazine’s INC 500 award as one of America’s fastest-growing companies. His informative articles on developments and innovations in the trade show exhibit and event industry have appeared in national trade publications. Dick has a B.S. degree from Wittemore School of Business & Economics at the University of New Hampshire and has completed the Entrepreneurial Executive Leadership Program sponsored by MIT, YEO and INC. He is actively involved in Vistage, an interactive group of over 20,000 CEO’s and presidents worldwide and is a member of CEMA and EDPA.

Jody Tatro

Chief Executive Officer

In addition to being CEO of ProGlobalEvents, Jody is also the CEO of ProExhibits. With Jody at the helm, the company has been recognized repeatedly as one of the Top 50 Women Owned Businesses in Silicon Valley. She has set the outstanding client service standards for which the firm’s account management team is noted. Jody is a recipient of the YWCA’s Tribute to Women Award, the Junior League Community Volunteer Award and is listed in Who’s Who of Women in Business. Following her graduation from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Jody held various sales positions in several technology companies.