On behalf of Messe München, MEPLAN developed a new hybrid trade fair concept for EXPO REAL. Today we talk to our MEPLAN DESIGN team leader Harald Hüser about the opportunities and challenges of hybrid fair concepts, and what they have in common with a Hanuta biscuit.
Keyword "Hybrid Summit" – What exactly is a hybrid trade fair concept?
In short, a hybrid trade fair concept is a physical trade fair with a digital extension. Or, as I like to say: A hybrid trade fair concept is like a Ferrero Hanuta. A cookie on top, a cookie underneath, with the chocolate in the middle to combine everything to create a spatial presence experience. In our case, the cookies represent both the event and the online presence levels. The chocolate symbolizes the interactions that create an experience between the two presence spaces. And it is precisely these interactions that are so important, because it is through them that the real added value for the visitor is generated.
How did you proceed in developing the new hybrid trade fair building concept?
It was literally a design sprint. Fitted with masks and maintaining a safe distance, we retreated for a two-day session. On the whiteboard, we sketched out initial assumptions and requirements, and then brought our ideas to life – define / dream / decide / do. The design solution incrementally developed into a coherent overall concept. It passed testing and was happily adopted by the EXPO REAL team.
What were the biggest challenges to be mastered in developing the concept?
One of the biggest challenges is the lack of clarity in the definition of terms. Many digital topics are still so new that everyone places them in a different context. In addition, of course, there are the health and safety concepts that place special demands on live interaction spaces. There is no master that can serve as a template. Everything had to be developed from scratch.
Which opportunities do you see in this new hybrid MEPLAN concept?
The incredible scaling option of "on_site" and "on_line" participants – nationally and internationally –offers almost unlimited possibilities. The new presence space of a trade show event has the potential to use its digital extensions to connect with other locations. Thus, the digital extensions of the physical trade fair offer an enormous range maximization and expansion of interaction possibilities. This makes hybrid trade fair events – in the future – incredibly attractive for the owners of the platform.
And what do you personally like best about the hybrid concept?
The freedom to decide from which location I can acquire which content, independent of the location. This is a real gain in freedom for participants of a trade fair event, offering many new users, e.g. graduates, students or young professionals, an enriching participation option without the need for major investments.
Do you believe that in the future, all trade fairs will be hybrid?
Yes, I think there will always be both in the future, an "on_site" and "on_line" presence format. Digital linking already existed before. The fact that buyers and sellers can now buy the whole thing as a package and that information technology greatly facilitates lead management and solution finding is making the whole thing very attractive for both of them, of course.