Friday, January 15, 2010

Companies Turn to Virtual Trade Shows

USA Today had an interesting article last week "Companies Turn to Virtual Trade Shows to Save Money" by Roger Yu. I'm both a meeting planner and supplier. I plan meetings for the mystery community (readers/writers), and I supply meetings with interactive entertainment and team building events. So I looked at this article from both perspectives.

Even as this article was being published, I was making plans to attend three live trade shows in the meeting industry, all the same week. I am only "exhibiting" at one of these three tradeshows--the smallest least expensive one, at that, and I'm attending the other two as a planner as I need sites for some upcoming conventions and meetings. I would welcome the opportunity to have a virtual trade show for both sides of my business.

It's not just the travel, but its the expense of setting up, taking time from other business, as well as the fees for these trade shows. This past year I did a trade show where no one showed. I know that's about the marketing, but I think people in the meeting industry, especially, should be at the forefront of virtual trade shows.

Now, I'm not saying all trade shows should be that way. I'm attending the Fancy Food Show this week for my Chocolate TeamBuilding Events and DyingforChocolate Blog (two hats there, too), and let's face it, there's nothing like food samples and great salespeople to make a sale and endear a customer. But some trade shows can be virtual. I've attended one wedding virtual fair. The technology wasn't smooth, but, that can be tweaked.

According to the article, "Virtual shows combine the latest technology in webcasting, online chats, video streaming, webinars and avatar graphics to offer the elements of trade shows: exhibitor booths, speeches, seminars, distribution of marketing literature and social "gatherings."

The technology companies that develop virtual-meetings software, such as Unisfair, ON24 and Second Life, say they're seeing big demand. Event-planning firm Champion Exposition Services says about 70% of companies that it has queried are "producing, considering or interested in pursuing virtual events."

As the article says, there are pros and cons.

The Pros: they're cheaper and easier to plan. Speeches and seminars can be archived. International participants can "attend" with little or no expense. Speakers and moderators don't have to linger all day. And participants' interests and activities can be monitored.

The Cons: Networking opportunities are limited. There are no face-to-face meetings or serendipitous run-ins with clients. Participants can't touch products.

What do you think?

Read the Entire Article HERE


Diane said...

I agree, virtual or hybrid is the way to go. As an event manager, I am attending the Virtual Edge Summit in Santa Clara next month so I can learn more about how to host a virtual event and meet with the platform companies.

Janet Rudolph said...

Diane, Love to learn more about that meeting. Will look it up or can you send info?

Unknown said...

I was definitely on the fence about the value of participating in a virtual event. We exhibited at EXPOTech last month and had a great experience. The traffic was good, the attendee base was good and we received good, quality leads from the event.

CHOPS said...

Nice post, Janet. We are seeing a large demand forming for virtual event producers as well as the events themselves. Last week, we did a webinar on this subject with Jena Barker, an event planner from San Francisco.
If anyone wants to speak to a producer, I am happily available -

Janet Rudolph said...

Very interesting. Thanks for posting.