Be Wary of Virtual Trade Shows for Technology Marketing

Take it from someone who helped a client host a virtual trade show, there is much to be desired right now.

Traditional trade shows have been a main stay in most industries. It is a great way to generate business, make new contacts and check out the competition. A few years ago, when the Great Recession was in its infancy, virtual trade show platforms popped up everywhere promising an amazing experience that rivaled the real thing—minus the expense reports and hangovers.

The technology industry was no different from any other industry. If there was a way to cut costs without losing out on the positive aspects of a trade show—game on. Little did we realize the monumental task of putting on a virtual trade show.

Let’s look at the big picture:

  • A virtual trade show is…virtual, so bandwidth is a critical component all the way around. The host platform needs to be able to handle hundreds of people interacting with other people and content. Each visitor and participating company representative has to have a fast connection. The stability of the platform is paramount.
  • The content, oh the content. Exhibitors had the opportunity to display presentations, videos and downloadable documents in its booth. I would say we conservatively had 3,000 “chunks” of content that had to be loaded up before the show date, this is no small task (did I mention bandwidth). If you’ve ever worked a trade show you know you’re in your hotel room the night before the show deleting inappropriate or off-brand content from the presentations submitted by your team. I’ve been there.
  • Training the exhibitors takes the scheduling skills of an, well, event planner. Virtual trade shows were new to everyone back then so helping the exhibitors get comfortable with the functionality of the platform was critical. The shows success hinges on the exhibitors comfortably “moving” around the event and interacting with participants.
  • Expectations. When you close your eyes and think of a “Virtual Trade Show” do you see a world like Second Life where you are a 3D avatar interacting with others in an amazing environment? Sorry to disappoint you, most of the virtual trade show platforms that exist are simply 3D renderings of trade booths without any avatars. You just click around and your screen refreshes. Yep, boring.

Virtual Trade Shows will eventually catch up to the hype, but for now, you’re probably better off going to ESC even if it’s just as a visitor.

Have you ever been to a virtual trade show? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Photo Credit: signalstation via photo pin cc

Chris Fuller
About Chris Fuller

For over 20 years, as a partner of thinkdm2, a digital branding and marketing agency, I have helped simplify marketing for many clients. Intelligent Systems can be quite complicated, and marketing them even more so. I enjoy making the complex simple. My blog, Simplexity, is an attempt to put my experience to use for Intelligent Systems Marketers.

2 Responses to Be Wary of Virtual Trade Shows for Technology Marketing
  1. Pam Broviak Reply

    Why aren’t we creating trade shows in places like Second Life? A few years ago our government group in Second Life set up a very small trade show area for people to go through after they attended the virtual conference we held there. It didn’t seem too difficult to set up. And a couple years before that I attended a technology based trade show held in Second Life. Both were engaging, interesting, and fun. Nothing like the ones mentioned in your article – I’ve attended those types too and you are right – they are flat and boring.

    Vendors of virtual products are constantly hosting virtual trade shows in Second Life that are amazing – the groups that host these seem to develop amazing and engaging environments and trade show spaces in a short amount of time. And they are interesting to go through and well attended – I always think, if only we could get vendors of offline products to set up booths. I’d love to work on one for the public works industry even if I had to do it in OpenSim.

    • admin Reply

      Hi Pam, you make a good point. I worked on a Second Life project many years ago. At that time, I think the platform was still foreign to most people. You would just find these niche groups and companies experimenting with the platform. I’ve also played around with AvayaLive Engage recently and I think there is real promise for this type of platform to be adopted by companies––if they are built for business from the start. It reminds me of the segmentation/specialization we have with our social media outlets…Facebook is for friends and families…LinkedIn is for business. Efforts to break those boundaries are often met with protest from users. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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