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My First Virtual Trade Show

- March 23, 2009 - 1 Comment


In light of today’s restricted travel budgets it’s no surpirse that there’s an increase in the use of virtual tradeshows. On the 11th of March I managed my first virtual tradeshow booth for Cisco- an enterprise architecture show hosted by IDG, Infoworld and Computerworld. As best as I can tell the show is free to attend by simply registering and supplying some professional information. With that you’re able to view the virtual booths (above is an image of the Cisco booth), view collateral from each of the vendors, download collateral, and view the web-based presentations of the main hall speakers.At the Cisco booth we offered sections on:

  • Cloud
  • Collaboration
  • Security
  • Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

If you’re interested in taking a look at the Cisco booth and viewing the collateral click the following link to be taken to the landing page for the Enterprise Architecture Virtual ConferenceI’d appreciate your feedback on the booth, the collateral, and the videos. If you’re interested in my thoughts of the virtual tradeshow then read the full blog.As my first virtual tradeshow I didn’t really have any expectations on attendees and interactions, but I do know the power of the web and what can be done within a browser and I fully expected to maximize that potential. With that I set about to make the experience as interactive as possible and mimic an actual tradeshow to the best of my ability.Anybody that has worked or attended a tradeshow knows how a booth operates. The booth is broken up into sections with products, solutions or even partner sections. Attendees wander around with a purpose or aimlessly and booth staffers recite verbal “hooks” intended to draw the attendees into their section for discussions and demonstrations. In the world of virtual tradeshows the sections are called “content tabs” and in each content tab I was able to upload files that attendees could then view and download. As mentioned earlier the content tabs were: cloud, collaboration, security and SOA. In order to “hook” people into looking at the content tab I had different staffers create question and answer (Q&A) videos for the booth. I sprinkled the question videos in the booth and referenced the answer video in the content tab. The intent being to provide some video interaction and drive traffic to the collateral for downloading. The major drawback to this approach is the entire video wasn’t clickable to start, instead one has to click the “micro-play” button on the lower left corner of each video. I think a lot of attendees may have missed this because of the size.At the same time, the booth was staffed and we had the ability to interact with attendees via a chat window. There were two options for chatting; a direct one on one chat window or a booth-wide public chat window. While there were some chat sessions that happened, the overall experience was that there isn’t a lot of chat activity happening. Of the over 100 attendees we only had 4 individual chat sessions. In some cases it was reported that attempting to start a chat session seemed to drive away attendees that preferred to browse the content in private.I also asked industry experts from Cisco to attend and host breakout sessions for attendees. I had created a series of unique breakout group chat windows for industry discussions: education, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail. Unfortunately there was a technical glitch and we weren’t able to have visibility to people attending for the first half of the breakout session. While we did have attendees visit the breakout sessions, the conversations I’d hoped for didn’t happen because of these visibility challenges.There was also a cloud breakout session hosted by James Urquhart who blogs on CNET at The Wisdom of Clouds. Unfortunately, the same technical glitch with the industry breakout sessions affected the cloud breakout session as well. However, reports on attendee activity show that cloud was one of the most popular topics of the show.All in all I would say that despite some technical challenges with the virtual world and the feeling that web-based applications were not being used to their potential such as incorporating vidoe chat or whiteboarding capabilities the show was a very positive experience. I think there’s a lot of potential in virtual tradeshows provided they’re marketed correctly and the content is relevant to the audience and show theme. What are your thoughts on virtual tradeshows? What did you think of my first Cisco booth? Take a look and leave a comment letting me know your thoughts.

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  1. Great post. Trade shows will remain a very important part of the marketing mix.