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Virtual Expos: ‘New Normal in Trade Shows?’

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October 17, 2011 by   Leave a Comment

There’s an inevitable 21st century move toward the virtual world, say the promoters of an Internet-based event for the RV park & campground sector — a virtual convention called “David Gorin & Associates Presents: The Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II” that will be attended Nov. 10-11 and for 60 days afterward on an on-demand basis exclusively by on-screen conventioneers.

Sponsors of the second annual Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II, produced by Art Lieberman and Deanne Bower of Campground Expositions, New Berlin, Pa., point out that a recent survey found that 91% of Fortune 500 companies participated in a virtual event in 2010.

Many businesses, big and small, have begun spending their marketing dollars in virtual shows and conferences rather than in physical ones, they add. “Witness the growth of such Internet communication programs such as GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar or the growth of teleconferencing in place of corporate people actually traveling to a location to contact business associates,” the release points out. “Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, are becoming another method for companies to make consumers aware of their goods and services.”

“The trade show for many years has been the method of business-to-business or business-to-consumer solicitation,” the release maintains. “These shows, enhanced by educational seminars and social occasions, have been the mainstay of many industries’ marketing. In 1993, according to Wikipedia, the ‘virtual tradeshow’ was first publicly described and presented as “ConventionView” by Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman of Visual Data Corporation, now known as Onstream Media, in a presentation to investors at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. Although not in the present format, their idea gave birth to the modern day virtual trade show.

“Like a physical show, the virtual event contains exhibit booths, conferences and an area where attendees can socialize. Unlike physical shows, virtual shows require no venue, show dresser, travel, hotel stays, shipping, car rentals, restaurant dining or time away from business or home.

“These advantages alone are staggering, but consider this — that speakers need not travel nor stay at a hotel, saving the producer money and making it easier to afford and attract key speakers. Additionally, there are no costs of renting a convention center for a given amount of days, then having to leave it for the next event. That is why many virtual shows run live for two or three days but the booths remain for an additional period (typically 60 to 90 days) in an ‘on-demand’ basis.

“Most dramatically, attendees need not leave the comfort of their homes or businesses to attend and they can leave and return as often as they want. Businesses can afford to have many more of their people attend the show than they would otherwise have had at a live show. Since the only relevant cost of a virtual show is the software that runs the event, costs to exhibitors can be lower and, in some cases, such as the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo, there can be NO cost to the attendee either for the trade show or for the educational conferences. Compare this to attending other shows in the park industry.

“There are dozens of other features of a virtual show that are not possible at a physical event,” the campground industry’s virtual trade show sponsors add. “Reporting facilities for exhibitors are greatly enhanced. They will know exactly how many attendees were present, how long they stayed, where they visited, what webinars they attended, what materials they took with them in their briefcases and how many times they revisited the site. Links can be provided that will take attendees from an e-mail or a website directly into an exhibitors booth, and that booth can look like a standard trade show booth or a cabin, park model, yurt or even an RV.

“Instead of a badge that identifies an attendee, exhibitors will see a ‘business card’ loaded with information gleaned from the registration information. Then a variety of methods can be used to communicate between the parties including a webcam, a microphone or telephone or written chat. The attendee may see or download videos, brochures, flyers, the e-mail address of the exhibitors or go directly to their website. They can hit a ‘buy it now’ button and are taken to the shopping cart of the exhibitor’s website to purchase products or services immediately.

“Webinars are run in a ‘Conference Center’ with a keynote speaker and are recorded and viewable for the entire time the show runs, including the ‘on demand’ period. Because a virtual show is being run on the Internet, speakers may actually be conversing from thousands of miles apart.

“There is no better example of all that a virtual show is capable of than the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo which opens less than a month from now on November 10th and 11th from noon to 6 PM, eastern standard time LIVE on the Internet. The Expo will cover the entire spectrum of outdoor hospitality businesses including campgrounds, marinas, ski resorts, golf resorts, canoeing and paddlesports and dude ranches.”

Next week, they report, a link to the registration will be sent out to tens of thousands of outdoor hospitality businesses, and record attendance is expected this year.

“But what of the physical trade shows?” asks Lieberman and Bower. “Will they disappear as the technology grows? Probably not. There is no substitution for meeting your customers face-to-face, and we don’t mean their avatar. As to the producers of the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expos reaction to physical shows? They say, ‘see you in Savannah in December!’”

Contact Lieberman and Bower by calling (877) 901-EXPO (3976) or by e-mail at campvirtualshow@yahoo.com. Their website, currently being updated, is www.outdoorhospitalityexpo.com. Pelland Advertising, which maintains the Expo’s webpage, can be reached through https://pelland.com.

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