Editor’s Note: The following story was provided by veteran writer Evanne Schmarder.
Celebrity Cruises did. Comdex is making a comeback with it. Detroit is getting a piece of it. Even the outdoor hospitality industry is on top of it.
Virtual Expos – offered independently or in conjunction with live shows – expand upon technology some of us have become comfortable with such as webinars and online chats while delivering a very budget-friendly, productive trade show experience for attendees and exhibitors alike.
For the uninitiated, a virtual trade show is exactly what it sounds like – a trade show in a box – your computer.
Attend one and – believe it or not — you’ll be able to sit in on seminars and panel discussions and ask questions, visit vendor booths, chat with reps and collect printed collateral via downloads and, depending on the show’s software, even find yourself “bumping into” peers and prospects in the virtual hallways.
Prized for their cost-effectiveness, drawing power and ease of attendance, virtual expos are big and getting bigger. “The virtual conference and trade show market has more than doubled in a year from 2008 to 2009 and we expect a compound annual growth rate of 56% through 2015,”market analysts at Market Research Media report.
In fact, by 2015 they forecast the virtual expo market to be an $18.6 billion industry.
Now are these events simply drastic measures in tough times?
Depends on how you look at it. Most convention and event planners will tell you that attendance figures at conventional shows are down – way down in some cases. Between the cost of travel, lodging, meals and registration, business owners are examining the benefits of the expense – all of which brings us to the upcoming, Nov. 1-3 Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo, produced for the first time this year by Art Lieberman, president on a full-time basis for credit card company MCPS for Campgrounds.
“There’s almost nothing like pressing flesh at live shows,” says Lieberman, “because the social aspect is very important in order to generate relationships. This certainly won’t be replaced by virtual expos – even in 3D – but instead will complement live shows.
“We are attending several live shows this year, including ARVC (National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds) InSites,” he added. “On the other hand, as a supplier it is a very cost-effective method of working with a number of customers all across the country. Additionally, in my experience as a show producer, top-rated speakers are expensive. By conducting a virtual show, our speakers have no travel time or expense and can share their wisdom from the comfort of their own homes or offices.”
While the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) is considering its first such event yet this year, Lieberman, based in New Berlin, Pa., has forged ahead with its inaugural Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. (EST), Nov. 1-3. Attendees may visit booths 24 hours a day – even during the unmanned hours – for free. And the entire event – from seminars to booth visits – will be available to view online for 90 days after the close of the “live” expo.
“Virtual expos have great potential and we are pleased this is being tried in our industry. ARVC continues to look into this possibility and is eager to see the technology advance,” remarked ARVC president and CEO Linda Profaizer.
The Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo will include RV parks and campgrounds, marinas, golf resorts, and other outdoor hospitality industries, with both exhibitors and attendees participating.
“With 16 hours of show time we anticipate running eight to 12 seminars including a keynote by Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) and Steve Ashkin, president, Ashkin Consulting LLC and founder/executive director of Green Cleaning Network,” noted Lieberman.
He added that the Expo will host over 60 exhibitors ranging from technology providers to recreational product suppliers, state associations and more.
The Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo registration is now open and attendance is free. Interested parties are encouraged to pre-register at www.pre-show.outdoorhospitalityexpo.com. Once registration is complete, attendees will be able to login to the live show on Nov. 1 and take advantage of all the benefits of virtual attendance.
In order to participate, attendees will need:
- High-speed broadband Internet access.
- Adobe Flash. If you do not have Flash, there will be an option to upload the free program.
- Internet Explorer 7 and above or Firefox 3.0 and above. Mac users can log in on Safari.
- Audio. Speakers must be turned on or plugged in to hear the seminars and other audio.
Pop-up blockers must be turned off in order for the show to load and run properly.
So, whether you are an industry executive, a member of an affiliated industry, a park buyer or simply curious about how this “virtual event” works, mark your calendar and make your way to the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo show floor.