Editor’s Note: The following is a story written by Evanne Schmarder for Woodall’s Campground Management on the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II that ran last week.
After months of promotion and preparation, the live portion of Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II came to a close on Friday (Nov. 11). When asked how it went, show producer Art Lieberman remarked, “It’s not over yet, we still have 58 days to go – in on-demand.”
He notes that with nearly 300 unique attendees, the numbers are better than last year’s Virtual Expo – even without a big name keynote speaker opening the session – and are expected to continue to grow.
Lieberman will be sending a survey to attendees next week to gather feedback and gauge attendee satisfaction. The attendees and exhibitors interviewed for this article were all emphatic about one thing: the concept.
“A virtual conference in and of itself is amazing. The virtual environment simply blew me away,” said Gina Hole, social media/marketing manager for Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Fremont, Ind. Hole was not able to attend the virtual show last year and was delighted to be able to do so this year, a week before the LSI/Yogi Symposium, from the comfort of her office sans travel hassle and expense. Interested in a particular company’s product, her request for information was followed up in less than 20 minutes by a company rep.
“There’s a definite place for these types of events in our industry,” remarked Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). “Much like a physical show, attendees need time to take in the environment, get the lay of the land and figure out where things are. While virtual shows will never replace a live event, they are a complimentary way to offer web-based learning experiences to our industry.”
A virtual show producer of sorts in his own right, Ingrassia headed a virtual event for RVDA earlier this year. After perusing the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo, he was impressed with the number of exhibitors and found the software user-friendly. Attending a session on private/public park strategy left Ingrassia with a number of take-aways to share with his association members.
Second-year virtual show attendee Randy Hendrickson, president of Horizon RV Resorts, is a tremendous fan of the virtual platform but remarked upon some technical limitations of this year’s software. A self-described “tech-junkie,” Hendrickson spoke of a missing link between the registration phase and the Expo opening, and felt a walk-through user tutorial would have served the attendees and the exhibitors well.
After entering and exploring several booths, Hendrickson was surprised – and a little disappointed – to not be acknowledged by even one booth personnel. “I very much want this to succeed so spent time at several exhibitor booths but, frankly, if I was not hugely interested in the virtual show concept I would have bugged out in 30 seconds,” he said.
Still, Hendrickson believes in the promise and future of virtual expos with the right technology and notes we’re just not there yet.
Case-in-point, he brought it all back to the purpose of attending (and exhibiting) with what he called the “everything factor of one” noting that one connection, one meeting, one relationship gained makes it worthwhile. Last year, as a result of attending the Virtual Expo, Horizon RV Resorts developed a working relationship with a key industry vendor, making all the technical headaches very much worth it.
Scott Foos is Horizon RV Resort’s vice president of development and took the opportunity to attend an educational session. Though he reported no technical issues in watching the session, he wished it were more personalized for the event as opposed to the “off the shelf” feel and commented on the challenge of interacting with the speaker during the Q&A period.
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The final touches were added to booths today in preparation for Thursday’s opening of the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II on the Internet.
The Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo will have 34 booths of exhibits, educational webinars, webinars conducted by various sponsors and exhibitors, a Resource Center and a Chat Lounge, producer Art Lieberman announced.
Expo hours are noon to 6 p.m. EST on Thursday and Friday. The Expo will also run in the on-demand status for an additional 60 days.
To attend the Expo go to http://live.outdoorhospitalityexpo.com – and complete the registration information.
Attending or viewing the Expo and associated events is totally free to attendees. After the live show closes on Friday, the Expo will remain available for viewing an additional 60 days into 2012. All of the booths will continue to be accessible and the seminars will be viewable since they will have been recorded.
Nearly 40,000 notices have been sent out to 15,000 owners of campgrounds, marinas, ski lodges, golfing resorts, dude ranches and paddleboat and canoeing facilities. Also receiving invitations are members of the press, trade associations and governmental agencies who participate in the outdoor hospitality industry.
Over 3,300 prospective attendees have been sent notices announcing that they have been pre-registered and a user name and password have been provided to them to enter the expo. A schedule of the conference speakers and their subject matter will be posted on the website of the virtual show at www.outdoorhospitalityexpo.com.
With the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II only 11 days away, the producers and the show’s software provider, VCopious, are putting the finishing touches on the event scheduled for Nov. 10-11.
According to a press release, almost all the booths are now set up, the exhibitor roster and webinar schedule are complete and the training sessions are underway for sponsors and exhibitors alike. The producers are adding details to the appearance of the Expo slated to begin at noon EST on Nov. 10. The Expo has already pre-registered over 100 attendees, not including Expo personnel.
“So much has changed from last year’s event,” says producer Art Lieberman, “and most importantly VCopious has handled all of the software setup including utilizing data provided by exhibitors to arrange the appearance of their booths. This freed up Campground Expositions allowing us to advertise to potential attendees as never before.”
Last week, two additional businesses, cabin and park model manufacturer North Park Cabins and Park Models and Colortime Crafts and Markers, joined the Expo’s list of exhibitors.
The webinar schedule includes Social Syncing: Cross Platform Content Marketing; Marketing to Rally Groups; Credit Cards: A Primer on Savings and Security; PCI Compliance and Software; and Social Media Marketing. And, once again, Evanne Schmarder will present her “RV Cooking Show,” live from her RV kitchen. The ‘Sponsors Webinar Room’ will allow sponsors to demonstrate their products and services to groups. All webinars and sessions will be recorded and viewable for the entire 62 days the Expo is on the web – both live days and 60 days after the Expo in an on-demand status.
Free registration is available at http://register.outdoorhospitalityexpo.com.
Pre-registration is now open for the Virtual Outdoor Hospitality Expo II, scheduled for the Internet on Nov. 10-11.
“We’ve waited until two weeks prior to the Virtual Expo’s opening to start registering attendees. They can do so online, of course, at http://register.outdoorhospitalityexpo.com,” said Deanne Bower, the Expo’s co-producer. “No one has to make travel plans, book a hotel room or hire babysitters to take care of the kids for a virtual show. They can see the Expo, attend the webinars, make purchases of goods and services and even socialize with other people in the industry without leaving the comfort of their home or office.”
Registering and attending the entire Expo is free. The Expo will run from noon until 6 p.m. EST on Nov. 10-11. It will then be available “on demand” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the next 60 days. All of the webinars will be recorded and contact information for the exhibitors will be available in their booths.
The roster of sponsors and exhibitors is all set (although a few are still being added), about 75% of the booths are complete, speakers are being shown how to utilize the software for presentations and, although the demo site is still being used, the actual Expo site is nearly completed, with finishing touches being applied by VCopious, the software provider for the Expo.
The Expo directory is being assembled and advertising is ready to be sent to various publications next week along with e-mails on queue pre-registering attendees. Approximately 12,000 business owners in the outdoor hospitality industry will receive notification of the event.
“It’s wonderful when all a business person need do to attend is click on a link, fill in some information and then spend as much or as little time as they want at a trade show. No hassles whatsoever. This year, thanks to a “buy it now” button, they’ll even be able to make purchases from exhibitor’s websites,” continued Lieberman.
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 email@example.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.