Impressions on a virtual trade show

April 28, 2010 by Dave Haynes

This was a nutty day, and I am writing this in between scheduled calls, so my time spent at the digital signage virtual trade show held today was fairly fleeting. Maybe 25 minutes or so spent poking around.

So I am in no position to offer any deep impressions and ideas. But then, I didn’t need more than 20 minutes to look around.

The event was tied in with InfoComm and organized by publisher NewBay Media, which does Digital Signage Weekly. You registered. Got a password by e-mail, and logged in online. I thought it was a little goofy that the Google Chrome browser was not supported, but that’s a software thing, not an organizer thing.

Once you logged in there was a virtual center hall of a virtual convention center, and then you virtually poked around to see what you wanted to see. There were virtual booths for eight vendors. Presentations that I believe were tied to a timetable could be clicked and viewed when I wanted (which made more sense anyway). There was a resources area and a lounge thingdoodle which was, in effect, a chat room and discussion area.

When I was on in midday there were 57 people (maybe a lot of people had gone for virtual lunch?) at the trade show, and I saw somewhere the number 412. Whatever the case, there was activity and things to click around and see. Vendors like Cisco and NEC had documents and the vendors all had video intros that ran visitors through the pots and pans pitch.

Did I think this was great? No. But it was a first crack at this and I found it interesting. I don’t think for a second it can take the place of trade shows but as an organized marketplace it presents some interesting, albeit early concepts of how more potential buyers and sellers could be brought together without getting on a plane. For eveyone who has the budget to go to InfoComm, there are probably 5-10 others who can’t go but would like to learn.

The notion of having an organized area that allows vendors to show their products and provide background info is in many respects just a duplication of a Website, but by ganging them together there is more of a sense of a marketplace and discovery, versus a mission to look at particular vendors. I think this is more valuable to smaller vendors that get to have an equal footing with the big guys than it is for the big budget guys who already have an audience and deep contact list.

So … this thing had the feel of corporate Websites back in about 1995. A little threadbare and limited. But given everything that is possible with social media, I think it is an idea that was worth pursuing and would be happy to see it continue if there was enough there to justify the cost and effort.

I sure wasn’t wowed, but didn’t expect to be. Hats off to New Bay and InfoComm for giving it a try.

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