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Virtual Trade Shows: Pros and Cons



With the rise of technology and the decline of the economy, more and more corporations are turning to virtual trade shows as a way to save money. In her article on Forbes.com, "How to Table a Virtual Trade Show," Melanie Lindner outlines a few tips and guidelines to follow in order to make the most out of your virtual trade show experience.

Virtual trade shows look and function like the real thing, only they take place in cyberspace. The online venue may even be designed to look like a convention center, complete with lobby, lounge and exhibit hall featuring many different companies' booths.

Many of the benefits of virtual trade shows are most present in the budgets of smaller companies who cannot always afford the expensive but necessary task of attending larger, actual trade shows. Big businesses with a lot of money have a clear advantage in that they can afford the extra costs for premium booth space, podium presentation time, and top advertising on event programs and banners. The cost of this level of participation can be upwards of $100,000.

Virtual shows offer much smaller entry fees for exhibitors, and little to no entry fee for attendees. While prime placement in a hall may be a few thousand more, the $3,000 - $5,000 spent on an effective virtual trade show booth is much smaller than the $25,000 - $100,000 spent on the real shows.

While many of the benefits of these shows are monetary, there are several other reasons to consider exhibiting in or attending a virtual trade show. Exhibitors may track materials that have been downloaded by visitors, giving them a better idea of what marketing messages are more effective than others. Virtual trade shows also cut down on travel time and costs. Since you can run your booth and attend others with the click of a mouse, you are free to do this from anywhere in the world. Without the costs of renting and running a convention center as well as traveling, virtual trade shows are becoming an attractive "green" alternative to real trade shows.

Despite all of the benefits of holding and attending virtual trade shows, there are a few down sides. First of all, networking opportunities are much more limited when you are not actually walking the aisles of a show, bumping into possible new clients and business contacts. While there are opportunities to "socialize" in the virtual lounge, much of the chatter mimicked social chatter through instant message, rather than business talk in a face-to-face conversation. Also, while participants are free to attend as many booths as they please and at their leisure, there is no opportunity to touch and experiment with new products. Finally, if you are ever at risk of getting distracted, virtual trade shows are not for you. Staying immersed in the show and not in other activities or work can be difficult, as Facebook and email are only a click away.

With more and more businesses increasing the level of technology and "greenness" in their offices, virtual trade shows continue to become more popular. However, depending on the personality of your company and the nature of the product, the informal and hands-off environment may or may not be ideal. But hopefully this overview of the pros and cons can help you decide if virtual trade shows are the way to go for your company.





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