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Virtual Trade Shows: It’s Not What You Think

posted on 2010-11-10

A few years ago Second Life was all the rage and you didn’t have to squint too far into the future to see how this could impact the Trade Show Industry.  If you don’t know about Second Life here’s a quick recap:  it’s a virtual world where you can create a character, wander around, and interact with other characters in real time online.  You can buy houses, drive cars and even attend book signings and theatre performances.

Companies started to truly invest in this as well.  Microsoft and IBM both had a store and seminar space as did thousands of other corporations large and small.    So if you could walk through this virtual world, look at objects, and talk to people, why not have a trade show.

Susan Friedman cites the 6 advantage of Virtual Trade Shows, and Forbes recently ran an article on How to Tackle a Virtual Trade Show and Nine Steps for Tackling A Virtual Trade Show, but we’re not convinced.   Why?  Facebook and LInkedIn.  These are powerful ways of connecting people and interacting in a way that’s much more comfortable and intuitive.  Much of the hype around Second Life calmed down as other social media sites that were far more accessible came to the fore.  And it wasn’t that it was just easier to use.  It’s that these sites allowed us to be ourselves more easily rather than who we’d like to be.  Fantasies are great and Second Life certainly let’s people indulge them, but the Internet has always grown organically around the mundane aspects of every day life.

Social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are also easy to use and intuitive.  You can interact when and if you like.  Asking folks to control an avatar in real-time is kind of like going to a costume party:  it’s fun at first and then really awkward.

And here’s a news flash: the virtual trade show is already here:  it’s called Google.  You can search for just about every type of equipment and technology, research what others have to say about it and get just about all the information that you need to make a buying decision.  In fact, a real honest to goodness trade show might be the apex of this buying process where buying decisions are merely verified.  Smart companies are focusing on their social media strategy so that they can tap into all the searches happening on Google.  Using these types of sites they can connect with customers, analyze needs, and begin a relationship before a booth is even designed.

There is some room in cyberspace for the development of virtual trade shows.  But rather than avatar representatives manning booths in the digital realm, it will probably look more like a hybrid of Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Throw Twitter in there for good measure.

These types of sites make linking information with people easy and that’s the reason we go to trade shows in the first place.  So before you suit up your avatar, look at Google, LinkedIn and Facebook and make sure you’re using these tools to their full extent.

This post was written by:

James Krouse