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In this series, Exhibit City News will examine the growing rivalry between face-to-face marketing and virtual tradeshows.

In 1985 the great debate was; which was better old Coke or new Coke? The controversy surged for a time while consumers determined, not which was better for them, but which was superior.

In 2010, the ensuing contest is between time-tested, veteran competitor, the face-to-face tradeshow, and rookie powerhouse, the virtual tradeshow.

Tradeshows are going virtual almost everywhere, but is that necessarily what’s best for the industry?

“The recent growth indicates very clearly this solution is here to stay and companies need to look into adding it to their overall strategy of connecting with their target audiences on an ongoing basis,” said Tom Wieser, VP of Virtual Solutions, CGS. “Companies launch virtual events either as a cost effective replacement of a physical event or a hybrid solution combined with a physical event.”

Virtual tradeshows also offer a convenience level never before seen for attendees, as well as numerous fiscal effects for the attendees’ company budget.

Global Crossing, host of the virtual tradeshow Collaborate NOW!, agrees there are personal financial gains with online platforms.

“Unlike a traditional tradeshow, online events allow participants to attend without leaving their homes or offices, and experience firsthand the benefits of zero travel costs and improved productivity,” said Debra Swann, Global Crossing’s VP of marketing.
In a virtual setting, there is no dishing out for planes, trains and automobiles, there is no spending on hotel rooms, no tipping, no room service, eating out, or any of the other incidentals that accompany travel.


ON24’s products are used for conferences and events, product launches, training and continuing education, internal communications and executive announcements.

This aspect of the virtual tradeshow would appeal to the convention attendee even if there were not currently a recession ravaging the country.

According to a recent market survey of 10,000 international executives by ON24, a webcasting and virtual event solutions company, 87 percent of the respondents are either already using, 52 percent, or planning to use, 35 percent, virtual environments for all types of corporate applications. The survey finds a significant shift from physical to virtual events.

“The reasons why virtual events have gained such a high penetration in the last five years include the ability to reach target attendees globally without additional cost and the ability to increase the value by an extended hosting duration of the on-demand period,” said Weiser. “In many ways, they are also faster to produce and easier to execute.

Continuing on with aspects of convenience, there is an immediacy of content delivery on a computer that just cannot be equaled by walking the showfloor. In the old days, a 100,000 plus square footage showfloor took a lot of leg work to get the answers needed.

Even now, with the increase of online technologies for the showfloor, it is not as fast as attending a show virtually.

Another advantage of the virtual world is the educational sections, which can be absorbed at the pace and leisure of the recipient.

“Our new themes and branding tools make it simple for event organizers to quickly create a professional look and feel which more fully engages attendees in their events,” said Wieser. “The significance of these tools is multiplied by the fact that they are provided in a self-service model that empowers customers with far greater control over their events.”

Virtual meeting providers are also expanding the range of services and online venues that are available to meeting planners.

Virtual Events incorporates multiple virtual venues to accommodate a different level of engagement and interactivity for online attendees. Some events contain a multi-track, multi session auditorium and conference centers, an exhibition hall with virtual exhibition booths, a content library, a social networking site and virtual meeting rooms.

“This is all available online, without any geographical boundaries,” said Weiser.

Rounding out the powerhouse punches from virtual events are the green factors involved. With a virtual tradeshow, there are no concerns of waste tonnage, the need for recycling and the impact on the environment.

LEED certified convention centers are more prevalent than ever and face-to-face tradeshows are participating in green practices; however, these efforts will never compete with the sustainability of the virtual tradeshow.

In the next part of this series, Exhibit City News will examine the advantages of face-to-face marketing.




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