Trade Shows 2.0 – The Next Generation (part 2)

Today we conclude our two-part series on Trade Shows 2.0. Last time, we covered Web 2.0 technology tools for both exhibitors and shows. In this episode, we’ll talk about how some groups are reinventing the traditional trade show format, both online and offline.

(Be sure to click “Read More” to view more information & links!)

Interactive Technology for Trade Shows

While virtual trade shows aren’t exactly new, they have yet to gain a lot of traction. But more and more shows are beginning to see the value of having a year-round virtual supplement to their physical show. These can range from static exhibitor listings to full-fledged virtual sites, similar to SecondLife. Visit the MIGurus site to read a case study of one such show. There’s also a Virtual Events Checklist. Two producers of these types of shows include iCongo and Unisfair.

In addition to virtual technology, there are many other interactive tools popping up in conjunction with physical shows. Probably the most popular is the software that allows for networking prior to a show, similar to LinkedIn or Facebook. Two companies that are providing this service include EventMingle and BDMetrics.

A third type of online tool, also provided by BDMetrics, is Tradeshow TV. This is similar to having your own YouTube channel to promote your show. For examples, visit the PackExpo Web site. A variation of this is to stream webcasts from the show floor. This service is offered at numerous venues around the country, according to an article in Tradeshow Week. For some examples, watch Steve Jobs’ keynote at Macworld Expo (and here’s a humorous, 60-second bite-sized version from YouTube).

Alternative Trade Show Formats

Creating more interactive trade shows doesn’t always mean an online element. Trade shows in all kinds of industries are trying innovative formats to create energy on the show floor and create more in-depth conversations.

One such strategy is known as the “reverse trade show.” Here the format is for buyers to sit at tables, with vendors moving from one to the next by appointment. A variation on this has been done numerous times at our local MPI Chapter here in Kansas City. We call it “Marketplace,” but it’s often referred to as “speed dating for exhibitors.” Here the exhibitors set at a table and groups of attendees move from one exhibitor to the next at scheduled times (usually 5 or 7 minutes per table).

Next week at MPI’s Professional Education Conference in Houston, where the theme is “Meet Different,” a large part of the show floor will be set in conversation areas rather than traditional booths. It will be interesting to see which parts of the show floor are the busiest.

Another approach doesn’t involve the actual booths, but rather designing a gathering place on the show floor. SIA’s SnowSports trade show does this with “The Yard,” a community zone that hosts daily events and networking.

Final Thoughts

Last time we talked about all of the Web 2.0 tools out there, and I have another one to add. You may have heard of Squidoo, which was developed by Seth Godin of “purple cow” fame. This one rolls blogging, social bookmarking, and video sharing all into one. For an example, visit my Squidoo “lens” on Trade Show Marketing. (Sorry – link no longer active.)

So what do you think of all the new tools out there for exhibitors and show managers? Have you tried any of these, or heard of others we didn’t discuss? Please send your questions and comments.

Event Announcement:
You can catch me at the EXHIBITOR Show in Las Vegas this March!
I’m leading an Authors Executive Series session on March 12, called “Taking the Show on the Road,” as well as an after-hours excursion, “TSI: Trade Show Investigation.”
I look forward to meeting you there!

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