Virtual Trade Show a First For Meetings Industry

MeetingNews and Successful Meetings magazines partnered with InXpo to give the meetings industry its first virtual trade show on Jan. 31. The technology has been recognized by Trade Show Executive magazine as fast-growing enhancement to brick-and-mortar shows, but Virtual Meeting World showed the technology also has legs on its own.

The event offered several elements of a physical trade show, including an expo floor with interactive booths, a meeting planners lounge, educational sessions, and a special area where attendees could sign up for site inspection tours. Attendees "walked" the exhibition halls, chatted live or left messages with suppliers, and networked with fellow meeting planners. The chat room-style lounge was among the most active areas, where planners talked about budgets and industry trends, and got recommendations about properties and destinations.

Key to attendance, however, was the education component. Four sessions, including a keynote by American Express' Chris Wilkes, addressed budget and financial challenges facing meeting planners, as well as strategies about how to navigate contract negotiations and the corporate trend towards centralized meetings management.

The education sessions were conducted via live webinars with interactive question-and-answer opportunities. Archived sessions are available online at www.virtualmeetingworld.com.

Early feedback indicated that most attendees were enthusiastic about the format. Some, however, were challenged by technical difficulties, including sound and synchronization during the education sessions along with nonintuitive interactions with exhibitors. Still, 85 percent of attendees said they were likely to return for more. "It was as close to a real face-to-face meeting as I've ever seen," said one attendee.


Originally published February 25, 2008