‘E&P’ Plans Second ‘Virtual Expo’ After Positive Reviews

By: Mark Fitzgerald

As hundreds of attendees and visitors continue to rate their experiences during the first-ever Newspaper Industry Virtual Expo last week, Editor & Publisher is looking to hold a second version of the online trade show and Webinar later this year.

Some 970 people registered for the event in advance, and about 600 logged in to take advantage of the offerings. The Virtual Expo, which people attended by moving their personal avatar through a special Web site, simulated on computer screens an industry equipment show with an exhibition floor, press room, lounge and an auditorium with speaker presentations on urgent newspaper operations issues (and even a show blog).

The event, which was free to attendees and co-sponsored by Eidos Media, Classifieds Plus and Web Press Corporation, attracted 194 people from outside the United States at a time when the attendance at live newspaper industry events requiring travel has fallen off steeply amidst drastic budget cuts. It remains accessible via the E&P site for three more months, and many have attended since the day of the launch.

“It just seems like this is the right time for the newspaper industry to be more efficient in gaining and exchanging information, and working through these difficult times,” E&P Publisher Charles McKeown said.

In the Virtual Expo?s ?Second Life?-type environment, vendors interacted publicly with attendees through messages and chat visible to anyone showing up at the “booth,” and they could also communicate via private chat. Booths held product literature and several vendors had video presentations.

Barry Evans, vice president of sales for Ferag’s sales arm WRH Marketing, said he was pleasantly surprised by his booth?s traffic. He had figured the live online event would not take much of his time, requiring him only to check back when the computer signaled someone had entered the virtual booth.

Instead, “I was busy all day,” he said. “The Virtual Expo was fun, number one, and different. I was continually bobbing backward and forward between the lounge and the booth.”

During the live day, 107 people visited the WRH Marketing/Ferag booth, he said. And while most walk-ins and Evans himself considered the Virtual Expo as a chance to network and browse, it also resulted in at least one potential sale.

Future Virtual Expos are bound to draw more attendance as people begin to understand the idea of gathering online, Evans added. Some of the people he invited to attend just couldn’t grasp the concept, but might come next time.

Evans’ biggest complaint about the event: “I’m a slow typist, and so many people wanted to [instant message] me, I couldn’t keep up.”

Goss International Marketing Manager Cecilia Chou said she was also impressed with the traffic: “We received 155 visitors, and our booth staff were able to enjoy interesting chats with customers and industry peers without even disrupting their normal work agenda.? The Virtual Expo?s format, allowing for interactivity and flexibility, “makes it an attractive alternative to traditional trade shows,” she added.

One group that had a unique perspective on the show were the speakers, who made presentations while speaking live over the phone and using PowerPoint slides that attendees saw on their screens.

The speakers, including keynoters Jon Markey, addressed topics such as outsourcing, revenue-enhancing software systems and optimizing or upgrading existing equipment.

And just as the speakers gave specific, actionable advice for operations people in their presentations, vendors have been giving E&P advice on how to improve the next Virtual Expo, Publisher McKeown added: “It seems to have been a resounding success from the feedback, which we’ve been gathering aggressively from attendees and vendors with an eye to holding similar events in the future.?

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