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Virtual Trade Shows in the B2B Environment

  • B2B Marcom
  • Our good friends at Circuits Assembly Magazine staged a virtual trade show (called Virtual PCB) several months back. According to the organization, VPCB offers:

    • On-demand educational presentations
    • Attendee-attendee and attendee-exhibitor communication
    • Worldwide access to exhibitor booths and sessions
    • Downloadable literature and product brochures
    • White papers
    • Live scheduled group chats with industry experts
    • Live group chats with peers

    And here is a bit of feedback that, I think, succinctly sums up the feedback received from some participants (as reported by the organization):

    "Not nearly as good as an actual PCB Show. Felt isolated and out of touch with other attendees and vendors. Technical content was limited. Really missed out on the interactive networking with peers and face to face activity with vendors. Found that my interests were harder to keep focused because I am actually still at work. People still bug you, phone still rings, email still comes in and the value of this event gets diminished. I did however get something from it: downloaded some product info, watched some technical presentations, emailed a coupled people."

    I say that this sort of sentiment is NOT written in stone. A virtual show may soon be THE way to go for many. For whom?:


    Increasing numbers of equipment vendors are finding it harder and harder to justify the total set of costs associated with preparing, shipping, handling, setting up, running, maintaining, downpacking, and returning extremely heavy equipment. Additionally, when the total costs of services (water, electricity, air, gases, etc.) and staffing (packers, shippers, unpackers, set-up staff, operators, packers, shippers, receivers, inspectors, etc.) are added up, things get really expensive.

    Materials people often complain that their exhibits can end up looking like a packaging display (with their products hidden inside the containers). And, without process equipment to help show how their products work, there is little value associated with bringing it all to the show.

    Vendors are more and more interested in depicting their products' performance in a low-cost but effective manner.



    Customers are also affected by the high costs and distasteful experiences associated with travel. Additionally, they suffer from the "opportunity costs" of attending a trade show - the time away from home, family, and the office/factory. When a show turns out to offer only a few really cool new things and a bunch of retreads from last year, customers have to wonder how they benefitted by travelling hundreds or thousands of miles only to be disappointed.


    Often the media wants a story angle, an interview, some video and/or a few good photos. All of these can be obtained via the internet, the phone, etc. Most of the story can be covered in a virtual fashion, saving costs and, sometimes, actually enhancing the story or the time to press.


    I agree that virtual trade shows have a way to go before they are really well-suited for everyone involved, but they are alive, happening, and getting better every day. I applaud Circuits Assembly Magazine, and everyone else who experiments with and develops the state-of-the-practice of virtual trade shows. These shows won't solve every issue, and there are certainly times when face-to-face has no substitute. Still, we're on our way to ehancing productivity, effectivity, and profitabilty via the virtual trade show.

    Please comment with your experiences and opinions on virtual trade shows.