Tradeshows Must Establish More Than Digital Relationships

Cubicle Hell

There are some that think trade shows are dead and will soon cease to exist. We don’t agree, but we do think that digital-only interactions have very much reduced the real reason most of us attend tradeshows, conferences and seminars:

To interact with people.

Not just exchanging business cards or scanning QR codes on badges, but to wine, dine, and find out more about what makes us similar instead of different.

It’s true, shows such as CES (the granddaddy of tech events) shrunk by 22% last year. Even the rabid following Macworld enjoys has declined, too. While venue changes, lineup alterations and vendors pulling out can be attributed for at least part of this, we think the real problem is something different.

Most tradeshows just aren’t that fun anymore.

Before we could find anything online, tradeshows were an integral experience to hold new products, chat with experts and see how this year’s GPS units compare to last year’s or the competition. The floors looked more like 3D catalogs rather than thriving hives of chatter and hands-on learning. Here’s what we’d like to see from any large gathering of like-minded people in the future:

Attendee-centered agendas
Starting at 7am with a short morning break and a quick lunch followed by a loooooong afternoon of presentations and floor walking isn’t enticing to most attendees. While there’s always a desire to fit in as much as possible to events, how much can people possibly remember and process if force fed 6-10 hours straight?

Smaller venues
We concede that it’s hard to turn a profit in small venues, as fewer people equals fewer tickets sold equals fewer sponsorship dollars. Our solution? Make your event more enticing to attend, then charge more.

Live-streaming screens
Want to make sure people stand together and talk to each other? Mount a TV on a wall and show something interesting. It works for bars, so why not broadcast feeds from other areas of the conference, saving attendees the hassle of hoofing it from one room to another while ignoring everything else around them.

Are Online Events Useful?

First there was uStream, then FaceTime, then YouTube Live and Google+ Hangouts. In the future, we’ll likely have always-on holograms capable of reacting just as a real person would.

In the future, we may never have to leave our desks to have face-to-face meetings, we’ll just put on our Google Glasses, fire up our full-body scanners and congregate in ephemeral worlds clad in avatars just like Snow Crash and the Matrix and virtually high-five in our online events.

But will it feel real? As Morpheus said, “What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

But until we have that kind of technology, we’re going to experiment with what we can do. Events like Jeff Goins’ Wrecked book tour are a fantastic look at what could work, what will likely work, and what exactly it means to have a tribe of dedicated fans/attendees/followers willing to try something a little different with an online event.

What makes a good online event? Here are a few things we’d like to see from anyone hosting an event digitally:

Agenda – far too many online hangouts lack agendas, meaning the host either talks to themselves, or answers halfhearted questions throughout the audience. We believe that the most useful events have agendas and goals, along with a host unafraid to keep people moving along.

Faces – with so many computers built with webcams, broadcasting ourselves is easy, but broadcasting it well is not. Guys like ePublishUnum’s Evo Terra buy specific external webcams to be able to look directly into the lens and emote all the way through your screen.

Audio – your built-in mike isn’t good enough, nor are your iPhone headphones. Quality microphones and headsets can he had for around $100, and they improve sound quality considerable. We haven’t found wireless mics to be clear enough for most online events, but they soon will be.

Timing – time zones make scheduling difficult, but this can be alleviated by planning multiple events. Try an early one for the East Coast, and another in the evening for the West Coast. We’d also love to see presenters narrate their slides using something like LoopLogic, which gives us the ability to time-shift content.

See you online!

LoopLogic Public Launch With Stephane Legay

A few weeks back we helped host the 9th Annual AZGroups featuring Scott Guthrie and Windows Azure. We had fantastic local sponsors, great presentations by Guthrie, Scott Hanselman, and Brady Gaster, and Stephane Legay’s public unveiling of LoopLogic.

As Scott Cate explains in the video, EventDay is geared to provide pre-event assistance (micro-site, online registration, event help (fast check-in, real-time stats, digital signage) and post-event production (videos made with LoopLogic’s Magic Boxes).

While that certainly seems enough for sister companies, LoopLogic has a few features that we’re especially proud of. Here Legay shows the screen recorder for the first time onstage.

But that’s not the only news to come out of AZGroups last June 19. Check out the AZGroups LoopLogic page for videos from the rest of the event.