How To: Generate More Effective Virtual Trade Show Booths

October 19, 2010

My local farmers market had a “Vote 4 Your Favorite Booth” contest.  While the contest was active, I noticed that the fruit vendors were much more engaging and the amount of free samples increased dramatically.  The fruit stands had become more customer-friendly as a result of the competition.  This was a great thing.

I immediately thought – virtual trade shows are a lot like farmers markets – how about creating a similar contest?  Let’s consider a “Vote For Your Favorite Booth Contest” at your next virtual trade show.  The benefits:

Attendees Take Notice

The contest causes attendees to take notice, especially if you offer up prize(s) for voting.  The contest provides attendees a framework (and context) for their booth visits.  Now, when they enter any exhibitor booth, they are paying more attention to what’s there, to judge the current booth to other booths they visit.  Ultimately, they will need to determine their top vote, which requires a certain level of engagement and awareness as they move from one booth to the next.  And that’s a good thing for exhibitors.

Exhibitors Boost and Optimize their Presence

Ever sell a home or condo and host an open house?  I bet your home was de-cluttered and nearly spotless.  And I bet some of you baked cookies for the occasion.  A booth contest is a lot like the open house: the host knows that its visitors will be evaluating the space.  This results in:

  1. More captivating and refined booth imagery
  2. Booth content that aims to please (the visitor)
  3. A higher level of booth staffers
  4. More engagement from booth staffers (just like at the farmers market)

With everyone “raising their game”, this means that exhibitors win and attendees win as well.

SaaS: Sampling as a Service

In the picture above, a fruit stand placed a large assortment of samples in labeled bins, allowing visitors to sample for themselves. I call this Sampling as a (Self) Service!  The idea here is to allow “prospects” to sample your “products” (on their own) and then have a “staffer” come by to see if they have any questions.

The same could be done in a virtual trade show. Place your products in your virtual booth and allow visitors to take them on a test drive.  Let them do their thing, but check in with them from time to time to see if they need assistance.


Here’s how the booth contest could be run:

  1. Heavily promote the contest prior to the event
  2. Educate and inform exhibitors on the ground rules
  3. Create meaningful incentives for attendees to vote
  4. Announce the winner two-thirds of the way through the event. This leaves the remaining one-third of the event for the winner to receive the benefits (traffic to their booth)
  5. Create a badge or logo that the winner can place on their web site and share via social networks


The virtual booths at some events can be underwhelming.  A contest can encourage and motivate the exhibitors and create a win/win/win for attendees, exhibitors and you.

Flexible Platforms in a Virtual World

August 16, 2010

The following is a guest posting by Ken Heyward, CEO of vcopious, a leading “virtual environment” software platform company.

As demand in the SaaS market grows, the number of vendors has significantly increased, making the choice of vendor a difficult one. Technology norms are shifting at a rapid pace and IT departments must strategically react.  At first blush, IT departments may be overwhelmed by the scenario of having to deal with two separate and seemingly competing platforms, SaaS and On-Premise. However, making a hard and fast decision as to which one of the two options to choose may not be necessary. A flexible solution, which incorporates both SaaS and On-Premise, might be most appropriate.

Realistically, most companies realize that at least some SaaS-based solutions will be a permanent part of their application portfolio. SaaS-based solutions address urgent software needs, start-up costs are low, and a lack of IT infrastructure and integration with other in-house systems is not an issue.  On the other hand, On-Premise models do a better job of securing data, as the platform is owned by the user and installed on a company’s own network.  In addition, system crashes, reboots and downtime are limited because applications are in isolated mode.

Is one really better than the other?

Before making the decision between SaaS or On-Premise platforms, companies must assess their business and financial needs as well as their infrastructure. Then, the question isn’t whether SaaS or On-Premise is better, but rather, how to find a balance between both delivery models and adapt accordingly? Rather than limit possibilities, finding a single vendor that has the ability to offer multiple solutions allows a company to maximize the benefits of both SaaS and On-Premise platforms.  This flexible platform allows companies to deploy each platform in a manner that meets their evolving needs. Flexible deployment also allows companies to run the licensed software in both environments and even port the platform back and forth as business requirements evolve. With this option, companies even have the ability to run reports on data in both locations from one centralized dashboard.


As Cloud Computing evolves, IT departments will continue to be presented with an increased number of vendors and solutions from which to choose. By taking a long-term approach in assessing business, financial and infrastructure needs, it becomes obvious that choosing a vendor who can offer a flexible platform allows companies more control to choose for themselves the most appropriate model to meet their needs.

To download the white paper “Flexible Platforms in a Virtual World,” which includes a case study on SAP and the 2010 SAPPHIRE NOW conference, please click here.

Virtual Tradeshow Technologies

December 17, 2008

Virtual Worlds group

LinkedIn: Virtual Worlds group

I participate in a virtual worlds group over at LinkedIn.   A few members there asked me about a Virtual Tradeshow’s (VTS) underlying technologies.  I don’t pretend to know the full set of technologies that power a VTS, but I will list my Top 3 (in order of importance).

  1. The SaaS Engine Virtual Tradeshow platform providers often call this the “self service utility”.  What it boils down to is a 100% web-based interface that allows event organizers to build a VTS environment from scratch.  Every last detail of the event (down to the number of pixels to use on a particular image on the show floor) can be configured or selected via this web app.  While some clients will always want the extra attention of a “full service model” (where the VTS provider’s staff uses the same web app to build the entire show), consider the power of “self service” – VTS platform providers can scale their businesses by selling leases on their SaaS platform, where their clients do all the heavy lifting.  This means that the better you build this web app, your clients will create more events and they’ll create them more quickly.  This means more revenue and (possibly) earlier revenue recognition.
  2. The Chat system – Today, the power of a VTS lies largely in the text chat sessions that attendees engage in with exhibitors (or, attendee<->attendee sessions).  Platforms used to employ basic HTML to support chat, but the trend is towards client/server technologies, such as Flash Media Server (FMS).  The platform needs to account for corporate firewalls, as many firewalls are configured to block chat-like protocols – if your users cannot chat within a VTS, they lose out on a significant show feature.  If you employ a workaround – such as HTTP tunneling – beware, as some corporate firewalls can utilize deep packet inspection, to figure out that you’re trying to tunnel FMS within HTTP.  And, they then block those packets from reaching their destination, which means that chat fails.  Finally, as webcams and Skype-like video chat emerge in virtual tradeshows, keep in mind that moving from text chat to video chat means that you lose the ability to save a transcript of the chat.  This may be an opportunity for platform providers to support such a feature (e.g. auto-transcribe the audio from a video chat).
  3. Event Reporting – For event organizers, an open-ended web reporting system is useful.  Give them the ability to generate custom reports, kind of like a rudimentary business intelligence app.  For exhibitors, the creation of easy-to-understand canned reports is important.  For both organizers and exhibitors, the reporting system is critical.  Once the live event is over, the reports (and the data contained in them) are the “living record” of the show’s success and both constituencies will lean on the reports to derive their ROI on the event.

What technologies do you feel are important in a VTS?

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