A virtual trade show is an online version of an event at which goods and services for a specific industry are exhibited and demonstrated.The format can be as simple as a basic online directory or as complex as a virtual 3D world.
A 3D virtual trade show functions like a traditional offline tradeshow, translating exhibit halls, educational seminars, job fair and training events into a virtual world environment. This type of trade show is gaining popularity because it allows the attendee to forgo the expense of travel while enjoying some of the amenities of a traditional show.
At a virtual trade show, there are usually realistic-looking halls or lobbies with booths for showcasing products and services. The attendee can view demos, pick up literature and chat with sales representatives in real time. Keynote speeches and seminars are delivered either in real time or on-demand by videocast , podcast and webcast technology.
A 3D virtual trade show requires specially designed software to allow exhibitors to build their virtual environment. The show can be built in a web page or in a downloadable software application like Second Life .
Critics of this delivery medium note that a virtual trade show attendee can simply log off and leave, as opposed to spending a day or evening on the floor circulating around booths and socializing with other attendees and sponsors. Proponents point out that the medium is cost-effective. It can extend the sponsor's geographical reach and provide the sponsors with extensive data based on visitor behavior.
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Virtual trade show expert Dennis Shiao gives advice about how to use virtual events to generate sales leads.