I’ve now made contact with most of the virtual trade show vendors, and of course all were eager to demonstrate their platforms. Most have some type of event occurring around now, so the best thing to do is to visit them during those events. I know firsthand that there is a big difference seeing the features in a sterile environment vs. seeing the actual flow of people and their use of the platform through an event.
Since the show is going to be in mid-2009, perhaps June-ish, I know I need to get materials together for a decision very soon. The association needs time to evaluate my recommendations and then spread the word to their base. This association is fortunate because it is a pretty tight group (they know their vendors and their attendees, and both are very motivated to exhibit and attend). It seems like 5-6 months is a minimum amount of time before the show to be getting in gear, even for this tight group.
It became clear to me that, rather than go from demo to demo initially, I should put together a basic list of feature areas, and then engage the vendors. I don’t mean to create an RFP, especially before seeing more demos, because I also have firsthand experience as a potential bidder knowing what a pain it is to respond to RFP’s (and, although it’s a bit cynical, many times RFP’s are used really to justify the author’s selection not a real competition).
So here are my initial thoughts. I will revise them over the coming days as a I review web site materials from the vendors. I don’t expect to dump them on vendors and expect the vendors to answer — I figure I can review their web sites to get a better picture of their platform, start filling out the various areas, then double-check my observations with the vendors.
• Are non-English languages supported, and how is it determined on show, vendor, speaker, or attendee basis?
• What types of tools are available for managing vendors, speakers, attendees?
• Variety of booth types
• What is platform for customizing booths?
• Can the booth integrate Adobe Flash?
o If so, which versions (ActionScript 2 or ActionScript 3)?
o Can Flash extensions access booth features, such as initiate Chats, open documents
• What types of videos and/or multimedia can be used?
• Any e-Commerce facilities/functionality?
• What formats are acceptable for the booth?
• Is there live streaming?
• Is there pre-recorded broadcasts?
• Are Q&A’s (following) sessions all text chat, or mixed?
• Are Q&A’s recorded for later use/review?
• Can the speaker share his or her desktop, or other WebEx-type functionality (white boards, polls, etc.)?
• Can audience members speak (audio) or take the microphone?
• What does a speaker have to prepare o
• What formats are acceptable?
• Can there be multiple speakers/presenters, and from different locations?
• Platforms (Win/Mac/Linux)?
• Require any browser plug-in?
• Browser or other compatibilities (e.g., Windows Media, etc.)
• How intrusive is sign-up?
• How intrusive is login?
• What browser and software does an attendee need to participate?
• What kind of support is given during the conference for attendee problems?
• How does a participant “see” the possible booths or vendors?
• Are there booths of different sizes?
• What kind of interaction can an attendee have with a sales/booth rep?
• What kind of tracking is kept for an attendee?
• Does it integrate with networking after the show?
• How do attendees network?
• Is there a place like a lounge where attendees can network?
• Why does an attendee want to hang out in the lounge?
• What kind of reporting is done, and how is that accessed?
• Can extensions or loaded content hook into tracking (read/write)?
• What kind of support is available before the show, for
o Show Organizer
• What kind of support is available during the show, for the same groups as above, as well as Participants/Visitors?
• Pricing/cost structure
Beyond the Show
• How can the show creators get value after the show?
• How can exhibitors get value after the show?
• How do participants get value after the show, for example, social networking?