ON24 is expanding beyond traditional corporate webcasting with its new Virtual Show product. Think of Virtual Show almost like a Second Life for trade shows, only without the avatars and full 3-D world. Customers can create customizable digital convention floors where attendees can log in, visit virtual booths, watch live-streamed or on-demand online video demonstrations and network with other virtual attendees.
With rising fuel prices and a depressed economy, it’s not hard to see the cost benefit of hosting a trade show online. The average mid-to-large company shells out about $550,000 a year on trade show expenses. ON24 says hosting a virtual show will cost a company between $20,000 and $50,000 to produce.
While the technology is there and the benefits are appealing, I’m a believer that trade shows are more than just a collection exhibitors and demonstrations. They are about connecting with other people in your industry face-to-face, shaking their hand — and getting them drunk. That’s something you just can’t do virtually.