Virtual Trade Shows: A Realistic Alternative to Business Travel?

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Imagine attending a conference or trade show while still getting to enjoy dinner with your family and without dealing with the headache of airport delays. Thanks to the emergence of virtual events, you can attend sessions, meet vendors, and mingle with attendees—all without leaving the comfort of your desk chair.

For proponents of virtual events, a perfect storm has created an opportunity: The struggling economy that has forced many companies to reduce their travel budgets and an increased focus on being "green"—with a desire to reduce overall travel as an environmentally friendly thing to do—have converged to make virtual shows a realistic endeavor for the conference business.

Laura Ramos, vice president at Forrester Research, points out that marketers spend nearly a third of their marketing budget on trade shows. "They’re looking at ways to reduce that expense; and ways to make that money more effective will be top of mind," says Ramos.

In addition to the financial and environmental factors that are leading more and more companies to try virtual trade shows, the advent of online social networking is also helping to increase acceptance of the medium. "We wouldn’t be talking about virtual trade shows if social computing wasn’t on the rise," adds Ramos.

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