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UC and The Future of Tradeshows

January 08, 2009

It is interesting to see how the big industry players are having an impact on UC evolution, directly or indirectly, and how UC will, in turn, impact how we do business.  Apple made a big move when it introduced the iPhone to support consumer UC (although they didn’t say “UC”). They quickly followed up with additional capabilities for business users as well.

Now, Apple seems to be taking the lead in changing the future role of traditional, location-based, shared trade shows and conferences to reach customers. I think UC will play an important role in this trend and, most particularly for the UC market itself. (We do have to “Practice what we preach!”)  If you think about it, UC is all about supporting communication needs of individual users "anywhere, any time, anyhow." That includes person-to-person" contacts as well as information delivery to people from business process applications (CEBP). The following are some of my comments to the discussion about the “Death of Tradeshows.”
The “Anywhere” Is Key To “Virtual” Audiences
The "anywhere" is perhaps the biggest change Mobile UC brings to both personal and business communications, because it means that people don't have to be in an "office," at "home," or at a particular location to do their jobs, get information, or make contact with people in any modality they wish.

The "any time" factor, however, must still be managed, because people don't have unlimited time and have different individual priorities and deadlines to meet. That makes presence-based "availability" and "accessibility" key factors for real-time contacts in the UC game.

So, what are trade shows or conferences all about? A place to make contacts and get information! Well, guess what? They just don't always have to be location-based activities any more. The old ploy of time-consuming travel to conferences at enticing, but expensive, plush resorts is going to diminish, along with overloading conferences with so many concurrent presentations and events to maximize audience size, that it is impossible to do anything efficiently.

You might say conferences are a useful way to participate in a presentation, discussion, or round table. Well, there too, it doesn't mean you have to be physically present to do so. In fact, real-time discussions may be less useful than threaded exchanges to allow more thoughtful interactions at the convenience of interested participants.

Perhaps the only justification for location-based presence is where there has to be physical hands-on to a product, say, for an automobile. Otherwise, person-to-person contacts, information access, and demonstrations of business process applications can all be done on an individually personalized basis, remotely, and at any time that is convenient for the customer.

“Virtual” Sessions – Real-time or On demand
I personally started to add "virtual" sessions to existing conferences back in 1995. This allowed remote speakers and audience members to participate selectively in real-time. In one event, I had only 20 people in the room, including a panel of speakers, while over 300 were conferenced in. (Today, that's no big deal!)

Recording these virtual activities enable access to such events after the fact. The bottom line is that "virtual" online sessions expand the scope of participation significantly and at much less cost.

UC technology includes real time voice and video conferencing applications, in addition to person-to-person contacts in any mode required by the individual communicants. By scheduling such events, you can maximize real-time participation and interactions from any location. However, when does it really have to be real time when people are now accessible all the time with asynchronous communications (messaging) and "click-to-contact" for any real time needs?

With the web, our increasingly global environment and mobile/portable devices, many location-based business activities are diminishing, e.g., shopping, education and training, customer service, information access, office work, socializing, business collaboration, etc., so it should be obvious why the time and costs of location-based conferences and trade shows will also succumb to the flexibility of "virtual" online events.

As pointed out about Apple, "virtual" shows don't really have to be shared with all other sponsors; this will help eliminate the "overloaded" schedules that shared-show producers create to maximize physical attendance. (I found that to still be a problem with some new online shared trade shows.) So, although there will still be location-based events, they can also maximize their potential audience by also making them "virtual." As well proven by Google, advertising on the web is more powerful and responsive than just location-based signage.

So, the power of the web, wireless mobility, and UC will be driving the next generation of conferences and trade shows in my book. It will help move all aspects of market access to both people and information to “virtual” audiences in real-time or on-demand. That will help the “greening” of the marketplace and change the way companies do business.
What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Art Rosenberg, a veteran of the computer and communications industry, contributes his column, The Unified-View to unified communications. To read more of Art’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jessica Kostek

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