In conjunction with the New Media conference in Las Vegas in October 2010, the Blog Expo was an interesting array of services targeting bloggers. I had a chance for a quick walk through of this trade show, curious to see what would be offered. In many ways, it was like any other trade show, with some notable exceptions.
One of the most striking exceptions was the lack of products on display. Unlike many trade shows were products are featured in predominant locations, this show didn't have many elaborate booths showcasing the wares of vendors. Instead, there were computers, lots and lots of computers. Obviously this is because the products are all designed for people working online, therefore demonstrated over the Internet and sold online. So the only way to demonstrate the product was to go to the computer at the booth and view the website with the offering. In the case of a few vendors, there were DVDs that were being distributed.
So why is there a need for synchronous communication to demonstrate something that is available all the time, anytime? Well, a few reasons came to mind. One is the excuse to get to Las Vegas. Even people in the blogging business like to have a getaway. Also, there is still some benefit to face to face explanation. But typically, this can be accomplished by email or online chat support. Perhaps another reason is the formation of a learning community where knowledge and experience is shared.
Some of the vendors were ubiquitous. As an example, Blogger was there. Who hasn't heard of Blogger? So why do they need to be at a trade show? I guess that's up to their marketing people. I'm sure they have their reasons. There were more than a few vendors I had never heard of though. Like services that make books out of blogs and easy ways to add videos to your blog. Also, there were blogging sites that catered to specific industries, like education.
The SWAG was similar to any other trade show I have attended. The usual book bags, pens, cup insulators and stress balls. I appreciated the stuff, but somehow I expected this group of Internet innovators to be more creative offline, just as they are online. Still, I have branded pens on my desk now that will lead me to a website if I want to explore the company. So I guess the give away items did the job.
Overall, it was interesting, but I still think it could have been done online.
Ron Strand teaches communications and continuing education at Mount Royal University and is working on a doctorate degree in distance education. He has a blog with some ideas about online learning, elearning and continuing education Ron Elearning.