Friday, April 04, 2008

Virtual Tradeshow - Thursdays 9-3 EST.

A little over a month ago, we launched a new feature that gives our members the ability to have real-time conversations with other members using LIVE CHAT. LIVE CHAT allows you to quickly network with other Fast Pitch! members who are also engaged in conversations. LIVE CHAT lets you take part in IM (Instant Message) style discussions or a two-way streaming video that comes as close to in-person networking as anything available on the Internet today.

Yesterday we decided to add more structure to the new feature by organizing what we're now calling a 'Virtual Tradeshow'. Not too disimilar from an in-person tradeshow, the idea is to create an event whereby our members can actively network while showcasing their products and services during a scheduled day and time.
Fast Pitch! is the only online business network to offer a Virtual Tradeshow
Much like walking up to a tradeshow booth and reviewing brochures and other marketing materials, members review one anothers profiles to become familiar with what each business has to offer. What makes Virtual Tradeshow arguably even more effective than an in-person tradeshow is the ability to research some background information of each person by reviewing their profile bio (work experience, educational experience, affiliations, etc.). Having this type of insight into each person prior to a conversation can be an effective way to find common ground.
We decided to launch the event at the 'eleventh hour' by sending our members an email alert at 8:50 AM Thursday morning. With such short notice, we weren't sure what to expect. However, despite the short notice and in light of this being a typically slow work week here in the United States (spring break), by all accounts our first event was a huge success. When it was all said and done...
Over 1,500 people attended the event
Over 5,000 conversations took place.

It's anybody's guess how many new relationships were forged and how many potential deals will be made as a result. Because of the success of the event, we've now decided to designate every Thursday as our Virtual Tradeshow Day.

Now let's step back and think about the effectiveness of our virtual tradeshow compared to an in-person tradeshow. Consider the following...

Cost of Attending an in-person tradeshow:

Booth Fee - $200 - $2,000
Signage - $200+
Promotional Giveaways - $200+
Gas - $2 - $10
Parking - 10+
Overnight Stay (Hotel) - $150+ per night
Airline - $250 per peson
Membership to an Association - $250+
Your Time - Priceless

Cost of Attending a Fast Pitch! Virtual Tradeshow:


Now, one might argue that a Virtual Tradeshow lacks the personable appeal of an in-person tradeshow and that the cost of an in-person event is worth every penny. I'm not here to argue that. I agree, having the opportunity to look people in the eye and make a quick judgement about their character is often very important. However, for many businesses the goal of a tradeshow is to increase brand exposure and capture as many business cards as possible (names, email addresses, etc) for future follow-up.

With that being said, depending upon how proactive you are, it's probably safe to assume you can interact with about 20 people per hour by chatting online... maybe more (some people I chatted with yesterday had multiple chat windows open at the same time!). Assuming you blocked off the entire afternoon to chat with other members, you could conceivably meet up to 120 people (20 x6).

When was the last time you met 120 people at a tradeshow for free?

We look forward to growing our Virtual Tradeshow over the coming weeks and months. Over time, our plan is to segment the events further based on geography, industry, membership level and more. In the meantime, check out the LIVE CHAT throughout the week (conversations happen all the time - not just Thursdays), and be sure to add Thursdays 9-3 EST. to your calendar for the opportunity to meet potentially hundreds of people throughout the day.

Next Event: Thursday 9am - 3pm (EST.)

See you next week!



Blogger Sylvia Vukmanovic said...

This is very strange. I was just going to suggest this to Bill. I had seen this on Unisfair and it was good but it lacked what Fast Pitch has and that is the great membership of professionals who already network on a regular basis. This is another brilliant feather in Fast Pitch cap. Now my next suggestion is let's feature web presentations that can be watched by all who are interested at this tradeshow in a room called web presentations.

2:19 PM  

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