While getting ready for Security,SDM and smartHOME magazines’ virtual tradeshow, iSecurity, on March 2, 2011, the question occurred to me: When was the first virtual tradeshow?

According to Wikipedia, “the "virtual tradeshow" was first publicly described and presented as "ConventionView" by Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman of Visual Data Corporation, now know as Onstream Media, in April 1993 in a presentation to investors at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York city. The company was videotaping trade show exhibitors’ booths and then attaching the videos to HTML floor maps. Although ConventionView met with some early success, the company closed it down returning to the market with a multimedia virtual tradeshow platform called MarketPlace365 in November 2010.

Video tapes and HTML floor maps?So much has changed since then!

The Trade Show News Network (TSNN) and Onstream Media recently conducted a survey about the virtual tradeshow industry called the “2010 Virtual Event Report: Insights & Trends From Industry Insiders.”

In the introduction to the report, Rachel Wimberly, TSNN’s editor-in-chief, said, “Several years ago, when virtual events were first introduced into the marketplace, there was a instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction within the event industry as most perceived the new technology as a threat to the brick-and-mortar, physical, show-floor establishment…[but] not only have virtual events not gone away, but they have ballooned into a fast-growing industry that has now caught the full attention of many sectors of the event industry.”

In the report, more than 62 percent of the 800 people surveyed stated that virtual events are successful because they provide access to “useful, quality content,” while 55 percent say virtual tradeshows are “more cost efficient than a physical show.”

The report explains that virtual tradeshows “give businesses an opportunity to demonstrate their wares and garner some highly targeted sales leads…[and] enable individuals to collect all the information — and perhaps more — than they would have gotten at a physical event, without the cost and time commitments typically associated with such in-person events. Moreover, using the most savvy platforms, virtual events come alive with chatting, e-mail, RSS feeds and so on, enabling sponsors to establish and maintain an ongoing dialogue with customers, prospects, partners, etc.”

Today’s virtual tradeshows include so much more than a video tape linked to an HTML map. The graphics and interactive content puts you in exhibition halls and let you jump from booth to booth. There’s streaming video, live chats, RSS feeds, online presentations, archived and live Webinars, digital files for attendees to select for their digital briefcase and so much more. You can exchange virtual V-cards that won’t get lost between the show, the hotel, the airplane, the taxi and the office. No paper is wasted — everything is all on your computer right away.

Come check it out for yourself Wednesday, March 2 at iSecurity. Enjoy keynote presentations from SecuritySDM and smartHOME experts as well as a variety of exhibitors, including Acadian Monitoring Services, Anixter, EasyLobby, Firetide, Intransa and Zebra Technologies.

Visit iSecurity on March 2, 2011 and you'll be amazed at everything tradeshows are today.