I have been pondering trade shows lately for understandable reasons. So many have chosen to become virtual rather than real events. As has been evident to anyone who regularly reads me, I find virtual events to be less than compelling. One of the things I find missing is the excitement / anxiety / thrill of being one among a multitude.
Rather than just talk about the problem, I think we should be talking about how virtual shows can be entertaining and emotionally engaging. To start the conversation, imagine a virtual trade show based upon that once popular children’s game, Club Penguin. Club Penguin was, until 2016, a highly popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game designed for children. The online world was populated by, not surprisingly, penguins. A child, once joining, could dress his or her penguin and venture out to meet and virtually play with other penguins.
Club Penguin was a pretty big place, so a player could choose from a number of areas to visit in order to play games or just look around and try to make new friends. Each penguin displayed a name and, if a child wished, a limited conversation could take place.
I say limited because, in order to assure the safety of players, the conversation could only take place through the choice of alternative questions, answers, and comments. There was no room to freelance any communications. And that is where I think Club Penguin may be an interesting alternative platform for a trade show.
Imagine that you go to a virtual show based upon the Club Penguin concept. You can create your own character. A character that will be able to roam the venue displaying your name, title, and company. Depending upon where you are located in the show, you can see who is in the same area. Once you discover someone you want to talk with, you can message them.
In that some people would wish to be anonymous, the attendee could choose that option rather than identifying themselves. In addition, as in Club Penguin, the initial questions and comments could be limited to some preset choices. That way, the initial conversation would not be intrusive. Someone could choose a quick response or no response at all. If the recipient so chooses, the conversation could then be unstructured and more lengthy, perhaps leading to a meeting.
I am, of course, not talking about Club Penguins underlying technology. Change happens so fast that I am sure there are new and better ways to create a Club Penguin like experience.
The Club Penguin approach is just one alternative. How do you think we could make virtual trade shows more exciting?