I’m not a video gamer, although my high-school-age son is. I’m old enough to remember when Pong was a big deal. Watching my son play some new game today, I’m still amazed how far the technology has come in such a relatively short time. The realism of today’s game animations makes it easy for you to accept the new virtual reality of the game world.
So, what has all this to do with woodworking?

I was thinking about all of this because, in a small way, we are applying this kind of virtual reality technology to a business staple that has remained substantially unchanged for a very long time – the trade show.

The basic concept of bringing buyers and sellers together in one place is as old as an ancient village market day. Big trade shows today certainly are more sophisticated than that, using modern communication techniques, airplanes, highways, hotels, and multi-million-dollar convention centers to make extravaganzas worth traveling to. But in the end, the fundamentals of the show are no different from the village market day. It’s still just buyers and sellers getting together face to face.

But what if we could let technology span those distances to bring us face to face virtually without having to get on an airplane or drive long distances? What if we could expand the reach of a trade show beyond miles to put it right on your computer desktop much like a popular interactive video game?

That’s a bit of what we are trying to do with the CabinetMakerFDM Woodworking Business E-vent slated for November 18. With an interface that looks a lot like a video game, it brings conferences, networking, as well as supplier exhibits and representatives to you rather than forcing you to travel to them. It even takes advantage of modern technology to improve what you expect from a conference or trade show.

You can read more about it elsewhere in this issue or go on line to see a video demo at www.wattevents.com.

Instead of stuffing brochures into a tote bag, you can download files into a virtual briefcase where they can easily be sorted and browsed at your leisure. Instead of face-to-face meetings, there are various opportunities for live chat sessions. Conference presentations still have audio and visual features, but you type in your questions for the presenters to answer in real time instead of shouting from the back of the hall. A networking lounge brings opportunities for random chat and serendipitous meetings that sometimes are the most valuable encounters at a show. And if you miss a session, it’s recorded and archived for access later.

Certainly the virtual format is not a perfect substitute for actually shaking hands and talking with someone. And we haven’t figured out how to add the distinctive taste (and cost!) of trade show food to the virtual interface. Maybe you’ll just have to send out for fried chicken as you sit in the comfort of your chair attending the E-vent. But if we can help busy woodworking business people to break through the distance barrier in a fun and cost-effective way, it will be well worth the effort.

Welcome to the new reality!

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