SEBA Unveils Its First-Ever Virtual Trade Show

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The Southeast Booksellers Association (SEBA) has a solution for those who can't make it to this year's regional -- attend its trade show via the Internet. SEBA recently announced that it is launching a Virtual Trade Show in conjunction with this year's regional show, which is being held September 20 - 22 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Wanda Jewell, executive director of SEBA, said the Virtual Show expands the opportunities for both booksellers and exhibitors to benefit from SEBA's annual trade show. "With all the time and money and effort that goes into a trade show -- I think our members will get more for their money," she said.

SEBA's Virtual Trade Show, which is co-sponsored by Columbia Hosting, Inc., will go live the weekend of the regional and will be available to members via the Internet for the following two months. It will feature all the relevant information about the show currently found on the SEBA Web site, along with an Internet-based "virtual booth". The virtual exhibitor booths will include each exhibitor's show listing, event sponsorship (if applicable), contact information, Book Sense 76 author events, and customizable product pages. Additionally, each booth on the trade floor and all seminars will be videotaped and the videos uploaded to the Virtual Show site the week after the show. "We're making an effort to offer as much as we can [on the virtual site]," Jewell said. "Our hope is that the entire show will be available by the following weekend." (As of press time, Jewell said the Virtual Show URL was not yet available.)

The Virtual Trade Show will offer members a number of benefits, said Jewell. For one, it should broaden the reach of the regional trade show to members who usually cannot attend. "Usually it’s the store managers and publisher reps who come to the shows," she said, and noted that, now, all store staff can attend seminars online. "Or, if someone is excited about a seminar, they can have their employees attend it [on the Web site]." The Virtual Show will also give attendees the chance to attend seminars or go to booths that they didn't have time to attend or visit in person.

As to whether the Virtual Show might cannibalize regional trade show attendance, Jewell said, "I would surprised if it did, for two reasons: Nothing can replace the experience of being in the company of your colleagues. Then, there's the generosity of the publishers at the show in terms of the number of free books. And publishers can't hand out galleys via a virtual trade show."

Since SEBA considers this year's virtual trade show a "test run," it will be free to members, Jewell noted. "SEBA will be incurring the expense," she said. "A lot of thought and planning and effort has gone into this, but there is always stuff you don't think about -- but my expectation is that this is going to be huge." -- David Grogan