In its 29th year, Baton Rouge’s traditional fall business-to-business trade show is going virtual, while a new show targeting tech companies is taking the traditional, live approach and the old show’s spot in the River Center.
BizTech Expo 2011, put on by the parent company of Baton Rouge Business Report, is attempting to harness the power of the Internet while eliminating a number of logistical issues for exhibitors and attendees, Publisher Rolfe McCollister said. Those issues include the cost to create, transport, staff and store a booth and finding parking spaces downtown.
By going virtual, BizTech will be five days instead of two, on Oct. 4-8, and 100 hours instead of 10, McCollister said. People can attend from their laptops or iPads, whether it’s 6 a.m. or 10 p.m.
With 255 million websites worldwide, the question for businesses is how they drive traffic to their site, McCollister said.
“We used to say the expo was a mall for businesses all under one roof,” McCollister said. “Well, this is similar. It’s a mall for business, but it’s all under one URL.”
When a visitor goes to the BizTechExpo.com site, he or she will go into the lobby, get direction to the booths, with links to exhibitors’ websites. Visitors also can download presentations, enter seminar rooms and even have video chats with exhibitors’ staffs.
The show will still have a live element, including seminars, the Top 100 Private Companies luncheon and economist Loren Scott’s two-year economic forecast Oct. 5 at the Crowne Plaza.
BizTech’s move, announced in March, gave TechX 2011’s organizers the chance to turn their idea for an educational conference into reality. TechX is running Oct. 5-7 at the River Center.
Ned Fasullo, Transformyx vice president of sales, said the conference idea remained just that until BizTech made its switch.
Fasullo and Transformyx Chief Executive Officer Claude Bethea floated the idea to some local tech firms and began checking for open dates at the River Center and New Orleans Convention Center.
A week later, TechX was born, Fasullo said. Transformyx, an information technology services firm, hoped to put TechX on in March 2012, but the only open dates at the River Center were those BizTech had given up in October.
TechX is targeting high-end tech companies locally and regionally and big firms like HP and Microsoft for training courses, Fasullo said. It’s a different audience than BizTech’s.
“We’re not business-driven, we’re technology-driven so it’s not like gift basket companies and dry cleaners,” Fasullo said.
The conference will bring together people who want training and companies to network with one another, Fasullo said. Big sponsors like Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard will have a chance to meet the area companies that attend.
Bethea said TechX will offer the kind of training that attendees would probably have to leave the state to get.
The strong response to the show has surprised the organizers. TechX has more than two-thirds of its sponsors and speakers set for the show.
“The stuff that’s generally hard for other people who put these shows on, like getting sponsorships, attendees, and all that? That has been amazingly easy,” Bethea said. “The things that (others) spend the most cycles on, procuring dollars to get the show funded, that has been remarkably easy.”
McCollister said BizTech is also ahead of schedule, about halfway to its goal of 50 exhibitors.
Fasullo said he and Bethea hope TechX eventually will make companies like Google and Facebook realize the tech expertise available in this area.
“There’s never been a concerted effort by anyone to educate the public on what’s here technologically,” Fasullo said.
Area firms, whether large or small, don’t have to go out of state to find tech solutions, Fasullo said.