My Experience at SMTAI 2020 Virtual


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I compliment SMTA on organizing and operating the virtual SMTAI trade show this week. Please understand that I am retired but active with IPC and I-Connect007, so I did not shell out $295 to attend the technical sessions. However, I hope I can pick off a few of the interesting papers with my SMTA membership later on. Therefore, I concentrated on the exhibition portion of the virtual show.

The SMTA orientation session to prepare for SMTAI was well done and provided some good information about what I would encounter. I am sure it helped that this was at least the third show that had gone virtual in the last two months. I’m guessing contracting a professional organization to format a virtual show was very helpful for the SMTA staff members. I presume SMTA engaged a web-based show software company, as the format was similar to what I have seen used previously.

In the exhibition hall, the featured sponsors were prominently displayed, as expected. The list of exhibitors was easy to follow. I did not use the product locator, as I was familiar with the products of two-thirds of the exhibitors. This would have been my 15th successive SMTA show if it had been live. I did drop in on about five companies that I was not familiar with, and it was easy to see what they were promoting. Using clips already on their webpage, I hope the creation of each exhibitor’s show exhibit was easy to make. I really appreciated companies that made a “show special” effort to demonstrate how they are on top of their game. The poorest exhibits only contained links to exhibitor pre-recordings already on their web page. Their webpage was their exhibit, which is money poorly spent, in my opinion.

Some of the exhibitors seemed to have prepared their booth duty pretty carefully and did a decent job of having named people available when their exhibit said they would be online. That allowed me to have at least two “remember when” chats with old friends, just like a live show. I had several in-depth technical exchanges with booth personnel, and mostly got the information I needed.

I understand that booth personnel were working from their regular or home offices, but a couple of times, I could not connect to someone who was listed on duty. I don’t think booth duty was taken as seriously as a live show. As an attendee, I was unsure if my chats were private, or if others dropping into the booth could see what I had said. On the third day, I figured out how to use private chats.

In addition to the exhibition, I viewed the well-done interviews with the SMTA 2020 award winners. It also seemed like the free events were oriented to newbies and groups I was not interested in. I guess I am to the age where I would gladly tune in to an event called something like “Thanks for the Memories.”

I would recommend the virtual booths to regular SMTAI exhibitors, as many companies were conspicuous by their absence. Services companies were much better represented than equipment companies. While let’s hope that we do not have another 2020, based on other conferences and trade shows over the last six months, I think that some exhibition formats will never go back to totally live.

Here are a few of my final comments:

  • The video vault was interesting, as all exhibitors posted their links in one place.
  • I did not use the briefcase feature, but could still contact the exhibitor for the information.
  • I did not understand the leaderboard for prize points for visiting booths or making inquiries to the top three scorers. I followed my regular routine and accumulated over 10,000 points, which was enough for 24th place at one time. However, I am not sure how a couple of people scored 20 times as many points as I did; they must have scored every possible booth and video, as well as downloading all available literature.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at the SMTAI virtual trade show and would do it all over again.

 

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