Oil & Gas Conferences: Virtual Reality

Rig Writer

Part of the Oil and Gas Technology series

At least I was wearing comfortable shoes. I must have covered at least five miles as I worked my way around the excellent ADIPEC exhibition this week – a feat made even more tiring by being weighed down with as much promotional literature as I could carry. The whole experience, and the familiar drive back to Dubai, got me thinking about shows like this.

There’s no shortage of large scale exhibitions running around the world, and ADIPEC compares favourably with any international show I’ve been to. The week itself is jam packed with activities, from the serious networking at the CEO summit, to a vast technical conference, a golf day, and of course the exhibition itself.

As I hobbled past my tenth opportunity to win an iPad, I asked myself: ‘wasn’t the internet revolution supposed herald the end of trade shows like this, and for that matter all conferences and events?

There are many ‘virtual exhibition’ sites out there, some of which even go so far as to replicate the awkward, boxy exhibition stands which evolved as a means to cram as many exhibitors into a limited physical space as possible (I guess to add an element of familiarity to an unfamiliar concept). Some are better than others, but none has ever really captured the imagination or come even close to challenging the hegemony of the traditional trade show.

So the large-scale exhibition looks like it’s here to stay, but surely when you have a situation – as I saw on multiple stands – where solution providers are using these events to demonstrate thought leadership and educate potential customers, yet are finding themselves delivering presentations at expensively assembled booths to a handful of inattentive delegates against a backdrop of noise and distraction, there must be a better way.

Are we stuck with a situation like this (described to me optimistically as ‘hit and miss’ by one such presenter), or should we be embracing new technology to get this message across?

The truth – as is often the case – probably lies somewhere in the middle.

There can never be a truly digital replacement for the impact of looking someone in the eye, shaking a hand, and exchanging a business card. Serendipitous meetings and exchanges can lead to unexpected solutions to longstanding challenges, and the very fact that you are out of the office for a full day/week also allows you to focus exclusively on finding solutions to your challenges, without the continual interruptions of the office environment.

However, I couldn’t help but think that a combination of the physical and the virtual would make a lot of sense for an event like ADIPEC.

With so much going on during the ADIPEC week itself, there’s not much more the organisers can cram in. However, by combining the physical event with a value-adding online presence, a huge opportunity exists to both engage us, and enhance the value delivered to us by offering case studies, branded content and value-adding material for us to absorb and engage with in the run up to – or indeed after – the event itself.

I’m not talking trailers, commercials or previews here – no one’s asking for any more of that – I’m talking seriously value-adding content which helps the industry go about its business in a more effective way.

Of course, I have an agenda here – this is exactly the reason that the new Oil and Gas IQ site has been launched – but it’s also something I feel passionate about. Having been to enough conferences for two lifetimes – and spent enough time online to know what I like and don’t like – I’m convinced there is a way to share the valuable exchanges which take place at the physical conferences and events around the world with a global community online.

What do you think?

by Gareth Pearce

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