In a class early on in graduate school the question was posed whether computer mediated communication (CMC) is a “richer” form of communication than face-to-face. At the time I was working in sales for an audio-visual production company, and I’ve worked within the tradeshow industry in one way or another since 1999, so the value of face-to-face meetings is close to my heart. 

I discovered I was a “relationship” sales person through those face-to-face experiences. I built relationships through these encounters at tradeshows/conferences/conventions and from those experiences I got the opportunity to bid on business. What resulted from that was 80% of the RFPs I received were from people I had met in person and about 90% of my business came out of those relationships–$2.5 million in booked business my final year there. One client in particular was known as one that was “impossible to get a chance at”—I sat with this client at the final luncheon at PCMA in New Orleans and later received an RFP that truly changed my career. 

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I’m sure that I am a better person both professionally and personally because of the relationships I’ve developed as a direct result of attending events face-to-face. At the same time, I’m earning my masters degree online and making my living right now, mostly, from strategic social media marketing—an online environment where relationships are also developed and fostered. Clearly, I see value in both, so I set out to study whether CMC, face-to-face, or a combination is the solution.

As we all know, conventions, conferences, and tradeshows are held for a variety of reasons. The study developed for this thesis focuses on the relationship-building and commerce that occurs at tradeshows in particular—where both buyers and sellers have the chance to speak face-to-face in social and professional environments about the potential of working together. 

Very little research has been done to study how we communicate in the face-to-face environments of tradeshows, so I felt compelled to focus the spotlight on what the value is of the two options. 

Participation in my thesis survey will help us understand the opinions of those who participate in tradeshows—to understand the importance of the relationship-building and commerce that occurs in person and/or online. The results will inform what we can and cannot accomplish in these different environments. 

Due to time constraints I need to close the survey at midnight tonight (PST), 4/12/13. 


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