Organizers of one of the Sport Card Expo in Toronto haven’t given up on their annual spring show.
They’re taking it virtual.
Traditionally one of the hobby’s largest events with over 200 exhibitors occupying 100,000 square-feet of space at the International Centre, the May edition of the bi-annual show was cancelled in the wake of COVID-19. Expo President Steve Menzie says he’d been hoping to reschedule for summer but when it became apparent that wasn’t possible, he decided to bring the show online. Enter the first-ever “Virtual Expo.”
Scheduled for June 19-20, the virtual event will allow attendees to buy, sell and trade live with exhibitors who will be manning online “booths” from their home or shop. The web-enabled platform will enable dealers to show off their inventory but the e-booths come completely customizable with direct links to eBay stores and websites. Exhibitors will be able to have face-to-face connections with customers who will be on their own webcam connection through a computer or smartphone anywhere in the world. No special app is necessary.
An information sheet being sent to potential exhibitors states that while the concept of a virtual card show is new to the hobby “it is not new technology. It has been proven and our team will be running a beta Expo in the weeks leading up to the event to and will host online meetings with dealers so all can see 1st hand how it will look and operate.”
Sellers will be able to present to up to 20 people at a time. There will also be group conversation and chat session options when dealers and customers want to negotiate or talk privately. The program will also allow attendees to exchange contact info with one click. Menzie says dealers can offer free drawings or contests, newsletter subscriptions or other offers to attendees from their virtual booth.
In addition, there will be a Main Stage section for guest Q&A’s, case breaks, auctions and appraisals. Both the Main Stage and available online seminar rooms can be rented or sponsored by exhibitors for product presentations, special sales offers or other activities.
“Dealers will also have the opportunity to have multiple booths if they want to segment their offerings by sport or category and managed by more than one person,” Menzie told us. “I’m finding that bigger dealers are doing exactly that. Heavy traffic in a virtual booth can be handled by having more than one person handling requests from virtual visitors.
He also offered some advice for potential exhibitors. “Make sure you have your computer ready to go with a good quality mic and headphones. In addition to a camera on your computer you should consider having a second camera that can be your phone or a USB camera. This will allow you to show your cards and collectibles from all angles front and back. We will be offering advice on best equipment to use. Also, make sure your set-up, whether in your store or home, is clean, organized and well lit. We will holding demos twice per week for dealers to see that platform in action and ask questions. In addition we will be doing exhibitor on-boarding approximately ten days before the Expo.”
The show has partnered with eBay and is encouraging dealers who don’t have an eBay store to set one up prior to the event and make sure it’s up to date. While having an eBay store isn’t necessary, those who don’t have an eBay/Paypal setup will have to offer their own type of payment options such as Paypal, Visa or electronic funds transfers.
Exhibitors at the virtual event will have a portion of their booth fee refunded if they choose to exhibit at the next live Expo, currently scheduled for November 13-15. Booths at the virtual Expo start at $250 Canadian.
“Once people see the platform and how easy it is to use plus all the flexibility it offers, with all the technical support my team will provide, I think they will see that they don’t need to be tech savvy and be willing to give it a try,” Menzie stated. “I think that many in the hobby are very intrigued by this concept and I also think, they want to see it continue to do well despite the challenges we’ve all been presented with. Like many, I hope that we will get back to in-person expos soon because it’s pretty hard to replicate that sensation of waking into hundreds of thousands of square feet of cards and collectibles but until then, I think the Virtual Expo will be a lot of fun and will ‘scratch the itch’ for many.”
Those interested in participating can contact him at 1-888-466-7116 or via [email protected].