Editor's Notebook: Ah ... the Joys of Virtual Reality!

As Occupational Hazards prepares to launch its first Safety WebExpo and Conference, I'm becoming more and more excited about the possibilities.

On Oct. 4, everyone who has registered for the Occupational Hazards Safety WebExpo will have the opportunity to participate in history. This is the first WebExpo launched by Occupational Hazards, but I sincerely doubt it will be the last.

When our publisher and e-media director came to me with the idea of a Safety WebExpo and Conference, I had a lot of questions for them. (After all, I'm an editor, not a salesperson.) Questions like: What's in it for our audience? What will the "conference" part of the trade show entail? Why would anyone want to come to our Safety WebExpo when there are "live" trade shows practically every month of the year? How frustrated will I be by the user interface of the technology?

They began to answer my questions one by one. I was given a URL to see how a virtual trade show works. As I "stepped" into the entrance hall of my first virtual trade show, I admit it: The kid that once watched Star Trek reruns and Battlestar Gallactica thought, "How cool is this?" Music played as I "walked" around. Just like in the "real" world, I could enter trade show booths, watch seminars (Webcasts) or visit the resource center. I wasn't frustrated by the technology; it was easy to navigate and understand.

At the Safety WebExpo

To give you a taste of what the WebExpo will be like, advertisers will "build" their own booths in virtual reality, adding architectural features, colors, logos, etc., so every booth looks different, just like at a "real" trade show.

Those of us attending the WebExpo can move in and out at will, stopping in at booths, leaving to work for several hours, coming back to attend any or all four of the Webcasts scheduled for Oct. 4 at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Webcast topics include pandemic planning, a timely Webcast sponsored by DuPont, and other hour-long Webcasts sponsored by Honeywell, Ansell and Westex, which revolve around protecting the worker and the workplace from hazards.

We can visit the Resource Center of the trade show, where we can download white papers, jump to other Web sites and visit archived Webcasts that already have run on Occupationalhazards.com. In addition, Occupational Hazards has compiled a white paper that includes a number of our most-popular safety management articles published in the last 5 years, which is free for the asking for those who register for the Safety WebExpo.

Finally, we can visit the 15 or so virtual trade show booths, where booth sponsors can interact with us during "live chat" sessions. These booth sponsors include safety equipment manufacturers, safety services providers and agencies such as NIOSH and other great resources.

The booths include document downloads with product and services information. For me who is the one at every trade show lugging around a 50-pound briefcase bursting at the seams with catalogs and brochures that's music to my ears. And if I miss something, the Safety WebExpo will be archived on Occupational hazards.com for three months. Ah ... the joys of virtual reality!

Attendance is free, but registration is required. To register, visit our registration and information page.

See you on Oct. 4! I'll be the one who isn't lugging around the 50-pound briefcase.

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