The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo attracted thousands of participants over the March 13 – 14 weekend. Taking a different tack than it did for its inaugural event last August, the expo leveraged the capabilities of two virtual event platforms to increase interaction among attendees, speakers, and exhibitors. All did not go smoothly, however.
“Unfortunately, we had many technical issues with the Airmeet presentations and the integration of the vFairs and Airmeet platforms,” expo chairman Eric Guth, 4Z1UG/WA6IGR, explained afterward in a message to participants. All recorded presentations are available for attendees during the expo’s 30-day on-demand access period, which ends April 16.
ARRL, a QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo partner, enjoyed virtual visits from attendees to its two exhibits. One included staff representatives for Member Services, Radiosport, ARRL Field Day, and Field Services. The other exhibit highlighted the expertise of ARRL Laboratory personnel, who offered technical and practical advice to those stopping by. On the team were Senior Test Engineer Bob Allison, WB1GCM, who streamed from inside the Lab’s screen room where QST “Product Review” testing is conducted, and RFI Engineer Paul Cianciolo, W1VLF, who helped participants deal with pesky noise and interference issues. W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, conducted virtual tours of the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station all weekend.
All told, 16 staff members worked in rotating shifts at ARRL Headquarters, greeting visitors through livestreaming video and audio. Several members of the ARRL Board of Directors were on the platform too.
CEO David Minster, NA2AA, delivered the event’s keynote address. Minster, who arrived in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, said ARRL would become a bigger player in the digital age.
“A major part of the digital transformation at ARRL has to do with taking our excellence in content development and editing, and bringing it to video,” Minster said. “You are seeing more activity from us on YouTube, the Learning Network (webinar series), and then later this year the launch of our Learning Center.” Video, Minster pointed out, is always available and easy to pause and refer back to.
Amateur radio manufacturers and vendors including FlexRadio, Elecraft, Connect Systems, and Quicksilver Radio Products welcomed visitors and answered their questions on a one-to-one basis.
Guth apologized for the poor experience many participants had in accessing and navigating the event.
“I attempted to integrate a number of systems together in order to make a better user experience,” he explained. “It was a noble idea, because I wanted the convention like last August, with the lounge tables of Airmeet to make it more interactive. We failed on this platform for many of you. I am very sorry.”
“One of the things that we’ve stressed in all of our communications is that the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo team is committed to constantly learning and improving what we do,” Guth said in a statement. “Virtual conventions of this magnitude are new territory. We believe that there’s a place for a virtual ham expo to serve the needs of the very large amateur radio community, especially those that don’t attend in-person national or regional events (or even local events). We are committed to making that happen.”
The expo announced on Wednesday, March 17, that 80 presentations had already been added to the platform for on-demand viewing.