Bankers will not have to drive to Des Moines next week to attend the Iowa Bankers Association's annual conference.
Instead they can browse vendor booths or learn who is speaking at individual sessions at the trade group's "on-line convention," being held in conjunction with the annual conference from Sunday to Tuesday. The Iowa association believes it is the first state bankers group to host a virtual conference, at www.iabankers.com, to complement its real-world version.
"Suppose a bank's CEO attends the conference and hears a speech about all the wonderful ways to market to generation X," said Ben Hildebrandt, the association's vice president of marketing.
"He might return from the convention and talk with his marketing personnel about the speech, but he forgot to get the speaker's name and didn't take any notes. Now they'll be able to go on-line and find out the speaker's background and how to contact her."
Virtual attendees will not have access to the seminars, however. The group is unable post transcripts or outlines of speeches this year because of paid speakers' concerns that their talks would be pirated on the Internet. The association hopes it can do so next year.
"We wrestled with how to organize the site and how much to put on because we didn't want people to stay home and skip the convention," Mr. Hildebrandt said. "We dipped our toes into the water this year, and it feels good. Next year we'll dive in and expand the on-line convention."
On-line visitors can examine the results of a statewide banking survey addressing what lobbying activities the Iowa association should focus on during the next legislative session. That data will be posted when the survey results are presented at the conference.
Internet surfers can also visit 37 virtual convention booths. Brenton Banks Inc., for instance, a $1.7 billion-asset Des Moines-based company, will use its booth to promote correspondent services such as merchant credit cards and investment products that it recently started marketing to smaller community banks.