When I attended the NFPA trade show last month in Boston, I learned a fair amount about new fire-protection products. I enjoyed some good conversations with exhibitors on the show floor and attendees at evening social events.

These elements constitute the upside of traveling to a trade show, be it the National Fire Protection Association’s or another. The downside is the “traveling to” part.

In Boston, I stayed at perhaps the worst hotel I’ve encountered in 21 years of business travel. But with another convention in town and the Boston Bruins in the NHL playoffs, I felt lucky to find any room after an exhaustive search.

Due to its remote location, I traveled between the hotel and expo hall on Boston’s public transportation system. While I am a big fan of mass transit, it can get awkward when I’m burdened with a roller suitcase, computer bag and trade show materials.

If you think there must be a better way to experience the upside of trade shows without enduring the downside, you are correct. I invite you to be my guest Aug. 4 at our Virtual Green Expo: Focus on Green Schools (www.thevirtualgreenexpo.com).

With schools and green buildings being among the few bright spots in a still-struggling construction market, I see three good reasons for you to attend this online event:
    1. Experts on green schools will inform you during webinars, panel discussions and a keynote speech about the systems you need to design to make educational facilities more energy and water efficient.

    2. Exhibitors in the virtual trade show will tell you about their green products, which you can specify in the systems you design.

    3. You can learn from and interact with the speakers and exhibitors without the adventure and expense of attending an in-person event.

The speakers in the educational sessions will share their expertise from both a schools and a green building perspective. The keynote speaker will beJohn Shea, CEO of the New York City Department of Education, Division of School Facilities. Leading a panel discussion will beBeth Heider, chair-elect of the U.S. Green Building Council Board of Directors.

Her panel’s topic, “How School Districts Can Build New Green Schools Even When Public Funds are Scarce,” should hit home for many of you. Another panel, featuringHenning Bloech, executive director of the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, will address “Critical Issues Facing the Greening of America’s Schools.”

Presenting a webinar will be our ownpmecolumnistDan Holohan. His topic will be “Old-School Ways to Green Old Schools.”

As the moderator of Dan’s webinar, I got the chance recently to run through his material with him. The experience reminded me again about how good Dan’s presentation skills are. I was equally impressed with his technical knowledge of steam systems that heat so many schools.

You’ll have the opportunity to ask Dan questions following his webinar during a live Ask the Expert session. You’ll have the same chance with the other speakers and panelists.

And you’ll be able to interact with exhibitors in the Virtual Green Expo’s Exhibit Hall. As they do during an in-person trade show, exhibitors will set up their booths with presentations, demonstrations, product literature and other takeaways.

Their booth reps will staff the booths to answer your questions. You even can participate in an ongoing booth chat with other attendees.

The best part of our Virtual Green Expo will be the knowledge you’ll gain by attending. The big bonus is the savings of your time, money and annoyance.