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Report from USA

QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo - Eyewitness Report

Jim Wilson, K5ND

I’m not entirely sure that “eyewitness” is the correct term for attending a virtual event. But I was there, so to speak, and here’s my report.

To Boldly Go Where No Amateur Radio Enthusiast Has Gone Before

OK, it wasn’t quite Star Trek worthy. But it did break some very new ground in amateur radio conferences. After all, many of us are used to living through in-person interactions at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

This was substantially different. To start there were 26,000+ registered and over 14,000 in attendance during the August 8-9 weekend. No scooters, bad restrooms, or challenged food. But also no direct contact with your buddies, the exhibitors, or tweaking knobs on all the great gear.

The QSO Today Virtual Ham Radio Expo

Instead, there were 60 speakers across four tracks along with an exhibit hall with 45 booths. If you missed a speaker, you can view the recording for thirty days after the event, until September 9. You can also visit the booths for that same thirty days. Here’s the link for more information

Ham Radio Expo Lobby

Kudos to QSO Today Podcast and All Exhibitors

I’ve known Eric Guth, 4Z1UG/WA6IGR, since he interviewed me for his QSO Today podcast in 2015. I next had the pleasure of learning more about him as we turned the tables and I interviewed him for his 200th podcast in 2018. And, yes, we had an eyeball QSO during the Dayton Hamvention in between.

Given that background it was no surprise to me that Eric would conceive of a world-wide virtual ham radio expo. Nor was it a surprise that he would do everything first class. That included selecting the vFairs virtual conference platform, recruiting a stellar list of 45 exhibitors, including Icom as the top-level Platinum sponsor. Thank you Ray Novak, N9JA, at Icom for leading the way.

Icom Booth

Then the task list included speaker and moderator recruitment, booth setup, as well as training and support for all those vital activities to make the event a success. If that weren’t enough he and his small team came up with a leaderboard designed to maximize participation with the exhibitors. Plus, I’m confident that there was plenty of behind-the-scenes on-the-fly problem solving.

Speakers Listing – start of one track out of four tracks

Attending Speaker Sessions and Exhibits

My own eyewitness experience began with the Keynote Address by Dr. Scott Wright, K0MD, where he documented his work with COVID-19, the very reason we were attending a virtual expo.

I also attended a number of speaker sessions that somewhat reflected my eclectic mix of interests within our great hobby. The list of presentations on my list included: The History of Heath Company (learned a great deal about the early history of an organization I worked for from 1977 to 1989), CWOps CW Academy, DXing with Modern Software Defined Radios, Solar Cycle 24 and 25, EME on 40 meters, Getting Started on EME, GPS Today, Lithium Batteries, and Getting Started with Amateur Radio Satellites. There was so much to choose from. Glad the recordings are there for 30 days. I found the follow-on Q & A sessions to be very helpful.

Tom Schuessler, N5HYP, Satellite Presentation

One of my personal highlights was talking with Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, who was in the W1AW station at ARRL HQ for a live online tour. He would announce the tours each hour in the large QSO Today chatroom. I saw his announcement, popped over to the link he provided, and was able to engage in a video chat. Bob and I had worked on some Scouting initiatives. So it was good to catch up. This was a nice example of the person-to-person connections that can happen even with a virtual event.

K2BSA Radio Scouting Booth Duty

I also did some booth duty in the K2BSA booth, which was supported by Icom America. The booth provided information about amateur radio and Scouting in the USA. All of my time was in the chatroom. We answered a fair number of questions and others shared their insights into their work with the radio merit badge, summer camps, Jamboree on the Air, National and World Jamborees, as well as the Icom America Scout Loan Station program.

K2BSA Radio Scouting Booth

The exhibit was quite successful with several members joining the K2BSA Amateur Radio Association as well as signing up for the Jamboree on the Air / Radio Scouting newsletter.

When Can We Do This Again?

The good news is that we can do it again March 13-14, 2021. Not only that but Eric has stated that he plans to offer the ham expo twice a year. I imagine that he’ll have plenty of improvements in place as a result of the lessons learned during this groundbreaking, first ever, virtual expo for amateur radio.


I hope to see you there.

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