The (Technology Trade) Show Must Go On?

from the time-for-the-niche-to-take-over dept

Someone over at CNN has noticed that the big name technology trade shows aren’t doing so well these days. They look at the big name shows, Comdex and Internet World, and realize that it’s tougher for companies to justify going to these shows (whether as attendees or exhibitors). However, they admit that there seems to be some room for smaller, niche trade shows. They mention the Game Developers Conference and the Consumer Electroncis Show, which both have been doing well lately. They haven’t caught on to the popular shows in the geek world, such as those put on by Tim O’Reilly and Kevin Werbach – but I wonder if that’s because they mostly view those as a bunch of folks patting each other on the back. I agree that those conferences seem way too “insidery” right now, and also mostly consist of people preaching to the converted rather than really generating new ideas. However, I think both have the potential to be a lot more. Eventually one of those conferences – or another like it – will become the “disruptive conference”. Just like established tech companies ignore “disruptive technologies”, the established conferences seem to ignore these new, niche conferences. If you compare the two types of conferences right now, it wouldn’t look like the bigger ones have anything to worry about. However, as the smaller conference change over time, I can certainly see how more and more companies will view things like Supernova or O’Reilly’s Emerging Tech conferences as the “must attends” while Comdex and Internet World look like dinosaurs.

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Comments on “The (Technology Trade) Show Must Go On?”

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mark says:

No Subject Given

I used to go to trade shows a lot because outside of magazines and our lame local Special Interest Group it was the only place to get info on new hardware & software. These days, I go straight to the company website or discussion group and get the skinny there.

I didn’t have to pay $5 for a hot dog and $20 to park for 2 hours. Sure, I miss the free schwag- Tshirts and rubber desk whatszits, but otherwise, good riddance.

Kevin Krewell (user link) says:

Re: The relevance of conferences in the Internet era

I’m VERY interested in this topic, as my company produces two smaller forums (Microprocessor Forum and Embedded Processor Forum). Attendance dropped significantly after 1999 and I’m looking at what happening to the conference business. One thing you do get at a conference is face-to-face time with key individuals. It’s also a good way to get away from your office/cubicle to interact with you peers. As much as I love the Web, it doesn’t replace those factors.

Would an Internet virtual conference be and cheaper alternative and meet the goals of attendees, sponsors, and publications?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: The relevance of conferences in the Internet e

Ever since the initial post of this story, I’ve been thinking more about this concept, and I think I may end up writing more on it in the near future…

I agree with both posters so far. The value of “finding out info about companies and products” has dropped significantly – but there’s still a lot of value in the “meeting people face to face” part of the business. I don’t think that can effectively be replicated online (and I once tried to build a system that would do that, so I have some experience seeing how people react to those sorts of things).

Unfortunately, I don’t think most conferences really value that “meet face-to-face” part enough – and don’t do enough to encourage it.

Kevin Krewell says:

Re: Re: Re: The relevance of conferences in the Internet e

What could be done to further the personal networking at a conference? We’re planning to try a bulletin board that attendees could use to post “meet me at the forum” messages. The forums are also small enough (400-500 attendees) that its not usually to difficult to people.

Going back to your original observation, one large tech conference that still seems strong is CES. On the niche side, how about Demo and PC Forum?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The relevance of conferences in the Internet e

I have some ideas on how personal networking can be made more valuable at conferences, but I’m still trying to organize my thoughts. One quick thing for brainstorming purposes, is that I’ve found the best parts of any conference to be (1) lunch, when I end up at a table with a bunch of people to talk to and (2) between sessions when I talk to random attendees. It’s almost like the random sessions and exhibition spaces are secondary to those other moments.

As for Demo and PC Forum, I agree that they’re doing ok in the niche space. Demo, of course, has the hook that the stuff that shows up there is new – which lets it break the mold from some other conferences.

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