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Opinion: tech trade shows need a rethink

by Scott Bicheno on 29 May 2008, 11:38

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Demonstrate ROI or die

I’ve been going to the PC channel trade show in Birmingham for a few years now. Every year, when I’ve been canvassing the floor for opinions, I’ve heard the same sentiment: “It’s a bit quiet.”

As shown in our round up of the views from this year’s show, everyone seems to acknowledge the desirability of having an event where everyone with a common business interest can get together, talk shop and, if rumours are to be believed, frequent gentlemen’s clubs until the early morning.

At the same time, however, shows require a significant outlay of both time and money and exhibitors, primarily, but also visitors and journalists, can struggle to demonstrate any return on investment (ROI) on attending the show if it doesn’t achieve a certain minimum size.

One independent reseller I spoke to observed that they have to be selective about the events they attend, for the above reasons, and that a general show perhaps struggles to make a compelling argument for attendance, compared to a more specialised event.

Resellers have to be selective about the events they attend

One example of such an event is Infosec, the data security event, which this year announced that it had grown out of its venue at Olympia – already much larger than Hall 19 at the NEC – and was moving down the road to Earls Court. It also said that it had already sold three quarters of the space available in the new, larger venue.

On the other hand, a major data security company, Portcullis, decided against buying a stand at the event this year and instead hired out the function room of the pub over the road from Olympia and renamed it The Portcullis Arms. This enabled Portcullis to network with invited guests in far greater comfort than was possible in Olympia itself.