Small or big shows better?

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After the well-publicized cancellations of mega-shows such as MediaLive International's Comdex 2004, Hannover Fairs' CeBit America, Ziff Davis Media's Business4Site and CMP's TechXNY this year, event organizers are debating whether broad, horizontally oriented shows or smaller, targeted events should fill the void.

In June, when MediaLive International canceled its November Comdex event, it characterized the move as a "postponement" and indicated the show would be back in November 2005. In fact, last month, MediaLive announced results of an independent survey of IT buyers, in which more than 75% of respondents said they prefer to see multiple vendors across many product categories at one large IT industry event versus smaller, vertical events.

Comdex Senior VP Eric Faurot said the findings "confirm our long-held belief that the $1 trillion information technology industry needs an annual event where enterprise, small and midsize businesses, and channel partners can hear from industry leaders about future direction, find and learn about new products, attend educational sessions and network with peers-one event that lets you see the whole picture. Comdex is that event."

Faurot is actively soliciting feedback on the shape of the future event from executives in the IT community through e-mail and other means. MediaLive has also formed a steering committee comprising major IT marketing executives from companies including Cisco Systems, Dell Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems.

Two other shows-CeBit America and TechXNY (formerly PC Expo)-have been resurrected in the form of Corporate and Channel Computing Expo (C3), billed as a "major industry event" by its producer H.A. Bruno in a partnership with CMP Media, the business media company behind TechXNY. Bruno created the original PC Expo. CMP will be C3's primary sponsor and conference contributor for the new event.

"We bought the assets of CeBit America and TechXNY, but the goal is not just to regurgitate these two shows," said Mark Dineen, formerly of CeBit America and now VP of H.A. Bruno and show director for C3 Expo. "It will be a different format."

Dineen said potential attendees on Bruno's house list, as well as the CMP TechX database and the CeBit America database, have indicated a desire for a meeting place for corporate solutions. "There's a need for vertical solutions, but solutions for multiple divisions [across the enterprise] are in demand," Dineen said. "You don't get that when one division of one company goes to one vertical show."

Christina Condos, events director at CMP, said though smaller niche events fill the gaps left by the departure of some of the bigger shows, there is still a place for large events. "But we need to make sure [they're] giving exhibitors and attendees what they need," she said.

Other executives agree those gaps are continuing to be filled by the targeted events. Business media companies are continuing to dedicate more resources toward targeted events and return on investment, and less to general events to build brand, which was more prevalent in the '90s.

"As we got past 2000, 2001, a lot of companies stopped thinking about branding and started concentrating on filling the sales pipeline and generating leads," said David Korse, president-CEO of IDG World Expo, a unit of International Data Group that has launched four new vertically focused events in the last 12 months.

"If you have a choice between a large audience of people with many interests and a smaller audience with a particular interest in the product or service you're offering, it's obviously a better use of your time [to attend the focused event]," Korse said.

He said even clients addressing brand concerns are not necessarily doing it with broader shows. "We are beginning to have clients talk to us about branding again, but they're trying to brand within their [specific] marketplace," he said. M

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