Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Honey I shrunk the attendees

I was in Silicon Valley this week speaking at Software 2006. This was pitched as having 2,500 attendees, and the organizers claimed 1,700 on the day itself, yet at any plenary session I could only count about 400 or so. Indeed on the first morning the main hall was so awkwardly empty that the number of chairs was dramatically reduced for future sessions, presumably to make it seem fuller. This is getting silly, rather like the perennial numbers game between police ("10,000 protestors") and demonstrators ("100,000 protestors") played out in countries the world over. As noted previously the trade show seems to be in secular decline, even here in the heart of hi-tech country. The show itself had good speakers and excellent conference admin, yet the partly deserted exhibit hall spoke volumes. Even the bikini-clad girl handing out free gifts (note to the marketing manager at Aztec who hired the model: you may want to consider trying a gimmick that does not look quite so tacky; even in the 1980s this seemed a bit dubious) was unable to lift the atmosphere. The exhibit sponsors did not seem best pleased (sample comment: "four of out of five people who came to the booth were trying to sell us something rather than the other way around") and the supposed legion of CIOs attending were either cunningly disguised or further optimism on the organiser's behalf.

Ironically the conference hotel perhaps held the clue as to why attendance at trade shows seems to be so hard to drum up these days. If you go to the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara concierge desk you are greeted not by a person but by a video screen. The concierge herself (the helpful Anna) sits 80 miles away and chats to you, even able to print out directions on the printer at the concierge desk. If even the hotel concierge can't be bothered to travel to work any more and can do her job quite adequately by video link, is it any wonder that busy executives spend less time at trade shows and more time on webinars?

6 Comments:

Blogger jeff nolan said...

The show girl model was striking because she was like 6 foot 5" with the heels on.

And when will conference organizers realize that wireless networks are no longer optional.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Sabrina Horn said...

Software 2006 was better this year than any year in the past. The content/sessions and the speakers were excellent. The opportunities for networking were excellent. Why this only took one sentence of your post I'm not sure, but isn't that (content and speakers) the whole point anyway?

Weather is often a factor at these things. I don't know about you, but I spent 2 hours in the pouring rain that first morning to get there. So did most of the other attendees who are local. Sorry, I honestly think your headcount is off. By 10am, that room was full. I had trouble finding a seat.

There were plenty of CIOs there, as advertised. They had their own private session which was done on purpose, not under some disguise. That's why you didn't see them...??
I don't know what to say about the electronic concierge except its a sign of the tech industry's influence on the hotel industry. That's what we wanted, right? Get customers... automate things... I certainly don't think that has anything to do with conference attendance.

And if anybody thinks a trade show isn't about selling, I'll be a monkey's uncle.

I guess I don't quite understand the focus of your comments, and why you're unhappy. You were invited there from among hundreds of companies to represent and showcase your company among your peers, partners, customers, influencers and media. This conference is one of the best out there. All those that matter in our business were there, including you. That's what's important. End of story.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Vinnie Mirchandani said...

Andy, I presented and mostly stayed in the CIO track all day and there were several there and pretty vocal abotu changes they want to see in the industry. From my back of the napkin calucations the attendees reflected at least $ 20 b in annual IT spend.

I presented on applied innovation and why CIOs/CTOs should pat themselves more for finding money for innovation when the utility IT spend is sucking up so much budget and oxygen. see my post here

http://dealarchitect.typepad.com/deal_architect/2006/04/the_cio_unsung_.html

Sometimes vendors are so eager to talk about themselves that they forget who does the tough job...

7:50 AM  
Blogger Andy Hayler said...

Thanks for your comment Vinnie. I think your point is well made. Kalido itself was born out of a piece of research at a corporate (Shell) and only later spun out commercially. I suspect there is a lot of untapped potential wiithin internal IT shops.

6:31 AM  
Blogger bitblue said...

Hi Andy, just discovered your blog. Re shrinking attendees, I wish we really could shrink them so they don't step on each other, like last time I saw you at the Royal Lancaster.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Andy Hayler said...

Good to hear from you Andreas - the Royal Lancaster event was indeed packed out: nice photo by the way!

6:19 AM  

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