Are bloggers & social networks killing the big shows?

I’ve noticed a trend lately (actually I noticed it back when I worked at Microsoft and my bosses kept refusing to buy booths at conferences, saying they didn’t return the ROI, but that trend has grown and grown big time). Big companies are throwing their own parties to get news out inside of going to big trade shows. Last night I was at Facebook’s party, where they told everyone they had just passed 140 million users. That deserves a blog post of its own, but we’re here to discuss the trade show crunch.

Earlier in the year we attended a day-long event where Electronic Arts introduced a bunch of bloggers to Dead Space, here’s our video with the producer of that.

I’ve watched as Apple invites a few hundred bloggers and journalists into a conference room at its headquarters in Cupertino and gets the news out to the world without having to go to an expensive venue.

What changed?

Blogging and online video.

Big companies are looking at the millions of dollars they spend for booths (not to mention bringing employees to) and are realizing that it’s just not getting the return on investment that they should get.

My sponsor, Seagate, told me they are reducing their spend this year at CES. AMD and Delphi are doing the same thing and I’m hearing about many other companies who will either stop going, or reduce the size of their booths, either this year, if they could, or in 2010 (contracts make it tough to shrink booths as fast as companies might want).

The news is all over the place about Apple’s decision to stop going to MacWorld. It’s being discussed on FriendFeed big time. This post’s thesis got 40+ comments in about an hour.

To me this makes total sense. Why? 44,000 people go to MacWorld. Hell, a lot more people watch Engadget report from that much cheaper conference room.

And Apple has the personal touch already thanks to their stores. They don’t need to meet with consumers anymore in expensive trade show booths that, simply, aren’t a very good experience anyway.

So, what should we expect over the next year? A lot of bad news for big trade shows.

What’s killing them? The Internet. You can launch a product live now from a living room. Thanks to Stickam, Ustream, Qik, Kyte, YouTube, Flixwagon, Viddler, Vimeo, SmugMug, etc and blogs.

Just give the people on Facebook something to pass along and talk about and your product is out there, big time.

I wonder, will 2009′s CES be the last one I attend? I remember when I thought that about Comdex, which everyone thought was too big to die.

I think it’ll be a miracle to see CES make it to 2011. Why? Blame it on the bloggers.

That all said, I’m participating in a bunch of events at CES and I’m tracking them all (and ones at Macworld) on my Upcoming.org calendar. Hope to see you there. It might be our last time!

119 thoughts on “Are bloggers & social networks killing the big shows?

  1. You know I think you are very smart Robert but in this case you simply do not know what you are a talking about. I would love to have a one on one chat with you about the value of tradeshows (I have been involved with some very big events). The internet and social media is not killing tradeshows. In fact they make tradeshows bigger, better and even more important.

    Until this economic downturn tradeshows on average were growing not shrinking. When the economy comes back tradeshows and other face to face mediums will be as strong as ever.

    As for Apple dropping out. I would love to talk to you about that as well. I am sure they had their own reasons and money was most likely a part of that equation but Apple is a very poor example to use vs. normal companies. They have long proved themselves to be for Apple and only Apple. For some reason lots of fanboys think that’s great. I don’t.

    Tradeshows are not meant for consumers, or hobbyists. They are meant for professional buyers, sellers and press. They are the pulse of each industry they represent. Big companies, small companies, new technologies, industry trends and so much more. MacWorld is really more of a consumer show / tradeshow hybrid.

    CES is a great example of a tradeshow and a very well run, and very high ROI event. If you ask any exhibitor on their tradeshow floor I would wager 8 out of 10 will tell you they got their moneys worth and it is a must attend event for them. They are huge because they are a great association, have a great team running their event but more than anything they are a reflection of their industry and I think Gary would agree with that. The consumer electronics industry is huge covering almost every aspect of our lives and businesses and it has been booming for several years now.

    If you like I would love spending some time walking a show floor with you and comparing the way you walk a tradeshow floor vs the way I do it. What you see vs. what I see, and what you look for vs. what I look for.

    As a salesperson I can tell you that I find tradeshows to be the single most effective sales tool I have ever used and offer the highest ROI of any sales process. In fact industry data backs my own personal experience up.

    I will sign so folks can take my perspective with a grain of salt but I have attended, exhibited and organized litterally hundreds of events.

    Rick Calvert
    CEO & Co-founder
    BlogWorld & New Media Expo

  2. You know I think you are very smart Robert but in this case you simply do not know what you are a talking about. I would love to have a one on one chat with you about the value of tradeshows (I have been involved with some very big events). The internet and social media is not killing tradeshows. In fact they make tradeshows bigger, better and even more important.

    Until this economic downturn tradeshows on average were growing not shrinking. When the economy comes back tradeshows and other face to face mediums will be as strong as ever.

    As for Apple dropping out. I would love to talk to you about that as well. I am sure they had their own reasons and money was most likely a part of that equation but Apple is a very poor example to use vs. normal companies. They have long proved themselves to be for Apple and only Apple. For some reason lots of fanboys think that’s great. I don’t.

    Tradeshows are not meant for consumers, or hobbyists. They are meant for professional buyers, sellers and press. They are the pulse of each industry they represent. Big companies, small companies, new technologies, industry trends and so much more. MacWorld is really more of a consumer show / tradeshow hybrid.

    CES is a great example of a tradeshow and a very well run, and very high ROI event. If you ask any exhibitor on their tradeshow floor I would wager 8 out of 10 will tell you they got their moneys worth and it is a must attend event for them. They are huge because they are a great association, have a great team running their event but more than anything they are a reflection of their industry and I think Gary would agree with that. The consumer electronics industry is huge covering almost every aspect of our lives and businesses and it has been booming for several years now.

    If you like I would love spending some time walking a show floor with you and comparing the way you walk a tradeshow floor vs the way I do it. What you see vs. what I see, and what you look for vs. what I look for.

    As a salesperson I can tell you that I find tradeshows to be the single most effective sales tool I have ever used and offer the highest ROI of any sales process. In fact industry data backs my own personal experience up.

    I will sign so folks can take my perspective with a grain of salt but I have attended, exhibited and organized litterally hundreds of events.

    Rick Calvert
    CEO & Co-founder
    BlogWorld & New Media Expo

  3. Big trade shows focus on bringing hundreds of thousands of people together and maximise profit for the tradeshow founder/host (can’t blame them).

    It’s a good gig if you got history/scale, as not many people(competitor) would dare to start one, unless they can find a different niche/focus (E3, CeBit, CES)

    This is the same for B2B conferences in various industries/sectors (e.g. Telecoms: IIR, IBC, Informa, Finance: euromoney, FT, economists) however, one thing is for sure, most so so organisers (especially the market leaders) tend to become blinkered and develop narrow field vision, namely, they focus too much on sponsors need (rather than paying attendees or even key stake holders’ requirements)

    Therefore, in the end, we see things like these MacWorld saga (not knowing the background/real story, the organiser may have asked apple to how best to appease them, it might be too late or they might not have even asked because they thing they have scale!? Anyone knows?)

    Key however is that trade show/conferences alike, need to be focused, and as mentioned the internet/video/blogging change that, but mostly so far within the FMCG market, let’s so on B2B, they are still quite niche & sometimes internally focused. E.g. Challenges of rating, not easily understood derivatives/”structured products” (or zero cost products, CDO, CDS) are already well known in the finance sector.

    One thing is for sure, pulling a few (or even big number) of key senior industry guys together is not difficult, IF you already has built up the trusted relationships.

    Many conference organisers may have lost sight of key Focus/benefits are clearly relationship buildings.. Cost vs benefits for attendees/sponsors quite frequently don’t add up.

    Therefore, finding the balance or win-win is KEY!

    I personally prefer 4-10 people maximum lunch/evening functions of senior people are most effective!

    @garethwong

  4. Big trade shows focus on bringing hundreds of thousands of people together and maximise profit for the tradeshow founder/host (can’t blame them).

    It’s a good gig if you got history/scale, as not many people(competitor) would dare to start one, unless they can find a different niche/focus (E3, CeBit, CES)

    This is the same for B2B conferences in various industries/sectors (e.g. Telecoms: IIR, IBC, Informa, Finance: euromoney, FT, economists) however, one thing is for sure, most so so organisers (especially the market leaders) tend to become blinkered and develop narrow field vision, namely, they focus too much on sponsors need (rather than paying attendees or even key stake holders’ requirements)

    Therefore, in the end, we see things like these MacWorld saga (not knowing the background/real story, the organiser may have asked apple to how best to appease them, it might be too late or they might not have even asked because they thing they have scale!? Anyone knows?)

    Key however is that trade show/conferences alike, need to be focused, and as mentioned the internet/video/blogging change that, but mostly so far within the FMCG market, let’s so on B2B, they are still quite niche & sometimes internally focused. E.g. Challenges of rating, not easily understood derivatives/”structured products” (or zero cost products, CDO, CDS) are already well known in the finance sector.

    One thing is for sure, pulling a few (or even big number) of key senior industry guys together is not difficult, IF you already has built up the trusted relationships.

    Many conference organisers may have lost sight of key Focus/benefits are clearly relationship buildings.. Cost vs benefits for attendees/sponsors quite frequently don’t add up.

    Therefore, finding the balance or win-win is KEY!

    I personally prefer 4-10 people maximum lunch/evening functions of senior people are most effective!

    @garethwong

  5. But see you have it all backwards, the consumer-focused shows are dying because of increased exposure, but CES is not about the consumer, it’s a trade deal show between buyers and sellers, and that will never go away. The pressy and bloggy peeps, is a rather new phenom. And in the larger picture, with their short attention spans, irrelevant.

    Bloggers all went these shows can’t exist without out us, storm the gates, and then once they got bored (about 3 years later), the spin be that all these shows can’t exist without us, make us excited again. Temper your one-day news and live blogging-egos, it was never about you in the first place, which is why CES will thrive.

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