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!

Comments

  1. The thing Trade Shows help is in relationship building. That’s why I went to Blog World Expo (and hung out with you), and many of those kinds of events are being replaced, at least in tech, with UnConferences.
    Launching products is much easier online these days. Launching relationships isn’t as easy. Learning is also important.
    I hope we don’t lose the Conference aspect of Tradeshows so soon.

  2. The thing Trade Shows help is in relationship building. That’s why I went to Blog World Expo (and hung out with you), and many of those kinds of events are being replaced, at least in tech, with UnConferences.
    Launching products is much easier online these days. Launching relationships isn’t as easy. Learning is also important.
    I hope we don’t lose the Conference aspect of Tradeshows so soon.

  3. And, to add to my comment above, I’m a huge believer that Social networks help create relationships, but I think they are even more powerful when you seal the relationship over coffee or drinks.

  4. And, to add to my comment above, I’m a huge believer that Social networks help create relationships, but I think they are even more powerful when you seal the relationship over coffee or drinks.

  5. I quit going to trade shows and now just go to conferences. Most conferences have trade shows that are used to offset expenses for the conference attendees.

    The conference, however, tends to treat trade show exhibitors like second-class citizens to prevent them from “tainting” the educational aspect of their workshops, etc. And the attendees are encouraged subtly to do the same.

    So, quit exhibiting, pay more for the conference and go to meet other people. It will make your online product/service launch easier and faster.

    Conferences, yes; trade shows, no.

  6. I quit going to trade shows and now just go to conferences. Most conferences have trade shows that are used to offset expenses for the conference attendees.

    The conference, however, tends to treat trade show exhibitors like second-class citizens to prevent them from “tainting” the educational aspect of their workshops, etc. And the attendees are encouraged subtly to do the same.

    So, quit exhibiting, pay more for the conference and go to meet other people. It will make your online product/service launch easier and faster.

    Conferences, yes; trade shows, no.

  7. Howard: well, I love building relationships as much as anyone, but I’m very expert at that and, sorry, having more than 100 people to meet with in a night results in very poor relationship building. Translation: you’re better off attending a small conference, like a Gnomdex, if your goal is relationship building. Going to CES is so big and impersonal that it’s very hard to build relationships in any real way and for big companies it’s far better to do what Facebook did last night and invite who they want to build a relationship with to a small, intimate party where you actually get to talk to the CEO and founders for more than a minute or two (Zuckerberg spent 20 minutes talking with me and Jeremiah Owyang, for instance).

  8. Howard: well, I love building relationships as much as anyone, but I’m very expert at that and, sorry, having more than 100 people to meet with in a night results in very poor relationship building. Translation: you’re better off attending a small conference, like a Gnomdex, if your goal is relationship building. Going to CES is so big and impersonal that it’s very hard to build relationships in any real way and for big companies it’s far better to do what Facebook did last night and invite who they want to build a relationship with to a small, intimate party where you actually get to talk to the CEO and founders for more than a minute or two (Zuckerberg spent 20 minutes talking with me and Jeremiah Owyang, for instance).

  9. I agree completely. I get so much more out of the big conferences by attending vicariously through an RSS news reader and Tweetdeck search columns.

    If I *must* go to a show, I don’t buy tickets, I just open a tab at the bar in the lobby of the nearest hotel or bar. Its where everyone goes anyway to “get away from the racket and have a conversation”. Don’t tell the folks running these shows, but that’s how I’ve “attended” their overpriced soirées for the past three years.

  10. I agree completely. I get so much more out of the big conferences by attending vicariously through an RSS news reader and Tweetdeck search columns.

    If I *must* go to a show, I don’t buy tickets, I just open a tab at the bar in the lobby of the nearest hotel or bar. Its where everyone goes anyway to “get away from the racket and have a conversation”. Don’t tell the folks running these shows, but that’s how I’ve “attended” their overpriced soirées for the past three years.

  11. I like most of what you say, but you obviously live in a bubble on this topic. Trade shows are having difficulty keeping exhibitors due to the incredibly high cost of exhibiting. Companies can better utilize resources through other means of advertising – and that’s unfortunate for those of us who attend.

    Having the opportunity to meet company presidents and reps one on one has afforded me lots of business opportunities – from reviewing equipment to picking up contractual work. It also allows me to see all these people and their new offerings in one location.

    For my industry, it has little to do with bloggers or social networks – except that we get a heads up on what to look for.

    By the way, if face to face isn’t important – why do you travel so much?

  12. I like most of what you say, but you obviously live in a bubble on this topic. Trade shows are having difficulty keeping exhibitors due to the incredibly high cost of exhibiting. Companies can better utilize resources through other means of advertising – and that’s unfortunate for those of us who attend.

    Having the opportunity to meet company presidents and reps one on one has afforded me lots of business opportunities – from reviewing equipment to picking up contractual work. It also allows me to see all these people and their new offerings in one location.

    For my industry, it has little to do with bloggers or social networks – except that we get a heads up on what to look for.

    By the way, if face to face isn’t important – why do you travel so much?

  13. Here’s the problem though Robert – this only benefits Silicon Valley. Was I able to go to the Facebook party last night? No, because I live outside the Bay Area. Would I have been invited if I lived out in the Bay Area? Yes, most likely. Businesses aren’t Ustreaming these events when they do leave the big tech shows, so only limited audiences hear the news and are able to report it. Until they start making these exclusive parties more public I’m disappointed that these big companies are leaving trade shows like this.

  14. Here’s the problem though Robert – this only benefits Silicon Valley. Was I able to go to the Facebook party last night? No, because I live outside the Bay Area. Would I have been invited if I lived out in the Bay Area? Yes, most likely. Businesses aren’t Ustreaming these events when they do leave the big tech shows, so only limited audiences hear the news and are able to report it. Until they start making these exclusive parties more public I’m disappointed that these big companies are leaving trade shows like this.

  15. I find myself going to more events than ever but they are not traditional mega trade shows. Blogs, twitter, and everything else online social, is connecting people at places like you mentioned, plus there’s the untold numbers of meetups and tweetups taking place in bars, businesses, coffee shops, warehouses, etc..

    Individually many of these happenings appear small and insignificant but it’s where the relationships are formed that create the army evangelizing the product launched from the living room.

  16. I find myself going to more events than ever but they are not traditional mega trade shows. Blogs, twitter, and everything else online social, is connecting people at places like you mentioned, plus there’s the untold numbers of meetups and tweetups taking place in bars, businesses, coffee shops, warehouses, etc..

    Individually many of these happenings appear small and insignificant but it’s where the relationships are formed that create the army evangelizing the product launched from the living room.

  17. Please say it isn’t so! CES 2008 was our first and Bloggers really helped to launch our Camera Mask. I was shocked by the overwhelming response around the world that the bloggers helped traditional media to create. The big companies may not need the shows, but the new or small to mid size companies do!

  18. Please say it isn’t so! CES 2008 was our first and Bloggers really helped to launch our Camera Mask. I was shocked by the overwhelming response around the world that the bloggers helped traditional media to create. The big companies may not need the shows, but the new or small to mid size companies do!

  19. Kill vs. Complement

    I think instead of these great services (vimeo etc) killing big shows, they could complement them. Free viral marketing, video streams, PR, and positive network effects – now that’s the chocolate fudge cake of marketing, right? If we all embrace the ecosystem, the thousands of us that cannot afford tickets (yet), and even when we can – would love to see you interviewing people randomly throughout the day, we trust you to decide the people or project presentations that you think we want to hear about.

    If for example bloggers like yourself streamed more than the official event organisers currently do (and they are doing it a lot – Giga Om does a great job using Mogulus) then we would all get the access (and laughs) that doesn’t kill but promotes these events. Huge free viral PR for the people that are saving up for next year’s ticket to Le Web, ;-)

    On that note here is the UStream from LeWeb

    http://www.lewebparis.com/2008/12/leweb-live-3-free-streams-this-year-thanks-to-ustream.html

    Must say though – if you stop going to these things, they will get killed off. They should be paying you all good money to attend. How would you calculate the value of that?!

  20. Kill vs. Complement

    I think instead of these great services (vimeo etc) killing big shows, they could complement them. Free viral marketing, video streams, PR, and positive network effects – now that’s the chocolate fudge cake of marketing, right? If we all embrace the ecosystem, the thousands of us that cannot afford tickets (yet), and even when we can – would love to see you interviewing people randomly throughout the day, we trust you to decide the people or project presentations that you think we want to hear about.

    If for example bloggers like yourself streamed more than the official event organisers currently do (and they are doing it a lot – Giga Om does a great job using Mogulus) then we would all get the access (and laughs) that doesn’t kill but promotes these events. Huge free viral PR for the people that are saving up for next year’s ticket to Le Web, ;-)

    On that note here is the UStream from LeWeb

    http://www.lewebparis.com/2008/12/leweb-live-3-free-streams-this-year-thanks-to-ustream.html

    Must say though – if you stop going to these things, they will get killed off. They should be paying you all good money to attend. How would you calculate the value of that?!

  21. I can’t help but wonder if Apple not showing up for the next Mac World could backfire on them, with negative press.

    Could the 44,000 perceive it as them being shunned by a company that thinks they are too good to party with them?

    It could be equal to the guest of honor not showing up for their own birthday party.

    What kind of damage can that unhappy 44,000 do to the company’s image?

    Sometimes you spend money to make money, other times you spend it so you don’t lose money.

  22. I can’t help but wonder if Apple not showing up for the next Mac World could backfire on them, with negative press.

    Could the 44,000 perceive it as them being shunned by a company that thinks they are too good to party with them?

    It could be equal to the guest of honor not showing up for their own birthday party.

    What kind of damage can that unhappy 44,000 do to the company’s image?

    Sometimes you spend money to make money, other times you spend it so you don’t lose money.

  23. This is a general trend in a lot of industries. The ROI on big expos and shows is very small in comparison to attending a networking event, conference or product launch.

    If you want to enter a new market its better to talk to your local network and see who has contacts in the market/country/city you want to enter and get introductions its gives people a sense of trust.

    Also digital media has made a difference; however in the service industry traditional meet and greets and attending networking events these in conjunction with digital media(websites, newsletters, blogs, email pdf brochures mail outs) have killed the expo/show.

    Most people who aren’t attending the show don’t have the time or want the expense of going as you often as a visitor get very little ROI as well.

    So from both sides its better not to attend and just go to a conference at least you get some information that may be beneficial plus people are more open and genuine at conferences as they don’t feel the pressure of the business card/small talk shuffle.

  24. This is a general trend in a lot of industries. The ROI on big expos and shows is very small in comparison to attending a networking event, conference or product launch.

    If you want to enter a new market its better to talk to your local network and see who has contacts in the market/country/city you want to enter and get introductions its gives people a sense of trust.

    Also digital media has made a difference; however in the service industry traditional meet and greets and attending networking events these in conjunction with digital media(websites, newsletters, blogs, email pdf brochures mail outs) have killed the expo/show.

    Most people who aren’t attending the show don’t have the time or want the expense of going as you often as a visitor get very little ROI as well.

    So from both sides its better not to attend and just go to a conference at least you get some information that may be beneficial plus people are more open and genuine at conferences as they don’t feel the pressure of the business card/small talk shuffle.

  25. Times are a changing. These tough economic times is giving lots of companies time to rethink traditional ways to push products. Big trade shows are expensive. Take the auto show circuit for example. The smaller shows are paid by local dealers but the big ones like LA, NY and Detroit are paid by the automakers. For some car launches a company can spend upward to over a million dollars. Or you can fly a few auto bloggers to LA put them up in a fine hotel and give them a bunch of cars to test over a long weekend. You end up getting more exposure for less a few thousand. Trade shows are only going to get smaller and smaller. Blogging over time will get bigger and bigger.

  26. Times are a changing. These tough economic times is giving lots of companies time to rethink traditional ways to push products. Big trade shows are expensive. Take the auto show circuit for example. The smaller shows are paid by local dealers but the big ones like LA, NY and Detroit are paid by the automakers. For some car launches a company can spend upward to over a million dollars. Or you can fly a few auto bloggers to LA put them up in a fine hotel and give them a bunch of cars to test over a long weekend. You end up getting more exposure for less a few thousand. Trade shows are only going to get smaller and smaller. Blogging over time will get bigger and bigger.

  27. Oh and one more thing. The non-tech person who buys a HP or an Apple has never heard of CES or Macworld. They’ll maybe pick up a few magazines at the local store but most likely will go online to Google and search for information. If you are Apple and you make the tech bloggers happy with smaller intimate events then you’ve won the game

  28. Oh and one more thing. The non-tech person who buys a HP or an Apple has never heard of CES or Macworld. They’ll maybe pick up a few magazines at the local store but most likely will go online to Google and search for information. If you are Apple and you make the tech bloggers happy with smaller intimate events then you’ve won the game

  29. Well on top of all these reasons (economic reasons and the failure of the classic marketing models through things like blogs) Apple has wanted to get out of these expos for a while now (evident in them leaving the east coast MacWorld expos as well as decreasing the presence in many other shows) mainly because it forced them to develop and release products on someone else’s schedule and they ended up not getting a whole lot out of it as they don’t need the help they needed in the late ’90s anymore.

    Every January (and previously, because of MacWorlds in NYC and Boston, in the June-August timeframe) they had to send some products out the door that had to meet the expectations of tons of people (which, as of late, these products have disappointed a majority of these people). They prefer their own private events where they can be more in control of what they release (such as the iPod events in the early fall).

    It is quite unfortunate, but without Apple I will not expect to see a MWSF ’11 despite the strong 3rd party developer and community attendance. All of these reasons add up to Apple leaving MacWorld as well as the overall decline of these trade shows in general.

  30. Well on top of all these reasons (economic reasons and the failure of the classic marketing models through things like blogs) Apple has wanted to get out of these expos for a while now (evident in them leaving the east coast MacWorld expos as well as decreasing the presence in many other shows) mainly because it forced them to develop and release products on someone else’s schedule and they ended up not getting a whole lot out of it as they don’t need the help they needed in the late ’90s anymore.

    Every January (and previously, because of MacWorlds in NYC and Boston, in the June-August timeframe) they had to send some products out the door that had to meet the expectations of tons of people (which, as of late, these products have disappointed a majority of these people). They prefer their own private events where they can be more in control of what they release (such as the iPod events in the early fall).

    It is quite unfortunate, but without Apple I will not expect to see a MWSF ’11 despite the strong 3rd party developer and community attendance. All of these reasons add up to Apple leaving MacWorld as well as the overall decline of these trade shows in general.

  31. Is this such a bad thing? It might impact smaller companies who gain exposure and the chance to press the flesh by networking at these events. Though, as a freelance writer I tend to agree with Damian – the cost for me to attend these cons is prohibitive and the ROI (one article, two articles?) I get for the price of admission is lacking. It’s much easier (and cheaper) for me to work my own networking channels to get invited into that small room where the big news is being released.

    Changes in the world demand changes in how news is reported and business is done… IMHO this isn’t something to worry about, it’s just change.

  32. Is this such a bad thing? It might impact smaller companies who gain exposure and the chance to press the flesh by networking at these events. Though, as a freelance writer I tend to agree with Damian – the cost for me to attend these cons is prohibitive and the ROI (one article, two articles?) I get for the price of admission is lacking. It’s much easier (and cheaper) for me to work my own networking channels to get invited into that small room where the big news is being released.

    Changes in the world demand changes in how news is reported and business is done… IMHO this isn’t something to worry about, it’s just change.

  33. If the Internet is killing trade shows – and it is! – it started years ago, long before anyone cared about blogs or online video.

    I went to COMDEX every year until the Internet killed it. Even Apple used to show off products there – I remember seeing the Newton for the first time at COMDEX 92 or so.

    Now Apple can hold a small press conference and get nationwide media coverage, and even smaller companies have lots of options for getting exposure. Even in the days before Youtube and blogs, a major publisher I worked with decided not to exhibit at COMDEX because the cost was too high for the return compared with online advertising.

    Same with Apple – they dropped out of COMDEX a few years before it crashed and burned, and it wasn’t because of blogs or online video or social networks. It was because of the Wall Street Journal and Wired magazine and the fact that people could load Apple’s website any time they wanted news from Apple.

    Just because Facebook and Qik are the cool things now doesn’t mean they started this trend. It’s been going on for probably 10 years, and new forms of online expression just speed it up.

  34. If the Internet is killing trade shows – and it is! – it started years ago, long before anyone cared about blogs or online video.

    I went to COMDEX every year until the Internet killed it. Even Apple used to show off products there – I remember seeing the Newton for the first time at COMDEX 92 or so.

    Now Apple can hold a small press conference and get nationwide media coverage, and even smaller companies have lots of options for getting exposure. Even in the days before Youtube and blogs, a major publisher I worked with decided not to exhibit at COMDEX because the cost was too high for the return compared with online advertising.

    Same with Apple – they dropped out of COMDEX a few years before it crashed and burned, and it wasn’t because of blogs or online video or social networks. It was because of the Wall Street Journal and Wired magazine and the fact that people could load Apple’s website any time they wanted news from Apple.

    Just because Facebook and Qik are the cool things now doesn’t mean they started this trend. It’s been going on for probably 10 years, and new forms of online expression just speed it up.

  35. Most customers gain valuable experiences through blogs, therefore if firms aren’t making substantial Return on Investment (ROI) from trade shows, then I think trade shows may be extinct very soon. This is just one great example of how the internet is changing the world. nice article. Thanks for sharing.

  36. Most customers gain valuable experiences through blogs, therefore if firms aren’t making substantial Return on Investment (ROI) from trade shows, then I think trade shows may be extinct very soon. This is just one great example of how the internet is changing the world. nice article. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Now that I’m a grey haired curmudgeon I have to admit that the only real value the computer trade shows had for me was the ‘I was there’ factor. I met lots of people but I didn’t build any relationships. I saw lots of new products but I didn’t become knowledgeable about them. Fact is, I learn more everyday from the Giz and Engadget then I did at the shows.

    I’m not surprised that Apple has pulled out of MacWorld; the timing astounds me. What I’d love to know is who was Steved? The timing smells of payback.

  38. Now that I’m a grey haired curmudgeon I have to admit that the only real value the computer trade shows had for me was the ‘I was there’ factor. I met lots of people but I didn’t build any relationships. I saw lots of new products but I didn’t become knowledgeable about them. Fact is, I learn more everyday from the Giz and Engadget then I did at the shows.

    I’m not surprised that Apple has pulled out of MacWorld; the timing astounds me. What I’d love to know is who was Steved? The timing smells of payback.

  39. While certain trade shows will be crushed under their own weight, I think that the death of the trade show is greatly exaggerated. While the idea of inviting people to a party, might work if you’re Apple, it doesn’t work if you’re “SmallBiz Inc.”. Trade shows with good foot traffic still provide an enormous amount of exposure in a short amount of time and for smaller companies, this can be invaluable. With some of the trade shows my company has done in the last few years we’ve directly closed enough business to fund the shows for the next 20 years. Also, who are the “right people” to have in the room for these private invites? How do I pick the buyers out of the 44,000 people going to the show?

    We’ll keep going to the trade shows that show direct returns (Interop, FOSE and others) and dump those that don’t, but to say the trade show is dead is well, just brain dead IMHO.

  40. While certain trade shows will be crushed under their own weight, I think that the death of the trade show is greatly exaggerated. While the idea of inviting people to a party, might work if you’re Apple, it doesn’t work if you’re “SmallBiz Inc.”. Trade shows with good foot traffic still provide an enormous amount of exposure in a short amount of time and for smaller companies, this can be invaluable. With some of the trade shows my company has done in the last few years we’ve directly closed enough business to fund the shows for the next 20 years. Also, who are the “right people” to have in the room for these private invites? How do I pick the buyers out of the 44,000 people going to the show?

    We’ll keep going to the trade shows that show direct returns (Interop, FOSE and others) and dump those that don’t, but to say the trade show is dead is well, just brain dead IMHO.

  41. I don’t know– I see the killer of trade shows being the economy and its effect on budget items- does the trade show spend justify itself? Social networks are a valuable substitute and the beneficiary, but not the murderer.

    As to Howard’s early points, face to face is still important in making an impact. But to your point, that doesn;t have to be a big trade show. Social networks also facilitate smaller face-to-face meetups, but mostly are opportunisitc, rather than creating the destination points that trade shows are.

    As someone else pointed out above, Boston/Valley/New York types and some others lose little, but anyone traveling from somewhere else doesn’t have the network for face-to-face interaction that the tech hub dwellers do. (I’m in Boston btw)

  42. I don’t know– I see the killer of trade shows being the economy and its effect on budget items- does the trade show spend justify itself? Social networks are a valuable substitute and the beneficiary, but not the murderer.

    As to Howard’s early points, face to face is still important in making an impact. But to your point, that doesn;t have to be a big trade show. Social networks also facilitate smaller face-to-face meetups, but mostly are opportunisitc, rather than creating the destination points that trade shows are.

    As someone else pointed out above, Boston/Valley/New York types and some others lose little, but anyone traveling from somewhere else doesn’t have the network for face-to-face interaction that the tech hub dwellers do. (I’m in Boston btw)

  43. Has anyone ever asked the shows why they have to be so expensive?

    I really don’t understand where a lot of the costs go – until you get the bill from the union workers.

  44. Has anyone ever asked the shows why they have to be so expensive?

    I really don’t understand where a lot of the costs go – until you get the bill from the union workers.

  45. I haven’t been to a trade show in years, and I can’t say that I miss them one bit. With so much information at you fingertips these days, it would be hard for me to justify going to a trade show. AS far as having a booth at a trade show, I would have to be selling something very specific to a narrowed audience for it to be worth my time.

  46. I haven’t been to a trade show in years, and I can’t say that I miss them one bit. With so much information at you fingertips these days, it would be hard for me to justify going to a trade show. AS far as having a booth at a trade show, I would have to be selling something very specific to a narrowed audience for it to be worth my time.

  47. I think there’s another side to these big trade shows that we in the media forget about, and that’s the wheeling and dealing that goes on at the booths and in the back rooms. I shoot a CES photoblog for PCMag every year, and as such I try to stop in at every single booth on the show floor (though I’ve never actually achieved my goal). For every photogenic booth with thousands of square feet and expensive displays, there are three smaller booths that are there to conduct business that the companies can’t do anywhere else.

    A lot of companies aren’t there for the press coverage or the parties or the lavish Sony and Samsung booths. They’re there to score a few sales, partnerships, better industry contacts, whatever. For these people, a trade show like CES, where everyone is in the same place at the same time, is cheaper than shuttling reps all over the country making individual stops (and granted, web conferencing is cheaper still). I shared a cab with a salesman and his bluetooth headset last year, and judging from his conversation, I’d never heard of his company but their CES ROI was great. These guys will keep CES alive, even if the show morphs into a more typical trade show.

  48. I think there’s another side to these big trade shows that we in the media forget about, and that’s the wheeling and dealing that goes on at the booths and in the back rooms. I shoot a CES photoblog for PCMag every year, and as such I try to stop in at every single booth on the show floor (though I’ve never actually achieved my goal). For every photogenic booth with thousands of square feet and expensive displays, there are three smaller booths that are there to conduct business that the companies can’t do anywhere else.

    A lot of companies aren’t there for the press coverage or the parties or the lavish Sony and Samsung booths. They’re there to score a few sales, partnerships, better industry contacts, whatever. For these people, a trade show like CES, where everyone is in the same place at the same time, is cheaper than shuttling reps all over the country making individual stops (and granted, web conferencing is cheaper still). I shared a cab with a salesman and his bluetooth headset last year, and judging from his conversation, I’d never heard of his company but their CES ROI was great. These guys will keep CES alive, even if the show morphs into a more typical trade show.

  49. Yep, completely agree…
    Though I enjoyed going to trade shows for years, I hardly ever go anymore – as most of the stuff I’ll see there is something I’ve already seen on the internet or received by email.

    Though actually getting to meet the people face-to-face might be interesting when we’re doing some business, most of the “search” can now be done remotely instead of walking through corridors… And as it was said, it’s far too expensive for small companies to get some space in there as well – while on the internet… anyone can have their website.

  50. Yep, completely agree…
    Though I enjoyed going to trade shows for years, I hardly ever go anymore – as most of the stuff I’ll see there is something I’ve already seen on the internet or received by email.

    Though actually getting to meet the people face-to-face might be interesting when we’re doing some business, most of the “search” can now be done remotely instead of walking through corridors… And as it was said, it’s far too expensive for small companies to get some space in there as well – while on the internet… anyone can have their website.

  51. Robert,

    May I be ubergeeky and quote Battlestar Galactica?

    “All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.”

    Bloggers killing trade shows? Nah. It’s cost, pure and simple. It’s part of a cycle.

    Comdex imploded long before blogging was commonplace. Remember PC Expo? It’s history, too. Many others are gone. But new ones rise to take their places.

    These big shows become wildly popular. Hotel & exhibit space costs rise. Big companies spend big money, but when the economy goes south, so do their marketing & travel budgets. Big moments of chest-thumping – which is all a trade is, really – are often the first things to get cut.

    Of course, you could argue that the LAST thing you should cut in a downturn is a chance to tell your story, but that’s another blog post, isn’t it?

    Anyway, bloggers have a tendency to think the world revolves around them. They see the giant slain and figure the killer rock must have come from their sling. Not the case, at least in this case.

    It’s a cycle. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.

    Dwight.

  52. Robert,

    May I be ubergeeky and quote Battlestar Galactica?

    “All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.”

    Bloggers killing trade shows? Nah. It’s cost, pure and simple. It’s part of a cycle.

    Comdex imploded long before blogging was commonplace. Remember PC Expo? It’s history, too. Many others are gone. But new ones rise to take their places.

    These big shows become wildly popular. Hotel & exhibit space costs rise. Big companies spend big money, but when the economy goes south, so do their marketing & travel budgets. Big moments of chest-thumping – which is all a trade is, really – are often the first things to get cut.

    Of course, you could argue that the LAST thing you should cut in a downturn is a chance to tell your story, but that’s another blog post, isn’t it?

    Anyway, bloggers have a tendency to think the world revolves around them. They see the giant slain and figure the killer rock must have come from their sling. Not the case, at least in this case.

    It’s a cycle. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.

    Dwight.

  53. As a CES enthusiast and the guy who calls the shots, I understand some of the sentiment about big shows. That’s why we spend so much time and money to try to make sure the show is navigable and easier to meet up with those with common interests. Check out our website and explore the matchmaking options in mycesweb.org.

    I joined CEA because I found and still find CES the most exciting experience on the planet. It is vibrant and allows you to use all five senses to see the best and newest stuff and how companies position themselves. Our entire corporate culture is based on the fact that innovation can come from anywhere and we have to run the show so the smallest entrepreneur with an idea can inexpensively expose it to investors, media and retailers from around the world.

    Trade shows work for me because I need the human interaction. Just like real life. Technology is great. But I still need the thrill of holding my wife’s hand.

  54. As a CES enthusiast and the guy who calls the shots, I understand some of the sentiment about big shows. That’s why we spend so much time and money to try to make sure the show is navigable and easier to meet up with those with common interests. Check out our website and explore the matchmaking options in mycesweb.org.

    I joined CEA because I found and still find CES the most exciting experience on the planet. It is vibrant and allows you to use all five senses to see the best and newest stuff and how companies position themselves. Our entire corporate culture is based on the fact that innovation can come from anywhere and we have to run the show so the smallest entrepreneur with an idea can inexpensively expose it to investors, media and retailers from around the world.

    Trade shows work for me because I need the human interaction. Just like real life. Technology is great. But I still need the thrill of holding my wife’s hand.

  55. I agree with the comment about tradeshow vs. conference.

    I have a day job as a programmer for a Medical Ass. the conference is a big money maker for my company and the exhibitors. So attendance has great ROI for all parties ( My company, the exhibitors and the attending M.D.s). The education of the M.D.s is what drives this.

    But in my side biz of an online kiteboarding shop (http://WindyDevil.com) I have not seen a need to go to any tradeshow. Walking around a large hall to meet with manufactures has no ROI. What I have been doing in this case is going to beach expos and contests that give me ROI because it meet lots of people form manufactures to potential customers and have fun doing the sport I love.

    I live in S.F. and I don’t even go to MacWorld anymore.
    -Chris

  56. I agree with the comment about tradeshow vs. conference.

    I have a day job as a programmer for a Medical Ass. the conference is a big money maker for my company and the exhibitors. So attendance has great ROI for all parties ( My company, the exhibitors and the attending M.D.s). The education of the M.D.s is what drives this.

    But in my side biz of an online kiteboarding shop (http://WindyDevil.com) I have not seen a need to go to any tradeshow. Walking around a large hall to meet with manufactures has no ROI. What I have been doing in this case is going to beach expos and contests that give me ROI because it meet lots of people form manufactures to potential customers and have fun doing the sport I love.

    I live in S.F. and I don’t even go to MacWorld anymore.
    -Chris

  57. The best quote I’ve heard about this issue is “Virtual trade shows will replace real trade shows when virtual honeymoons replace actual ones.” The average CES attendee has 12 meetings with professionals from across all their target audiences and emerging (i.e. the non-Apples and major name companies of the world) companies can meet with thousands of media, analyst and bloggers all in one place to make a name for themselves and their products. CES is strong and will continue to be the must-attend event for the global tech industry.

  58. The best quote I’ve heard about this issue is “Virtual trade shows will replace real trade shows when virtual honeymoons replace actual ones.” The average CES attendee has 12 meetings with professionals from across all their target audiences and emerging (i.e. the non-Apples and major name companies of the world) companies can meet with thousands of media, analyst and bloggers all in one place to make a name for themselves and their products. CES is strong and will continue to be the must-attend event for the global tech industry.

  59. Pitting social media vs tradeshows is misguided. Events ARE social media; they are the original conversational marketing. If anything, social media is what’s driven the growth of shows over the past couple of years. MacWorld is a unique case. Of course all media will suffer in 2009, but shows could actually weather the storm better than many types of media. Marketers who understand that shows are for listening as much as messaging know they need a robust events strategy. And the good news in this economy that while show attendance may go down, the ones who do show up are the ones with real business to transact: active buyers. There’s a quality advantage in terms of the qualification of the attendees; there’s also the quality of the attention they are giving you. Being there in person is the ultimate way of giving someone your attention.

    As a couple of folks have pointed out above, events are also the origin of an enormous amount of social media. Video, live blogging/tweeting, etc extend the reach of any show activity. Good events are the source of so much content for bloggers, and the source of so many connections for everyone– we may all be pickier about which events to attend this year, but we’ll still want to go to the revelant and compelling ones.

    If you’re Apple, and you have stores on every corner, perhaps you don’t need a show to focus attention on your products (though notice that they’re still doing WWDC…a developer ecosystem still needs a lot of stoking). If you’re not Apple, I’d be very careful how you evaluate live events.

    More on this here: http://blog.web2expo.com/2008/12/macworld-loses-the-world-part/

  60. Pitting social media vs tradeshows is misguided. Events ARE social media; they are the original conversational marketing. If anything, social media is what’s driven the growth of shows over the past couple of years. MacWorld is a unique case. Of course all media will suffer in 2009, but shows could actually weather the storm better than many types of media. Marketers who understand that shows are for listening as much as messaging know they need a robust events strategy. And the good news in this economy that while show attendance may go down, the ones who do show up are the ones with real business to transact: active buyers. There’s a quality advantage in terms of the qualification of the attendees; there’s also the quality of the attention they are giving you. Being there in person is the ultimate way of giving someone your attention.

    As a couple of folks have pointed out above, events are also the origin of an enormous amount of social media. Video, live blogging/tweeting, etc extend the reach of any show activity. Good events are the source of so much content for bloggers, and the source of so many connections for everyone– we may all be pickier about which events to attend this year, but we’ll still want to go to the revelant and compelling ones.

    If you’re Apple, and you have stores on every corner, perhaps you don’t need a show to focus attention on your products (though notice that they’re still doing WWDC…a developer ecosystem still needs a lot of stoking). If you’re not Apple, I’d be very careful how you evaluate live events.

    More on this here: http://blog.web2expo.com/2008/12/macworld-loses-the-world-part/

  61. funny. I wrote almost the exact blog entry yesterday for computerworld (“culture crash”). and tara dunion posted almost the exact same response.

    small world, eh?

    dt

  62. funny. I wrote almost the exact blog entry yesterday for computerworld (“culture crash”). and tara dunion posted almost the exact same response.

    small world, eh?

    dt

  63. What the media need to do is come experience the 2700 exhibitors at the 2009 International CES — including the 300 new exhibitors that will be there. We are profiling 30 new exhibitors to CES on CESweb.org. CES is three weeks away so let’s see your updates when its been successful!

  64. What the media need to do is come experience the 2700 exhibitors at the 2009 International CES — including the 300 new exhibitors that will be there. We are profiling 30 new exhibitors to CES on CESweb.org. CES is three weeks away so let’s see your updates when its been successful!

  65. The last few shows I have been to seem smaller and smaller. With less and less good traffic. It used to be enough to have a good location. Now location doesn’t even matter. It’s hard to get out of the office for local shows. And I like in tech-show central, the Bay Area! Tradeshows are effective, are hard to attribute directly to revenue, and decreasing in influence. Hopefully we can go back to using shows for what they are good for, deepening relationships.

  66. The last few shows I have been to seem smaller and smaller. With less and less good traffic. It used to be enough to have a good location. Now location doesn’t even matter. It’s hard to get out of the office for local shows. And I like in tech-show central, the Bay Area! Tradeshows are effective, are hard to attribute directly to revenue, and decreasing in influence. Hopefully we can go back to using shows for what they are good for, deepening relationships.

  67. Who you are (vendor or consumer) and what you need out of these marketing tools determine which you should use/go to.

    Trade Shows only work (have only ever worked) for both groups when combined with conferences/low-cost training or when you (as a product consumer) already have done your research and want an in-person meeting.

    Biz dev using Trade shows to build relationships? Unless you prebook mtgs, it’s like hoping the right fish swims by and jumps in your boat.

    Trade Shows are still at the lagging end of the decision cycle to buy or to launch.

    SN tools are for everything in the “front end of innovation”.

  68. Who you are (vendor or consumer) and what you need out of these marketing tools determine which you should use/go to.

    Trade Shows only work (have only ever worked) for both groups when combined with conferences/low-cost training or when you (as a product consumer) already have done your research and want an in-person meeting.

    Biz dev using Trade shows to build relationships? Unless you prebook mtgs, it’s like hoping the right fish swims by and jumps in your boat.

    Trade Shows are still at the lagging end of the decision cycle to buy or to launch.

    SN tools are for everything in the “front end of innovation”.

  69. Personally, I will not miss Las Vegas or Orlando or air travel. I will use virtual technology, I will see you online for the next year or two, if that’s what it takes to keep my company financially strong.

    It’s not web 2.0 that’s killing trade shows. It’s the economy. No one is spending money. No one is traveling. Face to face events will return when the economy stabilizes. But never the same as before because there will be a healthy blend of virtual, extending the reach of face2face events globally for those who can’t attend live.

    Blogging, social networks, web 2.0 collaboration tools, and virtual events build and sustain business relationships …… especially during economic downturns.

  70. Personally, I will not miss Las Vegas or Orlando or air travel. I will use virtual technology, I will see you online for the next year or two, if that’s what it takes to keep my company financially strong.

    It’s not web 2.0 that’s killing trade shows. It’s the economy. No one is spending money. No one is traveling. Face to face events will return when the economy stabilizes. But never the same as before because there will be a healthy blend of virtual, extending the reach of face2face events globally for those who can’t attend live.

    Blogging, social networks, web 2.0 collaboration tools, and virtual events build and sustain business relationships …… especially during economic downturns.

  71. 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.

  72. 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.

  73. 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

  74. 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

  75. 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

  76. 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