This year's first real IT show, CTS at the Birmingham NEC, has just finished, and by all accounts it was a success. Which is a good thing, because IT shows are now an endangered species.
They used to be all the rage and almost every technology sector had a show or two competing for blue-chip vendors and attendees. These days, the big show has been replaced by the small, focused seminar, which costs a lot less. But, money aside, is there still a place for the big show?
The Germans certainly think so. CeBIT in Hanover is still king. It is the world's biggest melting pot, with every widget and solution on show across miles of aircraft hangars.
Visitors to CeBIT get an eyeful of every technology worth seeing plus, after a couple of days, a painful insight into how marathon runners feel when they lurch across the line. Shows can be hard going, but they can be a goldmine for new contacts.
In the UK, big IT shows are now rare, pared down by competition and poor economics to a skeleton crew. It is no longer survival of the fittest, but survival of the most relevant.
Shows used to be the place where IT managers got to see new products for the first time. Thanks to the internet, shows have lost their impact. Why travel to Birmingham when you can stay at your desk and visit news sites offering daily updates on the latest developments in the IT sector?
Like last year, CTS teamed up with the Comms Dealer show, offering attendees the chance to visit both. The components/system builder market may not seem the most exciting in the world but, with heavyweights like Unipalm, Microsoft, IBM and AMD as sponsors, there was more to the event than the latest motherboard.
Visitors were plentiful and seemed happy to be seeing both events. Whether it was to do with market conditions or a desire to broaden the event, the decision to combine the shows at least guaranteed survival.
The other advantage of the show was that it was a trade, not just technology, event; many of the attendees were there to seek out new suppliers and do business. By lunchtime on the first day, numerous vendors had secured deals and found partners in just a few hours. CRN-sponsored debates, seminars, speeches and product demos from vendors and channel players rounded out the affair.
Visiting shows might be inconvenient, but the good ones do more than show off technology for its own sake. Relevant events that offer visitors more than the vendor's marketing message are the real survivors. Endangered, yes. Obsolete, no.
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