Computing - general &Nerd stuff (technology) 07 May 2007 12:31 pm

Nerd goes to Sydney CeBit: disappointing

Last week I took myself off to the CeBit IT industry trade show, held in the Sydney Exhibition Centre (SEC).

I know a thing or two about trade shows, having managed my former employer’s participation in many events down the years.

In the early days we participated in the trade show associated with the ATUG (Australian Telecommunications User Group) conference. The ATUG show alternated between Sydney and Melbourne: one year in Sydney and the following year in Melbourne. In Sydney, at its peak, the ATUG show took about three halls at the SEC, with the major players (vendors and carriers) making large investments in stands of between 100 and 300 square metres.

Towards the end of the 1990s, ATUG was supplanted by Networld + Interop as the main annual event for networking and IT companies. N+I signalled a move away from separate voice and data technologies, marking the rapid emergence of voice/data convergence, IP telephony, local area networks and similar technologies. Like ATUG, it was a pretty ‘high end’ event with large, expensive exhibits, men-in-suits and visitors who really had something to say about spending money.

After the tech wreck, trade shows declined in importance as part of the technology marketer’s mix. The Internet made information freely and widely available to prospective purchasers, and many new and innovative sales and promotional approaches came into use. For a while, there were NO big IT&T trade events, until CeBit (promoter of a massive annual event in Germany) came to town.

CeBit has been running in Sydney for a few years now – there’s been plenty of time to build the brand amongst exhibitors and visitors, and to craft a prestigious event. Frankly, I think CeBit has failed.

My impression of the event was of a pretty low rent affair (lots of small, ‘shell scheme’ stands, mostly small companies, few major players present).

Exhibitors didn’t seem to have spent a lot of money on their stands (and, of course, they are completely entitled to spend what makes sense to them), with the result that the ‘feel’ of the event was more computer market than BMW showroom.

Particularly unimpressive was a strong resurgence of sex as a sales tool. If the organisers want to go upmarket and attract big spenders (IT directors and the like), then the young ladies in short skirts (known in the trade as booth babes) have got to go. Senior executives don’t want to be involved in an event that employs low-brow imagery to attract attention.

The Flying Nerd award for Most Tasteless Exhibit at CeBit goes to the company selling waterproof ‘skins’ for mobile phones. The company’s CeBit exhibit featured a large, portable spa containing two bikini-clad women who were dipping phones in the water. This was a seriously tacky example of a lack of marketing imagination.

Anybody else get along to CeBit? What did you think?

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