It is that time of the year again. A time to get together and shake hands; a time when strangers meet for the first time, and friends meet again; and a time when not a single journalist answers his or her phone – yes, it is trade show season!
Well, truth be told, there are a lot of trade shows all year round, but March is special. March brings us not one but two of the biggest events in the world – Mobile World Congress and CeBIT – and a rising star in the hosting vertical – WorldHostingDays.
Out of the three, I enjoyed WorldHostingDays most last year, and not only because they had roller coasters. They managed to compose a compelling schedule of carefully chosen speakers and panelists (last year it was Julian Assange, this year it will be Edward Snowden – amongst others!) and provided a great atmosphere, in which industry professionals could discuss recent topics in the field. It was very focussed, very selective – in both the choice of speakers and audience – and very much a case of quality over quantity.
So if WHD is a gourmet restaurant, CeBIT is like the cheap hotel breakfast buffet in a bad part of town during, well, a trade show – the décor is a bit tacky, everybody complains about the quality, but still it’s packed and you always meet somebody you haven’t seen in a while when you go and get yourself that second serving of fatty sausages (which you need, because it was a bit rough at the hotel bar the night before, you know).
Over the last few years the organisers have tried to re-invent CeBIT several times, either as a trade show for a broader audience, like inviting games and consumer tech companies, or going in the opposite direction and trying a “strictly business” approach – both with varying degrees of success. They tried to unify the different vendors and sectors by giving the show a different key topic each year (which normally doesn’t even survive the opening speech). There’s just everything, from Security to Storage to Networks, from Cloud, to BI, to Big Data – a big mix of colourful topics and industries, mashed together into a large grey mass. And to make things worse, it’s held in Hannover (which I’ve heard is a nice city – I just haven’t found the nice bits yet).
So is it time to ring the funeral bells for big, general IT trade shows like CeBIT, and sing the praises of more focussed congresses like WHD or MWC? Well, surly, a little. There are several vendors and journalists who are already skipping CeBIT in favour of those smaller shows. And I personally can understand why, they are far more beneficial on so many levels – marketing, sales, networking, and the exchange of technological knowledge. But still I’ll be going to CeBIT this year, and I’ll meet several people I haven’t seen since last year’s CeBIT, and I’ll complain a lot and discuss with others how it gets worse every year. In the end though, I’m sure I’ll leave Hannover again with a slightly fond feeling and, somewhere deep down, look forward to the trip next year.
I would have shared my thoughts on MWC as well, but – alas – I haven’t yet been as, so far, none of my clients have requested my presence in Barcelona. Which I think is a little unfair. Although it has given me time write this, before trying to call some more journalists, asking if they’ll meet me in Hannover in two weeks time.