"C" Ya Later, Huge Tech Shows

It seems that technology trade shows that start with the letter "c" are doomed for cancellation, as upcoming dates for COMDEX, CeBIT, and COMNET were all recently shelved. But the big question is: Why are these once-healthy IT shows now on the outs?

One reason is that trade show attendees and exhibitors are losing enthusiasm for huge horizontal events. The cancellation of this year's COMDEX, which was to be held in November 2004 in Vegas, may be a result of mismanagement, poor marketing, and a lack of focus, say industry analysts. But more broadly, major events like COMDEX and CeBIT are dwindling since companies are now choosing to attend shows that are smaller and more targeted.

Many exhibitors and attendees are shifting away from huge events, says Philip MacKay, vice president of Gartner Vision Events in Bedford, NH, because they feel that more intimate shows provide better return on investment. "Smaller events are really the big idea in delivering the most compelling shows and creating tangible value for exhibitors and attendees," he explains.

Also, regionalized events can be held closer to attendees' and exhibitors' home offices, which can cut travel costs and hassles associated with attending out-of-town events.

But despite the cancellation of a few big events, the industry looks healthy heading into 2005. Gross trade show revenue will grow 5.2 percent this year, more than doubling last year's 2 percent, according to Tradeshow Week's Quarterly Report of Tradeshow Statistics.

"Trade shows are definitely making a comeback," says Gartner's MacKay. They're just coming back different.