New Media Expo Founder Thinking About Quitting The Tradeshow Business

Aug 20th, 2008 | By | Category: Podcasting Events

Tim Bourquin, creator of the New Media Expo, is thinking about quitting the tradeshow business.

He cites five reasons – reasons that he feels “threaten the very industry itself”:

  • High speed Internet costs. Nearly all convention centers have long-term, exclusive agreements in place with high speed Internet providers and the prices they are charging are ludicrous.
  • Drayage. Drayage is the fee to have your booth shipment taken from the convention center dock at the back of the hall to your booth. It almost always cost more to transport a large box 50 yards from the roll-up doors of the exhibit hall to the booth than it does to ship it from New York City to Las Vegas.
  • The Pay to Play Mentality. There are plenty of conference organizers out there willing to put a VP of Business Development on some crummy panel in return for money. Unsurprisingly, that speaker then spends his time on the panel discussing how great their company’s product or service is, subjecting the attendee who paid $995 or more to a live commercial.
  • Room Blocks & Attrition. In order to use three ballrooms and two smaller meeting rooms, most hotels want at least 2,000 room nights in the contract and a minimum of $50,000 in food & beverage orders AND a rental fee for the space.
  • Lack of Control Over The Customer Experience There are too many vendors that exhibitors have to deal with for even a small booth. All of those touchpoints and contacts are out of a show organizer’s control. Because vendor deals are typically exclusive, they have no incentive to treat exhibitors well.

Bourquin offers a lot more detail and some possible solutions at his site.

Do Tech Tradeshows Still Matter?

Beyond the challenges Bourquin cites, though, there’s the challenge of keeping a technology event relevant in an age of Twitter and ubiquitous blogging, and podcasting.

Does it make sense to even have a new media tradeshow? In many ways, this seems like an old media approach to covering new media.

Tradeshows are encumbered with a lot of old-media baggage. And, as Sara Lacy’s SXSW interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out, people are no longer willing to sit through a presentation that is not compelling.

Tradeshows also face competition from unconference-style events, like PodCamp and WordCamp. These events are cheap to put on and are usually closely aligned with what people are interested in, because they are organized by attendees.

I think there’s still a place for the type of tradeshow that Bourquin wants to do – but tech tradeshows need a radical overhaul in order to maintain their value.

Tags: , , , ,

8 Responses to “New Media Expo Founder Thinking About Quitting The Tradeshow Business”

  1. Evo Terra says:

    The greatest irony: Many of us in the new media industry got sick and tired of the blocks and barriers to entry into the traditional media world. Recognizing we couldn’t change the rules, we changed the game.

    I know very little about the mechanics of putting on a large trade show, but I do know that when you can’t change the rules — change the game. Maybe the application of some cutting edge “new media thinking” needs to happen here? Of course, it’ll be up to Tim and others to spearhead that.

  2. I sympathize with Tim – having run several PodCamps, we’ve avoided “professional conference venues” for many of the reasons he cites, instead opting for the more friendly and more sensible academic venues like universities. PodCamp Boston 3 was at Harvard Medical School which gave us a great team, no hassles with shipping, free super-fast Internet access, and reasonable prices on food and amenities, such as they were.

  3. I burned out on tech trade shows in the 1990′s and find it hard to believe that the same issues then are, except for the wireless, the same today.

    I do remember having to spend over $2000 in London once when our booth showed up and we had to hire a local electrician (!) to install voltage converters!

    Can’t fault you for your frustration!

  4. Karin Hoegh says:

    I know how hard Tim has been working on this since before the first EXPO four years ago. I have happily travelled across the Atlantic all four times, and I do not regret it at all – and I would go again. However – I could suggest the “cant beat them – so join them”-model – why not set up a conference in connection with one of the bigger tech-shows. I remember Podcamp Stockholm which was in the same EXPO Hall as the Von-Expo. I could think of a better combination, though – but the main thing is, that you as a podcasting consultant as myself can both talk to vendors and sales people and do research in the exhibit hall – and fulfill your need to talk to collegues, listen to sessions and keynotes and have more intellectual benefit from the conference.
    Of ourse Tim has to consider his carreer as anyone else, and changes are every mans right, but I just hope that the enourmous expertise and the vast network these guys have could be saved and give value to a less expensive but still relevant event next year.
    Doesn´t have to be Vegas – been there – done that ;-)

  5. James Lewin says:

    Great comments and suggestions.

    I think it’s time for a little “think different” lateral thinking on the New Media Expo. The issues that Tim raises are the same ones that tend to make expos boring from a attendee’s perspective.

    If it’s tens of thousands of dollars to sponsor an event, you’re not going to get much variety in the sponsors, and they’re going to want my personal information so they can follow up to me after the event, and they’ll want to get a keynote or a panel, and then we’re paying to have boring people try to sell us their services.

    The PodCamp approach solves some of these issues, but they’re a different beast, too. There’s still room for great conventions – but only if can wow attendees.

  6. [...] read James Lewin’s coverage of the event, where he asks if tech trade shows still matter. Short answer: yes, but I’ll get [...]

  7. [...] Emil Bourquin. I know Tim has written that he is so frustrated with the conference business that he may quit. Whatever is ahead for the podcast brothers I appreciate the effort that has gone into each of the [...]

  8. [...] read James Lewin’s coverage of the event, where he asks if tech trade shows still matter. Short answer: yes, but I’ll get [...]

Leave a Reply