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How is the Internet impacting face to face Events? August 9, 2007

Posted by Bernard Lunn in B2B Media, social networks.
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According to the numbers from ABM, face to face events are booming, overtaking print as the single largest source of revenue for B2B Media. The ability to connect online, using email, webcasts and social networking seems to drive more need for face time rather than less. This makes sense. In the Attention Economy, face to face attention is where the real scarcity value lies.

The Events business is often described as “trade shows and conferences”. It is possible that these two parts – trade shows and conferences – are impacted differently and one maybe more healthy than the other. Conferences, seminars and other events where the attendee pays to receive high quality content from expert speakers and the opportunity to mingle with their peers are one proposition that is doing very well. The fact that much of the same content is available online does not detract from the networking value of being there.

These conferences are often linked with trade shows. I wonder how the trade shows part of the business is doing. I have noticed the following as both an Attendee and and Exhibitor. As an Attendee:

1. I can very easily get the same or even better data online. With Blogs I can read what the CEO of the vendor is thinking, rather than getting a rehearsed sales spiel.
2. It is quite simple to set up an online demo, teleconference and even video conference when I want more information.
3. The networking advantage comes from the Conference, not the trade show.

As an Exhibitor, I have noticed that the trade show is often slotted in for the lunch and coffee breaks and that the Attendee traffic is getting weaker. This maybe a reflection of what I am seeing as an Attendee.

What can be done to make the trade show part of Events more relevant in the age of Internet and social networking? I can see a few interesting possibilities:

1. Scheduled meetings with senior people and/or specialists from the vendor. This works well for both Attendee and Exhibitor. It does require a more sophisticated registration process that is linked to a more segmented audience database.
2. Using social networking techniques to find who else is attending that I would like to meet at the Event and a mechanism to make connections at the event itself. This can use a mix of wireless technology as well as coordination by the Event organizer.

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