"When the economy is down, the first thing to go is trade shows," says Richard Doherty, an independent analyst for the Envisioneering Group (Electronics trade shows change with the times, NYT).
I guess that's an answer of sorts to my question of last week: What really is the future of trade shows? It sounds like a lot of people at CES anyway are cutting back on the number of people they send to the show, and/or holding hospitality suites instead of buying booths. And it's not just electronics shows feeling the pinch, of course. This from an NYT article about the book business:
- But the economic downturn is forcing publishers to scrutinize some of the industry’s hoariest traditions. One ripe target: the international book fairs in London and Frankfurt at which publishers and agents gather, ostensibly to make deals. But in reality they spend much of their time making the rounds of parties and dinners.
Many houses that previously have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on flights, hotel bills and cocktail hours are planning to prune the size of the contingents they send to the fairs this year. Similarly, companies are revising their budgets for BookExpo America, the annual spring jamboree at which publishers promote their fall lineups to booksellers.
A slightly more upbeat quote, this time from Saturday's Boston Globe (also about what's happening with CES): "But Boston-area technology executives are purchasing their plane tickets anyway. They say that recession or no recession, CES is the place to be.
"'It's still an important industry event," said Colin Angle, chief executive of iRobot Corp. of Bedford, maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. 'I think that the ones who feel they can afford to show up, be aggressive, and generate a buzz are the ones who are going to be selling product next year.'"
Someone sent me a link to this video from consultant/speaker Steve Miller. He makes some interesting points about what he thinks will continue to draw people to trade shows (hint: It's not the opportunity for face-to-face interaction that most people point to. More like hand-to-gadget interaction, or the ability to play with stuff in person. Which I buy into, for some types of shows. For others, like our industry shows where the product often is a destination that can't be experienced on the show floor, what will be the key driver to get attendees to sh ow up?).