More proof of uncertainty in the exhibition industry arrived recently with the cancellation of the 2004 fall Comdex show in Las Vegas. MediaLive International, which purchased the show just last year, said Comdex would resume in 2005 after a redesign. (The international Comdex schedule remains unchanged.)
That didn’t stop many industry veterans from writing the obit for what was once one of the country’s largest, most successful expositions, with pundits observing that very few, if any, large events had successfully staged a comeback after a cancellation.
Whether COMDEX is dead or just on a leave of absence, the cancellation seemed a kind of milestone for the exhibition industry--not just for the storied show that began with 150 exhibitors in the early days of personal computing and grew to a million-square-foot event drawing 200,000 attendees by the late 1990s.
Last year, about 45,000 visitors and 500 companies showed up for the fall Comdex, despite the revival of the high-tech industry. Many exhibitors, particularly large ones, had lost enthusiasm for general-interest trade shows such as Comdex, which, say critics, had grown too consumer-oriented. The decline of the show is a lesson for the rest of the industry, which has struggled to maintain a three-decade momentum that began to sputter around 2000.
Insight into how the industry is changing and strategies for coping with that change were the stock and trade of the third annual Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum, held in late May in Washington, D.C. Industry veterans Sam Lippman and Michael Hough, passionate change advocates when it comes to the status quo in exposition management, staged the event for about 100 high-level association and for-profit show executives.
Look to the August issue of AM for highlights of the conference. The August issue will also feature a case study of theExhibitors Association, which recently decided to bring its show management in-house--more proof of the state of flux in the exhibition industry.