This year’s CeBIT was a shadow of its former self, according to a presenter and agency owner who has escorted clients there for over a decade. Meanwhile, another senior marketing executive I spoke to claimed exhibiting at the show was a success for her company because “CeBIT is not for leads”. This ‘bigger picture’ thought was supported by an insightful comment from HP marketing vet Peter Chargin, who raised the importance of knowledge gathered on the ground by attendees. Good point I missed and it made me think.
So if conferences are not for leads, but for brand presence and education, has the world changed?
Some claim, with a lot of validity, that the ‘live’ experience of shows and learning is what the trade show is really about. This is certainly true for the army of press and bloggers who descend on trade shows, they learn a lot. But actual sales need more than awareness, they need persuasion. This is why Salesforce and Siebel are used for telemarketing more often than campaign management – people buy from people not emails. Even PR management tools like Response Source and Vocus just help good old human interaction, they should facilitate handcrafted emails and calls from persuasive PR professionals (like Positive). Use them as spam tools and they are counter-productive.
So then why the downer on conferences if they tick so many boxes? Physical interaction – tick, educating while selling -tick, potential new customer awareness – tick. What does not work is the economics. Why pay for booth space, why not just do speaking slots?
I think I have a better idea, or rather my bright friends at Brighttalk.com, had one. To be honest though, the Brightvocalists did not realise it at first, until, in a truly Twitter-like way, they remodelled their business plan. From a sort of online AGM tool they came up with virtual conferences. So now you have all the knowledge sharing you could need, full control over how your brand is conveyed and even some ‘accidental’ leads as it is promoted to the firm’s half million users. Whether or not, the ‘webcasting reinvented’ users Brighttalk claims all love your content, that’s a lot of potential bag-fillers passing your virtual booth – for free.
We need yet more innovation. Half day physical conferences, impromptu conferences (Twestivals not Flashcrowds, for safety reasons) and much much more online innovation (Brighttalk, Webex etc.). Music festivals people spend days at, but industry conferences? Can anyone honestly say the ‘Good Old Days’ of CeBIT were really like being at Woodstock?
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