Comdex Canada: Medialive and kicking

Toronto’s tourism and convention industry has faced perhaps the most troubling spring of any city in North America, but the man behind Comdex Canada insists the show will go on.

Jim Povec has helped organize Comdex in Japan and other trade shows in that country, specifically Networld + Interop

and Sun Microsystems’ JavaOne conference. He was recently named as the managing director for Canada for Medialive International Inc., the firm that rose from the ashes of the bankrupt Key3 Media. Povec spoke to Computing Canada about his plans for Comdex Canada, government IT show GTEC, and why he’s unfazed by the prospect of lower attendance.


Computing Canada: Has the Comdex Canada date been set in stone?

Jim Povec: Yes. Sept. 16, 17 and 18.

CC: How do you approach Comdex Canada in Toronto, with the recent demise of Comdex Vancouver and Comdex Quebec?

JP: The IT market in Toronto is pretty vast and it probably represents 75 to 80 per cent of the customers, of the buying in the Canada. Even though it’s a local, so to speak, venue, we will approach it in a national way.

CC: How will you represent other IT hotbeds in Canada like Ottawa?

JP: We have our GTEC show, dedicated to the federal government. With most of the spending in Ottawa coming from the federal government, that show pretty well covers that niche. The IT market, the vendors in Ottawa, of course are a target for exhibiting in the Comdex Canada event (in Toronto). When we look to place shows, we look to where the buying is done.

CC: Do you have any new directions in mind for this year’s Comdex Canada?

JP: I think we really look at the local economy, the local trends, the global market and how it compares. We are seeing in some segments a resurgence. There are segments that are coming back. Packaged software, for instance, is looking better all the time. Telecommunications products, we think, are out of the recession. We’ll be focusing where there’s growth. Wireless, voice-over IP — those areas will get our attention. Those areas that seem to be rebounding and that’s where the buying will be done. Hardware is still a little bit soft. In a market like this, the dealer has become more important again. The channel will have more of a focus than we did last year, frankly.

CC: How do you compete with the smaller, niche shows that are cropping up around things like wireless technology?

JP: Well, that’s exactly what they are. They’re narrowly focused niche shows. We’re more of a generalist, more of a trends, what’s-coming, hot spots show. However, I will say that the marketing of shows with Medialive in the future will go back to a very focused target audience. In the case of Comdex, it’s always going to be a combination of corporation buyers, the dealer network, the distribution channel, the professional programmer. The other thing a niche show can’t do is give you a national IT event that a country the size of Canada absolutely needs. It deserves it.

Anybody who really needs more detailed, more hands-on, more workshop-oriented training, then the niche events are more for them. We, of course, want all those to suceed, because it brings back the importance of face-to-face, one-on-one marketing.

CC: How do you achieve a balance between exhibit floor, products showcase, seminars and training?

JP: We will have hotspots on the floor. We will show not only demos, we will show working case studies. That will be an educational experience. The tutorials are very robust this year. We have eight of them. Those are full-day events.

CC: Will there be an N+I day and a Linux day like Comdex last year?

JP: This year it will be Comdex Canada featuring N+I and featuring the executive perspectives forum. We will have multiple tracks going on at the same time for N+I and security. It won’t be one day focused on N+I and one day focused on Comdex Canada. It will all be integrated.

CC: How to you plan to deal with the health crises in Toronto and how those impact attendance numbers?

JP: Well, we got good news yesterday. (Toronto was removed from the World Health Organization’s SARS affected-area list). In my view, the confusion is outside of Canada. Having spent the weekend in Toronto, I can tell you that Canadians are not worried because they know the facts. If we’re dealing with out of country attendees, we’ll certainly educate them as to what the current reality is here. We will take all precautions if there is a situation that put any of attendees or any of the exhibitors in any kind of jeopardy. But by September, we don’t see that as an issue.

CC: What kind of attendance are you predicting for this year’s show?

JP: We are really targeting for 20,000 very qualified buyers. Our shows in the past have been a little larger, but the audience has not been quite as qualified or as focused. It’s still a very selective, very detailed list. High volume buyers — we will certainly target those. Those a lot being done now in terms of (finding) qualified buyers through e-mail focus. Where in the past we probably provided too many exhibit-only passes, we will tighten that up this year and make sure those passes are available only through publication and through outlets that deliver high-level buyers. By September, I think the mood will be very different in this country and in this city — the perception of IT buyers is going to improve and that will get them to the show.

CC: There seems to be more of a hands-on focus this year at GTEC with labs on the floor. Is GTEC trying to get more in touch with users?

JP: It’s a great way for the federal government to demonstrate some of the things they’re doing so some of the other levels can learn. Showcases from different departments will be showing real, live applications, so for the attendees, that will be a learning experience. It’s a way for the government to really continue to show their leadership in e-government. It’s remarkable what Canada is doing in terms of communicating to their citizens through e-government. I think a big reason for the leadership (in e-government) is that show.

CC: Is there a challenge at GTEC trying to get all the different government departments and interests on the same page?

JP: I don’t look at it as a challenge. I look at it as a show that is more focused. We’re more able to pinpoint the buyer, and the exhibitor knows that 100 per cent of the attendees are qualified to buy their product. It has a very different set of requirements and objectives than Comdex Canada.

CC: Does the Lac Carling Congress government show represent a threat to GTEC?

JP: There are several niche events and we applaud them all. We want them to succeed. The more education, the more this get this moved along, the better it is for educating the market.

CC: How has the Key3 restructuring and subsequent rebirth as Medialive affected the company’s approach to trade show events?

JP: I think the biggest news there is that Bob Priest-Heck, the former COO, is now the CEO. I think the Thomas Weisel fund is looking at this truly as a strategic buy. They see the face-to-face marketing, they see events always having a future, as we do. IT will always come back. It has to.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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