Conference firm seeks to Wow Canadian IT crowd

While technology companies move away from attending all-in-one events like Comdex in favour of more targeted shows, an upstart conference planning company is putting the finishing touches on an expo that will combine seven shows in one.

As part of Gao Research Inc. (which makes embedded communications

software), WowGao Inc. is little more than a year and a half old, but it has spent the last year planning its first conference for the IT sector. The International Conferences & Expos will take place between October 14 and 16, 2003, and it will feature seven mini expos, each dedicated to one topic.

“”The reason behind the (show) is that we’re moving toward Web services and integration, so what we wanted to do was to educate the audience and then to start getting the word out about Web services and integration software systems,”” said Abi Bolado, the expo’s event manager. Web services, combined with XML, is not the only topic at the expo. Attendees will also have the option of exploring min-shows including E-enterprise challenges, IT security, mobile/wireless, Linux/open source, IT services/outsourcing and IT financing.

According to Bolado, there will be about 500 speakers, and the expo will take up the entire Toronto Congress Centre. She said she expects approximately 10,000 people to attend the expo. Many will travel from outside of Canada to attend (thus the “”international”” part of the conference’s name), she said.

“”Most people are jaded by the events scene. For them, it’s just the same old thing with no difference. That’s why we wanted to have seven in one to bring them together so it’s easier for them,”” Bolado said, adding the event will go beyond simplistic training. “”To appreciate this event, you have to be an actual programmer. You have to use the technology.””

The conference business has suffered the same doldrums that has afflicted the rest of the IT industry. Medialive International, for example, recently announced the cancellation of Comdex Canada in September and has rescheduled for next March.

According to Mark Dininio, technical and communications coordinator for Smart Toronto, attending big events like Comdex and Windows World has been reduced to walking around, picking up the pamphlets and moving on.

“”When we were checking up on this one, it just seems like there’s a lot more happening,”” he says. “”It’s not just one big conference. It’s seven smaller ones. It just seems like there’s a little bit for everybody, so if you’re not quite a Web person, you can go in and check the IT financing side of things. Whereas, the past ones, it’s just been all technology all put into one room.”” Smart Toronto is an association partner of the International Conferences & Expos.

Other conference planners are sticking to one topic at a time. The International Quality & Production Center (IQPC) is planning only a handful of Canadian IT conferences at this time. The next one, IT Disaster Recovery Planning, takes place in Ottawa in September. Andrea Jaros, IQPC’s conference director in Canada, said IT conferences and expos aren’t attended as well as they were a few years ago. However, there are still a lot of competing conferences in Canada.

“”You really have to build a reputation,”” she says.

A reputation in IT conferences is one thing that WowGao currently does not have, but according to Bolado, another IT conference similar to the October event is already being planned for spring 2004.

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