Key3Media cancels two Canadian Comdex shows

Attendees of next month’s Comdex Montreal will be wise to save the usual exhibition floor freebies as souvenirs — this year’s local version of the IT trade show will be the last.

Key3Media vice-president of public relations Eric

Grodziski confirmed Monday that the event is one of two Canadian trade shows on the chopping block. Comdex Vancouver has also been cleared from the 2003 calendar.

Aside from the Canadian events, Key3Media has announced the cancellation of Comdex Chicago, Comdex/NetWorld+Interop Atlanta, the Seybold Seminars New York as well as the closing of the company’s Needham, Massachusetts office. The closures come as part of a strategic business review in response to the general IT economic woes, the company said.

Key3Media also stated that it plans to concentrate its efforts on the four remaining North American shows. These include Comdex Fall Las Vegas, NetWorld+Interop Las Vegas, Seybold San Francisco and Comdex Canada & NetWorld+Interop Toronto.

A spokesperson for EDS Canada, who exhibited at Comdex Canada for the first time this summer, said the news of a shrunken Comdex calendar comes as no surprise.

EDS had initially considered exhibiting at all three Canadian Comdex shows but eventually decided that the expense wasn’t justifiable, said Cam Patterson, global advertising, marketing & communications manager, EDS Canada.

“”Right now, just given the economic climate, the cause and effect that comes out of show attendance has to be more obvious,”” Patterson said. “”Generally what we’re finding is that if people are attending the shows, and attendance has been down hugely, it probably isn’t (drawing) the senior person we need to speak to.””

Instead, he said, the shows attract a lot of junior IT people with no real decision-making power, or even people seeking employment.

Trade show woes have been well documented over the last few years. Even the president of Interop, Valerie Williamson, predicted a smaller turnout at this year’s Comdex/NetWorld+Interop Atlanta prior to the show. She attributed the general state of malaise in the trade show circuit to the current rocky economic climate.

The downturn has played a part in the declining fortune of the Comdex shows, said Microsoft Canada corporate communications manager Al Saplys, but added that the proliferation of some of the same technology these shows exhibit is making them obsolete.

“”Some of us were predicting this a number of years ago when we saw the Web exploding and the number of people looking for this type of broad company information and new product and services information on the Web. We thought that was the segment that would detract from show participation,”” he said.

Shows with a consumer focus are being driven out by the abundance of information on the Internet, where product and service information can be gathered not only more comfortably but is also more precise.

“”Information at a show is by definition going to be generalized because the exhibitor doesn’t know who they’re going to be talking to,”” Saplys said.

Companies like Microsoft, who for years provided a huge presence on the trade show circuit, are also turning to putting on their own events as the preferred mode of marketing.

“”We see upwards of a couple hundred thousand people in Canada at Microsoft-specific events, so it’s not like we’re not seeing IT professionals and developers. The mix is shifting from these types of general events to targeted events and the web,”” Saplys said.

Patterson also noted that trade shows targeting specific vertical markets are becoming more popular and are being staged in conjunction with professional associations’ annual meetings.

“”It’s just easier for people who have to travel to these events to have everything in one place at the same time,”” he said.

But Comdex’s death knell is still far from ringing, Patterson said, in part due to the organizational strength of Key3Media and how easy they make it for exhibitors to attend.

“”My sense is that it can be turned around, but a whole lot of that is going to be contingent on what happens with the economy. The turnaround time is going to be entirely dependant on the ammount of money in the IT sector,”” he said.

“”Can they turn it around for next year? Nothing short of a big Lotto 649 win could make that happen. But it can be turned around,”” Patterson said.

Key3Media is hoping that a move towards a focus on training may yet change the way exhibitors view events like Comdex and save the last ones standing, including the struggling sole Canadian survivor.

“”We’re really trying to refocus more towards the educational experience of Comdex,”” Key3Media associate general manager and events manager for Comdex Canada Andy Effenson said earlier this year. “”There’s always been an educational component there, but we’ve brought that to the forefront.””

Effenson said exhibits at Comdex Canada in Toronto this year were down about 20 per cent from previous years. “”The industry has shrank, and Comdex is a reflection of that,”” he said.

Comdex Montreal 2002 is scheduled to run Oct. 22-24 at the Palais de Congres.

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