Are you tired of endless conferences where the so-called “expert” speakers have less industry knowledge than the attendees? Are you weary from suffering through trade shows where you have to endure the same old sales pitches for products you heard about last year? Are you fed up with spending exorbitant amounts of money and time on trade shows with little—if any—pay off?

From the responses to our recent poll on the best and worst trade shows and conferences, it’s obvious that not all trade shows are created equal. Read on for advice on the ones to avoid and a list of sites where you’ll find virtually any type of IT event.

A few duds
Bob complained that the ITEC shows hosted by ASM, Inc. have gone downhill. He attended one recently in Kansas City, MO., and found the show had an overabundance of network consultants and financial institutions, and few technology vendors and manufacturers’ representatives.

“The first show I attended in 1993 was great,” Bob wrote. “I found a lot of useful information. Dell, IBM, and Gateway had reps there. There was a lot of networking equipment, add-ons, and other useful things.”

This year, however, he found the show disappointing. “I have deleted this event from my schedule,” he wrote.
Jim Nichols with IBM Global Services wrote in with this story: “I once won a world globe at an electronics trade show in New York City from a United Parcel Service booth. Instead of having to carry around this big globe all day, I asked them to deliver it to my house. They’re UPS, right? About two months later, my kids discover this box left mysteriously out at the end of the driveway (not brought to the door). When we opened it, there was a big dent in the globe, which made it practically useless. So much for promoting their service!”
Raspberries to COMDEX
For all the hoopla and their tremendous size, several readers contend that the COMDEX events are a waste of time and money.

Bob Brodie, director of client services with Aeneid Corporation, exhibited at COMDEX for two other companies in prior positions, for a total of eight shows. When he interviewed for his most recent job, a marketing position, he made it clear he would not accept the job offer if it meant having to attend Fall COMDEX.

“I could [give] a long laundry list of complaints, but rather than do that, I’d prefer to focus on the business angle: return on investment. Fall COMDEX fails this metric miserably. If you want to spend $500,000 exhibiting there and be lost in the noise of the expo, just give the money to your team and stay home. They’ll be happier and more productive working there.”

As an attendee, Brodie had similar complaints: “It’s still a logistical nightmare to get around Fall COMDEX, and the hotels jack up their prices big-time,” he wrote. “The room you’re paying $369 per night for will drop to $69 a night within two days of the completion of the show. The cabbies gripe and moan about lousy tippers because all of the fares are angry about the long cab lines and high prices.”

Likewise, Sharon Wallace said COMDEX in Atlanta was “horrible,” and Derek Kamp complained about the April 1999 COMDEX in Chicago he attended with two colleagues.

“We allowed two days to see the whole show, but saw the entire show by noon on the first day, so we came home early,” Kamp wrote. “On the other hand, we planned one day to see the National Manufacturing Week show in Chicago that same spring, and wished we had scheduled two or three days,” he wrote.

While at the manufacturing show, Kamp went to see shop-floor automation products, which were in the National Industrial Automation section. “This was well worth the time spent,” he wrote. “Then we went on to the National Industrial Enterprise IT section, which was much better than COMDEX.”

IT events abound
Would you like to avoid being burned by a worthless show or conference? Before you book a plane ticket to the next event, check a few Web sites that provide extensive lists of IT industry events. Here are our picks:

  • ·        Yes, it produces COMDEX, but ZD Events is also responsible for a mix of IT conventions, seminars, and forums, most on a much smaller scale than COMDEX. Upcoming events include the Linux Business Expo, Networld+Interop, and JavaOne.
  • ·        CIO Magazine lists hundreds of upcoming events. Topics include everything from e-commerce strategy to knowledge management to executive leadership.
  • ·        If it’s the emerging Application Service Provider industry that interests you, the ASP Industry Consortium lists virtually every large-scale, ASP-related event through the end of the year, as well as general topic IT industry trade shows and conferences.
  • ·        Microsoft-sponsored events are plentiful, and they’re held worldwide. There’s something for everyone from developers and programmers to network administrators and trainers.
  • ·        GartnerGroup, one of the world’s largest IT consulting firms, hosts a series of conferences and several installments of its Gartner Symposium and IT Expo. You’ll find listings for events in North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America.
  • ·        If you’re interested in trade shows in the United Kingdom, IT Events is the place to look.
  • ·        The Source allows you to search for events that cover a specific topic or industry. Most are in England and throughout Europe.
  • ·        TechRepublic’s own events calendar lists trade shows and conferences across the world, in all areas of information technology.

Have a great (or terrible) trade show story to tell? Post a comment below or send us a note.