Most of the conversations I've had recently around the trade show concept have focused on their being perceived as an old-school way to bring buyers and sellers together, one that is becoming increasingly ineffective and unappealing to attendees. Hence the move toward hosted-buyer programs, and adding education in hopes it will attract more people to the show floor.
Then I ran across this editorial in Forbes written by Consumer Electronics Association (which owns the CES show) president and CEO Gary Shapiro that is practically an ode to the trade show model. Called Want Innovation? Go to a Trade Show , here's the heart of his argument:
Perhaps most important, they come because relationships matter in business and, despite the worldwide reach of the Internet, a relationship cannot only be electronic. It must be personal.
This personal component to International CES – or any tradeshow, for that matter – is what makes it a living, breathing entity. It’s an experience that requires five senses. Some may scoff and wonder why in the age of technology and the Internet live face-to-face events even exist. Yet they not only persist, they also prosper because people, relationships and first-hand impressions matter. Five-sense interaction beats the Internet for creating a big picture view, allowing serendipitous discovery, developing trust, and evaluating people and products.
It's an argument we've all heard before, and I of course want to get behind it. And yet I do hear, anecdotally anyway, an increasing reluctance on attendees' parts to deal with the trade show model. Is the expo floor as we know it still a vibrant, living, growing model, or a dinosaur lumbering its way to an experiential tar pit? I'm sure the answer will in part depend on who the intended audience is, but generally speaking, I'd love to hear your thoughts.