The end of the service-desk trade show...
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Industry trade-shows and conventions seem to be on the decline. After 12 straight years of attending several shows each year, PRD Software and HelpMaster are trying something different.
For the first time in 12 years, PRD Software and HelpMaster have not attended the Australian helpdesk / service desk show. Each year for over the last decade or so, we've made the pilgrimage to some exotic location to showcase our helpdesk wares along with the other vendors vying in this space.
Over the years, we've enjoyed meeting many of our clients, and other members of the service-desk industry. It's been great to catch up with the speakers and organizers, and get an insight into the way the helpdesk industry has changed and matured over the years.
So why didn't we go this year?
- Each year the event was getting smaller and smaller. Less vendors, less exhibition space, and less delegates. The first few HDI convention PRD Software attended had many vendors from diverse pockets of the industry. There were software vendors, hardware, training, hi-tech, accreditation companies and more. In those days, the vendor hall was interesting - there was something for everyone, and walking around the vendor hall and getting a good look at all the different booths would take the 3 days offered by the "free time" allocated. Last year, the 6 or 7 vendor booths could be summed up in a matter of minutes.
- The big vendor feel. In recent times, the rich diversity of the vendors exhibiting at the booths have been distilled to include a high concentration of the big companies of the industry - CA, HP, IBM, BMC, PRD. (OK, the last one is us, but with all those other acronym-based companies I thought I'd throw PRD into the mix). The simple truth is, the event become rather one-dimensional. Same big vendors, same storyline, same big products that offer big functionality with big price tags and consultants fees
- Price. Conventions are not cheap, and every year, the entry-level price increases, as the booth dimensions shrink. Moreover, with many of the shows now moving to a "sponsor" model that encourages big spending by the big boys, those without "Bejeweled, diamond-encrusted platinum sponsorship" status are relegated to the battery-hen like booth down the corridor where the exhibition catering staff carrying plates bearing appetizers never venture. Apart from the actual cost of the exhibition, the cost in staffing has also increased. At one stage, the Australian helpdesk show wanted to have the convention at either Ayers Rock, or an island in the Whitsunday area! Nice locations for sure, but the travel costs?!?...not to mention the junket factor. When you add up the cost of the show, the travel, accommodation, meals and incidentals, and the lost time from being at work, the convention really has to earn it's keep. It's hard to quantify exactly what a convention yields in terms of dollars through the door, but at the end of the day, the business case for a convention has to make financial sense.
- Alternatives. Are trade shows the way to go? Have they lost their appeal to many? Reports from across the IT industry are showing that trade-show attendances are down. So if people are not attending such events in previous numbers, where are they looking for their information. It's not hard to see why on-line resources such as YouTube, blogs, twitter, and industry sites are a viable alternative. After all, why attend a convention, if you can sit in the comfort of your own office and watch it all on-line! Skip the boring speakers, re-wind the interesting ones.
How much does YouTube (or www.ted.com) charge again?
The web has always been the main shop-front for PRD Software and HelpMaster. It is by far the biggest generator of leads, downloads, interest and revenue. It's also global...(unlike a convention at Uluru). To this end, PRD Software will concentrate more on web-based initiatives this year in lieu of physical trade-show attendance. We will also be concentrating on producing more video and other multi-media resources to spread the HelpMaster experience.
Conventions are good fun. I always enjoyed them and engaging personally with people of the industry. The gala dinners were great, the theme-park experiences were fun and learning more about the industry in this manner was always an eye opener.
Some of the PRD team along with Phil Verghis (centre) and Rick Joslin
I would be very interested to hear comments from anyone who has attended a service-desk / helpdesk convention / trade show this year.
What were your impressions?