EDITORIAL: Mecca mania

EDITORIAL: Mecca mania

Everyone loves Com Tech Forum. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find any detractors of the event or even Com Tech itself.

In fact, Com Tech's PR people dared me to hide my media badge and ask Com Tech staffers what they thought of the company and executive chairman David Shein. Needless to say, it only took two conversations to confirm what I already knew about the magnetic effect of great leadership.

So can you attribute the Forum's success to a great leader? Well, I'd argue it's a key ingredient but so is the marketing factor. Customers (and media) are treated to four intensive days of keynotes and workshops, and hours of entertainment day and night (I won't detail it all because it will make you jealous) at a Queensland resort.

But to say that keeping your customers captive is an effective marketing strategy is too simplistic. The reason the Forum works as an IT event is because senior IT executives from Australia's top companies believe it's one of the most valuable on offer.

It offers a blend of forward-thinking keynotes, tutorials and workshops, and plenty of time to talk with Com Tech's technical staff at its exhibition-like Solutions Showcase. It's a mini-Comdex for end users.

Meanwhile, Comdex itself remains the true Mecca for IT professionals, something they say you should do at least once in a lifetime.

But in contrast to the Forum, rumblings have suggested Comdex is getting out of control (no kidding, you say). I was amused by a report in ARN's sister publication, The Industry Standard, commenting the industry's largest tradeshow had become a "zoo".

The din of 200,000 people jammed into exhibition halls made communication possible only if you shouted.

People are still networking, but to quote The Standard: "e-commerce is undermining the vendor-distributor relationship just as the personal computer is taking a back seat to smaller, cheaper mobile devices. Comdex seems to be losing part of its raison d'etre."

Meanwhile, on the official Web site, Comdex president Kim Myhre admits the "one size fits all" trade show is history. The plan for the future is to segment the event into bite-sized chunks for particular communities and market the event as more than a glitzy escape to Las Vegas to see cool stuff between the parties.

So on the one hand we love big glamorous events, but ironically the Internet is pushing marketers towards the Nirvana of one-to-one marketing. And where the channel is concerned, developments in the B2B space are clearly starting to undermine traditional vendor/distributor/reseller relationships.

For me, both events will continue to be a "must visit" because they offer a good signpost for where we're heading.

For example, two years ago the Forum was littered with and e-tail talk. Now we're back to admiring the old guard: Jack Welsh, GE's CEO is the man of the moment.

David Shein had the best Welsh quote: "The Internet and e-commerce belong to the big and the old."

Shein also got it right when summarising our current state of IT affairs by commenting it's important not to confuse the end of the dot-com revolution with the Internet revolution.

Meanwhile, my Jack Welsh-quote-o-metre reached an impressive 10 by conference end. That's up from 8 plugs two years ago, so we must be getting somewhere.

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