Trade show transitions…

In the most recent podcast Erik and I talked about several upcoming trade shows, including PMA, WPPI, PSW, and GPP to name just a few.  Lots of acronyms though and it can leave many questions open about which ones to attend.  While we tried to cover the nuts and bolts of each, one thing was not really discussed to a great degree, and I thought I would share my own thoughts on the future of trade shows here today.  To do that though, there are two key news nuggets that tie into today’s post to kind of set the stage:

  1. This year marked the first year that Apple declined to participate at Macworld…
  2. This year Canon also decided to not have a booth at the venerable PMA Show…

This may be the tip of an iceberg or a coincidence, but my guess is that it is a hint of things to come.  With technology changing more quicky than many can even keep up, the trade shows of yesterday are not going to be the trade shows of the future.  I hate to sound like an old fogey, but back in the day, trade shows were the platform that vendors used to announce new products that spent years in R&D.  Not anymore, as the window for R&D has dropped significantly, and tailoring your development to an annual trade show could lead you down many dangerous routes as a vendor…

  • Dangerous route #1 – Technology changes at a pace faster than you anticipate and when you launch that 8MP camera in a market where 18MP is the latest and greatest, all that R&D, marketing, and advertising money was pretty much burned for nothing.
  • Dangerous route #2 – You predict a pace of technology and make projected announcements on that prediction.  Tech moves slower than anticipated and the 18MP camera you promised at next years show is only a 12MP.  An equally embarrassing fiasco for the PR dept to deal with.

So why attend trade shows?  I don’t think they will last much longer as venues to “pimp new products”.  Sure there will always be secondary and tertiary players that introduce new gear, but I think the trade show will turn more toward a networking show where professionals can network with one another and with possible vendors.  From a personal perspective, I’ve already talked to several contest sponsors from previous contests that have asked if I will be attending show X or show Y so we can talk about new sponsorships.

The face time and interaction between the working folks and the vendors is what gets deals done.  Vendors get evangelists that talk up their products and pros get gear and software deals at pretty good discounts (and sometimes free).  It’s a win-win situation for both, and the larger community can also put a personal spin on the gear they want and/or like.  It also comes down to the 6 degrees of separation mentality that people associate themselves with.  They associate with another photographer or a professional who uses a certain kind of gear, and they see the results of that, and it’s only natural to think that the gear may have something to do with it (and sometimes it does…). Here’s a few good examples of the line of thinking:

  • “Hey, I was at a Scott Kelby seminar and he talked up that Elinchrom light set…I should take a look at that…”
  • “What was that lightbox thing Jason and Erik mentioned on their last podcast?”
  • “Alex on the photo walk last month mentioned some book on workflow in Lightroom for photographers…gotta make a note of that…”

You get the idea…Scott Kelby is a pretty big name, and while we’re not as “well-known” as Scott, we do have an established set of followers or regulars that read our material.  Photo walk leaders also carry weight in their messages too, and Alex is no exception.  He is a great photographer, a super friend, and when he recommends a product, you can bet I will listen to what he has to say.!

So, I think the networking and social connection aspect of trade shows will really be the impetus for the future.  It always has been to a certain degree, but not nearly so much as I think it will in the future.  That’s just my two ¢ though, and you know what they say about opinions – they’re like…..haircuts (everyone has one).

Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on the next phase for trade shows?  Will more big names bow out?  Or is it just the economy and as soon as we’re back on solid ground they will come back into the mix?  Having not attended any, I gotta say I am kind of guessing from the outside looking in, so if anyone has attended trade shows themselves, feel free to chime in here.

Which ones have you attended?  What did you gain or get from the show?  Positive experience or worst thing ever?  Sound off in the comments.  In the meantime though, there’s only a few days left in the Flickr contest for February, and the theme is Height!

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1 comment for “Trade show transitions…

  1. February 24, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I’ve never attended the large scale photography trade shows due to budgetary constraints. I get a lot of value from local organizations and discussion with other photographers (of all skill levels.)

    Just because Scott Kelby is talking something up – I’m not going to run out and buy it. He’s also one of the people trying to teach concert photography in a seminar setting.
    .-= Greg Taylor´s last blog ..Concert Photography 101 : Review =-.

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