After attending numerous conferences and exhibitions in the Indian IT Industry, I observe a clear trend in the way these events have evolved/matured. And my observation is seconded by the opinions of the conference attendees I’ve spoken to.
This year I attended some tech events (albeit not as many as last year) and the immediate observations were:
a. The number of booths on the expo floor has reduced, drastically (in some cases halved).
b. There are a lot more awards ceremonies (and it is a good strategy to get all the important people to your show). People love to receive awards and recognition, but what are you going to do after everyone receives an award?
c. The conference content hasn’t changed much — the same people discussing the same issues all over again. (Yawn!).
So I try to think of ways to innovate (and change the world). I have brainstormed with industry people to come up with a list of suggestions.
What expos should be
Think about it — why would consumers come to an exhibition to see and buy products when they can do so online? B2B is a different case.
1. Launch new products at expos. Give sneak previews of prototypes. Bloggers love this. And people love demos. Make product announcements. And create some hype and PR in the run up to the event.
2. Expos should have action on the floor. I have seen mini boxing matches at an expo in Las Vegas — right at the booth! Darts and shooting games are old school.
3. Get your visitor engaged and involved. Try gaming, it usually works.
4. Decorate your stalls well — I am seeing the same boring stalls with a table, two chairs and flat 2D posters — manned by an equally bored attendant. This is a good business opportunity for someone who is creative.
5. Contests, lucky draws and lots of yelling are passe. Try something new. At one expo I saw two face-readers — they took one look at my face and wrote down my personality description on a piece of paper! And much of it was true! It’s indeed written on your forehead! Instant photos with props are fun!
What conferences should be
1. Conferences should raise and discuss industry issues and challenges. Get the people who matter (policy makers, politicians, lobbyists, press) to come to your conference. The CEOs that you want will then make time to attend.
2 Partner with industry associations — and work together to support their causes. They can use your platform to discuss and publicize their issues, or to make announcements.
3. Pre-conference events- Workshops
I am seeing workshops and Master Class sessions being conducted by industry experts a day before the conference. These are well-attended and highly appreciated. People actually PAY to attend these workshops.
4. Pre-conference events- Roadshows
Again, partner with industry associations to raise, promote and publicize issues. I am seeing a lot of interest in Tier-II and Tier-III towns and cities. The roadshows there are well attended and are taken very seriously. Help attract IT investment to the state — the state government will support you 100%.
5. Topics — Let’s hear something new. Make it practical and tell real-life stories. Share examples and case studies.
6. Video killed the PPT
Personally, I am against videos and long PPTs. It shows that the speaker is not well prepared and is just summarizing someone else’s thoughts and research. Similar for Government speakers who read out pre-prepared speeches written by professional speech writers.
7. Un-conference and Extempore is In
Solution to point 6.
Good speakers can speak without tele-prompters and audio-visual aids. They know their topic thoroughly.
Write in an give me some more tips! Do you disagree to anything I’ve written here?
The views expressed by the writer in this article are his own and should not be attributed to his current employer. These are broad-based observations that apply to Indian tech events in general.