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Are Vendor Neutral Trade Shows Dead?

October 23, 2013 - 3 Comments

TechWiseTV just got back from Interop in NYC. It was a really small show. Kinda the size of a regional show to be honest. As a walked the floor, I wondered; “Are true mixed vendors trade shows over?” Compare Interop NYC to the very next week’s event VMWorld Barcelona and wholly smokes! That is a big show for sure.

Seems like we started drifting towards a more vendor specific format around the time COMDEX was killed off. Then Supercom was next. Networld+Interop become Interop. Man alive that really used to be one heck of a show. N+I as the cool kids called it, had the show and then N+I at Night where you could catch a ball from Steve Young or listen to a concert from the latest 80’s re-re-re-reboot band. Ah the old days when we had to notch a disk on both sides. Back then, we had a ton of competitors all pushing many ways of doing things (give me a shout out if you remember Fore Networks; “Network of Steel” demos where they’d take a chain saw to the network to show how ATM self-healed.  Of course your CAP-EX never did…

Heck now in booths, if vendors are giving out t-shirts man that’s like Club Med passes to other jealous vendors looking down at their combo key ring, toe file, pocket knife that’ll never make it past TSA for the flight home. In booths we booth staff say; “Did you see vendor X is giving away….?” Followed by a Oh man! or a WTF? Really. My fav is a vendor once giving away half the casing of an empty SPF. I thought it was their garbage at first and they were trying to get me to chuck it. Which I actually did.

Seems like as larger vendors snapped up more and more companies, mixed trade shows got smaller and smaller. I watched N+I not only change name to Interop but move from the massive Las Vegas Convention Center to the Mandalay Bay Conference Hall. Which to me is too bad. I loved going from booth to booth pitting solutions against each other between vendors or getting good advice from many sources not friendly to each other, yet had to at LEAST work together. And your demos and booths better be smokin’ awesome to stand out.  Trade shows split into really two main areas; Specialty Focused like Defcon, Management World, etc.. and Vendor Hosted, RSA, Cisco LIVE, VMWorld, etc…  The best part of this split is not the exhibit floor but the career training available to us network type folks  at Specialty  Focused shows and Vendor Hosted is outstanding and far better then other vendor neutral shows.  The exhibit floors at Cisco LIVE or VMWorld, etc…have booths that are friends of the host. Kinda like having a party for a friend. You invite the groovy folks not the friend’s enemies that’ll drink all the beer and then pee in the pool before leaving.

I believe a few vendors noticed this too and tried the whole “virtual trade show” thing.  That’s something that looks good to bean counters and upper level managers as a good way to save money. The truth is those are interesting as a six week virtual class in US Tax Code Laws. The big piece of any trade show is really meeting peers and colleagues there. Heck IT is a small world and it never fails that at every trade show I always meet someone I worked with before and we get a chance to catch, hear about what they are going now, etc…

Maybe it’s a United States thing.  CeBIT in Germany is bigger than nearly all shows listed here combined! Oh mercy! Whatta great show! If ya never been go. It’s in March sometime.   So I ask you.  Are you still interested in mixed vendor shows like Interop? Or do ya just stick with vendor hosted shows? Post ‘um up and let’s hear ya! Now, where’s my Cisco Nexus 1000v USB stick in my Cisco Catalyst 4500 bag? If I only had my Cisco Unified Comms Manager combo penlight/pen…

Jimmy Ray Purser

Trivia File Transfer Protocol

The first and still the oldest domain name to be registered is  It was created on 15 March 1985


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  1. I've attended both vendor and independent shows this year. I've also been involved in virtual content/shows too. I think that all of them have a place and offer value. The networking market gets bigger all the time, and we have more customers who want more choice and our vendors have more technologies that ever before. For example, Cisco has _four_ chassis based switches products available today and more to come. How do we find enough time to talk about all the features and functions as well as make them meaningful to all of our customers. We need to move past the idea that only "one thing" can be the winner. Networking markets are so large that many technologies can be successful and, from my view, this is what Cisco product strategy is today. Each product overlaps other products so that the customer need can be met, regardless of where they in their product lifecycle. We need to embrace "all the things" and that includes trade shows in all their diverse forms. Equally, I will be attending less shows next year at a personal level because travelling is hard and not very productive. I do plan to do more virtual events to make better use of my time. My 0.02p greg

    • Great input Greg! Travel does suck and it is really getting worse and worse all the time. When you cut back which will be the first to go? Vendor hosted or Vendor Neutral? I'd love to see the virtual trade show take off. That personal contact is really the anchor to me. Just like attending a virtual classroom, I have a lot of distractions (eg; lack of discipline) that pulls me away too easy.

  2. Great question. I think these shows are SO important. As you always told me, the interesting stuff happens at the edge of these places with the smaller booths. I wonder if these things are getting too monolithic and maybe pricing out the upstarts? I agree it seems like they are getting smaller. Curious what everyone thinks about WHY.