The virtual events industry had a lot of exciting moments over the past two years. I believe we’ll look back upon today, however, as an one of the most important and historic moments for our industry. Everything Channel (a UBM company) announced that they’re re-launching COMDEX as a 100% virtual trade show.
During its heyday, COMDEX was the “go to” trade show in the computer and technology industry, “where all levels of manufacturers and developers of computers, peripherals, software, components and accessories came in direct contact with retailers, consultants and their competitors” (source: Wikipedia)
COMDEX was discontinued in 2004. In 2006, UBM acquired the event assets of COMDEX via their purchase of MediaLive International Inc. COMDEX Virtual will fit nicely in UBM’s Everything Channel business, whose objective is “accelerating technology sales” and whose publications include Channelweb and CRN. This is very exciting news – I gave some thought to what this means to our industry.
Game Changer and Turning Point
Today’s news is nothing short of a game changer and turning point for our industry. Virtual events have enjoyed growing adoption – initially from B2B publishers and recently from corporations. Adoption rates have been particularly strong from the same technology vendors who used to exhibit at COMDEX. Now, however, one of the most widely known event brands has made the move to embrace virtual.
COMDEX Virtual will be watched (and attended) closely by related event brands – its success will incent many more well-known event brands to come on board virtually. Staying within the technology space, CES and Macworld may be encouraged to consider a hybrid model for their events, adding a virtual component to complement their in-person event. Discontinued event brands may similarly move to re-launch as a virtual-only experience.
Confirmed: Options and Flexibility with Going Virtual
Virtual event technology afforded Everything Channel with a flexible way to bring back the COMDEX brand. First, the costs are lower. Second, the financial commitment around a physical event venue was avoided. Third, a virtual event affords exhibitors with a convenient and cost-effective means to return to COMDEX.
Re-sellers and systems integrators tend to be small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB) – they operate “lean and mean” without an abundance of marketing budget. In the past, their entire year’s marketing spend may have been put towards COMDEX. Now, the same exhibitors can exhibit virtually and avoid the travel costs and “out of office” costs of sending their company representatives to Las Vegas – affording them remaining marketing dollars to use elsewhere.
With the flexibility afforded, COMDEX Virtual allows Everything Channel a convenient and efficient way to bring COMDEX back to life. If the virtual event exceeds expectations, more options become available, such as a physical component to complement the virtual – creating a hybrid event after first testing the waters virtually.
Industry observers have noted that more focused events (e.g. CES in consumer electronics and Interop in computer networking) began to steal interest away from COMDEX – many believed that it had become too broad. Subsequent to its November 2010 launch, COMDEX Virtual may want to consider a series of smaller and more focused virtual events – around industry sectors or by specific geographies.
Additionally, virtual affords COMDEX the option of extending its presence globally – both via participation from a global audience, as well as regionalized virtual events that cater to specific regions (e.g. EMEA, Asia Pacific, etc.). With the localization capabilities provided by virtual event platforms, attendees can choose the language in which they experience the event.
Unique, Branded Experiences
COMDEX had a unique brand – with COMDEX Virtual, there seems to be a clear desire to create a unique experience that carries unique and distinctive branding. Put another way, COMDEX Virtual should not look like any other virtual event – it needs to stand apart. As such, UBM Studios, a “creative and strategic marketing agency” will create original and highly engaging event areas for COMDEX Virtual, including the Grand Hall of Masters, Hospitality Suites and the CRN Test Center.
This is part of a continuing trend in our industry – the desire (and capability) of show hosts to create highly engaging and unique experiences that adhere to their branding guidelines – or, create new brand experiences. As such, clients with the budget (or capabilities) will “in-source” the creative development and look to the virtual event platforms to “carry the payload” – providing the foundation on which the event rides, along with essential platform features and services.
Taking the game to the next level
To support the size and scale of COMDEX (virtually), event platforms will need to bring their “A game”. If the event will house hundreds of exhibitors interacting with tens of thousands of attendees, the virtual event platform will need to deliver on performance, reliability and scalability. In addition, useful platform features need to enable exhibitors to demonstrate their products and services.
Match-making tools should enable exhibitors to find the “right” attendees and for attendees to find and make useful business contacts. Lastly, the platforms need to enable pervasive use of video – both on-demand video and live-streamed video. After all, a key element of past COMDEX events was the ability to see, hear and engage (visually) with others.
The “countdown to COMDEX” is on – between now and November, I’m sure there’s plenty of work and planning to get done. In the meantime, with today’s announcement alone, a bit of history has already been made.