Last week we had the opportunity to present at the Virtualization theatre in IP EXPO’s Stockholm event. We were able to discuss IT marketing trends in Sweden with the event management team, review motivation for participation with delegates who came to the presentations, and review expected return-on-investment with sponsors. As analysts who have been tracking IT industry developments for almost 30 years, it was fascinating to reflect on what has stayed the same, and what has changed.

The genesis of trade fairs and conference was to satisfy demand by vendors for a platform to showcase their technologies and to make contact with new potential customers. Fair visitors were made up of professionals who were mostly looking for new technology suppliers to add to their evaluation, while conference delegates were more often looking for new ideas. Over time, sponsor budget constraints, availability of experienced internal resources and the competitive landscape for events has led to a blending of fairs and conferences as well as the addition of online channels such as IP EXPO online.

Attendees at IP EXPO in Stockholm ranged from procurement specialists who were looking for alternative suppliers to satisfy compliance requirements, infrastructure management professionals who were trying to solve specific technical issues around performance, interoperability, reporting and reliability, and IT managers who were looking for new ideas and better resources, including co-location and hosting providers, to help them meet internal SLAs. It was a diverse group across job functions, age groups and expectations.

Sponsors too ranged from networking, storage and systems vendors, content, search and analytics tools publishers and services providers. Some were focused on driving meetings and demos at their booth, while others prioritised running more seminar sessions. Three vendors allocated their space to their channel partners, presumably tapping into co-marketing funds. But the most striking discovery was that the busier booths had orchestrated their presence at the event with a highly co-ordinated campaign of pre-arranged meetings. A glance at their stand diaries revealed no fewer than 10 meetings per person for each day, and there were up to four representatives on the stand. That’s intense by any standard, especially as these looked to be qualified conversations.

Feedback from the event sponsors suggests the market in Sweden is stirring after about a decade of modest growth. They found leveraging the strength of an existing event brand to be useful, and sponsors and delegates were keen to explore a new experience. Judging by the strength of attendance, we have no doubt this will be a recurring event. We came away with several questions that beg further exploration:

  1. how does a sponsor compare ROI from an industry event to RPI from an in-house event?
  2. established IT industry players were not visible at this particular event, but Google, Splunk, Riverbed, Telecity and a number of local services companies were in force. Is budget allocation at industry events across a geography a lead indicator of future market share growth?
  3. budget holders were focused and eager to exchange views. For analysts like us, will these events become a better platform for engagement and discussion?

Do you attend or sponsor events, and if so, what changes have you seen since the downturn of 2008?

Image credit: Sections by tapa

Disclosure: Raimakers work with IP EXPO on several initiatives, including the Spotlight Series

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