Cebit (and expos) are they DEAD or ALIVE

At 5:00 on 6 August, Cebit-America’s German owners pulled the plug and effectively shut down operations for Cebit America.

I talked with Bill Sell(left), Managing Partner, Expo Advisors; formerly Vice President, Brand and Customer Development, CeBIT America.
Although Cebit was not cash flow positive this year, it would have been profitable in 2005. However, due to money problems the German backers of Cebit America could not continue funding Cebit America’s operations which included 12 staff and other expenses that go with producing an exposition.
Cebit America is now looking for a buyer There’s one offer on the table and one other offer with serious consideration.
What assets does Cebit have?
There’s a huge database of 800 journalists, 35,000 attendees and a 6,000 subscriber email newsletter (two newsletters – one for exhibits and one for marketing); the contract with Javits for June 2005 and the brand positioning of Cebit.
One person who would want this database in my personal opinion, is Alan Meckler, who now heads Jupiter Media and and has launched his own expo (after also founding Internet World several years ago).
When Freedom Communications was closing their stable of media properties, including Small Business Computing, I was instrumental in connecting to Freedom Communications
With all the problems trade shows are going through, what makes a trade show work?
Why do some fail and some succeed? There’s a decent amount of luck that takes place – but there’s some serious execution in the mix as well. East coast expos work best if the show is for end users (as opposed to being for tech vendors) as the East coast is more densely populated and full of corporate headquarters.
Is it all about FREE. FREE. FREE. attendees? I’ve been to many expos where just about anyone who showed up was let in for free. But these are often not the attendees the exhibitors want.
Cebit was out to change this and had 18 data points and at least 3 had to be correct to get a free pass. An important part of attendees are system integrators and consultants. These guys (for the most part – Lynn, Lena, Jennifer don’t get upset) influence the technology spending of many companies.
PC Expo is set to launch in October, but it’s also in financial trouble. Furthermore, there’s a fierce battle between exhibit managements. Cebit was set to carpet bomb PC EXPO with its own announcements to take advantage of the media buzz around PC EXPO.
What about ZD Net’s Business 4 Site? The Los Angeles expo did not do well at all on the West Coast – the East Coast version might do better. ZD Net should concentrate on micro-niche events
(theme park operators, accountants, legal field, medical profession, etc).
Expositions don’t always have to think about doing a big event. ZD Net aims to be an intimate gathering instead of a huge expo, but 10,000 attendees is not exclusive or intimate.
What does work?

The ultra-chick and very exclusive DEMO – does well. Chris Shipley(left), executive producer of Demo takes a careful look at who’s applying, has a big price tag and lofty criteria for who can attend. With venture capitalists, the media and other movers and shakers in the room – getting exhibitors does not look like that much of a problem.
Think of an event that can take a new product to the next level? They are not here anymore. Years ago, companies would time their product launches around expos now they are launched anytime.
There’s no more “mega launches” like Windows 95. New technologies such as WiFi and VOIP are taking off – but they are not specific to any one company. A media tour, web cast and press release are what companies now do to launch a product.
Expositions still offer a better value for companies. It’s cheaper to be at an expo where hundreds of journalists and thousands of customers are brought to you.
There’s three audiences an expo producer must cater to:
The exhibitor – they must feel value;
The attendee – they have to find the products they want and connect with exhibitors; is it worthwhile? Is it easy to get too?
The press – can they find products that their audiences want to know about? This is one reason why the private press events work well.
We don’t know what will happen to Cebit but you can be assured that expos are NOT going away. (and neither is Bill).