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Gartner Retreats From Events

Recently Gartner announced that they would cancel their Spring ITExpo. This follows last year’s divestment of their highly successful Gartner Vision Events. I can’t find any mention of Vision Events on the TechWeb site. Does anyone know what happened here?

Anyway, it’s been interesting to watch Gartner slowly retreat from the event business. While they still maintain an extensive slate of customer-focused “summits” and “seminars,” they have shed or shut down big events with the most potential for generating vendor revenue. I’m sure that this has mostly to with the current macroeconomic winter. But I’ve heard enough from within Gartner to guess that a bigger issue might “editorial hypersensitivity.” Here’s the story:

Before Gartner had an extensive events business, I was marketing Miller Freeman’s Software Development conferences and working closely with Gartner on speakers and cooperative promotion. They were a great source for expert speakers on almost any technology issue, and were eager to get their analysts in front of an audience. I remember thinking that they were potentially a huge, sleeping competitor. They had everything that was necessary to drive huge business in events: A rock-solid reputation, the industry expertise necessary to produce great content, dedicated clients, eager vendors, and few competitive issues. Gartner finally figured this out and their events business really took off under the leadership of Phil McKay, late of Penton.

This expanding business is outside of Gartner’s core production of high-priced reports and consulting services, produced by an army of analyst “super editors.” While B2B editors may jealously guard their editorial integrity, Gartner analysts cultivate a religious devotion to integrity. As a reward, they are often regarded as industry oracles by deferential followers.

Here’s where the hypersensitivity comes in: I was trying to recruit a speaker from Gartner recently and was told that they may no longer participate in competing events. This potential speaker was not happy with the policy, and was especially unhappy with the idea that Gartner had become such a high-profile trade show producer.

Speaking at industry events is a great way for a super editor to raise his or her profile, enjoy the presence of a worshipful audience, and enjoy a free trip. Now they were blocked from doing so at Gartner’s many competitors. At the same time they are tied by Gartner corporate branding to these big vendor-driven events. Even the slightest whiff of “pay for play” can shrivel a great industry oracle. I’m sure this discontent is voiced loudly, and echoes in the executive offices at Gartner.

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