Home > Alignment > When Does Event Co-Location Work?

When Does Event Co-Location Work?

This is a story about two trade shows, and the slippery subject of industry alignment. I spent Wednesday this week at Medical Design & Manufacturing East, a Canon Communications production at the Javits Center. At least I think I did. The trade show floor is a Balkanized map of several events including East Pack, Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, Automation Technology Expo, and Green Manufacturing Expo. As you move about the floor, you pass from show to show, sometimes without knowing it. The exhibitors I spoke with were not concerned about, and some were not even aware of, the patchwork configuration of this event. In this case the event is big enough to mitigate any confusion. Automation technology professionals might wander into the Medical Design event, but not to the point that a Medical Design exhibitor would say that he was seeing the wrong kinds of people. And if a medical device designer was also interested in automation technology, so much the better. Also, Canon is an extremely professional event production group, and that dedication shows up in details like documentation and signage. So a reasonable degree of industry alignment is maintained, and exhibitors get access to several large audiences.

But bad co-location can be like a cancer on an event. I worked for several years on the largest smart card industry event in the US. This event was essentially a co-location of two industry events: one for security/ID and one for financial services. One group uses smart cards for identity purposes and the other for payment services. Simple, right? Everybody uses the same card technology, so why not put the whole thing together? Except these groups are like night and day. Imagine an event that tried to attract both farmers and airline pilots. How would you create a marketing message that appeals to both groups? The obvious answer was to split and try to grow two smaller shows. Except every financial scenario showed an immediate drop in net profits, with no guarantee of future success. The company opted for the “safe” status quo, which was essentially a guarantee of future failure: the event eroded steadily and consistently, year after year. Industry alignment got worse, and the exhibitors got a smaller and smaller audience.

One last word about the very relative perception of success: The Medical Design show was packed. There were hundreds of attendees in every aisle, and it was difficult to speak with some exhibitors because they were busy with potential clients. I know a dozen shows that would kill to have that kind of traffic. But when I spoke to exhibitors, several were disappointed. Their perception was that the event was down from the previous year.

  1. June 26th, 2009 at 20:13 | #1

    Hey Bill,

    Good to have you back blogging again. Interesting write up about event co-location. I was actually part of an events team which basically created many of the ideas that are still be used or just now being used in the events industry – two of note were segmentation and co-location. Segmentation is nothing more than grouping companies in their specific industry niche within an event. At COMDEX back in the late 90′s when the show complaints about being too big were becoming too common we split the show floor into different technology segments and we were back then the first to do this. We were strategic about the technology segments or(or themes we would call them) that we choose and went with what was hot in the IT marketplace for that show cycle. I remember when IT security started to get real hot (like it still is) and shows like RSA Security were just a company and not the leading security event we had the entire North Hall of the LVCC labeled under the security and it worked out great. Seperate exhibit areas, seperate conference program – a basically a targeted and focuses approach within a huge general IT event.

    You mention co-location which in my opinion is segmentation for the event managment companies but usually has no benefit for the attendee – it is same concept being strected to the point of event management companies just looking to run two events with the operational costs of 1 or 1 1/2 events but in many instances it does not make sense further than that.

    As you know many of those decisions have been made to help struggling events or declining events generate more profit by reducing costs and co-locating with other events (usually owned by the same company)in the same venue.

    That is for now as again I go into a long winded response.

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  4. April 26th, 2013 at 00:35 | #4

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  5. April 28th, 2013 at 07:32 | #5

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