On with the show

August 1, 2008 OpenSystems Media

The fall trade show season is quickly approaching. I am tracking more than two dozen trade shows, conferences, expos, and developers' forums on my calendar for the remainder of 2008 (see www.opensystems-publishing.com/events). Some I will attend and others I will monitor for news and announcements.

As embedded computing systems developers, do you find these events beneficial? What are your expectations when you attend an event? Are you looking for new products and new technologies, or just trying to establish or reinforce contact networks? Do you go for the conference material or the product exhibitions? Do you take time to seek out product experts that can listen to your comments and give you insight into future product advancements? Or do you just go for the T-shirts?

For me, traveling to trade shows is a great way to get a feel for what is generating buzz in the embedded computing industry. You can get a better sense of the embedded community's interest level in certain products while attending a live event than you can surfing the Web. Crowded booths often indicate a hot new product or technology, something that is capturing developers attention. Sometimes it's a sign of a great giveaway! You just can't perceive that excitement on the Internet, other than from some blog activity, but in general, the embedded industry doesn't blog well.

I also use these events to gain a deeper understanding of the industry. I look for who is exhibiting and who is absent. Exhibitor lists can tell you a lot about what is happening in the industry. Are the big names at the show? Are exhibitors making a strong impression, or sitting in the background away from the main entrances? What messages are they putting out? Are their booths large or small? What is the event traffic and attendance like? Is it as crowded as a Trekkie convention, or a candidate for a bowling alley?

There are all types of events ranging from traditional big show exhibitions with conferences to smaller developer events sponsored by larger companies and their ecosystems. Each serves a distinct purpose. The larger events are more general purpose, covering a wide variety of topics. They tend to have more sales and marketing people in attendance. The smaller events are more personal and focused. Sponsors often bring in key engineering staff to meet with attendees.

When I visit a show, I like to walk the floor searching for products or services that I think might have an impact on embedded computing designs. Sometimes I have to look closely, and things don't always catch my eye on my first pass by. Only after getting further into the show, talking to other attendees, or giving something more thought do I start to see the significance of certain products. Some companies make it especially difficult because their messages are unclear or confusing. Sometimes the best stuff is hidden in the clutter. I enjoy challenging booth staff with questions that make them explain the problems that their products or services solve for potential buyers.

Many companies use trade shows to launch new products. At the shows, you get to check out new products up close and talk to technical experts. But the Internet is changing the way companies make product announcements. In the old days, new products were launched at live events. Now many companies launch products days or weeks before a major show and then use the show to give attendees a chance to kick the proverbial tires. But nothing beats a real hands-on feel for the product and the opportunity to talk to product experts in person.

Trade shows ebb and flow with the times. I urge you to keep on the lookout for new events. Give them a test run. Watch for company-sponsored developer forums, consortia forums, and specialized events. Review the agenda beforehand and check for special sessions scheduled throughout the event. Don't always stick to the main drag; look for the sideshows. Do some homework before you go so that you know what to look for and where to find it. Your show experience will be greatly enhanced if you are prepared well before you arrive at the registration desk.

I would like to hear your opinions on these industry events. Feel free to share your comments through e-mail or visit our blog at www.embedded-computing.com to add your comments.

Jerry Gipper
Editorial Director
jgipper@opensystems-publishing.com

Jerry Gipper (Editorial Director)
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