On The Subject of NAB (and Avid)

Now that Avid has pulled out from NAB and won’t be exhibiting in 2008, here have been a lot of users and other folks wondering what it means and what the industry thinks of it. the immediate reaction of the entire industry was to exclaim, “No shit?” and 2.3 seconds later, after the full import of what that meant hit them, was to call their NAB sales rep and promise all manner of favors if they could move their booth to front and center of the show floor.

Since I’m hardly above such things (”I was young and poor and needed the booth space”), I joined in, attempting to move our Plugin Pavilion into the now vacant space of the Avid Developer Community booth. I even had the person from Avid that managed the ADC to call NAB on our behalf. All that got me was a terse email from our NAB rep saying we would definitely NOT be getting it. It’s the new sport in HD, groveling for Avid’s booth space. Look for it on the LVCC cafeteria monitors (instead of the usual strip club ads).

Somewhat more seriously, I think Avid’s decision says more about tradeshows than it does about Avid itself (or anything else). Personally, I more or less believe the official line that Avid is going to roll out some customer service initiatives and the money is being better spent there. There’s been some speculation that a merger is in the works and I think that’s unlikely. Usually mergers are preceded by less noise, not more. Avid’s gone out of their way to make a big deal about this both publically and internally to employees. The other reason to discount a merger is that they’re giving up the best booth location possible. If you’re going to exhibit, that’s the location you want. Also, Avid hasn’t done a booth at IBC since 2005 and doesn’t appear to be worse for it.

The other issue to consider is whether tradeshows really give you enough bang for your buck. As a smaller company, NAB is still critical to us. However we’ve stopped doing smaller shows, like DV Expo, because we
don’t get enough out of it. Judging from the size of the DV Expo show floor we’re not the only ones. If you’re Avid and dropping a million+ bucks on NAB… what else can you buy with that million+? If you’re spending that much money, are you really getting that back? Tradeshows aren’t going away. I think people still like to get together, network, go for drinks, and test drive the products. Sending messages over LinkedIn and reading press releases just isn’t the same. However, many shows are diminishing in importance. For us, a 10×10 is plenty of booth space, especially as part of the Plugin Pavilion. Folks can come out, say hello, see new products, make sure we’re still in business, etc. A much larger booth doesn’t really buy us that much more, IMHO. For a company like Avid, it’s different because you can’t really downsize the booth. If you do, you end up with all the same speculation that people are doing now. It’s either go big, or don’t go because going small gets pretty much the same reaction.

I think the main reason tradeshows still exist is we need to convince ourselves (and perhaps the IRS) that there is legitimate business stuff going on. The important stuff is the dinner, drinks, gambling, etc. (Truly critical to developing business relationships)… so do you really need to spend a ton of money on a booth? I don’t know… Just show up and do the dinner and drinks part. And as a bonus you don’t have to be at the booth at 9am! (yeah, I know… wishful thinking on my part)

So if they want to take the money and do a bunch of roadshows instead, that might not be such a bad idea. Given that the economy seems to be slowing a bit, hotel rates and plane fares are increasing at a good clip, I wouldn’t be surprised if NAB had a flat year anyways. It might not be a bad time to go out to customers instead of requiring them to come to you. I don’t know if this is Avid’s plan, all I’m saying is that there are ways of reaching out to customers that don’t involve tradeshows.

Either way I give them credit for going against the conventional wisdom and blowing off NAB. Maybe it’s a mistake and they’ll be back in 2009, but maybe this is just the tip of the iceberg and we’ll see some changes in the way conferences and tradeshows are done, who participates, and who attends

cheers, Jim

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