Mark your calendars: trade shows worth your time in 2007

From monster events to boutique conferences, we highlight the best bets

There’s a reason Comdex went away, and it wasn’t the overpriced Las Vegas hotel rooms.

Comdex, once the mother of all IT-related events, faded away after its last season in 2003, too big for its own good. Maybe showcasing padded laptop bags next to enterprise switches wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Today the trend among industry events is toward focus; conferences such as the gadget-happy Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and network-centric Interop exemplify that with a little bit of tailoring a trade show can offer real value. But, some would argue that as successful shows such as these grow in size they often lose the focus that made them worthwhile in the first place.


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“The historical cycle in trade shows in the technology arena has been to bulk up as any given segment gets bigger and bigger,” says Gary Bolles, co-founder of Conferenza, a blog that tracks executive conferences in technology. “As an industry matures there is still a need for the larger get-togethers to aggregate people, but [then] it tends to segment.”

Enter the boutique event. These smaller shows with a tight focus on one aspect of technology — think VON, CTIA Wireless, RSA Conference — promise greater value and fewer sore feet than sprawling trade shows that try to be everything to everyone.

It’s the popularity of the Internet — where information on just about anything can be sliced and diced within seconds — that has brought about the focused trade show of today, says Rick Geritz, CEO of BD Metrics, makers of attendee-relationship management technology.

However, the larger shows still offer value, especially for attendees looking to investigate three or four technologies at a single event.

Today there are ways to avoid wandering aimlessly through conference halls; many shows including Interop offer conferences within a conference that stack up sessions dedicated to a topic such as network security or mobility. And companies such as BD Metrics have developed technology that attempts to make a boutique show out of a sprawling expo by highlighting only what the attendee wants to learn about — based on title, keywords, vendors they want to contact and so on — in the context of a full-content event, Geritz says.

Whether attending a boutique show that caters to your specialty or trying to make the most of a monster event, we know your time and travel dollars are precious. So we’ve scanned the IT trade show calendar for 2007 to come up with a list of events that will likely offer the most bang for your buck.

Incorporating the experiences of the Network World staff, which collectively will have attended dozens of events in 2006, following is a list of what we think will be worth your time:

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