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November 17, 2008

PubCon Las Vegas – A Show in Decline

Based on reports I’ve read at various SEO/SEM/Blog sites, it would be easy to conclude that the PubCon show in Las Vegas was a  major success. All the attendees must have been attending the speaker sessions because they certainly were not in evidence at the exhibit hall. The number of exhibitors appeared to be down from previous years and frankly, given this year’s attendance, I’d be surprised if 10 – 15 showed up next year.  On Thursday, there were more Exhibit Booth personnel on the floor than attendees. A sad turnout and obviously disappointing for exhibitors.

Pubcon, like many similar shows, comes across as a show for industry experts by industry experts. As a draw for newbies, webmasters and netpreneurs, it definitely tanked. Here are a couple of reasons why:

1. Poor site information. I registered online and expected to receive my badge by mail. Nothing I saw online indicated that badges would be sent by mail, but if they had been, it would have saved the time I spent at the registration booth. It took me 5 minutes to find any information at the Pubcon site on where to complete registration: . The site indicated badges could be picked up at the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. I stood in line for 20 minutes at the South Hall only to find out badges could only be obtained in the North Hall – about a quarter mile away for those unfamilar with the Hilton. I pointed this mis-information out when I reached the North Hall but no one seemed particularly interested.

2. No signage. Yes, Pubcon was in the North Convention Hall of the Hilton, but the Hilton convention complex is massive and a sign outside would have been helpful and might even have attracted some people off the street.

3. Promotion. I find it hard to believe this show was promoted in any significant way. I’ve seen wakes that were better attended. Time to bring in the dancing showgirls.

Bottom line is that unless there are some major changes by the show’s organizers, Pubcon will be following Comdex and similar shows to the geek conference graveyard.

11 Responses to “PubCon Las Vegas – A Show in Decline

    avatar Jon says:

    I agree about the signage. But there’s more to a conference than directions to it – like, you know, the conference itself, which had excellent keynotes and sessions as always.

    avatar Mel Strocen says:

    I agree that there’s more to a conference than directions to it, but when the exhibit hall is empty, there is a problem. The keynotes and sessions may have been great but that just makes my point that this show and others like it appeal more to industry insiders who are both speakers and audience. I can name a dozen attendees who fall into that category and who love Pubcon.

    avatar Brett Tabke says:

    Thanks for the article. It indeed was a major success. By all accounts (except yours) it was as rock solid a conference as ever. I heard numerous old school conf attendees remark that it was the best conference in the industry ever. We have received a deluge of compliments and positive comments.

    > expo hall

    Is always heaven and hell at PubCon. It is always packed, or empty due to the (as you said) outstanding sessions. Wednesday morning after it opened, we looked around and there was not a single booth staff person who was not talking with someone and had someone waiting for their time as well. One exhibitor said: “We paid for our entire bill while at the show the first day” – SEOmoz.

    I know as an ex-exhibitor, it was tough for you guys to be able to afford exhibiting in this environment. We certainly never have – and don’t intend to tie exhibiting to speaking like some wanted us too. We also reached out with discounts for multi year signups. However, I know it is a tough enconomy and even that wasn’t enough for some to come out and exhibit at the show. We hope to get you guys back next year!

    avatar purposeinc says:

    I can tell you my session I spoke at was a huge hit, with lots of people raving about it.

    Attendance may have been down a little bit overall (just from looking), but man, most people have half the cash in their portfolio they did last year, so that would be expected.

    I spoke to one dude who closed a 30k deal on the first day there.

    For me as an attendee, the event was a major success.

    I know lots of other people whose businesses are not growing as much, but still growing and did some great business there.

    I think the industry is simply shaking off some dead weight, but the key players are still killing it.

    Pubcon seemed seamless with no glitches that I could see, except maybe a little drop in attendance.

    The creative, successful entrepreneurs were all still there. I think it was just missing some of the dead weight.

    I had the time of my life.


    avatar Perry says:

    Maybe your lack of foot traffic to your booth had something to do with your booth…

    I have attended many many conferences (pucons, ses, smx – whatever) and I didn’t get any vibe of poor attendance, bad content or disgruntled exhibitors.

    As a matter of fact, I thought this past pubcon (from an attendee perspective) was significantly better than some of the other shows I’ve attended this year. I have heard plenty of people saying exactly the same thing…

    So maybe you might consider your booth and your pitch a little bit before you just dump on the conference itself.

    avatar Mel Strocen says:

    We didn’t have a booth this year at Pubcon and my comments regarding attendance, signage, errors on the Pubcon site still stand. Defensive responses don’t address those issues and display an unwillingness to consider improvements that would make the show better for exhibitors and attendees. Most people don’t bother expressing their dissatisfaction, they respond by not attending or buying booth space.

    avatar Perry says:

    I see. So, did you attend at all?

    avatar Perry says:

    and i’m not being defensive. i just left the show with a very different impression than what you’ve posted.

    avatar Mel Strocen says:

    Yes, I attended the show – walked the exhibit hall on Thursday. And, I’m quite aware of the different perspective that others had – Brett mentionned it and the show received positive coverage in a number of blogs and publications. And, that’s great. My perspective was as an attendee and former exhibitor and as someone who spoke to other attendees and booth staff.

    avatar Mike says:

    I was there as both an attendee and as a speaker. It was an impressive conference–in fact I might come back on my own nickel if I don’t speak next year. And I can’t recall ever saying that about a show before.

    Regarding the expo hall… I did see a lot of no-traffic booths. Personal opinion was that many of the booths did not seem relevant to my interests, and some of them had the classic “we don’t really want traffic” symptoms, such as people heads-down doing email, in one case I think just a table and a sign with the company name, and a number of other very small companies that came across as small.

    I’ve exhibited at many shows, all the way back to Comdex, and advice would be that trade shows really suck in terms of return on investment. At least compared to online marketing.

    avatar John Beagle says:

    I thought the show was quite good and I have attended numerous SMX and SES conferences.

    The positives clearly outweighed the negatives. Twitter as a clear step in the right direction was highlighted at the conference.

    It was another chance to meet and speak with industry professionals. Some I knew from previous conferences, others I met for the first time.

    Really, for the money, it was well worth my time. Plus I had the best time at the Rain party put on by Webmaster Radio and Microsoft.

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