OFC/NFOEC 2012: My First Tech Trade Show Experience

Earlier this month, I attended my very first tech trade show: OFC/NFOEC 2012. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but since I had been working hard on organizing our client CALIENT Technologies’ booth for the show, I was feeling both excited and nervous. I knew it was going to be an experience unlike any I’d ever encountered, and turns out, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

I couldn’t believe the amount of hustle and bustle that was going on at OFC/NFOEC. Everything was so organized and each exhibitor’s booth had a different look and feel to it. I had never seen so many people interacting and products on display in my entire life.

Turns out, after doing a little research that numbers were on the rise at this year’s show with nearly 800 technical presentations, 560 exhibitors, a 25 percent increase in white paper submissions and a significant increase of attendees for the fourth year in a row, growing to more than 12,000. With numbers growing larger with each year, the future of OFC/NFOEC was looking quite bright.

During this week’s staff meeting, we discussed the notion that some industry insiders believe trade shows are on the decline. I wondered why this might be, especially after attending OFC/NFOEC and observing the entire spectacle in all its glory – the booths, products, services, media, attendees…etc.

To my amazement I came across an interesting article in the technology section of The New York Times titled: “A Tech Show Loses Clout as Industry Shifts.” The article talked about the changing nature of the technology industry and the need for creative buzz and attractive branding at trade shows like CES. The story stated that product introductions were not creating the type of hype that some of the larger companies, such as Microsoft were hoping for.

Phil McKinney, who recently retired as chief technology officer for the computer division at Hewlett-Packard commented that CES has become less important for the big players in the tech industry and questioned whether the absence of these companies would cause the show to lose its pizzazz.

But, according to Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, losing these companies as exhibitors doesn’t stop the show from being able to attract some of the top executives in the high tech industry.

I believe Shapiro’s comment to be a very valid statement after attending OFC/NFOEC. Trade shows are going to gain and lose exhibitors. Companies are going to attend the same show every year believing it builds reputation. Others will leave because the show may no longer run parallel to their goals and objectives. But the high levels of engagement and networking that goes on at trade shows between some of today’s top executives will be forever present. It’s important for companies to position themselves where opportunity and future business arise.

Trade shows, in my opinion, are not on their way out. True, the future of trade shows may be shifting, but I believe shows like OFC/NFOEC will continue to play a valuable part in the industry as not only a way for companies to promote new product launches, but also as a useful tool in building strong industry ties.

So what do you think? Feel free to let us know in the comments below what your take is on the future of trade shows. We’d love to hear what you have to say.

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