31 May Conference roundup: ITEC Milwaukee smaller, friendlier
MILWAUKEE – Now that information on the latest technology is available almost in real-time on the Web, trade shows are not the only place to look at what is new in tech. That could explain the relatively small number of booths at the ITEC conference in Milwaukee that were demonstrating products. Only a handful had working computers.
Instead, the conference participants were networking.
“I don’t need to see the coolest gadgets on the market anymore,” said Warren Weaver, event director for the conference. “I need to see what works for my business.”
Marketing budgets are beginning to rise again after a slump, Weaver said, but many exhibitors still bought the smallest available booths this year, making the conference look smaller. But some exhibitors said there really were fewer people.
“It gets smaller every year, but I think that’s trade shows in general, not just technology shows,” said Don Muehlbauer, president of TechWorks and an exhibitor for eInnovate, a southeast Wisconsin technology trade organization.
Nevertheless, Muehlbauer said he was satisfied with the turnout because he met more high-level technology workers and decision-makers than last year, where job-seekers composed much of the crowd.
Steven Lurie, chief executive of storage management company Prism Technologies, Inc., said the trade show was not about selling but about meeting people and building initial relationships – and half a day out of the office. Shows also give customers an idea of who is still around year after year.
“It’s no longer, ‘Oh, let me see the glitz,’” he said.
Mike Spude of the Isthmus Group, a Madison-based Sun reseller and Java development firm, said the ITEC Madison conference foundered because more people went to the Web for information. Nevertheless, his company was one of those with a product demo: the Sun Ray, a dumb terminal with a processor and memory but no hard drive that uses ID cards for login management.
Weaver said the Madison conference was not administered by the same group as the Milwaukee conference.
Several vendors commented on the general nature of the conference. It did not focus on a group, such as education or health care, or a technology, but was a meeting place for a range of local companies and representatives of international firms. The main presentation tracks were security and wireless Wednesday, and open source and business processes Thursday.
“We need that kind of show here,” said Paul Hildebrandt, president of Oconomowoc-based Hildebrandt Enterprises. “We need a tech conference. If you split it up there won’t be enough people.”
The 67 exhibitors on the event floor included just one trade group, eInnovate, though representatives of the Milwaukee-based Network and Systems Professionals Association eschewed a booth in favor of wandering the floor and passing out information to exhibitors.
The rest of the booths represented companies selling products as diverse as wireless, cable, training programs and refurbished printers.
“This is the place for the small to medium-size-business person to come to find help with everything their business does,” Weaver said.
Jason Stitt is a staff writer for the Wisconsin Technology Network and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.