HIGH-TECH RICHES, LOW-TECH PITCHES AT WEB TRADE SHOW, NO SUBSTITUTE FOR
(Hartford Courant; 10/09/98)
With their laptops, cell phones and personal digital assistants, today's hot-
wired executives pride themselves on being able to do business with anyone from
But those same business people still felt the need to leave home and office
behind this week to gather at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for the
Fall Internet World trade show.
Forget the buzzwords about "virtual meetings" and "on-line commerce." When
it comes to doing serious business, even the digital elite turn to the time-
honored traditions of handshakes, eye contact and schmoozing.
All of which is why Internet World, the industry's largest trade show,
continues to thrive despite the encroachments of the Information Age on other
forms of commerce.
By the time the weeklong event closes late this afternoon, Westport-based
Mecklermedia, which organizes the show, expects that 50,000 people will have
passed through the Javits center in search of the latest Internet and World
Wide Web technologies.
"It's human interaction, and human interaction will never be replaced,"
explains Alan M. Meckler, the company's chairman and chief executive.
For exhibitors, Internet World offers a chance to reach out to customers and
prospects in ways that cyberspace, for all its vaunted interactivity, has not
come close to matching.
"Companies are nothing but people. And at a trade show, you've got a shot
at talking to those people," said Doug Drose, marketing communications
director for Inverse Network Technology Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif.
Drose, standing at the company's booth on the show floor, said that despite
technology's march, face-to-face discussions remain the most effective way for
people to communicate. "I don't think the Web will ever be good for that," he
His opinion was seconded by Thomas Malleis, an executive for Health
Solutions Inc. who traveled from Detroit to attend Internet World.
"The technicians are here -- the people that really know the product," said
Malleis, who was comparing Web-based data-gathering software. "By coming here,
I get a chance to look at the product and make a decision."
Bjorn Jonsson traveled from Iceland to attend Internet World with a similar
quest: to help his employer, the Iceland postal service, learn about
technologies that could help it ship the mail more efficiently.
"We are experts in transportation, but not technology," Jonsson said. "Here
you have a comprehensive overview of the state of the art."
Exhibitors and attendees alike touted the convenience of being able to see a
wide variety of technologies at a single time and place, all while being freed
from the interruptions and pressures of a normal workday.
"It's hard to find as many things in such a short period of time," said
Robert Travinsky, of Castrol North America in Wayne, N.J. "In a couple of
hours, you can see a lot."
Alexander Richardson, president of Branford-based Lexitech, which makes
computerized kiosk displays, said attendees aren't the only ones gathering
valuable information at trade shows. Exhibitors can also learn a lot about
their prospective customers if they plan properly, he said.
"The trade shows are hopefully going to separate out all the serious buyers
from the people who are just kicking the tires," Richardson said. "It's a very
efficient way to do business."
In a fast-moving industry such as the Internet, trade shows and the
professional conferences that typically accompany them provide a handy way for
executives to stay current with the latest technological developments.
Keeping tabs on the competition is a side benefit. "It's the perfect
opportunity to see who's doing what with who," said Michele Dotterer, an
account executive with Detroit-based Intelisys.
Yet another advantage of trade shows is their habit of offering actual
product demonstrations. Although it's one thing to hear a product described,
it's often quite another to actually see the product in action.
To be sure, software-makers will often ship demonstration versions of their
products to prospective business clients. But that requires the recipients to
install the software and figure out how to operate it on their own.
Then, too, there's the serendipity of stumbling across something interesting
at a trade show that you might not otherwise have found.
"There's no question that you could get a lot of the same information by
going on the Web," said John Pallatto, a senior editor at Internet Business
magazine. "But here, you get to see the whole landscape all at once."
But there is a price to be paid -- usually in the form of sore feet, aching
backs, stiff shoulders and bleary eyes.
A weary Sigi Hoehle, an editor from Germany, seemed to embody that
exhaustion as she rested on a stool near the close of Wednesday's exhibition.
Had she done a lot of walking that day?
"Yes," she said conspiratorially, "but actually it was in SoHo shopping."