With all the doom and gloom talk regarding the global economy, many attendees and exhibitors came to ITEXPO recently in Miami with low expectations. A few exhibitors told me candidly the show could have been justifiably down 30 percent.
Instead, we went into the show with exhibit hall/VIP registration 30 percent ahead of last year. But would they show up? Yes, IP communications saves companies money. Yes, it makes them more productive and efficient. And yes, SIP trunking and a host of other technologies are what is needed by companies in this tough economy.
Sadly though, not all CFOs care what is best for their companies so they lock down travel budgets, keeping people from coming to shows to learn about technologies they need to help boost the bottom line.
The final tally? The show was up 15 percent in total attendance. The quality according to most exhibitors was better than any prior ITEXPO - going back to 1999! I wondered how many people would be coming to the show looking for work. I heard from exhibitors there may have been 1-2 resumes distributed throughout the three day event.
While much of the economy is in a deep economic slump, there is a large amount of optimism in communications industry based on exhibitors I spoke with. To get a balanced perspective I asked for the comments from others on the show and the industry. I want to take a moment to thank all of you who came to the show to make it a success. We could not have done it without you.
The IP communications industry has always been full of surprises. Surely anyone lucky enough to have attended the recent ITEXPO East 2009 at the Miami Beach Convention Center got to experience what happens when fortune smiles on an industry surrounded by global economic uncertainty.
As testimony to those present who participated in this terrific show, I'd like to share with you a sampling of some of the voluminous and complimentary email traffic sent to us by overjoyed ITEXPO East exhibitors and attendees.
Initially, many people (myself included) worried a bit as we jetted to Miami to attend ITEXPO East. There have been major downturns in the economy and at least one industry pundit had declared "the death of VoIP" -- erroneously, as it turns out. There was in fact no reason for any apprehension on the part of ITEXPO East exhibitors and attendees, as the show was a great success, as you can see by the following:
"I'm going to admit that on my flight down to Miami I was worried about what I might find at the Internet Telephony Conference and Expo. What I found was a pleasant surprise. The energy was high, the conference robust and the exhibit hall impressively packed with people interested in VoIP. If the Internet Telephone Conference and Expo is any indication of the health of the VoIP industry, I'd say things are looking pretty darn good." -- Garrett Smith, Director of Marketing, VoIP Supply.
"The show exceeded my expectations in terms of the numbers of attendees and the interest and enthusiasm of the audience for the products and services that were showcased. For Ingate, the SIP Trunking seminar series drew the largest attendance of any of the previous 5; we scanned 393 names -- a definite record. And the participants came to each of the seminars that we presented. The first day is always great. But this time, on the third day -- which for trade shows is usually a slow day -- the audience was quite large right up until the end... From the discussions I had, people are really looking for technology and services that will lower their operating costs as they prepare to weather lean financial times. ITEXPO is the show for people looking for Voice-over-IP solutions that accomplish this goal. And SIP Trunking is a service that presents a concrete opportunity for savings. One of our presenters, Kool Smiles, highlighted that they had achieved a reduction of 40 percent on their telephony bill by converting to SIP Trunking and paid for their phone system upgrade in less than 12 months. And, after a year in service, they are very pleased with the quality of the service and the features of their system. We hear much anecdotal evidence like this from our customers and others. By offering a forum for these type of breakthrough technologies and services, ITEXPO and the SIP Trunking seminars offer businesses an opportunity to learn about these services and plan for their implementation. We look forward to the next ITEXPO in October 2009." -- Steven J. Johnson, President, Ingate Systems Inc.
"ITEXPO East 2009 was a breath of fresh air. Despite beginning to feel suffocated by the endless rhetoric of a worsening economic climate and a decrease in buying power, what VoicePulse experienced at ITEXPO was a real world example that businesses are in fact ready to buy. As a Voice-over-IP service provider, the amount of booth traffic VoicePulse received and the qualified leads generated from ITEXPO only reassured us in our belief that the market is truly ripe for a serious commitment to VoIP. When it comes to IP telephony, what were once only business concepts have now matured into specific business models that are reshaping the communications market. Not suprisingly, VoicePulse was able to witness that first hand at this conference." -- Ravi Sakaria, President & CEO, VoicePulse.
"I want to congratulate you and the TMC team for such an excellent show. This expo as well as the last expo in LA brought together many professionals in the VoIP business. Both shows have been a real success for us both in terms of new contacts and closing major deals." -- Fred Hakim, President, DalCom USA Ltd.
"I must say I too have been listening to such negative news on the streets, TV, media and so on. I did not know what to expect from your show in Miami. I must confess it was probably one of the best shows I have attended for a while. We ran out of magazines by the end of the show, we also met with very quality leads and walking around the floor talking to exhibitors I was told several times they almost pulled out of the show and this is what they told me, 'What a mistake we would have made. This is turning out to be a super show'. I must agree with them. People who missed this show missed out on a great opportunity to establish themselves in the market. Well done TMC. Great show!" -- Berge Kaprelian, Group Publisher, ChannelVision Magazine.
"Yes, there was a grave problem that I want Rich and his team to address immediately. That problem prevented me from visiting the other exhibitors at ITEXPO. Yes, it was that bad. You see, the attendance of this show was so great that I had meetings booked end-to-end with qualified prospects every single day of the show. Not even enough time to ingest proteins or alleviate basic necessities. So next time make sure that you have less people attending the show. This type of awesome success can be a 'problem'! Kidding aside: congratulations on a great show. It was way beyond all my expectations." -- Alexandre Hebra, VP Logistics & Operations, Commlogik Corporation.
"A whopping 61.5 percent of the attendees fit our customer profile: Resellers, VARs and Service Providers who provide Hosted PBX services to the SMB market. We went home with piles of solid leads. ITEXPO is the show that brings in real buyers." -- Moshe Maeir, Chief Flattening Officer, The Flat Planet Phone Co.
"For us at Xorcom, it was the best ITEXPO ever!" -- Ruth Bridger, Vice President, Marketing, Xorcom.
The Quality of the Attendees
Ultimately, Expos are all about vendors and service providers harvesting as many "quality" sales leads as possible. Nothing can be more frustrating for an exhibitor than encountering end-users or others who are just gawping at technology, with no intention of buying anything. The flip side of this, of course, is the case of an eager buyer who can't find a best-of-breed vendor. Fortunately, TMC Expos have the best vendors, highest quality attendees and most well-informed conference speakers, all in great abundance:
"I cannot start to tell you how awesome this show was for Zultys. I was doing demos from the second we opened to when the lights went off, and most of the time to 2 and 3 dealers or customers at the same time. We ran out of brochures, cards, price lists, EVERYTHING. I severely underestimated the success -- Only 1 day after the show. The only thing I regret about the show is that I did not bring enough people from Zultys to help me manage the traffic. We hope to be a part of that show EVERYWHERE. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you all... P.S. Since we are hiring big time, I was also able to fill a couple of positions -- saved me the time and money to advertize -- I had people come to ME instead of me go to them. It was truly the place to meet Vendors, Clients, Dealers and seal in relationships that would go well beyond 2009." -- Pierre Kerbage, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Zultys, Inc.
"Digium was thrilled by the excitement and attendance of the many high quality buyers at IT Expo and Digium Asterisk World! In this difficult economy, customers are looking for ways to reduce expenses while improving their business communications systems. This event gave customers and resellers a unique venue to research new, innovative VoIP and open source telephony solutions, available at a fraction of the cost of traditional communications systems. After the show closed and the exhibits were being torn down, Digium and several of our Asterisk ecosystem partners still had customers in the pavilion asking for more information! In this era of doom and gloom, we're elated with the success of the event and the new opportunities for innovative VoIP and open source telephony solutions!" -- Leslie S. Conway, Vice President, Global Marketing, Digium, Inc.
"I just wanted to express our thanks to TMCnet for putting on a wonderful show and for voting STS Telecom the Best Booth at ITEXPO! The number of qualified leads we received surpassed even our highest expectations. The pre-show support was tremendous as was your teams help at the show. We accomplished our goal of reaching new VARs and expanding our brand recognition. We already looking forward to next year's show." -- Bob Jans, Director of Sales, STS Telecom.
"The qualified leads we received at the show was beyond our expectations. It was the one of the most focused shows we have been at in years! We were also very pleased to see the many companies looking for business from Latin America." -- Greg Hamburg, Director of Sales , Voipswitch.
"We are in the Internet Telephony business and were really pleased by the quality and industry-relevance of the attendees... We've already signed up for next year as well as the coming event in California. Companies in this space cannot afford to miss your shows. Keep up the good work!" -- Carlos Rodriguez, Technical Sales Manager, Ecocarrier Inc.
"It was a great show with expositors showing the newest technology in our field. I'm sure we'll start seeing the benefits of having attended in the coming weeks as we develop the leads." -- Jose L Landivar, Commercial Director, Elastix.org.
"Thank you. We really enjoyed the show, organized in a great way and [there was] tremendous interest in our products displayed." -- Fredrik Hörnkvist, President, Konftel.
"I like many went to Miami expecting the worst. I arrived and thought, 'Wow, there are a lot of people here, but are they buying?' Our firm had several clients at the show and each where excited about the about the amount of traffic and quality of leads generated. Real money is being spent. Thanks TMC! ITEXPO may be the shot in the arm that the industry very much needed!" -- Michael Becce, CEO, MRB Public Relations, Inc.
"I'll just say we were overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised by the turnout. We've exhibited at a number of regional trade shows in the past few months and have found both exhibitors and attendees down significantly. The fact that ITEXPO attendance was up -- and that many of the attendees traversed borders and great distances to be there speaks to the prominence of ITEXPO as a key industry event. Many of the attendees we spoke with gravitated to open-source technologies like Asterisk -- both for the flexibility and the economic efficiencies they bring to the table." -- Corey S. McFadden, Managing Partner, Infradapt LLC.
Robust Conference Sessions
One way to gauge the quality of show attendees and how serious they are about adopting IP communications are found in workings of the conference sessions. It becomes immediately evident to presenters the size and quality of any given conference session audience.
"I arrived at the convention center for the keynote session in which I presented Nortel's Open UC strategy, admittedly with some concerns -- after all, we were in the middle of a recession. To my surprise, I found the room full with 200 attendees, who fired away with thoughtful questions into overtime, even though the bar and exhibition floor were open. Clearly, the attitude was to invest in technology and prepare for better times." -- Tony Rybczynski, Director Strategic Enterprise Technologies, Nortel.
"I presented at three sessions: a panel on IP call recording, a co-presentation on VoIP QoS, and a presentation on UC security. All went off without a hitch, but what impressed me most were the people who attended the sessions. Not only was attendance excellent, even for my 8:30 presentation on Wednesday morning, but those who attended seemed to be paying close attention and then asked intelligent, well though-out questions both during the presentations and at their conclusions. This was consistent for each of the sessions in which I participated. I must also say that my co-presenters were all excellent in their own right... I thought the show was well-organized, and from my vantage point, well-attended in spite of the current economic climate." -- Jonathan Zarkower, Director, Product Marketing, Acme Packet.
"The 4G conference in Miami this past week far exceeded my expectation. It was an enriching opportunity to meet top-level communication specialists, CEOs, and telecom visionaries. We shared thoughts on which technologies will become prevalent and how it will impact our day-to-day life. We debated, discussed and shared insight on speculative technologies and how and when they may become a reality. And what preparations will be necessary to leap into the next generation and ensure that we are prepared. It was a privilege and an honor to moderate a panel with Intel and be amongst the top technology thinkers of our time and learn what the communication landscape will look like tomorrow." -- Ari Zoldan, CEO, Quantum Networks, LLC.
Our Unmatched Customer Care
When times get tough, boosting customer care to the maximum extent possible is necessary. Indeed, surprising opportunities can arise in such circumstances. We at TMC have always put customer care first, whether it involves exhibitors, attendees, or conference speakers/presenters, and everybody appreciates it:
"What I appreciate a lot at the TMC shows, is the care and deference you give all presenters. In my experience of countless shows and presentations, I can tell you that your team is #1. Congratulations and thanks!" -- Manuel Vexler, Vice President of Technology for the IMS/NGN Forum.
"I thank you and I appreciate the step-by-step guidelines that you and your team gave me through this preparation. I thought that you were very organized and answered all by questions quickly and without hesitation. In our prospective the EXPO was pretty good and well organized. I hope we can do business again." -- Elizabeth Jorges, Sales Administrative/Coordinator, ISN Telcom.
"For me, this was probably the best IT Expo I've attended over the years. I would echo what many have been saying about the better-than-expected attendance and positive vibe in spite of this being a down market. My sessions were well attended and the traffic I saw on the show floor was brisk. It was great to see Carl Ford and Scott Kargman have full sessions for the 4G tracks, and I hope that's the start of something big with TMC." -- Jon Arnold, Principal, J Arnold & Associates.
"The show was great and, even with the crazy economy, I believe your attendance was strong. The plenary panels were informative and the location was fantastic." -- Charles "Chip" Spann, Wireless Business Analyst, Connected Nation.
Mark N. Ricca, Partner and Senior Analyst, IntelliCom Analytics, gave us a more detailed analysis:
"IT Expo East 2009 - I'm delighted to hear that this was the best IT Expo East, particularly in this uncertain economic climate. Congratulations to you and your staff for planning and executing an excellent event."
"Participation and Support - I'm confident that I speak for the vast majority of participants in stating that I appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to play a small part in the event. The TMC staff performed efficiently and effectively and were a delight to work with."
"The Venue - The Miami Convention Center is a convenient and very good venue for the Event. The area hotels and restaurants were also very good."
"The Economic Impact On The IT Industry - Clearly, these are uncertain times for all of us. The IT Industry as a whole is encountering economic challenges that have not been experienced in many, many years. End user and carrier budgets have been cut and / or frozen. None of the major players are immune to this economic downturn. Just about all of them have characterized their economic outlook as "cloudy" and ratcheted down their earnings expectations."
"For me, one of the major takeaways from the Event was the significant number of innovative start-ups and smaller players on the exhibit floor...despite this uncertain economy. I spent time with most of them and was favorably impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit, innovative offerings and upbeat "damn-the-torpedoes" attitude."
"The Exhibit Area - I wouldn't categorize all of the attendees walking the Exhibit Area floor as 'buyers'. I believe that 'serious prospects' would be a more accurate description. It's interesting to see how challenging economic times separate the 'serious prospects' from the 'casual attendees'."
"One thing that I'm convinced of is that in good or bad economic times, end users and developers have an insatiable appetite for timely, accurate information and networking opportunities. Obviously, IT Expo East provided this to them."
Musing About the Future
Some of our exhibitors and attendees couldn't help but wax philosophic about where the IP communications industry is heading, and how ITEXPO will continue to serve the rapidly changing telecom world:
"The impressive turnout at ITEXPO reinforces in my mind that IP telephony will weather this recession and come out stronger. Communications needs never really contract. As organizations look to IP and open-source technologies to retool their communications and realize long-term savings, there's a great deal of business to be done in this ecosystem." -- Jeff Gehlbach, Vice President, Software Technologies, The OpenNMS Group, Inc.
"I felt synergy this year that was much greater than last year. Maybe, the economic times has produced a common sense of urgency that overshadows the gloom we face every day in the media. CTD exceeded its expectations this year and appreciates the opportunity to be part of the show." -- George Richardson, CEO, CT Distributing.
"The show for us was absolutely fantastic and the attendance was above expectations. I think we all need to remember and focus on the fact that there are people and companies still working and being productive and in many instances we all have to figure out a better way to do business and this was a great opportunity for that. It was absolutely awesome and we did fantastic at the show. Get me a good spot for October!" -- Don Palmer, CEO, SIP Print LLC.
Is VoIP Recession-Proof?
I can't answer that question with absolute certainty, but as you can see by the comments we've received from our happy exhibitors and attendees, ITEXPO remains a thriving, exciting show. The world is now searching for ways to save money and increase productivity, and the IP communications business is ready and waiting to help them. And the place to go to get that help is TMC's ITEXPO, the most focused and dynamic show of its kind.
See you in Los Angeles in October 2009!