No Exhibit Hall at Light Reading’s Big Telecom Event
In 2005, Stephen Saunders, CEO and founder of Light Reading, sold his company to UBM. Just this year he bought it back from them.
Light Reading is an integrated media company. It is not just an online publication, but it is an in-person community. Live events always have been a significant part of Light Reading.
When Saunders re-took over the helm of Light Reading, he noticed that the live events had not changed during the six years he was away.
“What I saw was an immediate opportunity to build a big event,” Saunders said. Thus, Light Reading’s Big Telecom Event was born.
The Big Telecom Event Web site declares itself the first industry event to bridge the gap in the telecom industry between technology know-how and business acumen.
Saunders’ goal was to create an event that senior telecom decision-makers at service providers and carriers around the world would want to attend. Then the equipment manufacturers would follow.
However, those decision-makers did not want an exhibit hall filled with trade show booths. So, how do you attract equipment manufacturers to a show without booths?
The Big Telecom Event’s sponsors bring a demo, instead of a booth. They are able to speak at the conference and/or they can have access to private conference rooms. Saunders says they will be doing what they usually would do at a trade show, but at a much higher and more focused level.
The theory behind the demo was that sponsors would take the money they are saving by not having a booth, and bring in more key employees instead.
“They [attendees] wanted time to talk to people and dig into the details of how to deploy these next generation technologies being rolled out around the world,” Saunders said.
He added, “This is a detailed conversation. You can’t just rock up to the booth and the sales people can give you the pitch. You need high-level people having a conversation that might last an hour or two hours. They wanted time with the high-end intellectual property owners within their suppliers or supply chain.”
The message from attendees was clear; they demanded sponsors raise their game because they would be making decisions based on what they would see at the event. They told sponsors to bring their brain trust.
Demos at Big Telecom Event are expected to last as long as they need to for attendees' questions to be answered. “We’re not allowing people to just bring a rack unit and not plug it in. There has to be a real demonstration component with it,” Saunders said.
How are the manufacturers responding to the new format? Light Reading’s Big Telecom Event is scheduled to take place June 17-18 this year in Chicago. As of now, they have 34 sponsors representing some of the biggest names in the industry listed on their website. There also are 24 service provider participants listed.
When asked about how doing away with an exhibit hall impacts the bottom line of the show, Saunders was more concerned about what happens to the long-term health of an event when attendees and sponsors get tired of being taken for granted.
“It’s tempting to make as much money as you can out of something,” Saunders said. However, he also added, “I’m playing the longer game. I’m willing to sacrifice the easy money for long-term gain.”