Light Reading’s Big Telecom Event a Success with Attendees and Sponsors

July 24, 2014

In April, TSNN reported on the Big Telecom Event being produced by Light Reading. CEO and founder of Light Reading, Stephen Saunders had referred to the Big Telecom Event as the anti-tradeshow in an article he wrote announcing the event.

BTE took place last month in Chicago, and the question on many people’s minds is: Was the event his readers asked for, indeed an event they wanted. Also, were his sponsors happy not having a traditional trade showfloor?

Saunders' goal was to have 1,000 attendees, and he wanted at least half in attendance to be service providers. They ended with more than 1,500 attendees from across the world, 60 percent of which were service providers, or non-sponsoring attendees.

According to a post-event survey, 96 percent of respondents rated the event’s content as “outstanding,” “very good” or “good.”

As to Saunders’ previous assumption that if he could draw senior telecom decision-makers at service providers and carriers around the world, the equipment manufacturers (sponsors) would follow, that seems to have been the case.

“We were sold out. We were turning [sponsors] away in the last six weeks before the event which is frustrating,” Saunders said.

Because space sold out this year and because of a 78 percent renewal rate at the event itself, the Big Telecom Event will be tripling their demo-hall space to allow for more sponsors and doubling the size of each sponsor demo area.

As a result of this growth, they will be moving to Chicago’s McCormick Place next year. Dates already are set for June 9-10.

That is welcome news to Mark Dalglish, senior marketing manager at Fujitsu and Platinum sponsor of BTE. Fujitsu also has signed on as Platinum sponsor for next year’s event.

In regards to this year’s layout of the demo spaces Dalglish said, “They made a valiant attempt at identifying zones by technology, and then having vendors in those zones that relate to it.” Dalglish felt that probably worked well for the buyers, but it made it harder on the vendors as they were right next to their competitor. It made it difficult to have a conversation.

Joe Cumello, chief marketing officer at Cyan, also a Platinum sponsor, said he was very pleased with the demo format.

“In an industry that’s become jaded on all these different trade shows and events they have to go to, this is the right approach,” he added. “These guys are coming to the show to evaluate technology. If you can actually show them something, it’s much more worthwhile.”

Saunders said they would be sticking with the no exhibit hall model and continuing with the demo structure. While he was pleased overall with the quality of the demos, he added that he does see areas for improvement.

“Next year, I would put more rigor into what people were bringing to the demos. Not just in terms of the people, the right people were there,” Saunders said. “I thought some of the demos were not as on target as they could have been. They could have been improved with a bit of feedback from us on the content side.”

Dalglish said he felt it was a little open ended as far as the definition of the demo area, what it would be, and what was allowed. He added that he didn’t see a whole lot of difference in what many of the vendors were doing at BTE vs. a trade show. He also thought more oversight was needed there.

While Cumello agreed there were different interpretations for what constituted a demo amongst vendors, Cyan’s approach was to show their technology in action and to bring multiple partners and a customer into their demos as well, creating a use case type environment.

“This demo format helps level the competitive playing field,” he added. “That’s one of the reasons we made the choice to participate at the level we did.”

Cyan will also be returning next year as a Platinum sponsor. “We were just jammed the whole show, we were packed. From a results standpoint it was obviously a success for us.”

Back in April, Saunders was not too concerned about how the lack of an exhibit hall might impact his bottom line.

He said he was more concerned about maintaining the long-term health of an event when attendees and sponsors get tired of being taken for granted. Saunders is playing the long game and is willing to sacrifice easy money for long-term gain.

Apparently, he will not have to wait as long as he may have thought. Saunders said the inaugural BTE was a very profitable event for them.

“We’re investing all of that money back into the company right now through hiring new analysts and new editors to drive content to the next level,” he added. “Next year’s BTE will see the benefit of all of that.”

So, now the real question is, is the Big Telecom Event an anti-trade show, or is it in fact, the trade show of the future?

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Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. 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Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.