Mission Debriefing: EDS

For those of you not familiar with EDS, it is every bit a mission to seek out new lines of business and to fit more meetings into a three-day event than the human biological clock can reasonably handle.

This year, there were some marked differences at EDS: There was no keynote event that brought all attendees together in one room (although there were several cocktail parties which accomplished the same feat), and there were no breakout sessions or workshops. EDS is largely an event where companies meet behind closed doors or host invitation-only events — it's no longer a trade show in the classic sense.

Several people involved with planning the show said there was no interest in a keynote this year, which is not entirely surprising. Ten or 15 years ago, the EDS keynote was intended to draw attendance to the show from people who would not otherwise participate. As money got tight over the years, paying a luminary became less important, and in general, interest in attracting outside attendees waned — it's hard enough to meet all the people usually at EDS, let alone last-minute registrants. Breakout sessions and workshops have been sparsely attended; they take up time better spent in one-on-one meetings.

There are two key constituencies at EDS: Large companies that privately meet with suppliers and distributors in suites, and manufacturers, reps, and smaller companies that take booths on the show floor. EDS was conceived of as a forum where components makers and distributors could meet once a year and forge new relationships. It has evolved into a forum in which companies with existing relationships meet behind closed doors and recap year-to-date business results or iron out plans for the next six months. One first-time attendee told me there was nothing happening at EDS that couldn't have been accomplished on a conference call.

There has been a debate within the industry, certainly since 9/11 and the dotcom bubble of 2001, that trade shows are a thing of the past. I'm not sure this is true; EDS serves its attendees well enough. But there is no sense of unity presented on the floor itself. There's no sense as to who we are as an industry. This is not a criticism of the show planners or the EDS board — they are there to serve their members, and they do an admirable job. EDS is billed as a place “where the electronics industry connects.” In that sense, mission accomplished.

Still, I'd like to see more from EDS, some kind of rallying point that brings the industry together. A panel on China wouldn't be out of place, nor would hosting attendees from China who could provide tips on doing business there. RoHS, conflict minerals, REEs, and social media are some other hot topics that could bring people together for a panel discussion. A presentation and Q&A from an OEM, which has been done in the past, could work. It just needs to be something relevant and useful to all companies in the industry.

I'd like to hear from the attendees. Do you like or dislike the current format, or does EDS need to change? Let us know on the message board below.

3 comments on “Mission Debriefing: EDS

  1. eemom
    May 31, 2011

    With companies always looking to save costs, it is a question as to whether big shows like this are necessary.  They cost exhibitors as well as attendees a ton of money and I'm not sure the value for the money spent is there.  To make them more useful as you suggest, more programming is needed which in turn will cause added cost.   Companies have to look at the dollars spent and make a cost/benefit analysis.

  2. alawson
    June 2, 2011

    @Barb – Great post. It's good to hear someone with some knowledge of the show's history weigh in. Having some background in the tradeshow world, I have some set expectations around what a show should deliver.  And like you, at the end of the trip, I had some similar takeaways and confusion. Mainly it felt like the show was confused as to what it wanted to be; with a distinct separation between show floor and all else. Granted, I may not be a core audience the show is aimed at (and maybe that too should change). And overall, a show must provide what the majority wants. But I believe their role should be a greater one-to look beyond what attendees/exhibitors want and introduce them to what they need.  In order to do that, you have to not only please current attendees, but capture new blood and set yourself apart as 'the place to be'. I believe the desire is there for EDS to be all of these things.

  3. alawson
    June 2, 2011

    @eemom – On the question of tradeshows delivering value…

    There are several audiences at play here and a show has to plan to cater to them all. If one feels underappreciated, then the chain fails. Shows must provide the opportunities that attendees need to make it worthwhile. Whether it be multiple ways to join conversations and network, both online or in person on the show floor; or educational opportunities where representatives learn better ways to solve problems. If these are offered correctly, then the attendee comes away better for it, exhibitors come away with more qualified leads, and sponsors feel that their brand was trafficked sufficiently.

    Each audience group and company defines the value proposition differently. Many times, it comes down to if you chose the right show to attend and if you made the effort needed to bring the learning and leads to bear once you returned home.

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