Tech Trade Shows — We’ve Been on this Road for Years

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PhotoPlus Expo in New York City was the last holdout. That is, until this week when they acknowledged reality and cancelled their in-person event scheduled for October at the Javits Center. It will be replaced by PhotoPlus+, an online experience.

Like many changes in 2020, failures that have punctured our current economic model are blamed on the pandemic. But the reality is that we’ve been on this road for years, rattling more out of alignment with each pothole of globalization, terrorism, and environmental change. And finally we realized that there’s only one spare tire in the trunk, and it’s not enough to keep things rolling.

I know, it sounds awfully gloomy, doesn’t it?

For decades, big tech and photo conferences were part of my professional life. I was a perennial speaker at Macworld before it closed its doors. I worked in vendor booths at a variety of large events, including two trips to Germany for Photokina. Huge conferences were hard work, fun, and a showcase of business inefficiency.

These events were wildly expensive for vendors, and in all honesty, pricy for attendees as well. The demise of Macworld Expo began when Apple said that it was no longer going to participate. They believed that their web presence and focus on more personal events were a better financial choice. They were right. We should have paid more attention.

Prior to news of the pandemic, Nikon, Olympus, and Leica had already withdrawn from Photokina 2020. In a highly competitive photography market, it’s hard to justify thousands upon thousands of dollars for a one week in-person event that requires a passport and hundreds of carbon credits to attend. You can reach these customers in other ways.

And that’s what we’re finally exploring now — new ways to do business.

Disease strikes weakened hosts the hardest. The events of 2020 are forcing us to explore new ways to build a healthy photography industry.

We already know how to operate online technically, but we haven’t really explored how to do so in a personal, engaging manner. There’s huge opportunity for compelling experiences that don’t require travel.

Local events in 2021 also make more sense. They cost less, don’t involve airplanes, are easier to secure, and still provide the personal interaction we crave.

Combine a better online experience with a resurgence in community gatherings, and suddenly the economic road doesn’t look so bumpy. Think about it: instead of flying across the continent to look at a new camera, why not drive down the street? Save the costs, spare the environment, and reconnect with those around you.

The pandemic alone didn’t flatten our over-inflated trade shows. It was just one pothole too many.

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