Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Good riddance, CEBIT!

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It appears that the once world-leading German computer fair CEBIT has been canceled: Good riddance! Let other trade fairs follow suit!

While I do not rule out that there are some special cases of fairs that make sense or some minor purposes of a fair that cannot be better solved through other means, fairs are largely pointless—mostly just diverting money to the fair industry and to the local city and its tourist businesses. For others, including regular tourists and “legitimate” business travelers, the effects are mostly negative. This especially through the great troubles of finding hotel rooms during fairs, and the often quite considerable price hikes* that take place on the rooms that can be found. (Note the similarity to the advertising industry, both in purpose and in that it brings more benefit to it self than to its customers—and is usually outright negative for everyone else.)

*During the largest fairs, I have seen prices more than doubled on some occasions.

Going as a consumer* is, judging by my own experiences, fairly pointless: The things that might be interesting to see are what everyone else wants to see, implying that there are queues and crowds. The actual information presented is typically minimal and/or extremely commercial. Information about e.g. products and services are much easier to find on the Internet or through qualified publications in today’s** world. The main benefit might well be the opportunity to get some freebies, e.g. a few magazines—but compared to the ticket price this will rarely be worth the trouble. (And most visitors will also have to factor in travel and hotel costs, etc.) Indeed, I have twice received complimentary tickets to specifically the CEBIT and still chosen not to go, considering the other costs involved and the time wasted too large to make it worth the effort…

*If allowed, as with CEBIT: Some fairs are “business only”, which I consider far more sensible, both through creating a greater focus and through reducing the damage to third parties.

**Note that the situation here and elsewhere might have been very different just a few decades ago.

The situation is very similar for those businesses who are there as passive visitors. They might in addition have the option to “check out the competition”, but since they will only see what the competition wants seen, the value is low. There are some networking opportunities, but these face the same popularity issues—especially, as these visitors are likely to be less important players, who bring comparatively little value to the popular targets… Such networking would be better handled by visiting a few conferences, where the participants are better filtered and more time for such purposes is available. Alternatively, a contact service* that matches up businesses with sufficient compatibility in mutual value is likely to create greater benefit.

*I am, admittedly, uncertain to what degree such exist and do a good job; however, I have seen the idea broached repeatedly over the years. If in doubt, creating such businesses and foregoing fairs would be an improvement.

For active participants (i.e. those who have own stalls and whatnots), the situation is a bit better, but mostly a fair amounts to a publicity opportunity or a “to see and be seen”*. Here we again have the popularity problem—the likes of Apple will garner great interest, while almost no-one will pay attention to an obscure ten-man company. At the same time, Apple does not need to go to trade fairs to get publicity… For that matter, running a product demonstration or a speech over the Internet is not hard, while e.g. putting up a sales brochure is utterly trivial.

*Likely with heavy emphasis on the second part. Indeed, my employer during the dot-com crash deliberately went to computer fairs, including the CEBIT, for the purpose of showing that the company still existed…

At the end of the day, the press and the executives might like fairs, but the benefits compared to the alternatives remain dubious for everyone except the fair organizers, the hotels, etc. For most others, the fairs are an outright negative. For instance, I could have saved many hundred Euros and at least several hours of accumulated hotel searches had it not been for the flooding of the Cologne* hotel-market that takes place again and again. Or consider the additional pressure on the (already strained) transports to and from Cologne. Or consider that a very large and central piece of real estate is occupied by the fair area, where there could have been apartment houses for hundreds, likely even thousands, of people, easing the pressure on the over-heated apartment market.

*Cologne is one of the leading fair cities in Germany, and I have spent a part of my freelance career working there. (But the CEBIT, to avoid misunderstandings, took place in Hanover.)


Written by michaeleriksson

November 29, 2018 at 12:38 am

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