This month, Robert Peckham sees the spectre of another trade show staring down the precipice?

The stands are gone and the visitors have returned home?

This may be a very controversial statement, but how do you explain the impending demise of Mac Expo to the Apple-using community?

In its chosen sectors, Apple either dominates the marketplace, as with the iPod and the iPhone, or has seen near-double digit growth in market share for its computer products. And yet the only annual exhibition in the UK to celebrate this phenomenal record of success looked sadly lost and forgotten inside the cavernous Olympia National Hall, and regrettably received remarkably few visitors.

Expomedia Events, the new organisers for Mac Expo, really should be congratulated for taking up this challenge, as they made a sterling effort to put on a show despite mounting odds. They inherited a very low starting point from the previous organisers, very late in the year, and when Adobe stepped in to boost the fortunes of the event, they changed the headline title of the show into ‘Creative Live Expo’ to reflect this new involvement. And Adobe was the real star of the show – this was really its Expo, with some Apple presence for the benefit of the vast majority of Adobe users who run their software on Mac.

But to fill this huge space, the organisers also moved in Linux Live Expo, which frankly was an odd fit with the ‘Creative’ theme of the show, but the Linux area was quite evidently well attended by many who scratched their beards and wondered why all this Apple stuff was present at their show.

Yes, the Mac Technology Association was there; we had a pavilion at the rear of the hall where visitors could see Drobo, VMWare Fusion, Traffic from Sohnar Software and meet the great people from Cancom, Academy Class Training and many of our reseller members who were helping our vendors display and demonstrate their products.

The question is, where were the headline exhibitors? As with the last two years, Apple was not there, but Square Group did a superb job of building an Apple Premium Reseller store inside the hall to greet the visitors. Conspicuously missing were HP, Epson, LaCie, Microsoft, Netgear, and many of the other notable vendors who have been so prominent at previous Mac Expos.

I certainly took the time to talk to as many visitors as I could about their impressions of the show, and sadly the overall response was negative. Based on what they found and saw this year, it will take a major turnaround of show content and attractions for any of these visitors to attend again next year.

The show has become locked into a self-fulfilling demise, with dropping visitor numbers over the past three years leading to lowering numbers of exhibitors and generally a negative feeling about the show, which has led to a further drop in visitor numbers.

So what of the future? To survive into the next couple of years, Mac Expo needs a major relaunch of its image. Its organisers also need to work hard to generate some really compelling reasons why visitors will want to visit the show next year, including getting the missing mainline vendors back on board. Expomedia Events has a real challenge on their hands if the show is to survive, and the Association will be pleased to help and support it in whatever way it can.

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