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Over the last two years I have had the privilege of attending two Internet conferences and exhibition programs in Chicago. The first conference was in February 1996 (W E B Developer '96) - seventeen months ago in 'human' time measurement - about a light year in cyber (WWW) time. The first conference was located in a down town hotel and the second in the new McCormick Place - still very much under construction but vastly superior to a hotel hosted conference. The number of exhibitors jumped from 100 to more than 300 (and maybe closer to 500 depending on how you count participation - presenters, service providers, exhibitors. . .).
My attendance was a privilege in that I was able to be at this conference on a "media/press" pass. In simple terms, that means, that outside of my transportation, daily living expenses, and time, the conference was relatively inexpensive for me. In return for that boon I have the obligation of reporting to those that can only attend through me.
conference packages ranged in cost from $395 to
$1,395, with additional fees for elective, hands-on
workshops of $395 per 2 1/2 hour session. For those prices,
you may attend between one and five days of conference
sessions, panel discussions, workshops, keynote speeches
and visits to the exhibit hall.
These prices are "vested interest" prices - that is, the
people willing to pay such rates have (or hope to have)
a vested interest in the growth of the industry. I can
imagine that some of the attendees spent days agonizing
over the exact package that they would select - working
through the selection of sessions, studying the
qualifications of the presenters and evaluating their own skills and needs against what was being offered.
When you or your company is spending close to $200 an hour (for a hands-on workshop) plus the expense of getting you to the conference an effective screening process is necessary.
Mecklermedia certainly spent a great deal of time
emphasizing the value of the evaluation paper that each
attendee was encouraged to fill out after each session -
Jack Powers, the director of the convention made it clear
that if sessions presenters did not get 'excellent' or
'very good' ratings they would not be invited back in the
future. Setting those high standards, paying minute
attention to quality control, and providing a variety of interesting sessions/workshops are assurances by
Mecklermedia to the attendee that they will get their money's worth at the current conference and in future conferences.
What does one get for this kind of money? Without exception, the keynotes were of the highest caliber and worth a great portion of the daily price of admission. Preconference material suggested that the keynotes were industry luminaries and after participating in three of these sessions I find the description was apt.
*Dr. Eric Schmidt - CEO - Novell, Inc.
*Jeff Papows - President - Lotus Development Corporation
Kim Polese - CEO - Marimba
Irving Wladawsky-Berger - General Manager
- IBM, Internet Division
*Tom Evslin - Vice President - AT&T WorldNet
In the sessions I attended (*) the Internet was reviewed in historic, cultural and economic context(s) - with each officer/CEO using personal, corporate (private and governmental) and global examples to show attendees what has happened, what is happening and what might happen in the near future. Most projections used stop points of the year 2000 or 2005 - the potential for change is so awesome and unpredictable that none would go beyond such near term dates.
Without even considering the content, it was a pleasure
being involved in these presentations because of the skill
level in delivery.
Great technical material was presented. I must admit that I had to consult with Wes Wingfield of Missouri Information Solutions http://www.moinfosol.com after I got back for some clarification on Novell NetWare vs. Microsoft NT - these conferences are designed to encourage growth. Wes knows both sides in this issue and is highly qualified to give advise. More about Wes at http://www.weswingfield.com
However, the future views that stick with me are those that I might experience on a personal level. Tom Evslin presented the idea of a 'family room' that appealed to me. That idea has been around for a long time but now there is a new twist.
Imagine walking into a family room in your home in the Midwest.
You sit down, take up some reading and wait for other family
members to "show up". A "door" to your right, on the north wall
opens and your brother from Anchorage, Alaska joins you. Your
room seemingly doubles in size blending into his room. He is a
few feet away from you, full size, talking in crystal clear
voice quality (you can see the snow capped Alaskan Range of
mountains through the window behind his chair).
After a few minutes, a door on your west wall opens and sister Adelaide joins you both from Grand Junction, Colorado - now you have a view of the Western Slope of the Rockies behind her.
And finally a door on your left (to the South) opens and your daughter joins the family group. She is on holiday in the state of Rio Negro, Argentina at San Martin de Los Andes . . . while behind you the mighty waters of the Kaw blend with the muddy Mo. . . .
In this period of history your house is probably sprouting new
connectivity wires at the rate of about one a year - 1st phone,
2nd phone (home business), a computer hook up (bet you don't
know that number), fax, cable, phone for the kids. Devices
switch on and off with the ebb and flow of life in the house
until the day in the near future when they are replaced with
one line that does the job of all. At that point, you are
connected fully - all the time and a device simply increases or
decreased used bandwidth on demand.
Today, if you want to connect with a person you almost need
some training in logistics - you need to get your message to
next device that person is going to be close to - in the near
future the connection will be much more 'person to person'
- anywhere, anytime (provided both parties want it). I love
the feeling I get when I pick up my mail in Kansas City from
any terminal in McCormick Place, Buenos Aires or . . . and I
look forward to the day when I'll be riding the subway in Hong
Kong while talking to a grandchild in Alaska.
For the kind of money the attendees spent, they got flawless
technical connectivity. The IBM/ISSC/Advantis team did a
first class job in making sure that presenters and attendees
were connected and that the equipment worked perfectly. The
worst power failure I saw was a dead battery in a laser pointer
and that was replaced in just a moment.
The session presenters/panelists - 'less than luminaries' were very impressive
and also perform flawlessly. I felt that all sessions were worth the 'session
cost' that a paying
individual would have spent. Perhaps in later articles I can give more details but here is a partial list of the sessions I attended and some of the names associated with them.
What Do Advertisers Want?
Robin Webster, Senior Vice President,
Association of National Advertisers
Presented the latest information from a survey conducted up
until June 8 about spending trends on web advertising.
E-commerce: The Dawing of a New Era on the Web
Stephanie Keller-Bottom, Vice President, Electronic Commerce VISA USA, Inc.
October 1997 - all the pieces for electronic commerce in place.
How Quickly Will the Web Become a Dynamic,
Valuable Medium for Advertisers?
Daniel Donaghy - General Manager, Online Services,
New York Times Electronic Media Co.,
Real Companies Making Real Money on the Internet
Web Demographics: Prospects, Clients and Steady Customers
The 3.5.7 for Maximizing Your Business Online
Craig Settles, Senior Strategist,
Successful Marketing Strategies
Clients have included AT&T, Symantec, Lotus, Campbell Services
Sessions, Not Sites
Jim Davis, Director of Creative and Brand Strategies,
"Marketing on the Web is . . . about developing
one-to-one relationships . . . "
The event was filled with more than 100 sessions covering a wide
range of topics. Each hour I had to make hard decisions about
how I would spend my time. I was not disappointed with any
choice I made.
The exhibit floor was just about the right size - not overwhelming like COMDEX but with a variety of products, services and companies represented. It opened on Wednesday and frankly I preferred to spend my time in the sessions. That left me with 12:00 to 2:00 (had to give up one keynote) on Wednesday and from 12:00 to 1:00 on Thursday for browsing. I look forward to the day when I can walk into such a show - type 'keywords' into a terminal - get booth numbers and a shortest distance map with a dotted line to follow to each booth location . . . I am not a good physical browser.
This article has been quite positive - the conference was worth five days of my life (Sunday through Thursday). The only drawback was a slightly inconsistent policy on admission of press to certain sessions. On Monday morning there was an initial denial of access to one of the hands on sessions to 'observe' - that was not repeated again until Thursday morning when I was sent to the office to get green admission passes for two of the common sessions. I was made to feel guilty for having 'sneaked' into all the sessions between Monday and Thursday (I proudly wore my press badge every day - and I was disappointed that I wasn't allowed to fill out an evaluation form for the 3.5.7 session) - I vaguely wondered about the preregistration our company had gone through and the cyber mailbox full of pre conference press releases and invitations that we had received for several months before the show - I suspect that there was some internal struggle going on (it felt a little like the ebbs and flow of policy that I lived through in China during a recent student protest).
It was a privilege to attend the Summer Internet World '97
- Chicago - hosted by Mecklermedia http://www.mecklermedia.com/
To find out about future Mecklermedia events - world wide -
William R. Eubank has taught in Alaska, China, Hong Kong,
Texas, Mexico and Argentina and has served on local and
state school boards. He is a regular contributor to "infoZine",
has contributed to "Caregiving" (a national newsletter for
persons caring for an aging relative found at:
http://pages.prodigy.com/caregiving/ - "the Warbonnet" (a publication of the Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society found at http://www.kcmo.com/atsf/ - is a Webmaster / reporter working in the Kansas City area for several publications including "Consensus National Futures and Financial Weekly" http://www.consensus-inc.com/ - "Response Matters" http://www.kcmo.com/RedCross/ and serves as Web Librarian for the Gibson Digital Library http://kcmo.com/gdl/
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William R. Eubank
1632 Burcham Drive
East Lansing, Michigan 48823
United States of America