UBM Tech's Interop Creates New Ways to Engage on the Showfloor

April 7, 2014

Change is a constant factor for the information technology trade show Interop that took place March 31-April 4 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Few things change faster than IT. Staying relevant, competing with proprietary vendor events and creating a sense of community have been at the top of the priority list for the show’s organizer UBM Tech, with some of the most successful methods being surprisingly old school.

“Interop is designed to meet the IT professionals’ needs. Their roles are tricky right now too because things are changing so rapidly with cloud computing, shadow IT and security, among others ,” said Jennifer Jessup, general manager of Interop at UBM Tech. “We continuously strive to bring value to them.”

Attendance and exhibitor count this year were on par with last year (about 12,000 and 300, respectively), but square footage was somewhat down from 90,000 square feet. “We’re seeing a real trend in exhibitors seeking smaller booths, but purchasing meeting space and spending more on sponsorships,” Jessup said.

One of the challenges for the show is appealing to a wide demographic of attendees, from CIOs to network administrators. This year, the show collocated with the Cloud Connect Summit and InformationWeek Conference.

“This way, top management can go to a leadership event and bring their teams for other events,” Jessup said.

To help create a sense of community on the showfloor, Interop HQ featured an amphitheater where attendees could spread out on Astro Turf and listen to informal talks with free coffee and snacks. At the Fun Zone, they could take a break from all of the tech and play a double-shot basketball game or some vicious air hockey.

But the true spirit of community was coming out at Fishbowl Box – a glass-clad command center for all of the tech, including free Wi-Fi, that powered the show.

“We have vendors that might be competitors in the real world coming together to create InteropNet, a volunteer-run network. That’s the environment that you have back at your enterprise as well,” Jessup said. “Onsite, attendees can do InteropNet tours and visit the classroom to learn how different technologies work together.”

One of the most effective tools for driving registration was a direct mail piece styled as a poster with the history of Interop and Information Technology.

 “Instead of doing three humongous mail drops, we did one drop to about 100,000 potential registrants,” Jessup said. “We got better pickup and made more money from those codes than we’d ever done.”

A fourth-time attendee Donny Friday, an IT manager with Christian Care Companies, came to learn about security and compliance and found himself signing up for an hands-on introduction to hacking workshop.

“I’d never wanted to dive into this before, but you need to know how vulnerable you are,” he said. While it takes a few tries to get budgets approved for new equipment, Friday said that being at Interop helps get new ideas and “makes it a lot easier to make a business case for new tools.”

Exhibitor ITinvovle chose Interop over a vendor event this year.

“This is one of the last conferences where you can see the breadth of the entire IT industry,” said Matt Selheimer, vice president of marketing for ITinvovle.

Selheimer said he sees that both as a strength and a weakness of the show, but is excited about reaching a variety of IT professionals. “If you’re someone looking to get a wide understanding of who is in the market, it’s a great event,” he added.

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