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IBC conference or exhibition? Why do you go?

If you are visiting IBC this year, you could well be in Amsterdam reading this. So why did you take a week out of your busy schedule to attend the show? For some folks, the answer is simple. They go for the conference. For those in the envious position of having the time to attend the conference, thus avoiding the commerce in the exhibition halls, that's just fine. But for those visiting the exhibition, the answers are more complex.

You may be going to ink a deal — to be photographed shaking hands and smiling. It may be for a final look at a product and its competition before you make up your mind, or it may just be to see what's new.

With just a few days, and so many stands, a productive visit to a show requires careful planning, with appointments set before heading to the airport. However, having a full diary means you miss a vital part of the show. The show can be a process of discovery. Appointments give you more information about products you are already aware of. Discovery is finding what you were not aware of.

Often, when I look at a product, the marketing folks don't really explain what it does, leaving me perplexed. Although the larger vendors have professional sales forces that make sure you know about their new products, the smaller and upcoming manufacturers must rely on distributors to spread the word on their products. This process can be hit or miss. Distributors will go for the easy sale, so how does the small company with a great idea get that idea across to broadcasters?

This is where a show has a great advantage. A well-researched visit to IBC can be five days of discovery, finding that special product that solves a problem you have had for years. Or it creates an opportunity to increase the bottom line through improved operational efficiencies.

Sometimes I question why we go to the shows. There must be a better way to exchange information. But in a digital age, shows provide that important face-to-face communication. For deal-making, e-mail and phone are all very well, but ultimately the handshake still survives the onslaught of communications technology. The other side is networking. Where else can you find so many engineers in one venue and from so many countries?

We all have a love/hate relationship with the shows. We go to them, but then do nothing but complain about the lines to register, to get a cab or to eat. Amsterdam is a great historical city, but unfortunately, is lacking in good transport. The new subway doesn't open until 2015. Until then, we must suffer the crowded trams or elusive taxis. Considering IBC has only one-third the attendees of NAB, the transport system of Amsterdam is woefully inadequate.

To all of you going to IBC, I hope your trip is successful. Please e-mail me your thoughts on our industry's trade shows.

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