My hat’s off to Garrett Communications and PhoCusWright Inc. for staging a memorable eMMITT ’96 in Orlando. The conference pulled together a diverse group of industry leaders into a surprisingly useful and informative networking opportunity.
That’s easy for this columnist to say. After all, my publication co-sponsored eMMITT.
But I consider myself uniquely qualified to comment: not only did I fly to Florida from Germany at my own expense and pay for ground transportation and lodging out of my own pocket, I’ve also experienced my fair share of terrible shows.
Regular readers of this column know that I dispense praise in very measured doses. I’m a trade show skeptic, and I rarely gush about anything. Let this be one exception.
Why did eMMITT work? A few thoughts:
Not too big, not too small.
With all the hype surrounding the Internet, it would have been easy to turn this into just another big Internet show where delegates share only a passing interest in travel. But the 200-some attendees at eMMITT represented the heart of interactive travel. Everywhere I turned, I seemed to run into someone whose name was synonymous with interactivity-and there were enough names to merit two solid days of nonstop card exchanges and power lunches.
The focus was just right.
Organizers resisted the temptation to look inward and dwell on self-serving interactive travel subjects-the old “how to make your Web site sell”-over and over. Instead, we heard from experts who reminded us that our business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Sometimes we need a little wake-up call.
One of my biggest trade show gripes is the infamous five-minute break, allowing virtually no time to meet fellow conference-goers. In these halcyon days of the information revolution, it seems clear that we cannot live by e-mail alone, nor can we sustain business relationships with five minute coffee breaks alone. eMMITT’s organizers understood this, and offered plenty of free time to talk.
The “no-tie” rule was a winner. Forgetting for a moment that the show was held in steamy Orlando (daytime high temperature averaged around 80 degrees) the relaxed dress code broke down walls between speakers and delegates. It made for a far more productive, tension-free atmosphere.
I’m sure that the next eMMITT will double in size and attract some delegates who think travel is a quaint sideshow to the interactive business, which is kind of a shame. I liked the intimate atmosphere of a smaller show, of being able to meet almost everyone in attendance. I don’t want that to change.
Another possible switch next year (though it’s much too early to tell) is the venue. I’ve got mixed feelings about this, since I’ve spent a lot of time in the sunshine state. San Diego might be nice, but if the eMMITT ’97 organizers are looking for something really different, how about Hannover, Germany?