CTIA successfully reboots its mobile industry trade show

13 September 2014 by Steve Blum
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It’s still a work in progress, but the reengineered CTIA wireless trade show looks like it’s relevant enough to mobile industry execs to keep drawing them to Las Vegas. The new show tries to blend content from the CTIA’s traditional big springtime convention and MobileCon, its fall technology conference (or content or apps or whatever – usefully, it never stagnated), and consolidate the show floors.

The exhibits were workmanlike and generated a fair amount of traffic, at least on the first day (the only full day I was there). The keynote sessions offered an opportunity to take the measure of industry execs, including Meredith Attwell Baker, the new president of CTIA. But the quality of the keynote presentations was uneven, a problem shared by the conference program.

The panel discussion with FCC commissioners was excellent, but some of the others were pure sales pitches. Not unusually so, though. Like many trade shows, CTIA has reached the point where the aftermarket – the online audience for live streamed and archived speeches and conference sessions – is more important to corporate marketers than the actual attendees.

My one big complaint is that exhibit halls are bad places to put presentations and panel discussions. I understand why trade show organisers do it – they want to generate traffic for both exhibitors and speakers – but it’s distracting and dissipates attention. The best thing about the old MobileCon show was a well organised conference program, and the occasionally claustrophobic sessions only added to the energy.

But the new CTIA show – branded Super Mobility Week – and its escort of smaller events, like the Competitive Carriers Association conference, does bring people to town, and that is the point of holding conventions. The greatest value is in the chance conversations, one-on-one meetings and corporate parties that result, and in that regard this week’s show delivered.