Written by David Tebbutt, MicroScope 09/85 item 02 - scanned
DESPITE BAD NOTICES, THE SHOW GOES ON (column)
You'd think, from the number of brassed-off journalists I met, that the PCW Show was a disaster. The trouble is that we in the press get to see and touch new things weeks months even, before our reading public. By the time these new products are wheeled out for their first public showing, they are old hat to us. Look at the Show Guide a few issues ago in MicroScope - did you count the launches? No, neither did I, but it was a heck of a high proportion of companies exhibiting. The truth of the matter is, and this is what irritated some writers, that there weren't many surprises at the show. The Amiga in the Metacomco suite was probably one of the best, and only the press and trade were allowed in. Jack Tramiel was a major attraction since the press was actually able to nail him face to face - we don't get too many American superstars over this side of the pond these days.
Looking at the Show from the exhibitor's and visitor's point of view, it was absolutely splendid. Over 70,000 visitors were counted at the doors, of which about 8000 were trade and the rest split fairly evenly between business and general visitors. The National Hall focussed on leisure and small-business systems while Olympia Two was for the grey suits. Every exhibitor I spoke to was delighted, not only at the number of people, but also at their general quality. This was particularly true in the business hall where I noticed quite a few non-exhibitors kicking themselves for not being there.
Of course, after last year's show, you couldn't really blame them for their decision to 'wait and see what the 1985 Show is like...'
Well, now they know, and the level of interest for 1986 is very high indeed. One of the things PCW did when it realised it wasn't going to get some of the majors was to mount a general stand, sponsored by PC Magazine. Continuous demonstrations were given of machines like Compaq, Kaypro, IBM and so on. Each manufacturer had a tiny space - room for one machine, a demonstrator and a couple of visitors - but one of them, not a company you'd consider to be in the first division, collected over a hundred serious leads on the first day. Needless to say, that particular manufacturer can't wait to get into next year's show.
Many exhibitors commented on the sheer quality of visitor. The proportion of decision makers was much higher than for other leading shows. This, coupled with the volume of people coming through the doors, resulted in large numbers of quality leads. Not only leads but real money was changing hands: one small company I spoke to had taken over £45,000 by the Sunday.
The comment was often made that some shows derive their volume from data-processing staff, not many of whom make the decisions although, to be fair, they are often powerful influencers. One person I spoke to allowed himself to be talked into taking a small corner of another company's stand. He was actually dreading the show because: (a) he was having real trouble drumming up business anyway and (b) he'd seen previous PCW shows and wasn't convinced about visitor quality. The result was astonishing: instead of the two or three enquiries he expected for his highly specialised work, on one day he reported over thirty serious leads!
I could go on, but I think the point has been made that from the exhibitor's perspective, the show was worthwhile. But what about the paying (and non-paying) public? I stopped people in bars, on the stairs, on the way out and the verdict was the same. The show was very good, although they had expected some of the big names to be better represented (incidentally, one senior person at Apricot was quite gleeful at the lack of competition - it meant more business for him). There was almost an air of relief that the business is maturing and we seem to have got off the helterskelter of continuous major product announcements.
There's no doubt that 1985 was a pivotal year for the PCW Show. It exceeded almost everybody's expectations and there's no doubt that it will now be a permanent and popular fixture in the computing event calendar. For the press who moaned and groaned about the lack of anything new, I will say that to the public there were plenty of new things to see. For those who complained about the facilities, I will say that these will continue to improve (remember the press facilities when the Show was at the West Centre Hotel?). For those who praised it as an exciting show, I say thank you. You are the ones who are in touch with your readers.