Anyone who visited CEBIT over the last few years bore witness to the dwindling visitor numbers and ever-decreasing exhibitors. It was definitely time for a change. Not only was the expo pushed back in the calendar from March to June, thus clearing space to create and innovate, but the world’s largest technology show has been revamped to be more like a festival than anything.
A lot of visitors and exhibitors, however, saw this as a step too far: Anyone who made the trip to Hanover had no problems finding a parking space and certainly didn’t have to jostle with the masses. While there were occasional gaps in some aisles, other halls were half empty. In Hall 25, where companies such as Volkswagen and Deutsche Bahn, but also universities, were demonstrating the innovation of mobility, red-and-white striped tape separated futuristic vehicles from darkened voids. It’s a depressing feeling for those who remember the “good old days” when streams of visitors packed into halls fit to burst. But those who did come to the new CEBIT are in for a treat. And when you’re on the “train of the future”, waiting for the next exciting lecture on artificial intelligence, you might well be thinking: Wow. That’s exactly what’s been missing these last few years.
You would think that was it if it weren’t for the d!campus right outside the doors. According to the organisers, this is the event’s “emotional heart”. Food trucks line the paths on the grounds, drinks are served on mock beaches, music is playing—on the huge screens during the day, but in the evening Mando Diao or Jan Delay are live on stage. SAP invites you to take a look over Hanover in a huge Ferris wheel. If you feel like it, you can test your skills on the latest game consoles, dive into the IBM ball pool, get yourself pulled up several metres for a cloud conference or surf on a refreshing wave in the middle of the expo grounds. All this in a chilled atmosphere under cloudless skies.
But here’s the question: Who wants to go to CEBIT? And: Can you call this an expo? Maybe, but not as we know it. Many exhibitors seem to have realised that a few pens and sweets are no longer enough to tempt people out of the woodwork. It’s not enough to stay at your stand and wait for people to come to you. They have to go to where the people are—both physically and psychologically.
The new CEBIT focusses on the fun of innovation and dialogue. On day one, the doors were only opened to those who took part in the d!talk conferences, summits and forums. This wasn’t a huge number, but the organisers are happy. We’ll know more next year after the new concept has had time to establish itself, but it is already clear that every exhibitor has to think very carefully about how they will fit into the new CEBIT world in the future.
Bechtle, which traditionally only attends trade fairs along with vendor partners, was present at the MobileIron stand this year. Thanks to the cutting-edge topic—Secure Mobility in the company—there was little sign of the drop in visitors. On the contrary, GDPR and the demand for secure instant messaging drove visitors to the stand. Robert Taciak, who was responsible for the CEBIT collaboration between Bechtle and HPE in recent years, is still uncertain: “This year we limited ourselves to the Hanover Fair and went to the new CEBIT simply as visitors”, says Bechtle’s senior VIPM for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “The sharp drop in visitors is, of course, unsettling at first. However, we have rarely seen so many new faces and had so many great conversations with existing and new customers. There was an incredible amount of space for communication and this is certainly due to the new concept to which many exhibitors will have to adapt their stands next year.”
From 24 to 28 June 2019, we will find out who succeeds and where the road leads. Only one thing is clear: CEBIT is not dead, on the contrary: It’s a breath of fresh air!
Photos: Deutsche Messe
Published on Jun 22, 2018.