By Steve O’Keeffe —
A comedian and a magician walk into a party in Las Vegas. Sound like the first line of a bad joke? Well it’s pretty much turning out that way across the Federal IT market. Since GSA slipped on the banana peel in Sin City, the reverberations of its fall are being felt everywhere. Last week’s new IG report on GSA travel didn’t make things better. Out-of-town conferences are grounded. AFITC cancelled. National Guard NGB JC4I shuttered.
On June 3, DoD froze all large conferences and travel. That means decimation for the LandWarNet gatherings. AFCEA West should eek through – a lot of local attendees. Dare I say it, is the luau at AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific in danger of drowning in the tsunami? Surely GSA Expo is extinct. And, with the election looming, the beat down on Feds ain’t letting up any time soon.
What does all this mean? Well, first off, the airlines and hotels will feel the sting – even at per-diem rates, that’s billions in revenue. Second, many of these out-of-town conferences aren’t cancelled, they’re finished. That said, government and industry still need to talk – so it’s going to mean more small events that draw local audiences. It’s going to tax the marketing community – it’s time to get more creative. According to the GovMark Council, industry spends 30 percent of its marketing budget on shows. Splashy booths are out. Content is king. Serious, micro-targeted programs are in. Yes, watch out, that means still more conferences in D.C. Will webinars get a boost – certainly. But, I still don’t see senior decision makers eating their lunch in front of a computer screen when they can invite vendors into their office for in-person briefings any time. Attend the GovMark Council luncheon on July 12 to learn new marketing magic tricks for government IT.
Oh, and what does it mean for ELC? Now Williamsburg ain’t Vegas, but it is a nice resort. I’ve attended the conference for the last 20 years – right back to FGIPC. It’s always been a great event. That said, most of the government attendees come from GSA. No Federal employee wants to be photographed with a pint glass or golf club in their hand. ELC will need to make some significant changes. I’m guessing it’s RIP for the traditional format. Seems big conference managers will need help from that magician if they’re to pull rabbits out of their hats…