OK, let’s talk about meetings and conventions.
First, full disclosure. I’m a consultant for the G2E conference program, both in the U.S. and in Asia. My former company (using my ideas) was also the co-founder of the American Gaming Summit (currently defunct, but an innovative idea that brings together the top leaders of the industry to discuss the issues) and the Southern Gaming Summit (SGS), which started in New Orleans and today resides in Biloxi. Both date back to the early 1990s, which is a long time ago, even though it seems like yesterday to me.
My current company launched conferences dedicated to casino design (we continue to publish an annual magazine of the same name) and the racino industry, which we sold to the owners of G2E. And finally, my company today produces a conference called the RD&E Experience, which focuses on retail, dining and entertainment, all the non-gaming elements of a casino resort, held this year on May 1 and 2 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. It’s the only conference of its kind. OK, so now you know.
So there are two huge gaming shows, Global Gaming Expo, held in Las Vegas and Macau, and ICE Totally Gaming (which used to be called the International Casino Exposition, a name which made much more sense, in my humble opinion, but then again, I work for G2E), held in London. Both of these shows generate millions of dollars, far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. After that, there are dozens of semi-major and minor trade shows and conferences.
The Indian Gaming Conference (which everyone calls NIGA, after the organization that produces it) is probably the second most-important U.S. trade show. NIGA brings together the gaming leaders in Indian Country and the companies that operate and supply their casinos. It has traditionally been held in March and April, but next year, it will be held in May just after the Southern Gaming Summit and just before G2E Asia, a scheduling hassle that makes the exhibitors extremely unhappy.
There are more than 20 and less than 40 other conferences and trade shows, produced by companies that probably all have the same motive: to make a decent profit and create an ongoing business model. But let’s break down these producers. Many of them are strictly “conference” companies that have no direct connection to gaming. Their sole purpose is to make as much money as they can, giving back little or nothing to the gaming industry.
Other companies are publications or consulting companies within the gaming industry. Again, they are mostly interested in profit, but also with some dedication to gaming.
And then, there’s a “type” of conference. I have to confess we started the “regional” gaming conference when we launched the SGS. Today, you can find the “Eastern,” “Florida,” “New York,” “Pennsylvania,” “Canadian,” “New England,” “Asian,” “Midwest,” “Martian” (OK that last one was a joke, but not really) gaming summits. And then you need to consider the online editions.
So I constantly hear complaints about how many conferences there are and what it costs the vendors/exhibitors/sponsors. But I point out that it’s a problem that they control. Decide what is important to your company, sponsor/attend the first one or two of them, and it will become clear whether it’s in your company’s best interest to be there. It’s all about return on investment. Not really a difficult choice.
I think the big difference that separates one conference from the other is the networking opportunities. Can you meet your clients/competitors/ potential partners at a cocktail party or continental breakfast? Is there enough traffic/attendees to make some serous connections?
And then we come to the new cutting-edge conference, the webinars. Truth be told, we’ve considered producing such online seminars and charging attendees to log in. But when there is so much gaming content online, I just can’t justify charging people for information that they can find with a little bit of digging through the garbage that you usually find online. Will there be a few golden nuggets of information at these webinars? Of course, but will they be worth several hundred dollars? Doubtful. And networking? Forget about it!
So with the proliferation of information both at conferences and online, every company has to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each opportunity and make a choice that is best for their particular situation.
And next month, we’ll talk about the awards programs. Just joking!