The End of Pan-European Conferences? Microsoft Convergence Vienna Bites the Dust

Microsoft is following SAP’s much-discussed decision to can its European Sapphire event with a similar decision to do away with the Microsoft Convergence Conference in Vienna this year. Like SAP, Microsoft Dynamics will be hosting a series of local events across Europe, keyed to local interests and languages, and designed to be much more accessible to local attendees.

What Microsoft Dynamics didn’t say they would do is rely on more virtual events as well, but don’t be surprised if they key up something virtual as part of this move. The recent MIX developers conference got strong reviews for its online/virtual nature, and I would imagine this lesson is being studied across the company. Others top tier vendors are dabbling in the virtual trade show concept as well, though Oracle’s most recent attempt was a little shy on technical excellence.

This shift away from a massive nerd migration to a big convention town isn’t just a good way to supply those ever-disunified Europeans with the local content they so crave. It’s also a major cost-savings exercise for vendor and attendee alike. The difference between the cost of a virtual event and a “real” event is mind-boggling: inviting a few thousand of your closest customers and partners to Vegas or Orlando can set you back tens of millions of dollars. Doing it on line is an order of magnitude cheaper. And on the attendee side, it’s hard to spend less than $1000 to go to a three-day event, during which the typical attendee’s productivity and net value decline in proportion to the number of evening “events” they attend.

Of course, while the sex and drugs (euphemistically speaking, of course) of an on line conference just don’t compare (yet!), the bigger problem is that the industry will be all the poorer for virtualizing the entirety of its interactions. So a mix of virtual and real will be the way to go.

Meanwhile, hats off to Dynamics for taking the step of cutting back on some unnecessary waste in the conference circuit. And if Euro-nerds still want to play the pan-European conference game, there’s always CEBIT. That’s one show that couldn’t die if its life depended on it.

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