How was Gitex for you?

IT exhibition Gitex brings together PR professionals, marketers and journalists from across the region for one of the biggest events of the year. We asked five to relive their experience

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By  Richard Abbott Published  October 9, 2005

How was gitex for you?|~|GITEX.jpg|~|Sherif El-Gamrawy |~|Sherif El-Gamrawy marketing manager, Computer Associates This was my ninth Gitex but my first with Computer Associates (CA). But I have to say, it keeps getting bigger and better as each year passes. As CA celebrated its first anniversary in the region there was a lot of traffic at the stand. Customers, partners and media showed overwhelming interest, which means we were all kept quite busy (more than 3000 visitors stopped by). As always, all the IT players were striving to get their products and news covered by the media in the days building up to, and during, the show, with each column inch printed being a testament to the ability of the regional media to dig through hundreds of daily announcements, identifying what’s news and what’s not. With scores of journalists visiting Dubai to cover the show, the PR agencies scrambled once again to get their customers’ face time with the press and the onslaught of interviews kept coming throughout the five days. Receiving the IT Company of the Year award during ITP’s Windows Awards was the icing on the cake as there is a sense of fulfilment in knowing that one of the biggest publishing houses has recognised your company’s achievements. As always, organising a press conference or briefing proved to be the biggest challenge thanks to the traffic jams that the event effortlessly generates. Getting journalists to attend your event all comes down to last minute follow-up calls and loads of luck. The luck part has played a major role at every Gitex I have attended. All in all, the organisational effort put in to make it an ongoing success has to be noted, although there is always room for improvement. As with every Gitex, the pain and the sweat of the press, PR folks and marketing staff melts away on the last day as they give a sigh of relief that it is over and that another successful event has come to a close. For five days, the place comes to life and with it comes a renewed sense of belonging to an industry that has developed at a phenomenal rate in this region. Gitex is the hallmark of the IT industry and it is the media and public relations practitioners that safeguard its future, ensuring that generations of up-and-coming IT professionals will always have a place to shine. ||**||How was gitex for you?|~|Zarrour,-Rola--200.jpg|~|Rola Zaarour|~|Rola Zaarour PR manager, Gulf Hill & Knowlton (clients: Intel, HP) Over the years I have grown to agree with a wise IT editor who once told me that Gitex is, in fact, a four-letter word. While many words come to mind, including love and rush, the one that sticks out most poignantly is the Gitex high — without which I would not have made it through the show. While some love to hate Gitex, some of us genuinely get a high out of the Middle East’s biggest IT exhibition. Such was the premise of a very unscientific survey undertaken by a bunch of PRs and media friends at Sheikh Rashid Hall’s Café Convention at 4pm on day five of the show. The survey was designed to assess the highs and lows of Gitex and to find out what truly gave Gitex veterans a buzz. Respondents, consisting of visitors, editors, exhibitors and PR practitioners were asked to cite their Gitex highs as well as instances that scored low. According to the ‘survey’, show respondents named the following as top high inducers: Symantec’s 6pm refreshers at Lotus One, Canon’s Beckham look-a-likes, Acer’s ‘casino’ party at Zinc, Intel’s branded roller-boxes and the ITP VIP lounge shoulder massages. Others said Joseph Hanania’s speech at the HP Channel Awards was a winning moment, whereas football fans enjoyed Avaya’s special appearance by UAE star Ismael Mattar. Hungry IT journalists opted for the LG ‘hotties’ as a Gitex high, followed by partying at the expense of large multi-nationals and, last but not least, leaving Gitex at 5pm on day five. Things that scored low on the scale were Inmarsat’s brick-man with a halo wondering around aimlessly, the predictable yet infinitely infuriating three-hour taxi wait after a long Gitex day, promo girls shoving brochures in visitors’ faces, the ‘lack of hot men in the IT industry’, the unavailability of seating at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and the bored look of some promo staff. When asked about how they found the show, a couple of over-zealous respondents took it upon themselves to compose songs about Gitex including an entry called ‘Another Geek in the Hall’ (sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s The Wall). For me, Gitex highs included working with fabulous marcoms teams and a prominent H&K Gitex veteran, partnering with excellent IT editors to try and give the market the best and catching up with regional media. Other special moments were the camaraderie with fellow PRs and knowing I would be doing something different at next year’s show.||**||How was gitex for you?|~|Addington,-Tim-200.jpg|~|Tim Addington|~|Tim Addington reporter, Gitex Times For my colleagues at ITP Business, Gitex is the single most important event in their calendar. Thousands of man-hours are spent preparing bumper issues of magazines, a preview supplement, and Gitex Times, a 76-page daily tome distributed free at the show. Having worked on daily newspapers in the UK, I jumped at the chance of joining the Gitex Times reporting team — even if that involved covering the less than glamorous world of network technology. This was not my first Gitex. Last year I prowled the halls as an agency PR manager and I was guilty of harassing journalists to cover my clients in order to secure them the largest amount of coverage possible. This year the hunter became the hunted and it is an experience I will not forget quickly. Within ten minutes of setting foot inside the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, my mobile phone started to trill like a starved budgie and, in almost every case, it was an anxious PR using every trick in the book for me to see their client. During the week, many PR agencies openly admitted to me that they were involved in a numbers game. At the end of the week, publicity hungry clients want a count of how many interviews they have done and how many newspapers, TV or radio spots they have racked up. And if the figure is not up on last year then the agency needs to watch out. In my short experience at Gitex, real news didn’t really exist. Sure, there were a few major announcements and the occasional interesting tale, but the majority were dross that didn’t even warrant being called news. On a lighter note, there was Canon’s coup of hiring David and Victoria Beckham look-a-likes. And a major IT vendor fired one of its attractive Russian promotion staff for handing out her business card to gentleman visitors, offering services that had nothing to do with high-speed data transfers, wireless routers or value added distribution. But it was in the evening that things really started to liven up. Not being a techie, I can think of nothing worse than being jammed into a room with a bunch of IT sales guys. I swear you need to learn a whole different language to understand these people. But, as the sun went down, the drinks flowed freely (and free in most cases) and the geek-o-meter was mercifully dialled down to low.||**||How was gitex for you?|~|Peters,-Aimee--200.jpg|~|Aimee Peters|~|Aimee Peters PR manager, Symantec Middle East and Africa Note to self — never agree to a photoshoot on the fourth day of Gitex. You have Gitex eyes (equipped with grey bags, not of the Prada variety), washed-out looks and a two-metre stare — the maximum distance between any two people at any time at any place on the show floor. This was my fourth Gitex. Every year I pray it will be the last. I had a cunning plan this year — I copied the sales approach. Most years it’s a case of gathering up press releases about anything newsworthy, carefully planning an e-mail bombing strategy then running around like a blue-arsed fly following it all up. This year I decided that Symantec had a pretty strong story to tell to the people we don’t usually see. So I had a week of tag-teaming with Wallis Marketing Consultants, our PR agency, to chase up people I only see once a year and only speak to marginally more often to get them to ‘talk the talk’ with my spokespeople — well, those not stuck in customer meetings. For the fourth year running, we’ve had the war of the schedule, jostling over the relative importance of the people with whom we are meeting, and I think I’ve had a fair amount of success. Apparently our ‘Gitex uniform’ of fitted Symantec yellow shirts for our promotion team was a decided hit. Exhibition attendees are accustomed to seeing women in totally sexless ‘one size fits most’ corporate golf shirts or near pornographic micro-dresses, so this was a suitable compromise. The Symantec corporate team opted for what Wallis called the ‘Johnny Cash’ look, and I followed suit — head to toe black, which hid the daily wear and tear and carried me from 8am to 3am on several days. There were a couple of other worthy mentions in the evening party stakes. Trilogy did quite well out of the week — keep the palm trees because we like them — and our UK visitors were fascinated by the talents of the belly-dancers at the Sun Microsystems party. At least we think that’s what had them captivated. And thanks to our lovely industry friends who came to our parties and suffered our presence at theirs. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all about the networking.||**||How was gitex for you?|~|Sutton,-Mark--200.jpg|~|Mark Sutton |~|Mark Sutton senior account manager, Asda’a (client: Microsoft) Sunday morning. Another Gitex. Due to a lack of hall passes and some last minute amendments to press releases, my account exec and I spend half the morning stuck in traffic or trying to get into the show. One of the best parts of the show is catching up with people. It’s all good fun, but put lots of media and PR together and you’re going to get lots of gossip. My favourite rumour this year was the one that said a major IT company was about to abandon Dubai Internet City in favour of Bahrain, with the ‘smart money’ suggesting it was my client that was making the move. Barely credible enough to be taken seriously, but just juicy enough to set tongues wagging, this one provided hours of idle speculation and was even raised at a press conference. Trying to leave the show that night was absolute mayhem. Shuttle buses were taking punters out to the farthest overflow car park to join another queue for taxis, but it seems the queues got mixed up with the evacuation for Hurricane Rita. Monday evening and it’s off to the Arabian Business Awards, or whatever it was called. Unfortunately, I’m not there to abuse the hospitality, but to get some proofs signed off for a daily newspaper that I am producing for the client. While it’s a great idea, the execution involves me foregoing parties for the whole week, which is probably just as well. Wednesday morning — time for our first proper press conference of the week. Half an hour before we’re due to start, media relations inform me ‘we have no media’. No need to panic, half an hour is a long time at Gitex. Five minutes before kick off, however, and not only do we have no media, but our VIPs are missing. Time to panic. Media relations save the day somehow and we end up with enough press to keep the client happy. Thursday lunchtime — the client has spent a lot on branding and wants some good photos to send back to corporate HQ. This involves me doing a turn as a model to try and get some action into the pictures. It’s gone 3pm and surely there can’t be any media left? Syrian TV appears to ruin my afternoon. I pass them on to an Arabic speaker and retreat to the Blue Bar. ||**||

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