When less is more

A glut of Middle Eastern ICT events recently is leading to conference fatigue among the region's telecom professionals.

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By  Roger Field Published  July 1, 2008

American film maestro Woody Allen once said that "70% of success in life is showing up".

And certainly telecom experts who have managed to turn up to any of the Middle East's myriad of recent ICT events, which have been notable mainly for their shortage of attendees, might agree with this appraisal.

ICT events in the MENA region appear to be proliferating year-on-year. And while the sector itself is also growing rapidly, it seems that either the audience for these events, or telecom professionals' appetite for them, is failing to keep pace.

Of the many telecom conferences and exhibitions that CommsMEA has attended in recent months, from ITU in Cairo, to MECOM in Abu Dhabi, and VoIP Wold Middle East in Dubai, most have been marked by a lack of people.

And it is not just visitors that have been dwindling at recent events. Speakers and exhibitors also appear to be suffering from a growing aversion to regional ICT events, judging by the number of last-minute cancellations and hurried rescheduling of conferences.

Mecom is just one case in point. The event, billed as the "region's premier event for the communications industry" appeared to be about half the size of the previous year's edition. Sure, the event attracted some big names, with the likes of Etisalat chairman Mohammad Omran, and du CEO Osman Sultan attending, but some of the more niche conference sessions were almost empty, apart from the odd business journalist.

The showing at VoIP World in Dubai in June was also well below capacity, with some conferences attended by only 20 or so people. Meanwhile, the conferences at ITU Africa in Cairo in May were generally busy, but the exhibition failed to gain enough visitors.

The main problem is that there are too many events targeting the region's ICT professionals. Furthermore, there is often overlap, with forums at different events focusing on the same themes. On other occasions, there is too little time between similar events, leaving telecom professionals unable to attend both.

It is likely that there will be consolidation in the next couple of years. Some events may have to be combined, some will have to become more focused, and others may well be abandoned altogether. This will certainly be better than wasting the time of delegates and visitors who find that turning up does not always bring success.

Roger Field is the editor of Communications Middle East & Africa.

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