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SAPPHIRE/ASUG09 was energizing as usual – meeting current & prospective customers, meeting partners, and attending selected sessions is always a great learning experience and great way to recharge yourself and your team.
 
However, this year’s SAPPHIRE was very different from each of last 5 years that I’ve been going there. Maybe as a regular attendee you might have only noticed the small lunches, the lack of any evening reception, and the post-dinner concert, but as  a trade-show exhibitor some of the differences this year were very significant. These differences had a major impact for us and will severely affect own return on investment from participating in this show.
 
First and foremost, the number of attendees were visibly lower than I’ve ever seen. Some were saying the number was down 50% from 2008. We all understand the effect on the macro-economic conditions on trade-shows and conferences.
 
However, for us, the worst part of the conference was that SAPPHIRE or ASUG management did little to drive any traffic to the show floor.  The lunch area to the side did not help. An evening reception during Day 1 would have led to a lot of visitors to our booths — the visitors are relaxed, not headed anywhere, and could have spend more time having quality conversations with us.  
 
Now, the question for next year is whether we should continue our SAPPHIRE participation at the same level? Should we focus more on the SAP Insider conferences which are a more friendly to exhibitors and the local ASUG chapter meetings and skip SAPPHIRE completely? I know many SAP Partners who did that in 2009.
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  1. Phillip Avelar
    I was not able to attend the show this year but I have been catching the keynotes online to stay on top, the interesting spin is that in the keynotes Leo mentioned that it was the highest attendance at a SAPPHIRE event. I imagine he might have be including the online attendance to be able to say that as I also heard from some of our partners that attendance was down but interesting how the message can be spinned.
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      1. Michael Koch
        Hi Vikram,

        Maybe the fact that a lot of attendants abstained and took part virtually means that you need to approach your customers differently ?

        In my opinion, metaphorically speaking, SAP leads the horses to the river. It’s the exhibitor’s job to get them to drink.

        Kind regards,
        M

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        1. Vikram Chalana Post author
          Michael,

          As you said in your tweet, the problem is getting the virtual attendees (8K of them!) to the virtual pond first, let alone make drink! As exhibitors, we have no visibility to the virtual attendees. Maybe SAP can help us there.

          Regards,
          Vikram

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      2. Mark Finnern
        Hi Vikram,

        Check the replay of Leo’s keynote http://bit.ly/sn9UK at minute 2.30 he is welcoming 10.000 registrants in person and 8.000 people online.

        For the times we are in, I think these are great numbers.

        The ASUG reception on Monday night was on the showfloor and may be a solution would be to open up the booths during that time.

        As you can see from the ASUG volunteer reaction, to get the schedule right to everyone’s satisfaction is a balancing act.

        All the best, Mark.

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  2. Susan Keohan
    Hi Vikram,
    As an ASUG Volunteer who works to plan the educational tracks at the conference, I can tell you that we had very good attendance this year, if not quite 18K.  All this in spite of the economy and perhaps even some fears about H1N1.
    However, we (ASUG volunteers) were very frustrated about the lack of time slots available due to extended lunch breaks, which I believe are designed to drive the traffic down onto the vendor floor.  We’ve seen our available time slots go from 11 or 12 a few years ago, to 6-8 this year.  Yes, I understand that this event is partially funded by our partners, and you probably did see less traffic.  But when the number of educational sessions is cut, we all suffer.  Fortunately, within the BITI group, we all worked together to maximize the number of sessions we could use and fill.   
    So, by my calculations, ‘I’ got 8 hours of attendee time, while the vendor floor got 7.5 (lunch break from 11:30 – 2:00).  

    We both have very different goals for an event like this… It’s sort of the nature of the beast.  Still, it’s the best show in town (IMHO)
    Regards,
    Sue

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    1. Vikram Chalana Post author
      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for the visibility to the “other side”. I appreciate it.

      Jim Spath (@jspath55) offerred one solution on twitter:

      “SAP could start with limiting keynotes to one-hour maximum, on one day. We lot vendor face time and educational sessions”

      Regards,
      Vikram

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  3. Susan Scrupski
    My understanding is this was the most widely attended SAPPHIRE ever with 10K attendees and another 8K participating online.  Further, an analyst I traveled with back to the airport said because of the recession, it was quality much more than quantity that made this SAPPHIRE better than most.

    He mentioned that in the sessions, the customers were there to buy.  Many of the casual “I’ll go to SAPPHIRE so I can have a vacation at Disney with the family” customers were eliminated in travel budget cuts.  Only the business customers who were serious (and could rationalize and get approval for the expense) made the cut, so the conversations were about real issues and opportunities. 

    Not sure that helps, but that was the feedback I took away.

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