Groundhog Day and CeBIT

Groundhog Day is coming up – and so is CeBIT. For me, it will be the first time in four years that I’ve headed up to Hanover, Germany to what was once by far the world’s most important technology trade show.  I stopped attending as the show, known colloquially as the “Laatzener Volksfest”, had really faded away. However, this year, CeBIT’s magnetic pull clearly seems to be back.

There’s no mobile stuff anymore – that’s all gone to Barcelona and the Mobile World Congress. But recently I’ve heard from a lot of people (who like me had given up on CeBIT) that they’re going back this year. This is a clear signal that the new slimmer, more focused CeBIT is again a force to be reckoned with.

As well as being an ideal launch-pad for your latest and greatest stuff, it is also a place to see and be seen – the networking and the parties were always a key part of the event.

Being at the right parties can also help to draw attention to your product, as it’s generally easy to become lost in the noise. There will be a lot of “tier one” announcements at CeBIT, so if you’re planning something, make sure it’s amped up.

On the media side, previous CeBITs have reminded me of Groundhog Day, the movie – because every day seems to be the same.

  • You wake up every day in a strange bed (hotels in Hanover are exorbitantly expensive during CeBIT, so most people end up lodging in the guest room of an enterprising local family), quite possibly suffering from the side-effects of staying out late “networking” even though you swore you’d be back in your accommodation by 10pm absolute latest
  • Head over to the showground – and try and park in the same corner of the same floor every day. I know too many people who have “lost” their car in the enormous multi-story car parks simply by forgetting where they parked it that morning …
  • Get into the show and walk through the halls – which are playing the same music and videos on three-minute loops – to get to your appointed press and analyst 1:1 briefings
  • Hear the same executive say the same things (which is actually a good thing, shows they’re on message, well drilled etc.) multiple times a day

Of course there are always some CeBIT “magic moments”. For me, highlights have included how an executive managed to eat a portion of cake during every one of his half-hourly press appointments which stretched across an entire afternoon (“well,” he said, “you have to join your guests if they want to eat something”…) – and seeing all the exhibitors on the Singapore Pavilions race outside to start a snowball fight when it started snowing … not something they see at home every day.

Something else that brought a big smile to my face was asking a journalist friend to describe her highlights of the show – after a frantic day of racing through the halls, cool-hunting – only for her to describe the technology being launched by one of my newest clients.  Pitching that story was on my list … she beat me to the draw.

The one that always brings a smile to my face, though, was one of the first trips – where at the last minute, my then boss made a late decision to attend, pulled rank and sequestered my hard-won hotel room. I was “downgraded” to a guest house in suburban Hanover, which I thought was grossly unfair, until realizing that my accommodation was just 10 minutes’ on foot from the main halls – and that the hotel was completely on the wrong side of town, which was gridlocked by CeBIT traffic. Sometimes you don’t immediately notice the silver lining.

See you at CeBIT?

Simon Jones, Managing Director, OnPR GmbH

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