Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Back in the high life again?

Stephen England's just written his balance sheet of Gartner's Symposium. His verdict: "Last week saw a significant milestone for the tech industry – the return of one of the most reliable bellwethers in the business -- Gartner’s annual Fall Symposium -- to the state it was in before the bubble popping tech crash and the dreadful events of September 11th 2001."

Okay, with a name like ARmadgeddon no-one expects this blog to be optimisitic. But we think Stephen has sniffed one yellow rose too many. He comments that "8,500 people attended the Orlando event (netting out 1,000 odd vendor attendees and a similar number of Gartner team members that’s 6,500 end user technology buyers or ETB’s)." That is a long way short of where Symposium was in 2000, when the conference center was packed solid. I seem to remember being told that there were well over 10,000 there that year.

But Stephen's estimate of the attendance this year also seems a little high to me. 6,500 attendees from end user organizations is 50% higher than the figure Gartner cited in the 'come back soon' packet given to departing firms that had exhibited at Orlando: and not all of those end users are end user buyers. Every year the ITxpo is filled with an increasing percentage of human locusts who seem to be there only for free pens, t-shirts and chicken wings. Indeed, his estimate of Gartner having 40% market share also seems high. My Gartner account manager claimed a much lower percentage.

Of course, since Stephen's biggest asset is a former Gartner analyst, it figures that he and his colleagues want to emphasise Gartner's leadership. But the reality is that Gartner's revenue is smaller now than it was at the peak of the boom; and that is remarkable considering that Gartner acquired META Group.

And that leads us to a rather different conclusion from Stephen: that Gartner's market share is probably lower than at the peak of the boom, and attendance at Symposium seems unlikely to return to the peak before the crash. Indeed, Gartner's recent choices, such as those to sell its custom research wing and to effectively cancel the first full day of the Symposium in Cannes, are signals that it expects hard times ahead.


Silicon Valley Guy said...

I think you are right that Stephen of KCG is stretching the truth a little or maybe is just careless with with what he is saying.

Gartner told our events people negotiating the 2006 ITxpo sponsorship contract that Gartner had 5,700 paid attendees, end users and vendors. The Gartner World Wide Events reps would not break out end user only attendance. Assuming that end users were 80% to 90% of the mix that would give a range of 4,480 to 5,040 paid end user attendees. A far cry from Stephen's 6,500.

Lots of other attendees: comps, reporters, vendor staff for sponsorship support, Gartner staff and so on. But what really counts for the vendors that sponsor ITxpo are paid end-user attendees.

Gartner's paid attendance for Symposium peaked in October 2001, though only about half showed up due to 9/11. It went way down in 2002 and has slowly increased since then but it is still way off the peak.

Gartner capped paid attendance at 7,500 in the late 90's because the facilities were bursting at the seams -- and maybe to help drive Spring Symposium.

theARpro said...

That figures. The 'please book again' pack said there were 4,500 people from end-user organizations.

Stephen England @ KCG said...

So here’s the rub. Under pressure from KCG (among others) Gartner has completely revamped and upgraded its counting, auditability and transparency of reporting for events since 1999/2000.

We don’t make these numbers up, we talk to folks like Scott Winkler (number 2 in events worldwide) and we ASK them for the published numbers with breakdown. Then we publish what we hear now and what we believe to be true for the 1999/2000 timeframe.

Sounds like other folks in Gartner have their own stories, that's Gartner's challenge not ours.

Gartner’s market share numbers are based on published financial data plus in depth interviews with CEO’s and senior leadership at most of the leading firms.

Our numbers and our commentary on event trends are what 7,000 people rely on every 2 weeks – neither optimistic nor pessimistic but just the best analysis we can provide.

What would you expect of the only analyst firm that does unto Gartner (and many other firms) exactly what they do unto the Tech Vendor?

Silicon Valley Guy said...

Sorry Stephen, I got my numbers from Scott Winkler.

BTW, Scott is not #2 in Gartner's World Wide Events. His title is "VP & Gartner Fellow, Worldwide Symposium, Gartner." Because the Symposia series is Gartner's flagship event, Scott is a critical member of the executive team, but not #2.

Silicon Valley Guy said...

If you want to be an analyst, it is your challenge to to find the inconsistencies in a vendor's (in this case Gartner's) story and not just be spoon fed information by one of the vendor's executives.

BTW, Scott is not #2 in Gartner's World Wide Events. His title is "VP & Gartner Fellow, Worldwide Symposium, Gartner." Because the Symposia series is Gartner's flagship event, Scott is a critical member of the Events executive team, but not #2.

Anonymous said...

Stephen, what quality of advice are those 7000 people getting if you
[a] believe what you are told and
[b] blame Gartner for your own mistakes. What I mean is:

[a] The idea that Symposium is back at its peak is self-evidently wrong. You were there. You remember the crowds. This year, there were no crowds.

[b] The idea that Gartner, or a Gartner document, told you that attendance numbers are back at their peak is very unlikely. It would be a stupid lie, and they are clever. But even so, it is self-evidently mistaken and its odd that you repeat it.

When this trashy blog can spot errors like this in your work it really makes me wonder what the rest of it is like.