By: Reno Ybarra
Recently, Engage PR attended IoT Evolution Expo West, TMCnet’s Internet of Things focused conference in Las Vegas celebrating the companies that are driving business innovation through IoT. The conference provided a great opportunity for our clients to meet face-to-face with analysts, media and participate in industry discussions via panel sessions on relevant topics. It also allowed us to host these briefings and interviews, take in keynotes and panel sessions and introduce our clients to various stakeholders, including media, analysts and event organizers – people we consistently work with but rarely get to interact with face-to-face. The value attending an industry event as a PR professional can be enormous and personally, it’s my favorite part of the job.
This particular event is relevant to Engage PR as IoT is not only a hot topic everywhere you look, but is where a number of our clients are focused. As such, it’s necessary for our staff to stay involved in the conversations surrounding the various technologies, use cases and markets that IoT vendors and purchasers serve and drive, respectively. At the same time, there are dozens of events just like it and it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate between them in order to make cogent recommendations to our clients. Furthermore, they all have the same problem – the buyers of technology do not attend en masse – which creates a dilemma for vendors looking to generate sales leads and increase visibility for their brands. I’m generalizing a bit with that statement, but my experience and what Engage PR has heard from multiple clients all points to that same conclusion. At IoT Evolution Expo West, there were analysts, media and hundreds of vendor representatives in attendance, but few purchasers of the technology and solutions being discussed throughout the event. As a result, we see clients focusing efforts on vertical shows that focus on industries that are adopting various IoT technologies, and where the actual buyers are almost guaranteed to be present.
That isn’t to say that horizontal shows don’t hold plenty of value in a relatively nascent market with players coming in to compete in droves, such as IoT. These horizontal shows provide value to companies large and small as you can see with the sponsors of IoT Evolution Expo West inclusive of behemoths like AT&T and newer, smaller companies like Senet. For the big dogs, they get the notoriety that comes with sponsoring the show, having a large booth presence and participating on just about every panel. For the smaller companies including startups, it’s a great way to introduce a new brand to the market and drive visibility through startup competitions and exhibitions. TMCnet’s IoT show is very small compared to say, the CES’s of the world, but smaller shows include the following benefits, while I’m sure there are others:
- More facetime with analysts and media – pitching for Mobile World Congress and CES starts nearly six months in advance and is extremely competitive, whereas at smaller shows it is more realistic for small and mid-size B2B companies to sit-down with important influencers. If you’re not sponsoring or exhibiting at a show like this, the awareness gained from sitting on a few panels and mingling with media and analysts is invaluable.
- Less distractions to navigate – When exhibiting or announcing news at a smaller show, the likelihood of getting drowned out by the crowd is less as there are fewer competing activities.
- Productive mingling happens – With less heads roaming the halls, it’s easier to spot someone you know or would like to introduce yourself to and talk to them. Working with dozens of media and analysts I’ve never met drives a curiosity in me to the point that I memorize pictures of a few targets and seek them out at shows to introduce myself to in the hopes they remember and take my card. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but often, the person will remember the effort and respond a little quicker the next time you contact them.
“You can’t sell ‘it’ without IoT” was the theme of the first panel on the main stage of the show’s biggest room. The panel of IoT focused analysts from the likes of ABI Research, BI Intelligence, Machina and IHS Research discussed the topic of ROI Realities in IoT including what the biggest pain points are among buyers and how vendors should go to market and address them. The two most interesting takeaways of this panel for me were that with over 300 IoT “platforms” this market will continue to flood without consolidation, while mid-sized enterprises with flatter organizational structures will be the first adopters of IoT solutions. Another panel that drove my interest was the Fog/Edge Computing panel in which I learned the wife of a Cisco engineer was the one who invented the term Fog Computing.
The quote of the day came from Bsquare’s Dave McCarthy when he referred to connectivity going down at the edge, “Smart equipment shouldn’t have to lose its brain if the cloud isn’t available…” The Industrial IoT Strategies panel included conversations around what happens when vendors sit down with potential customers. Who is in the room and where does the conversation start? If it’s IT, do they make the purchasing decisions? If it’s a business unit, do they know enough about technology to make a decision? Some very interesting questions came up about bridging the two worlds of IT and OT with Dave McCarthy summing it up in a very succinct way, “I’ve been in rooms where LOB and IT guys from the same company sit down and exchange cards because they’ve never met before…”
Overall, it was a busy and productive week for Engage PR and our clients and despite being in Las Vegas, there weren’t any activities that needed to “stay” there.