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ABA TECHSHOW 2008: A Report from the Exhibit Hall and Suggestions for TechShow 2009

By Mazyar Hedayat | Monday, March 24, 2008


Vendors and Attendees Say It's "The Best Damn TechShow in Years"

From a spectator's point of view this year's show was the largest and most complete in years, in terms of attendees, seminars, and vendors.

The crowd of attendees streaming into the Hilton may have come for a good time, but they stayed for the tremendous variety of products and players on the exhibit floor. And that crowd included both local lawyers and those who had flown in from around the country to find out firsthand what was on the technical horizon.

Most of the attendees with whom I conversed were small-firm lawyers or sole practitioners who had taken precious time away from their schedule, and in many cases had spent thousands out of their own pockets to be there. Every last one also declared that they would do so again next year.

But this year was about more than head-count or event vendor enthusiasm. TechShow 2008, under Tom Mighell's direction, brought something truly new to the equation — TechShow Buzz — a technological detente between traditional public relations and alternative media, including blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, news aggregators, and even microblogging tools like Twitter. Taken together the use of these tools by the ABA signals a sea change in how lawyers practice, the effects of which will be felt for years.

In addition to looking at TechShow through a spectator's eyes as I had for years, this year I put on my journalist hat and spoke with vendors of all stripes — application service providers (once an exotic breed now here in force), the research giants, veterans, and new arrivals. All of them said that this was the most engaging, best attended, and in terms of their ability to connect with prospects, simply the best TechShow in years.

Congratulations on Doing Things Right. Welcome Law 2.0.

I have a feeling that the success of this year's TechShow owes much to the trends we've witnessed over the last two years; namely, the trend towards lighter, more manageable technology in place of the expensive hardware and software of a few short years ago. So while we saw Web 2.0 burst onto the legal technology scene with a flourish last year, TechShow 2008 demonstrated how these Web 2.0 technologies will combine with traditional technologies and give birth to Law 2.0. As Martha Stewart would say, it's a good thing.

Then Again Nobody's Perfect, So a Few Suggestions

I have a few thoughts for TechShow 2009:

1. If it Ain't Broke
TechShow Buzz and the Concierge Desk (see photo above) are both great ideas. Keep them but don't stop looking for ways to make them more effective. And continue to tap LPM section members for other innovative suggestions.

2. Get (Inter)Active
Keep attendees and LPM members engaged year-round by soliciting suggestions, ideas, questions, and feedback on technology issues in every communication. And speaking of communication, remember that you can't do enough so more is better. Often the best suggestions will come when you least expect them.

3. Can You Hear Me Now?
For the love of all that's holy, arrange for more WiFi, set up more computer terminals equipped with Microsoft Office (or at least Word), provide more work spaces, and give attendees half a chance to be productive.

Remember, most of the people at the show are self-employed practitioners for whom communication with the home base is critical. I positively felt a chill each time I descended onto the exhibit floor because I knew it would mean a total communications blackout. That's just crazy.

4. Give Diversity a Chance
Seek out, encourage, and accommodate small vendors by lowering exhibitor fees, letting vendors share booth space (alternative days, time), providing more opportunities to showcase products via continuous mini-seminars, and so forth.

By giving small companies a chance you open the door to a generation of practitioners marginalized by their inability to purchase big iron. Of course this means taking some focus away from the larger vendors on whom the show depends, but you'll thank me in a few years as the new relationships you've cultivated bear fruit.

5. New Media Can Be Your Friend
Want to double or triple your audience over-night? Deliver seminars to paying attendees via podcast and Webinar, creating a new tier of attendance in the process — "media only."

And Webcast from the exhibit floor to the whole world. Subsidize the cost of doing so by selling advertising on the video feed.

And last but not least, actively solicit bloggers and journalists to cover TechShow. Our coverage, no matter how complete, will encourage more people to attend.

Final Thoughts on TechShow

My sincerest thanks to TechnoLawyer for publishing my reports and opinion pieces on TechShow, all the members of the board for their hard work, the generous speakers, the attendees, and the exhibitors.

I guess that does it for TechShow 2008 ... for me. Now, it's time for your firsthand reports. Just click the Comment link below. TechnoLawyer will fast-track your TechShow report for publication in its Fat Friday newsletter. I'm especially looking forward to reading someone else's reports for a change!

Read more firsthand reports from ABA TechShow 2008.

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Topics: Technology Industry/Legal Profession | Trade Show Reports
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