Conference Falls Flat

I spent last week at the Inbox Conference in San Jose, Calif., where I moderated three panels; since we were already there, my company decided to exhibit as well. The Inbox Conference was recently acquired by Jupitermedia which, I'm assuming, was as disappointed as everyone else I spoke with at the show about its direction and turnout. Jupitermedia execs have their work ahead of them to resurrect what was once the first serious show to take on the email channel.

Before there was the Marketing Sherpa show and the Email Insider Summit, there was Inbox, which in its first year aimed high. Participants undertook serious work around legislation, and began initiatives for Trevor Hugh's Email Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC). Today, the ESPC seems to have basically fallen off the face of the map, issuing only one press release since April of 2006. But back then, Inbox was an important show aimed at ISPs and the technical and legal challenges surrounding email.

Last year, the show attempted to expand its reach by incorporating a marketing track into its agenda, which might have been a fatal flaw. By splitting the focus in what was essentially an intimate gathering, the content was for all intents and purposes sliced in half, with the marketing folks not interested in the technical tracks and the technical folks uninterested in the marketing content.



That confusion was clearly evident this year when the opening keynote, basically a product demonstration by Microsoft of its new conferencing system, drew fewer than 60 people, including speakers and vendors, and full session marketing "shoot-outs" pulled in less than 15 people.

Even the organizers were nowhere to be found when I was trying to set up for my full session panel in the main hall. I was left to set up the stage, track down the sound guys, figure out how to turn off the presentation from the keynote that preceded me (never actually did figure that out), and introduce myself to a handful of half-awake spectators checking their email.

Needless to say, the vendors exhibiting, who seemed to outnumber the spectators, were fuming as they basically set up offices like the guy in the Office Depot ads and tried to get some work done.

Jupitermedia knows how to put on a show, so I'm assuming there will be big changes next year -- if there is a next year. Someone else will have to report on it, though. I won't be back. We do need a show like what Inbox used to be. I'm hoping Jupitermedia can figure out a way to save this one.

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