As a journalist, I have a love/hate story with German tech conference CeBIT and I am not the only one.
Unlike the other big tech conferences (CES, Computex, IFA, MWC), it happens outside of Hannover, a picturesque town with a population of just over half a million and this proves to be a harder sell compared to "glitzier" alternatives like Las Vegas or Barcelona.
Many PR agencies have told me in private that they have found it more and more difficult to connect with British journalists at CeBIT simply because there were so few of us attending; had it not been for David Cameron's 5G announcement, the numbers would have been even lower.
To make matters worse, CeBIT is the third big event in the global tech calendar this year, taking place only a few days after the end of MWC. That barely gives any time for respite for journalists, fearful of having to tread through its 27 gargantuan halls.
The declining number of key tech publications covering the event coupled with the lack of major announcements means that CeBIT has lost a lot of its clout, with companies preferring either to invest their event marketing budgets in CES, MWC, IFA or more niche events like World Hosting Days.
And this is having a perverse effect. CeBIT promised this year to go back to its B2B roots by focusing on enterprise and put "Datability" at the centre of the conference.
It invited some fantastic speakers to lead its keynotes; Mark Shuttleworth, Eugene Kaspersky, Jimmy Wales and Steve Wozniak to name a few.
Quality, not quantity
However, the brutal truth hit me over the two days I attended the event. There were still hordes of teenagers roaming around at CeBIT, something you'd never see at MWC or CES because they are closed to the general public and are highly selective about their audiences.
On top of that, a number of what I'd call freeloaders just add to the "noise". They swarm around stands and grab any goodies that they may get, (pens, pins, empty bags and the coveted USB key). This is obviously done to increase footfall and gives an impression of a busy event.
Quantity however doesn't equate to quality: CeBIT pitches itself as an "IT show and a conference programme for professionals" but I seriously wonder how many of the tens of thousands of unqualified leads that attended the event knew their big data from their SDx or even give a thought about IoT.
An anonymous source working for a major technology company exhibiting at CeBIT told TechRadar Pro that the decision by Deutsche Messe, the organising body behind CeBIT, to refocus on B2B was generally well received within the industry. Whether CeBIT will focus on qualified leads remains to be seen. "If there are only 200.000 ITDMs why do they need to try and aim for one million," he added skeptically.
CeBIT needs to adapt rapidly or it will find it increasingly difficult to remain relevant to the very professionals it wants to attracts.