Empty seats at Gartner’s Symposium

Gartner has around 6,100 attendees at its flagship event, Symposium, which is on this week in Orlando. Over the last few years total attendance has been around 7,000 – but this year’s event does feel smaller.

It’s not just because the analyst relations workroom and press center are half their normal size. It’s less crowded, it’s easier to get a seat, there’s no waiting in line for in the restaurants. It feels smaller.

A big part of the difference is the continuing decline in the number of exhibitors in the ITxpo downstairs: in 2001 there were 340, this year there are around 150. Amongst other things, that has to reflect the declining business value of the Expo: it’s can’t just be M&A that’s reducing the numbers. Since few vendors put serious thought into getting the most out of ITxpo, it’s probably a good idea for them to stay away: too many firms send attractive people out with barcoders who can’t talk about their firm’s solutions, and simply identify people at the ITxpo who want free iPods.

Of course much of the decline of the Orlando Symposium also reflects the success of Gartner’s other events. Spring Symposium stresses innovation more, meaning that it is picking up. Taking together all the Symposiums around the world, almost 16,000 people now attend each year, roughly the same as in 1999. The firm organised 59 technology summits and 24 vision events last year. Overall, 41,000 attendees particpated in Gartner events last year, compared to 45,000 at IDC events.

However, there’s one part of Symposium where numbers are always up: the AR forum. Yesterday’s AR Forum was standing-room only, with at least 100 attendees hearing about Gartner’s research process and customer insight service.

P.S. I don’t have a camera here, so the picture is ripped from Richard’s blog.

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