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Buzz begins on low Tech Forum turnout

About six weeks away from this year's HP Technology Forum & Expo, the exhibitor community is fretting about show attendance. A post on Linked In's Connect HP User Group Community, from a VP at security vendor XYPRO, asks of the 2009 attendance "Will it be a record low?"

We did a survey and only 25% of those that responded plan on attending the show. I've also been contacted privately and been told that several of our customers aren't sending anyone due to the location being Las Vegas and the potential bad press that may invite.

There's nothing new about the Las Vegas venue for the "HPTF&E," led by Hewlett-Packard experts and Connect user group members with its expo operated by the user group. The show has been in Vegas for the last two outings at the same Mandalay Bay resort hotel on the strip. But the current economy is going to drive down traffic at every meeting, according to Connect's Community Manager Kees den Hartigh.

Going to the HPTF&E is a fruitless journey if you don't have a migration off the 3000 in play. If you're finished that transition there's plenty to learn, at least from HP.

Compelling 2009 content, Connect's manager asserts, provides unmatched value in attending the $1,500 conference.

Travel restrictions and cutbacks by most companies and corporations will affect attendance at all conferences, not just the HP Technology Forum. That being said, the Connect content committees for HPTF&E 2009 have done an outstanding job in assembling an extremely compelling program for attendees interested in HP technologies.

This kind of whispering about attendance is commonplace in the six weeks leading to a conference. Sometimes it surfaces as a sort of justifying act from a vendor who is considering a pullout. Other times it's dead-on, the unfiltered assay of how many technologists will sit in your row in a session room. People bet with or against the line just like on a craps table.

From the perspective of the press, I found no issues with the meeting's venue in Vegas in 2007 and 2008. I don't gamble, but the hotels can be nice. I had more problems getting into meetings that were not ultra-managed by HP. Both Computerworld and the NewsWire found the customer-heavy forums blocked off our access list. Third party PR reps got that repaired after a wait, but it took awhile for HP's Press/Analyst maven to see the value in our presence among customers. There's those pesky questions we ask, perhaps.

I'll skip the quip about not paying to be in that room and just report the show is on the bubble here in our offices, too. Making contact with HP is almost impossible to avoid at this conference. It's thick with HP managers and experts who reveal things you will struggle to discover anyplace else. You sign a no-disclosure agreement to learn, something we reporters can't do.

"Unfortunately we're getting a lot more 'no we aren't going this year,' " said Lisa Partridge of XYPRO. The VP of the NonStop security vendor added, "Perhaps the sunny side of this unfortunate circumstance is that we'll get some serious quality time with the people that are able to make it." Expect a lot of attention on the expo floor if you're attending.

If your object is to trod the casino halls to sit in rooms with other customers, however, that passenger manifest is still in play. No conference producer can guarantee a good customer turnout. That kind of attendance drives a richer level of networking. If contact with HP is your primary goal, then it's a good bet that being in Vegas next month will be worth your wages to attend.