Can MacWorld – or any tech conference – survive the next decade?

Comic from the great NatalieDee

The Grube talks about an Apple-less MacWorld and how it will be a pretty sad show without the regular one-ring circus that is the Steve Jobs keynote but that it won’t be absolutely horrible, with smaller companies actually getting some attention this time. My thinking? Nah. Big trade shows are going down and here are a few reasons why:

The Economy Who can spend a few thousand on airfare, hotels, and coference tickets? Not many small companies right now and big companies that might not care too much about conferences like MacWorld or even the Game Developer Conference or CES are loathe to send employees who will probably just get a nice steak dinner and lounge around watching pay-per-view instead of attending workshops. There’s a reason “going to a conference” has always intimated something untoward in movies and TV. What else do you do at a conference besides look for coffee and wish you were home?
Us and You Blogs and other news sources – Twooter, Booz, and Facetwoot included – give everyone a methodology for sharing interesting information. In the past, information sharing was one to many. Now it can be one to one. A Chinese company doesn’t have to wing its way to Las Vegas to show off its resistors.
The Next Generation These kids these days. You think they want to wander around a big hall full of men and women dressed in suits? No! They want cosplay and cartoons and video games. Birds of a feather conferences like PAX and ComicCon are different animals entirely and should be the next model for conferences like MacWorld: small, focused events in multiple cities, some events online. Tech conferences are like science fairs and with the crackdown on booth babes, they’re not even fun anymore.
Networking and Sales are Online The guys from Best Buy and Wal-Mart don’t need to go to CES. They get stuff shown to them all the time. The guys at B&H Camera don’t need to go to CES. They, too, have a set inventory and most of their hottest gear is announced regularly online. Sure, you need face-time sometimes but that face time can be done more efficiently and with less hassle.

A big tech conference is a hassle. Things are changing on that front, but I doubt we’ll see a MacWorld in the next decade. Thoughts?