A Year of Prep for a Week of Tech

Feature Article | February 29, 2012 by Monisha Das

The whir of electric drills drones constantly in some corner of the hall. A fine layer of dust has gathered among the yards of cable that lie scattered on the floor. Workers come and go, lifting and carrying boards, crates, and toolboxes. There’s a continuous cycle of appraising glances, discussions, and shakes and nods of the head. Here in the halls of the Deutsche Messe in the capital of the German state of Lower Saxony, construction of the industry trade show for “Centrum der Büro- und Informationstechnik” – better known as CeBIT – is well underway.

IT companies from all around the world will be using the more than five million square feet available at the facility to present the latest digital work and lifestyle solutions from the field of information and communication technology from March 6th to the 10th.  SAP will be among them as always, showing off its own products in Halls 4 and 5. This video gives you an early at SAP’s stand this year.

“For exhibitors, the official construction effort begins two weeks before the show,” explains CeBIT press officer Anne-Kathrin Seibt. “Companies with stands that span two floors even started a few days before that. It was a little tricky because the Didacta and GastroTrends conventions were still going on at the same time.”

More companies register on short notice

For Seibt, estimating how many companies will end up presenting at CeBIT 2012 is another tricky proposition at the moment. As of now, 4,200 have registered. “In the last few years, we’ve been getting registrations more and more often on short notice. It’s been a noticeable trend,” Seibt reports. In other words, the some 15,000 people handling CeBIT’s construction will have their hands full right up until the trade show opens its doors. Just one look at the formidable array of communication technology being installed on the premises – 6,000 ISDN, 650 T-DSL, and 4,000 analog connection ports for the exhibitors – shows how much work there is to be done.

According to the estimates of the company behind the event’s organization, Deutsche Messe AG, up to 60,000 people will work at the stands and service facilities at this year’s CeBIT. Another 800 employees from three cleaning companies and 400 security personnel will also be deployed.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest ICT convention has grown over the years. At the first CeBIT in 1986, the 2,142 exhibitors in attendance needed just over two million square feet of space; since then, that number has more than doubled. This will be the fifth CeBIT in which Seibt has had an active supporting role. “Every event goes differently, and this year’s won’t be any exception,” she says, knowing that her adrenaline level will rise as opening day approaches.

Booming economy from South America

During the event, Seibt and her colleagues will set up shop in the CeBIT press center to report right from the middle of the action and make themselves available for questions. “In the last few weeks, there’s been a huge increase in the number of journalist inquiries we’ve received,” she notes. “We’re expecting a major international media presence.”

A particularly large number of reporters will likely be in attendance from Brazil, which was selected as this year’s CeBIT partner country. An impressive 100 companies will also be on hand from the booming South American nation. A total of around 5,000 journalists and bloggers from 58 countries traveled to Hanover to report on CeBIT 2011.

Overall, Deutsche Messe registered 339,000 visitors from 110 countries last year. Seibt is wary of offering any estimates as to how many will turn up this time around, however. “It’s hard to say because it often depends on external factors, but we’re confident that the total number will be consistent with last year’s,” she states.

Brain-racking work for 931 dedicated employees

To help attendees from all over Germany and the rest of the world find their way to Hanover and the exhibitors they want to see, 20 employees have been working for months on banners and posters that would cover around 118,000 square feet. That’s more than two whole American football fields! These materials are designed to guide people to stands, topic areas, special exhibits, restaurants, and restrooms, as well as to advertise CeBIT beyond the event’s halls. It would indeed be difficult to miss the largest banner at Hall 1, which consists of nine individual elements and spans over 3,000 square feet.

“For my colleagues and me, CeBIT is a year-round affair,” Anne-Kathrin explains. “Some people can’t believe we work for 12 months to make this one week happen. Every show essentially marks the start of the preparations for the next one, as well, because we start discussing potential topics for the following year.”

Enabling the IT industry to close deals and establish new contacts currently requires 931 dedicated employees from 40 Deutsche Messe departments. The areas of media relations, advertising, marketing, sales, event management, partner country support, V.I.P. services, and protocol procedure are among those involved in their extensive preparations. “We organize press conferences in over 40 countries throughout the year, for example,” Seibt adds. “There are also 70 representatives that advertise CeBIT all around the world.”

High-profile guests expected at Monday kick-off

Plans, efforts, headaches – all this to provide technology fans and other attendees from the fields of commerce, industry, trade, banking, service provision, public administration, and science with the perfect setting every spring. This Monday, one day before CeBIT officially begins, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Lower Saxony Minister President David McAllister, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and BITKOM President Dieter Kempf will open the show along with 2,000 invited guests.

Anyone who stops by the exhibition center right now will no doubt see the preparations in high gear, with efforts large and small still being made everywhere you look. Will everything be ready on time? Seibt laughs: “I ask myself that question the day before it starts every year, even though I know everything will go fine,” she says with confidence.

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