I have been reading the autopsies of VON. My guess is that it died because it didn't make money. While people liked Pulver & his crew, they mainly attended VON to hang out with their pals. But the one knock on that is that without the secret decoder ring, you were shut out from most of the networking. And the vendors were able to get enough ROI to attend VON East, West, Midwest, London, this and that.
Add to that the fact that there are tons of shows in telecommunications: NXTCOM, Phone+, VoiceCon, IT Expo, VPF, Telx, NCTA, Cable Show, NAB, CTIA, IP Possibilities, Rural telecom, CES, Comptel, Capacity, etc. (Most of these shows have 2 conferences - one in the East and one in the West).
In addition, there are the niche shows like ISPCON, HostingCon, InterOp, SAAS-Con, Web 2.0, E-tel, Office 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Data Center World, and the rest of the Long Tail. It makes it very challenging to get the vendors to your show, have compelling speakers, and to drive in attendees.
At ISPCON last week, while the show is smaller than last year in Orlando, the crowd was very engaged. For vendors that is key. For attendees, being able to network with your peers is the main driving force to traveling to the show.
Seth Godin writes about the cost for traveling to a show in both time and money has increased, so it better be an awesome show. I think it has to be both Customer-Centric and evolving. By evolving, I mean the Expo Hall and the agenda have to continue to change, to be unexpected. Surprise is a good thing.
Are we ready for a Virtual Show? I don't think so, but what do you think?