Germany vs England: who wins the geo-event contest?

In the last two weeks I attended two major events of the annual geo-calendar, Intergeo 2010 in Cologne, Germany, and AGI GeoCommunity in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. I attended these events as a delegate, exhibitor and (at AGI only) speaker. So – how did the two countries compare?

Attendees & exhibitors: Intergeo claimed over 10,000 delegates vs AGI, 500. The Intergeo was relatively quiet so I don’t quite believe the official numbers but in any case it was still in the thousands. In terms of exhibitors, it was 500 vs 15 or so. An easy first goal for Germany. Germany 1 – England 0.

Keynote audiences.  At Intergeo the Day 1 keynotes started off with an audience of about 300-400 but, by Day 2, Jack Dangermond’s plenary talk was down to only 150 listeners (even though it was very good, and even though it was a combined audience with the EnviroInfo conference). By Day 3 the FIG president was talking to a rather humble 45 occupied seats. At AGI, by contrast, the Day 1 plenaries were packed with 400+ people (80% of all delegates!), tailing off to maybe 200 on Day 2. To be fair, the focus at Intergeo is on the exhibition, and at AGI on the conference. But still – England scores an equalising goal. Germany 1 – England 1.

Average age. Probably on the wrong side of 40 at either event (yes I can talk, being 39.9 years old at the time of writing). At AGI the W3G pre-conference audience was no doubt much younger (I wasn’t there), and at Intergeo a whole boatload of students suddenly turned up on Day 3. Hmm… that’s a draw – nobody scores here. Germany 1 – England 1.

Diversity female/male. If there really were 10,000 people at Intergeo then 9,900 must have been male. At AGI it was a lot more balanced, perhaps 2/3 male 1/3 female? Also many speakers at AGI were female, including the keynote by the CBI Chief Economist or the winning presentation by the Coal Authority. England pulls ahead. Germany 1 – England 2.

Positivity. Amongst the economic gloom and doom there were still many glimpses of positivity at both events. The Intergeo exhibition floor was buzzing with energy in a lot of places and you could hear a lot of laughter around (the conference presentations were less happy but we’ll come to that). At Stratford it was the reverse: the exhibition floor seemed suicidal at times but there were a lot of good & upbeat presentations – jeez, even the CBI economist sounded optimistic. On balance, well done for both events. Both score. Germany 2 – England 3.

Negativity. Some economic gloom was inevitable but the ESRI keynote at AGI was so downbeat that it set a new standard for geo-anxiety – it left many people baffled (not just Ed Parsons). But the Germans also indulged in some self-flagellation. The Intergeo Think Thank 2015 Debate was best summed up by the quote “the geo-industry is like a fish bowl, we think the world is made of glass.” Come on guys, a bit more optimism please! Both countries scored an own-goal here. Germany 3, England 4.

My booth is bigger than your booth. To continue with ESRI as a benchmark of the geo-mood, I measured their German booth at Intergeo. At 25x30m it was about the size of 2 tennis courts or 2 standard-size swimming pools. If you include their subsidiaries like Conterra or Sicad, who were next door, it was almost half a football field packed with geo-energy – and that was just one company! How can two ESRI franchises in two countries seem so different? And why is a single German booth bigger than the entire exhibition floor in the UK? Ok, the events have different focus but still, come on! Germany scores. Germany 4 – England 3

Highlights. AGI definitely had the more interesting presentations, my personal highlights being the CASA and Cabinet Office talks. Intergeo had more buzz on the floor (obviously) but I would be hard-pressed to remember one particular event as a highlight. Let’s give this point to England. Germany 4 – England 4.

Business leads. End users are always under-represented at geo events – you always end up talking to suppliers, partners or competitors rather than customers. But looking at the sheer numbers of delegates and the resulting probabilities of leads, Intergeo wins by a country mile. Personally I ended up with a couple of great leads at Intergeo, although this is naturally a biased reflection of my own requirements. Germany 5 – England 4

Fun. Many Intergeo exhibitors organised their own parties in the evening. Some were good but sadly all were all by invitation only. Invitations (or lack of them) were strictly enforced. At AGI, by contrast, the soapbox geo-comedy contest provided some welcome light relief from the day’s more serious events, followed by the traditional Geocommunity party which is open to all and offers ‘free’ food, drinks and games. Easy choice. Germany 5 – England 5

So we have a draw. Here come the penalty shoot-outs.

This will of course be highly objective…

I liked Jack Dangermond’s tie at Intergeo.

Germany 6 – England 5.

The AGI bar in Stratford had Lagavulin whisky.

Germany 6 – England 6.

In Cologne you can buy trousers with 38” inside leg.

Germany 7 – England 6.

I won a 3D model of Shakespeare’s house at AGI

Germany 7 – England 7.

In Cologne, hotel tax is optional. They charge 5% but you can opt out “if you wish” !?

Germany 8 – England 7.

Twitter was much more used/useful at AGI than at Intergeo.

Germany 8 – England 8.

Exhibition freebies: maglite torches at AGI vs kites at Intergeo.

Germany 8 – England 9.

Take a wrong turn at Intergeo and you’re at a biker convention and given free cigarette lighters

Germany 9, England 9

This could go on forever. Do you have any more? Or shall we just say that Intergeo was more useful and AGI more fun… you should go to both. Auf wiedersehen and bis next year.


13 thoughts on “Germany vs England: who wins the geo-event contest?

  1. Well, I’ll have to give you no marks for addition, Thierry. Somewhere between Negativity and My booth is bigger than your booth, England lost a goal…

    Of course the key question is at which event did you find yourself swearing more at the audience? 😉


  2. “And why is a single German booth bigger than the entire exhibition floor in the UK?” – Size isn’t everything.

    The two events are very different. Intergeo is where we were at 10 years ago in the UK a la the NEC and huge stand builds. This was rejected by the paying (and non-paying) punters and numbers scaled down accordingly.

    The good thing about the AGI event is that you can actually contribute to its future by getting involved. Even if that means you can be healthily cynical or critical (or being British as it’s also known) of the format or content.

    Many people DID like the AGI event although they don’t all blog on about it (they are probably too busy doing work).

    We look forward to your contribution to the AGI AWG for next year.



  3. Bloody Luxemburger refs can’t even keep score when the goals are flying in! By your own count Germany 5 – England 6 at full time which is a relief as we would never win a penalty shoot out against Germany.

    I think the core difference is that Intergeo is at heart a great big trade show with a conference hanging off the side to give it a bit of cred while GeoCommunity is a festival of geo, a conference, 3 days of peace, love and maps. Woops was that a bit of bias slipping in there?

    Cheers to the tallest, most profane and funniest man in UK Geo (that’s the unofficial SF award)

  4. @ Jeremy & Steven- thanks for pointing out my bad arithmetic, awards etc.. So England actually wins!? For once?! 😉

    @Simon – ah, so AGI is 10 years ahead of Intergeo? England wins again… As for blogging and real work – you can tell from my arithmetic how quickly this blog post was thrown together! And I had already told Jeremy I’d be happy to help out with the pre-work on the next conference.

    Both Intergeo & Geocom were good events, with different focus. Any issues are more to do with the fact that the geo-industry is going through a tough time. Which is quite ironic considering it has finally achieved what it wanted – to go mainstream. That should be cause to celebrate, not to navel-gaze. But we need to look beyond geo (ref. soapbox… if I had a youtube link)

  5. Thierry, there is an element of comparing apples and pears here, but that said this is a good, fun, witty and observant piece. Well done.

    As you rightly point out in your conclusion, both are very relevant events on the Geo calendar. Besides, the lucky go to both, drink more beer and enjoy more geocheer…

    I recall last time I was at Intergeo we had a double decker London bus on the stand which shows how whacky/predictable (depending on your thinking) the UK geo theme can go in a German-event-hall-come-hanger-for-the-new-Airbus.

    I will not get involved in ‘goal line controversies’ knowing that without the right tech it runs the risk of human error. BTW we will have the footage of the offending soapbox soon 🙂 …

  6. Nice write-up, Thierry. I suspect you are one of the few able to make this comparison. Since I have not been at AGI for ages, I have nothing to add. Since in am not much into soccer either, I have only a few observations to share:

    Attendants: Intergeo claims over 17,500 visitors and 1,500 conference participants at INTEGREO (funny exact numbers, misspell from their PR)

    Average age: always hard to estimate without asking. I use the ‘bold index’ at times, but that wasn’t working out here.

    Positive/negative: I did not attend the conference part, but had many very positive conversations – not just at Esri. Could not discover any “geo-anxiety”.

    Booth size: well, size does matter. But I don’t see these large booths when we have conferences in Holland either. I thought it was remarkable that there was a separate innovation area (which kind of excluded the rest from the exhibition from innovation). Also the Chinese presence was larger than before.

    Twitter: still not very much used in German(y), let’s see what happens next year.

    @Simon: “Intergeo is where we were at 10 years ago in the UK”, interesting comment. From what I can see, Intergeo is still growing. I am not sure we will see a similar development in Germany (25% international attendance there as well).

    And Thierry: do you mean by “Sometimes you just got to have fun at work.” : “Try to find work, which is more than sometimes fun!” (Lux humor?)


  7. @jan @thierry Getting international visitors at intergeo is not difficult. I know of at least two. Prpobably per capita #geocom had more “non-English” attendees than Intergeo had “non-German” (I know the concept of being German is as complex as being a man of Kent or Kentish man). I’ll quit while I’m behind on that one.

    In the UK we had a range of annual trade events that were probably comparable in size and scale to Intergeo. 10-15 years ago I remember traipsing up to the NEC to be wowed by Microsoft, Integraph and the British Space Agency (or something tantamount to launching a potato in to the sky in a water powered Fairy liquid bottle). I was suitably un-wowed and ended up joining AGI and the rest is time I’ll never get back…

    There is no “GI” industry – that’s a label people put on “GI” to prevent it ever being adopted by muggles. Harry Potter and the maps that shall not be printed – Discuss.

  8. Intergeo is the one ‘trade show’ were Met Geo Info went to make sales. Everything else we attended was ‘out-reach’.

    There is something unique (in Europe and not just in comparison to UK events) in the mentality of Intergeo – and it’s delegates – that make this a show worth exhibiting at. We used our stand quite simply as a ‘remote office’ in which we arranged meetings with all our mainland European clients (and prospective clients). It would be three days of back-to-back, half-hour, meetings.

    But it’s a ‘trade show’ (the clue is in the name). You go there as a delegate to be sold things, or as an exhibitor, to sell things. And that’s it. Intergeo is not somewhere:
    * to get a critical over-view of the ‘issues’ affecting the GI industry (couldn’t resist the reference Simon, sorry), or
    * to network (at least not particularly effectively – it’s too big), or
    * get an insight into what others are actually doing in the work place (you only get vendors at Intergeo – users don’t have a voice).

    So comparison between the events is a futile exercise; perhaps not. While the events are clearly ‘apples & pears’, in these cash strapped times vendors are going to be asking questions about the value of spend from their marketing budget: “Does Intergeo give a better return?”; “Can we support both events?” The implication of these decisions is clear.

    The answer (I think) depends on the type of relationship that the vendor is looking to have with their clients (i.e. is the vendor in a ‘box shifting’ mode, or are they adopting a more ‘supportive’ stance?) and where those clients are (Intergeo does not cater for a UK market!). Clearly the Intergeo team realise this and is working to make its conference element relevant to an international audience. It used to be entirely focused on the German survey scene (yes – there is one!) and was presented entirely in German; so getting Jack Dangermond to present was a real coup. But clearly the attendance numbers as given by Thierry indicate that this is not working (yet).

    The numbers game is an interesting one though: 10,000 or 17,500, once you get past 5,000 you’re just dealing ‘a lot of people’. Does that mean that you were getting the ‘right’ people to your stand, or was the crowd blocking the view? We always questioned the ‘foot-fall’ figures on the day, and wondered how many stayed more than a few hours. It seems common practice for ‘delegates’ to use the event to subsidise shopping trips; simply dropping in to the venue to validate tickets. It was also always amusing watching stand ‘hosts’ hide their promotional give-aways as the rumour spread that the student buses had arrived! Some delegates are more welcome than others!

    • Simon – read it again. And I quote: “in Europe and not just in comparison to UK events”. i.e. the event is unique in ALL of Europe and not just in comparison to events that we have (or did have!) in (the sub-set of Europe) the UK. Better?

      I missed going to Intergeo this year – it was always good fun. But I’m sorry to hear that the parties seem to be a bit more ‘closed’. They were always very inclusive in the past…. 🙂

  9. I fear a tautology in the protestation of uniqueness; the Rollo doth protest too much.

    Seriously though, Intergeo is a different beastie to those run in non-continental Europe and probably NAFTA. I went to GeoTec in Canadaland’s Vancouver a few years ago and that was probably similar to the AGI events of 2001-05ish. There was a reasonably good trade shoe (FOC to attend) and a conference ($500-1,000? ish) that was a mix a mix of “paid for” advertorials and a range of user presentations. URISA was not massively dissimilar either, I went to the one in Orlando, Florida (which is in Walt Disney’s America) in 2000. That party was very, very good as it seemed to span “every night” and included several hours in Downtown Disney, finishing about an hour before I was due back on the “booth”.

    One of TG’s points was that there is often not enough “user air time” – at this years #geocom the programme was skewed towards users and as it stood, all five of the short listed best papers were “user” written and presented.

    I’ve been to enough of these things to know that this discussion is not a new one and that’ you can’t please everyone all of the time. I’m sure Jeremy Morley will be soaking up all of this stuff – having seen a lot more of the feedback come in to the AGI super-hub operations centre (aka Claire) I’m pretty pleased with the comments received. The paying punters who do the work on the frontline seemed very happy and that’s really something that can make a difference. Shall we draw a great big isoline under this now?

    Thierry – what about something provocative next time? Like, worst trade-stand catastrophe or amusing “…and then the salesman was asked to take the llama back to the zoo” story?

  10. May I reassure my readership that I am not being stalked by a man named Simon… no, he is the passionate chairman of the AGI 2010 conference 😉

    I think we are talking slightly cross-purposes here. I don’t class GIS analysts as end users. My end users are engineers, lawyers, surveyors, bankers etc who use products which we have created ourselves with GIS and other data intelligence.

    Anyway, back to work!

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