For the first time in years, Macworld Expo has exceeded 400 exhibitors. The South Hall of the Moscone Center is sold out for the January 2008 event, and space in the Moscone West is going fast. This is a tremendous accomplishment for a show that many had written off completely just a few years ago.
Some of the credit, no doubt, is due to Apple’s comeback, but that doesn’t begin to explain the scale of Macworld’s resurgence. I’d argue that the main reason Macworld is back and better than ever come down to the efforts of one man, and it ain’t Steve Jobs.
It’s Paul Kent.
Paul has been the driving force behind the conference program at Macworld for years, and it was always the shining star of the Expo. Even while vendors and exhibit attendees were leaving in droves, the conference sessions remained vital and relevant. Paul — through enthusiasm, integrity and sheer exuberance — continued to attract quality speakers and add exciting content. Say what they would about declining attendance and exhibitor flight, the press never — ever — had a bad word to say about the conference program.
A year or so ago, IDG hired Paul to run the whole Expo — conference program, exhibitors, feature presentations and all. He immediately put his stamp on the entire program — revitalizing the “upstairs” show in the same way he did for the conference sessions downstairs. Paul added content to the exhibit floor, brought in innovative features, won over exhibitors, all while continuing to improve the conference program. The result was the best Macworld in recent memory, and a stage well set for this year’s show.
I’m lucky enough to know Paul and to count him as a friend. I love watching him during Expo. He’s one of the most personable people I’ve ever met — constantly asking questions, gathering information on how things can be even better, making sure his speakers and attendees have what they need. In the midst of the chaos and crises, I’ve never seen him flustered. He is always upbeat, always quick with a solution. Putting him in charge of Macworld may well be the smartest thing IDG has ever done.
People speculate on what will happen to Apple when Steve Jobs decides to retire. Can it survive? Will it continue to innovate? Would it really be the same company? I’d ask the same questions of Macworld Expo and Paul Kent.
For Macworld’s sake, I hope we don’t have to find out for a long, long time.