The numbers came out for the 2012 DAC attendance and, as usual, the organization reported "record breaking numbers," but still wasn't putting it in context.
Total attendance for 2012 was 7,388 up from 6,350 last year in San Diego. That's great. But it's still down from 7,996 in 2009 when it was in San Francisco last...and during a worse economic period. Subtracting booth personnel, exhibit only and full conference participation was 4,684 and in 2009 it was 5,299. Booth staff was up this year by about 100 over the 2011 conference, but everyone really noticed the massively reduced floor space. In 2009, DAC took up Moscone North and South but the whole show was spread out liberally over only the south hall this year. And there was a nice size bowling alley between the meeting suites in the center.
So as I pointed out last year, DAC remains flat, at best. There was, however, a phrase that had never been used before in the press releases: "Biggest Event in Electronic Design." Oooo, really?
What else is there? Well there's DesignCon that has seen 30 percent growth year over year since UBM took over after the 2009 show. 2012 had 4500 attendees - still a far cry from the 8,000 at DAC this year - but they seem to be gaining. And since an average of 35 percent of the attendees each year claim that it was the first time attending DesignCon, the show might actually catch DAC in about 3 years. What about ESC/Design West, which I believe can qualify as an electronic design conference? Can't find numbers but it took over the entirety of the McEnery Center in San Jose, as well as the Civic Auditorium. There were also no meeting rooms down the center of the hall.
DAC is a great technical conference and the exhibits help defray the expenses of putting it on, but it might be a good idea to consider going back to it's roots and just focus on the technical portion. Next year it's in Austin. Good luck finding a seat on one of the few flights going there direct from the Bay Area.