You can’t very well expect IDG, the hosts of the Macworld Expo, to come out and admit that Macworld 2011 was an embarrassing bomb, but you can’t just plug your ears and shout “la-la-la I can’t HEAR you!” to the reality of the world either. In short, you’ve got to be at least somewhat honest with your audience.

I think the only way Macworld 2012 has any chance is if (1) Apple returns (not gonna happen) or (2) they announce it as the last Macworld ever. That latter move would require truth, as in: “Based on this year’s show, Macworld is unsustainable. We’re going to give it one final hurrah in 2012. If you’ve been once or a dozen times and never before, this is it. We’re asking you to come join us for the last Macworld ever.” You can totally tug the geek heartstrings with this kind of message, and it will work. Trust me, most of us damn near cried when Spock died.

But as I say, all this requires honesty. Instead, here’s the public relations piece IDG released about Macworld 2011, with what they said and what I think reality is:

Event’s Evolution Exceeds Expectations, Leaves Participants Educated and Energized

I can’t fathom just how low to the floor expectations must have been for this show to have exceeded them. I can’t deny “educated” (as “this show was totally not worth it” is indeed a lesson learned), but “energized” has to be a typo. I think what they meant was “demoralized” or “suicidal.”

A highly successful Macworld 2011 closed on Saturday at the Moscone Center’s West Hall in San Francisco where approximately 25,000 attendees packed the show floor to see, try and buy the latest in Apple-related products, more than 250 exhibitors launched in excess of 100 new innovations, and more than 100 educational sessions were taught by industry experts and luminaries, IDG World Expo, owner of Macworld 2011, announced today. Macworld 2012 will be held at the Moscone Center’s West Hall on January 26 – 28, 2012.

I’m all for the notion that different people can have different perspectives of the same reality, but by no stretch was this show “highly successful” other than it actually existed. Moscone’s West Hall, itself smaller than the North and South Halls Macworld used to fill simultaneously, was curtained at the edges. The 25,000 attendees was down about 4,000 from last year which in turn was a drop from the roughly 45,000 who came in Apple’s final year.

The 250 exhibitors, down from roughly 400 last year, who “launched in excess of 100 new innovations” probably stand with me in bafflement as to what it means to “launch an innovation.”

Finally, the idea that Macworld will exist at all next year seems highly optimistic given the trends. That it’s already scheduled for Moscone West does not give one any sense of hope whatsoever.

“From first-time attendees who stood five people deep to meet the developers of their favorite apps to long-time veterans of the show who attended for unparalleled training opportunities, Macworld 2011 once again delivered on its promise to educate, entertain and excite,” said Paul Kent, vice president and general manager of Macworld 2011.

At no time ever did I see a crowd “five people deep” and so far as I know, the developers of Angry Birds were not in attendance. This is clearly a written, manufactured, PR blurb, and it’s insulting. Set aside that no one really talks in parallel structure with this kind of assonance. The elephant in the room is that this show was the Hindenburg and Paul Kent is talking about how every seat on board was a good seat.

“The energy and buzz that was so evident at Macworld 2011 underscores the fact that the event continues to be the undisputed gathering place for the Apple products marketplace.”

Have you never visited an Apple Retail Store? And, my God man, the “energy and buzz” this Macworld was soul-sucking. I did the whole thing in less than three hours after purposely slowing down part way through because I was running out of exhibitors to visit. Several times I encountered people near the entrance/exit saying, “There’s another floor upstairs, right?” Macworld 2011 was like a cold shower in biker shorts: No one could quite believe the shrinkage.

“We thank everyone who participated in this year’s event and look forward to seeing them again next January for Macworld 2012.”

Unless IDG is prepared to a lot more honest than this: Not bloody likely.

UPDATE: I’ve been getting some push back on the attendance numbers I’ve used in the piece above, with at least one respondent claiming that this year’s Macworld actually saw an increase from last year (from 25,000 last year to 29,000 this year). Although I distinctly recall hearing the number 90,000 for Apple’s final year at the show, I can’t prove it so I’ve adjusted it to use IDG’s tally of 45,000. The pre-registrations for last year’s show were around 30,000 but apparently only 25,000 actually came, so fair enough: The attendance was higher this year (although I’ve got to say it sure didn’t seem that way to me). These are secondary considerations to the main point: The vendor presence both in quality and quantity was incredibly weak, and it bodes very ill going forward. IDG would do well to admit as much and give us all something (a final show, perhaps) to rally around.