The Buzz: Tradeshow Primer
Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles
Prepare for InfoComm 08
The old boy scout motto “Be prepared” has always been good advice, but that axiom is especially smart for attendees and exhibitors at InfoComm. The great majority of attendees don't make the annual trip to the AV mecca just to browse. They have an agenda that may include looking up old friends and catching a particular hardware debut after reading all those watch-for-it articles and press releases. But the show expands every year, and there is so much to see and do that only the most carefully crafted and time-efficient plan will provide a realistic chance of being everywhere one needs to be at the right time and not missing any essential classes, demos, or events. Jason McGraw, InfoComm senior vice president for expositions, underscores the challenge.
“We're going to have over 950 exhibitors, which is an all-time record for InfoComm,” he says. “We're going to have over 500,000 net square feet of exhibits, special events, meeting and demo rooms at the show — which is the largest event that we've had — and we're expecting to have over 32,000 total audience including exhibitors and attendees. Everything now is pointing to a very successful event for the industry, and we're very excited about it.”
Due to the very diverse crowd at the show, McGraw's job can sometimes be akin to herding cats. “We have exhibitors of all sizes and types of products and technologies with both domestic and international companies represented — and, of course, many of the multinational corporations — and so it is a very diverse group to have to corral every year into the exhibit hall, but it always seems to come together,” he says. “We pride ourselves on our customer service to our members as well as the attendees at the show.”
Early on, the current state of the economy was a concern relating to attendance, but those fears were soon relieved. According to McGraw, the numbers are actually up. He credits the NSCA Expo and NXTcomm for being there as well. “So far, our preregistration numbers are ahead of our show last year at the same point in time — which is pleasantly surprising, all things being considered. But I think there are a lot of factors at work this year bringing InfoComm together to be a successful event regardless of where we are in the economy,” he says. “Chiefly, this year we've consolidated the NSCA Expo with InfoComm in making a singular industry event. We're also collocating with the NXTcomm exposition in the IT broadband space that's going to be next door to us in the convention center, so I think there are some real synergies there coming into play. There's a lot of excitement in the industry with new technology, especially in the area of digital signage and telepresence conferencing areas. We've certainly grown with the NSCA consolidation and being a top pro-audio show for system integrators now with over 250 audio manufacturers. We continue to grow in the lighting and staging environment. All of that is fueling the growth of the show and the industry.”
Marc Nutter, vice president of the commercial division at Colorado's Audio Analysts, has marked his calendar for this year's educational offerings — especially some courses aimed at teaching system integrators how to hone their cost-estimating skills. “We'refocusing a lot of our efforts and attention on inhouse development programs; better project-management techniques, estimating, communications with architects, and some of the best-practices-oriented courses,” Nutter says. There have never been more opportunities to learn at InfoComm.
McGraw outlines the show's vast array of educational opportunities. “We have probably the biggest slate that we've ever offered education-wise in conjunction with the show. We have over a week's worth of sessions beginning on Saturday before the event with our Institute for Professional Development, but we have InfoComm Academy courses and NSCA University courses and the other groups that we have with us — Educomm, Projection Summit, the Digital Signage Technology Summit, Technologies for Worship, Imaging Science Foundation, and more. In total, we'll have over 500 education sessions during the week.
“We also have manufacturer training sessions on the show floor this year from 30 manufacturers. We have a dozen audio-demo rooms where attendees can go in and hear products firsthand and learn about some of the audio technologies. We have showcases on the show floor for large-venue displays, for HD conferencing and telepresence, rigging and safety demos. We have a rack-building competition on the show floor this year. We also have a GUI gallery where people can see how system programming is done. We have a digital-signage application showcase as well on a presentation stage. We cover a wide gamut of education both on and off the show floor, as well as some AV technology tours this year. We have six tours that we're doing jointly with NSCA that will feature field trips around the city of Las Vegas to take in different technology applications. All of these education offerings at the show are really going very well. Registrations are very strong. In fact, a number of the sessions are already sold out, so we're very excited about education.”
All of this underscores the importance of having a detailed plan in place ahead of time and the InfoComm website is full of help for getting that plan in place. “That's a big challenge with the show growing as it is,” McGraw says. “We've added some tools on our website this year. There's a product called Network Now, which is a preshow planner and matchmaking tool that allows the attendees to go online and see the manufacturers products that is served from our InfoComm IQ database. But also, they can plan appointments with exhibitors, they can customize a floorplan for themselves, they can have their sessions imported that they've signed up for into their planner, and they can download that into their PDA or Outlook calendar. There will be stations available in the lobby at the show, so they can do their planning in advance and then print that out and refer to their floorplan online at any time or at the show site. We've added a bunch of new mapping and digital-signage features this year around the show. We also have a lot of color-coded floorplans and signage to differentiate our product pavilions so we hope to make it as easy as possible for attendees to find their way around the convention center, navigate all the different sessions — both in advance and onsite.”
Because everyone is pretty much on the same elevation level, a vantage point with a detailed view of the whole floor may be difficult to find. Attendees will need to know the floorplan when they arrive.
“All of the vendors are basically vying for your eyeball time, and so you can't just look around and see things,” says Barry Goldin of Audio Video Systems in Chantilly, Va. “You've got to have it very well planned out and know, otherwise it's going to be very hard to try and remember where vendor A and vendor B is as you try to get from point to point. Studying the floorplan is an excellent idea. In our organization we're sending out a group of people and different people are going to be focused on different areas and those people may not go to every booth but at least they'll be able to spend that 10 or 15 minutes at each of these specified booths that they do need to spend time at and really get in-depth as opposed to saying they walked up and down every row.”
Listen to the interviews with Marc Nutter, Barry Goldin, and Jason McGraw in their entirety in the Road to InfoComm podcasts at svconline.com/multimedia.