The managing director of Integrated Systems Europe tells AVNation that careful planning and shared experiences with AVIXA and other industry trade show organizations support a successful live staging of ISE 2021 in Barcelona
InfoComm 2020 Connected (IC20) wrapped up its virtual three-day trade show on June 18, cementing a model for how future trade shows could be organized and delivered, not only as a consequence of the ongoing pandemic, but also as a permanent structure to accommodate and attract a global audience that might be restricted from future travel by economic, governmental, and personal circumstances. Reporting registration of 20,000 attendees, IC20 was, by that metric, a success. What does this mean for upcoming AV trade shows, including CEDIA and ISE, the latter of which announced last week that it is full steam ahead for the show’s Barcelona debut in 2021?
“It’s a great experience to have, to let someone else go first, especially when it is in your own organization,” says Mike Blackman, managing director of ISE, during AVNation’s AVWeek podcast. “And those people are willing to share those experiences and help you be better.”
Citing the symbiotic, cyclical relationship that ISE and AVIXA share, Blackman and his team logged on to IC20 as attendees to get a clearer understanding of that perspective and came away with the confidence that it can be done, especially with 20,000 registered attendees underscoring that fact. But with hopeful signs of a COVID vaccine going into trials this month and a possible treatment for those already battling the disease showing promise, the confidence in an in-person trade show is steadily rising, especially for ISE. Blackman notes that in sitting down with trade show associations, such as UFI and SISO and sharing how they are developing ways to resuscitate the trade show sector, has brought him a measure of comfort and confidence that ISE 2021 will be staged as a live event. News that European trade shows in Germany and Spain are set to open in September — along with the announcement that CES will also go ahead in 2021 — has also been a boost.
“Trade shows are so important to the economy — to every economy,” says Blackman. “They drive a lot of business for small and large companies everywhere and this is very strong message going out to actually getting the economy back up and running and creating a different normal, as they say. We need it.”
Watch Mike Blackman discuss the live staging of ISE 2021:
He later adds: “If we can deliver good shows between now and ISE, we are so confident we will have a good show. I’m glad to see that message come from CES. You’ll see messages come from us as well. Yes, we have a business to run and yes, we want our business to be successful, but we also look at our industry and realize that we are a core part to it and it’s not just us, it’s a whole ecosystem around it and we rely on each other.”
There is still much uncertainty around how we will gather and travel and interact as we move deeper into the COVID-19 pandemic. As cities emerge and reopen globally, individual concerns will continue to dictate the comfort level most of us have with going out and socializing, especially indoors. The health and safety of trade show attendees will be front and center for trade shows of all stripes going forward. AVIXA’s CEO Dave Labuskes notes that, in addition to ensuring attendees feel safe, it is also important to give them the ability to curate their own tailored experiences, including offering flexible schedules when they can go in to see new products and have in-person interviews.
“As with all challenges it’s going to give us opportunities to innovate,” says Labuskes. “Every positive bit of news about COVID is exciting for me, for any of us that are in this industry. Let’s look at the reality. The vast majority of AVIXA’s revenue is is through trade shows, which is gathering 520,000 people together in a building. Would I love if this disease went away tomorrow? Absolutely. Is it going to? No. But that’s what smart people do then; they start to figure out how do you deliver what is economically irreplaceable and incredibly important, while, most importantly, ensuring you’re delivering it in a safe environment.”
Blackman reiterates the symbiotic relationship between the trade show organizations that drive the AV industry, especially in this moment when best practices and risk assessments are critical to sustaining the trade show experience — a relationship that also drives his belief that ISE 2021 will be successfully staged as a live, in-person event.
“I am very confident we will have a show in February,” Blackman says. “There will be an ISE. There will be people who have concerns and may want to come at different times times. What we’re learning and looking at is to say, how do we satisfy them? How do we make them feel comfortable and keep the business going. And give them and the exhibitors the experiences they require and the contact with customers that they need.”
You can watch and listen to the full episode of AVWeek here.