InfoComm is only days away now. Gosh, manufacturers are filling up my inbox with marketing materials, some good... some laughable. Everyone is getting ready for the show and looking forward to all the tech goodies strewn across the Las Vegas Convention Center show floor.
And yet throughout all this excitement there is the constant chatter about the use and validity of the trade show experience. You just have to look at the InfoComm floor plan to see that some big names aren't showing up. You know who you are... Yep, I'm looking at you Extron. There has even been a couple of announcements about some big players in the residential market pulling out of CEDIA EXPO in September.
I know there has been a ton articles written about the negative impacts of manufacturers leaving shows, etc., but I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about why trade shows are important to me and why we can't kill them off like a bad speaker line.
You see, trade shows are a very important part of our industry and our businesses. They're not just about an after-party and how many drinks you can get your favorite manufacturer to buy for you. They are about getting up close and personal with all the newest gear from your favorite manufacturer and getting your hands on some new gear from manufacturers you don't know.
There is something about actually getting hands-on with the gear we spec and sell. There is something different about touching a product versus just looking at a spec sheet you downloaded from the web. Maybe it's me, but I've definitely made an unexpected decision to spec a particular audio mixer based on how the faders felt in my hand versus another piece of gear because they just 'felt better' when everything else was equal. You may think I'm crazy, and I am Canadian... that's got to be a minor part of it. But feeling the throw of that fader is something you just can't do with a PDF.
If you're not one of the huge nationwide companies that are in our industry, but a smaller integrator like my company, you don't have the privilege of bringing in multiple demos to play with just because you might be interested. Now, we have brought in demos and they've been effective. But we only bring in demos of gear we really want and stuff we know we're about to spec.
Take for example last year's InfoComm: I had been hearing some very good stuff about a smaller speaker company. Talked to some industry friends, some knew of them but most didn't. Luckily I was able to stop by their booth at InfoComm and had the privilege of having their lead DSP Engineer give me the full run down of the line and a few really amazing demos. You know what came out of that... I found a great speaker line that I otherwise would never spec because I'd not likely otherwise be exposed to it! We've now specified it a few times and we've been very happy with both the price and performance. Yeah, do that in a virtual trade show! Just saying!
The other aspect that makes trade shows an integral part of my yearly schedule is the people interaction. Call me old fashioned, but I like looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand. I'm a huge proponent of face-to-face interaction and as much as I love FaceTime on my iPhone... it just ain't the same. Not only do I find myself developing much better relationships with my reps and sales people, but it's amazing to be able to connect with an engineer on the floor and throw a few questions at them as you evaluate a product or try to work out a bug you haven't been able to solve.
Now, to take it out of the product realm, trade shows allow us to connect with industry peers and forge friendships that just aren't possible with out the trade show experience. If you're someone who hasn't experienced this, you are missing out. Probably one of the most important parts of my trade show experience is being able to have these connections to make and grow friendships across the country and the world. I've been able to develop some wonderful friendship that have grown out of these shows and help me in my day-to-day business.
When you have friends that do exactly what you do every day, you have someone that you can connect with and talk music one minute, and pick their brain on issue you're working with the next. I couldn't count the number of times that I've been working on something and had a question. So I'll reach out to my rep, my supplier, and the manufacturer... only to be stuck waiting for a response. So I'll practice my best 'to be a millionaire' and I'll 'phone a friend' and get the answer I'm looking for right away. And that becomes a priceless asset to me. Would I have developed these types of quality relationships outside of a trade show event, maybe, but I can definitely say that attending a trade show has allowed these relationships to grow exponentially.
Those are my two biggest reasons that I hope they don't kill the trade show. I know it's expensive... they cost me a lot of money (a man's gotta eat, and eat well), but they are an extremely valuable part of my business and yours too, I'm sure. And to think, I didn't even cover all the educational benefits you can gain from the mounds of classes that are offered.
So make sure you get out to InfoComm this year, and get it on your schedule for next year. It'll change your business if you leverage it right and get all you can out of the show. Oh and if you're in Vegas... make sure you stop and say hi! I'd love to meet you and connect.