ISE is staged by Integrated Systems Events, a company that is now a 50/50 partnership between InfoComm and CEDIA, whose own interest is in turn split between the U.S. and Europe.When the idea of Intgrated Systems Europe was first unveiled on the eve of the 2003 InfoComm show in Orlando, FL, few could have predicted that in less than five years the event would grow to the point where it almost matches its U.S. counterpart in size and significance. The fifth ISE, held January 29-31 in Amsterdam this year, drew altogether impressive numbers, with over 22,000 attendees visiting booths from 484 exhibiting companies.
InfoComm International is one of ISE's supporting trade associations, and its executive director, Randall Lemke, admits to being surprised at the speed with which the event has grown. "We knew there was an unserved market in Europe, and we were confident that we would have a big show eventually," Lemke told SCN. "But we never thought we would get there in this time frame. There are a lot of good shows in Europe, but they don't serve the market in the way that ISE does."
ISE is staged by Integrated Systems Events, a company originally founded as a joint venture between InfoComm, NSCA, and CEDIA. Last year InfoComm purchased NSCA's share as part of the latter's withdrawal from the tradeshow business, and the company is now a 50/50 partnership between InfoComm and CEDIA, whose own interest is in turn split between the U.S. and Europe.
Though it may seem odd to an American observer, the presence of technologies from the custom installation world makes sense in mainland Europe, where many contractors work in both the commercial and residential fields. Indeed, over 40 percent of ISE's 2008 attendees described their business as a mix of the two.
Like InfoComm's Lemke, Robert Hallam, membership representative for CEDIA Region 1 (which includes Europe), was involved in the behind-scenes discussions that led to the show's inception. "I was always a fan of the format, and it's great to see the event grow to the levels that people thought it could do," said Hallam. "ISE is unique in the way that it brings the two disciplines of commercial and residential installation together, and puts them under one roof."
ISE has been targeting non-channel personnel in its event promotion over the past year, and that emphasis seems to have paid off. Attendance analysis shows that 30 percent of ISE 2008's visitors came from outside the show's core constituency of AV integrators and contractors-up from 15 percent last year.
"Architects, interior designers, IT facilities managers, live events organizers...these are the people who will help to grow our industry in the years to come, and that's why we are so pleased to have brought so many of them to ISE in 2008," said Mike Blackman, managing director of Integrated Systems Events. "What is especially pleasing is the fact that so many exhibitors designed their booths to give them extra appeal to this 'non-AV' audience. Some of the exhibits were simply stunning."
Some 82 of ISE 2008's exhibitors were from the U.S., making it the third biggest contributor to the showfloor after Germany and the U.K. With the domestic economic outlook becoming more uncertain, American manufacturers are looking at export markets as a way of ensuring continued growth-and Europe is a logical destination. The continent offers a mix of mature, high-value markets such as Germany, the U.K. and Benelux, and dynamic new ones like the Baltic states and the countries of Central and South-East Europe, many of which are growing strongly after joining the European Union in 2004.
And while thousands of attendees availed themselves of a range of post-show activities that simply didn't exist in 2004 (Extron's party at the historic former Amsterdam stock exchange was over-subscribed to the tune of 300 disappointed individuals), ISE's supporting trade associations are using the event as a springboard to develop their membership outside the U.S.
InfoComm held its European Council Meeting during the show, while CEDIA used free-to-attend 'bite-sized' training sessions on its booth to drive traffic.
"We're accelerating our member benefits for the region," said Hallam, "and ISE has become the perfect platform from which to do that."