True Tech Innovation or Passing Fad?

In the show technology field, investing in the latest audio, video, and lighting innovations is part of the business. When it comes to planning their event, todays clients expect rental and staging companies to offer an increasingly wide array of the most advanced high-tech equipment. Make no mistake; it is often to our competitive advantage to be a pioneer in adopting new technology. But with so many cutting-edge products sharing the limelight on the trade show floor, how do industry leaders distinguish todays winning technology from tomorrows obsolete fad?

As veteran show technology professionals know, the smart money is on mainstream products that have the longest shelf life. Niche products that are geared toward a specific interest or have a limited function are usually not worth the investment. Basic elements, such as lighting, video, and audio, are required for most shows.

As you ponder investing in new show technology, here are five simple rules for effectively calculating the risk:

1 Know your market.
As you consider buying a new product, think about the item from your clients perspective. What are your customers looking for? In addition to predicting future technology trends, its important to reflect on whether the item in question will serve the show needs of the customer and their clientele. Review the equipment used in recent events to determine which items are the most requested and produce good return on your investment.

Another critical step is reviewing your inventory to find out which areas are lacking. When customers make a technology request you cant fulfill, make a note of it to guide future purchases. While investing in new technology is always a risk, it can be more dangerous to earn a reputation among your clients for having an outdated and obsolete inventory.

2 Think long-term.
When walking the trade show floor, youll likely hear salespeople trying to convince buyers that their latest gadget is the one with staying power. But as smart show technology professionals know, the product showcased with the most pizzazz at trade shows may be the very item that collects dust in your warehouse a year later.

Consider the shelf life of the average show technology. Conventional lighting products as well as some audio products can typically last for 10 years or more, while video items can become outdated in less than five years. Out of all three, video equipment can put a significant dent in your budget. Show technology professionals are often better served to invest in high-quality equipment that can be used for a wide range of shows.

3 Keep a watchful eye on the industry.
As you consider enhancing your technology arsenal with innovative new products, take a look at what the industry is offering. While companies may serve clients with different show needs, you can look for trends that your company may be missing.
By staying current with the mainstream technology options on the rental market, you can cultivate a reputation for being at the forefront of customers technology needs. Consider specializing in an area that sets your business apart from other rental and staging companies. You will become known for offering clients the newest, most innovative solutions to their specific show needs.

4 Be realistic about the costs.
For rental and staging professionals, its all about return on investment. Its up to the buyer to calculate whether clients rental fees will cover the cost of new equipment. When crunching the numbers, rental and staging professionals must take a variety of factors into consideration in addition to the cost of the item, such as the total cost of ownership. How much will it cost to store the product? Will there be maintenance and repair costs associated with the equipment? Will transportation to show locations present costly issues?

Another critical factor is training your staff to use the new technology. This is a costly, yet necessary undertaking that many buyers overlook. If you send a technician to a show without proper training for new technology, youre setting the operator and the show up for failure.

5 Negotiate the best price.
If you decide a product is worth testing, explore ways to get the item at the lowest cost. To promote the trial and use of their new products, manufacturers often provide price breaks to rental and staging providers. A discounted price may make the item worth a shot.

In addition, you can ask about cross renting a product from the manufacturer to test its popularity with your customers. If you find an item that is the perfect fit for your business, consider buying a larger quantity of the product. That way, you can settle on a volume discount with the vendor. Overall, when it comes to taking a risk on new products, its always worth asking the manufacturer for a deal.

When in Doubt, Research:
With this checklist in place, rental and staging professionals are well positioned for making sound technology investments. So what should you do when you follow all the rules but are still unsure of a products viability? In a word, research.

Leaders in the show technology industry know that when it comes to buying new products, you have to do your homework. Visiting trade shows and reading industry journals are effective ways to gather objective opinions about new technology. You also should consider talking to colleagues about their experience with new products before buying.

Your product research shouldnt end with the purchase of new equipment. Stay in touch with the manufacturer to provide feedback and ask questions that will help you get the most out of your purchase. Good manufacturers want their products to succeed in the marketplace. Theyll be happy to continue the dialog and fix any problems that arise.

The AVNetwork staff are storytellers focused on the professional audiovisual and technology industry. Their mission is to keep readers up-to-date on the latest AV/IT industry and product news, emerging trends, and inspiring installations.