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Experiencing InfoComm 2019

Whether you’re an industry vet or just getting started in the world of AV, you know it’s InfoComm season when your inbox is filled with emails from manufacturers, your phone has a ton of texts from industry friends to make dinner plans, and your Twitter feed is dominated by #InfoComm19. With over 43,000 attendees at the 2018 show, everyone is gearing up for this year’s edition of the largest North American tradeshow for professional audio and video.

To help you prepare, we spoke with several AV veterans and asked them to share what excites them about the show, their strategies for managing the tradeshow floor, and how newbies can fully experience all that is InfoComm 2019.

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Wallace Johnson, CTS, Managing Director, WLJ Consulting

Wallace Johnson

Wallace Johnson

What to See: I am most excited to attend TIDE once again, along with the live events forum. The association has done a great job getting end users and unique voices on the stage to provide insights on what is affecting their world, and giving us that perspective through their unique lens. These events are also like a class reunion as you have this particular networking time with people you have known for years. As we get busy, the only time we get to see each other and touch base is once a year, during this time at the show.

Technology-wise, I don’t expect anything new, but I’m looking to see what improvements manufacturers have made to some products that debuted at the 2018 show.

Show Strategy: I will be focused on talking to exhibitors about what’s next. What are they seeing that today’s end user isn’t? I want to know the feedback they are getting from the field and how that is shaping future developments of their products.

Tips for Newbies: Newcomers should do their research before the show and map out what exhibitors they want to visit. It’s a good idea to schedule time on the calendar for the booths you want to see—because once you get to the show, if you’re not organized, it can feel overwhelming and then you want to go to your room and take a nap.

Attend as many networking opportunities as you can, whether it be the opening reception or a council meeting; the show is a great way to see a lot of products, but it’s an even better way to meet a ton of cool people who do the same thing as you. Lastly, if no one has told you, wear comfortable shoes. If you buy new ones, break them in before the show, not at the show. You will thank me later.

Lisa Perrine, Ed.D., CEO, Cibola Systems

Lisa Perrine

Lisa Perrine

What to See: Every year I choose a show goal to focus my energy. This year it’s learning more about sensor technologies and data analytics that measure end user responses. I’m particularly interested in the voice and video analytics being developed for retail environments, and how those can be applied in the workplace.

Since Cibola’s AV experience design work includes large meeting environments and branded experience centers, InfoComm is a great opportunity to see new technologies on a bigger scale. I’m looking forward to comparing the newest models of direct view LED displays. The audio rooms are also on my agenda, where I can hear and evaluate loudspeakers away from the noisy show floor.

Show Strategy: Educational sessions are my first priority. This year I’ll arrive the weekend before InfoComm to teach the three-day “Design Thinking for AV” course. The TIDE Conference on Tuesday can’t be missed—it’s exciting to learn about new, creative work happening around the edges of our industry. A Wednesday course titled “The Impact of AI and Machine Learning on the Future of UCC” is also at the top of my list.

On the show floor, I’ll visit exhibitors that fit my show goal. The InfoComm site has a search function that helps locate lesser-known companies and identify their exhibit hall locations. Though some people like to make appointments, I never do. It’s much more interesting to have a spontaneous conversation about a company’s business strategy and innovation roadmap than to hear a monologue about product features.

Tips for Newbies: Know your show goal and stick to it. InfoComm is enormous, so it’s helpful to focus on a fairly narrow learning goal that you’re really excited about. That goal will also help you avoid inevitable distractions on the show floor.

Share your experience with a show partner. For a different perspective, team up with someone from another discipline, a different part of the industry, or even another country. Connect often to share discoveries, observations, and must-see recommendations. And don’t lose touch after the show. Sometimes your best insights will follow a good night’s sleep back home.

Brock McGinnis, Vice President of Sales, Westbury National

Brock McGinnis

Brock McGinnis

What to See: AV manufacturers are falling all over themselves to connect their brands with Microsoft, Logitech, and Zoom, so we’ll be spending a lot of time trying to understand and differentiate among the multitude of soft conferencing and video collaboration product integrations now available.

We’ll also be looking at a plethora of big, bright, and shiny direct view LED displays. Most integrators are having a tough time understanding the differences between one manufacturer and another—or even who’s actually a manufacturer versus an assembler or repackager. Horror stories abound, pricing fluctuates wildly, everyone says their mousetrap is better, and there are no standards or even easy benchmarks to help compare quality or value, so we’ll keep asking questions and trying to decide what’s most important for our clients.

As for the rest of the show floor, we’ll be like everyone else: looking for information, inspiration, and ideas to bring home to our customers.

Show Strategy: In a perfect world, I’d have no scheduled booth tours and would be free to roam the aisles, stopping whenever I found something interesting. But the reality is that our vendor relationships are important to us, so I schedule two major meetings each morning and afternoon of the show. The time in between is for exploring and for quick, 15-minute “come and see our new widget” drop-ins.

Tips for Newbies: Network, network, network. Go to as many vendor parties, AVIXA and NSCA events, tweetups, and other gatherings as possible. Circulate, join conversations, ask questions, and become known. Meet people in your classes and introduce yourself to the instructors. Introduce yourself to exhibitors. Most importantly, get off your phone. InfoComm is an IRL (in real life) event and you will benefit the most by maximizing the IRL opportunities to expand the network that will make your social platforms buzz for many years to come.

Josh Bittner, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, McCann Systems

Josh Bittner

Josh Bittner

What to See: This year is going to be big for display systems. Between new MicroTiles, finer-pitch LED, and zero-bezel LCD video walls, we, as designers, will have a lot of options to offer our clients. In addition, commercial USB peripherals will continue to explode in support of soft codec conferencing platforms. Lastly, I expect a larger preference from nontraditional players like Amazon and Google, who are pushing hard against Microsoft for Corporate UC Platform dominance.

Show Strategy: We like to send a mix of team members from sales, engineering, operations, and corporate to InfoComm in order to gather different viewpoints on the same technologies. That mix of skill sets is also great for the informal technology discussions that take place at the show—we like to debrief over video afterward. This allows everyone to learn from each other and not be limited to what they themselves see and hear in the booths. 

Tips for Newbies: In addition to the obvious tips like bringing water and wearing comfortable shoes, I encourage newbies to spend at least one day alone on the show floor. Touring in large groups can be inefficient and restrict your ability to move around the floor. Also, make it a point to visit some lesser-known exhibitors, as they may be the “big guys” of tomorrow.

Brandy Alvarado, Business Development Manager, MAD Systems

Brandy Alvarado

Brandy Alvarado

What to See: I’m excited to walk the floor and really get a good look at the latest innovations from various manufacturers. I’m especially looking forward to the TIDE conference—it’s proven to be a big highlight of the show for many.

Show Strategy: A big part of my show strategy is contributing to the AVIXA Women’s Council breakfast and the Women’s Session held the Thursday afternoon of the show. As the chair of the council, my goal is to help connect people, and help women find their voice in our industry. The leadership team is working on moving the needle to promote more women to join the industry, so a big part of my strategy during the show is to provide some outreach toward that goal. I’d highly recommend attending the breakfast. All are welcome.

Tips for Newbies: Sign up for some sessions, and try some that may be out of your wheelhouse. You never know what ideas you’ll come up with to redefine your business when you’re learning something new. Network and connect at the many events held during the show—I’ve met some #AVBesties while attending various classes and parties during the show.

John Steineke, Engineering Manager, CCS Presentation Systems

John Steineke. CCS Presentation Systems

John Steineke

What to See: CCS Presentation Systems has a very broad range of applications and solutions that we offer to our client base, so covering all segments of the show floor is paramount to our success. Highlights for this year’s show will include previewing technological advances and efficiencies in direct view LED, along with AV streaming, AV power management, display technology, and audio protocol application layers in media networks (i.e., Dante, AES67, Q-LAN, Ravenna, and now the arrival of Milan to the mix).

Show Strategy: We try to identify new products and applications that will maximize audio/visual/collaborative experiences for our clients in how they communicate their message and mission in their respective fields. We will set a goal each day to cover as much of the show landscape as we can and zero in on new products/solutions that may enhance the form/function in our current project list.

Tips for Newbies: Seek out as many new relationships as you can at the show and build on them—they will drive your growth in this industry professionally and personally.

Brad Sousa, Chief Technology Officer, AVI Systems

Brad Sousa

What to See: For years, InfoComm has been about bigger, brighter, and better, with arguments between specs. I’ll be focusing on how technologies are supported across the entire enterprise.

Show Strategy: InfoComm is so big that it is helpful to dissect it into technology categories and then compare notes each day. Recognize that different people will want different types of conversations: engineers want details, solutions architects want benefits, customers want value. Create teams to find out about all of these topics and have them seek out these categories during the show. Then plan how to bring it home. Develop a strategy ahead of time that takes the best of InfoComm back to customers and others who can’t make it to Orlando.

Tips for Newbies: Be specific about what is beneficial. Hit the vendors and technologies that are strategic to your business on day one. Focus less on the show and more on your goals. Make sure these discussions are about outcomes, not just specs. Reserve time on day two to visit vendors that are still in the strategic areas of your business but not currently your vendor. Lastly, plan one day to walk the show with the intention of learning something new about technology that doesn’t intuitively fit into your current technology planning.

Charmaine Torruella, GMS Account Manager, Verrex

Charmaine Torruella

Charmaine Torruella

What to See: There are a few new seminars, sessions, and tours in play that are designed to expand the integration experience side of AVIXA. Areas pertaining to live events and production, augmented/virtual reality, and esports are included this year to increase knowledge of areas that are being integrated more frequently into AV—look for newer innovations in areas like lighting, control, information technology, and sensors.

Networking events are good ways to connect with AV people from different business areas. This year, the AVIXA Diversity Council will host a members-only session titled “Diversity in AV—Overcoming Unconscious Bias” at the show. It will be a panel discussion of Diversity Council members of different backgrounds and ethnicities.

Show Strategy: I keep my movement free-flowing throughout the show so I am attentive to my clients and my mission while I’m there; I make an earnest effort to reach out to my clients to determine their attendance and plan my floor schedule around them. I hit the show floor light—no PC or heavy items—and only carry a small notepad and/or my electronic tablet for note-taking and to grab quick pictures of items of interest. I typically take a look at all the newer manufacturer booths first and focus on the new technologies from the traditional manufacturers later.

Tips for Newbies: At my first InfoComm, I was the one black woman per 200 attendees—that was some years back and I stood out like a sore thumb. It can be a little daunting when you do not blend in, but realize that you are the audience/customer; the show is designed for you to do all the technology window-shopping possible in order to make the best AV determinations—to be in command of the experience. One last thing: electrolytes. InfoComm is hosted in warm climates, so make sure you have enough electrolytes to keep your body properly hydrated.

Ted Leamy, General Manager, Pro Media Audio & Video

Ted Leamy

Ted Leamy

What to See: While everyone is trying to attract you to the bleeding edge of technology and new products, I recommend that you think about your customer. Not a whole lot of customers want bleeding edge; they want value. Go and act as if your customer is standing next to you. As you look at new products and interview manufacturers, be your customer. Think about how your customer would view this new technology.

Show Strategy: The show has become so enormous—dare I say “gigan-tremendously” big? Don’t try to do everything. Make a plan. Think about what your goal is at the end of the show. Can you go and solve a customer problem? If you try and see everything, you will walk away without anything tangible for your efforts. Your plan should be based on your customers.

Tips for Newbies: Don’t be distracted by shiny objects—it’s more important to connect with people. InfoComm is a tremendous opportunity to interact with people, m

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Mike Harmon, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, ESCO Communications, a New Era Technology Company

Mike Harmon

Mike Harmon

What to See: It’s safe to say that most of us enjoy technology and learning new things. Having the opportunity to see firsthand the latest innovations in technology gets us fired up. I will be looking at new innovations in mobility, unified communications, cloud, and other creative ways to continue to build our RMR book of business. This list is not drastically different from what I wanted to see at my last event because these are the areas we are targeting for growth.

Show Strategy: We will be bringing a cross-functional team with a mix of engineering, sales, purchasing, and leadership to the show. Each of us will have specific goals and assignments to accomplish during our time at the show.

Every evening during the show, we meet over dinner to review the events from that day to help confirm we are all staying on task. As the week progresses, the team will meet collectively with some of our key partners to ensure the entire team is current on our key partners’ solutions and vision.

Tips for Newbies: This is an exciting time for our industry. Come to the show prepared for what you need to accomplish, but also come with an open mind to challenge yourself to look at new things that may push you and your team’s boundaries. We have to be willing to evolve and to embrace the new opportunities that are in front of us as an industry.

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Jim Colquhoun, CTS-I, CTS-D, Vice President/Chief Technologist, Avidex

Jim Colquhoun

Jim Colquhoun

What to See: One of the things that differentiates InfoComm is that they not only allow end users to attend, they encourage it. This means that some of the largest and most sophisticated consumers of audio-video integration on the planet are there to talk about their plans for the coming year. If you are not participating in or learning from the conversations, you are leaving knowledge on the table. Make sure to either engineer your way into some of these conversations or get a thorough download from someone who has.

Show Strategy: One of the approaches I have suggested to attendees to past shows is to divide and conquer. Take a topic such as streaming encoders or projectors and focus on it. Preselect from the vendor list those that have the technology or products that fit your topic and plan on visiting those booths. In some cases, a team approach works nicely. A team would consist of an engineer and an account manager with a common interest to move about the show in pursuing the selected topic. Post-show, each team would provide a report on their topic to be shared with others.

Tips for Newbies: Start with your larger—maybe your top 20 or 30—manufacturer list. Learn the most about the products from those vendors your company has the best relationships with. This will give a good perspective on the products and vendors that support your organization at the highest level. From there, it is often very helpful to pick just one area of the show and look at each booth in that area. Since the show is organized by technology, this makes it possible to look over an area such as audio or direct view LED displays.

Finally, listen to what each vendor says about new products—be sure to ask about when any new product will ship. Finally, believe only half of the sales pitch you hear. Remember that what you hear is the most optimistic perspective of new products. Actual performance of those products may vary once they are put into use.

Kelly Bousman, Senior Vice President Marketing, AVI-SPL

Kelly Bousman

What to See: I’m always eager to see the next technology or service evolution in our industry that will heighten user experience and open new, creative models for customer experience. I’m looking forward to seeing the latest AI-powered and voice-controlled leaps in meeting efficiency, self-healing features from AV and UC manufacturers, as well as how they’re simplifying and enhancing the user experience through automation.

Show Strategy: InfoComm is a great opportunity to listen to our visitors, understand their potential challenges, and educate them about successful digital workplace strategies.

Tips for Newbies: Align your show floor game plan to your current initiatives and visit the vendors that potentially align with your needs. Then take every opportunity to network with peers through AVIXA sessions and receptions.