The Pro AV industry is loaded with talented people, and at SCN, we're proud to celebrate the achievements of the newest members of our Hall of Fame.
Michael Blackman, managing director of Integrated Systems Europe (ISE), became a staple of the international Pro AV industry quite by accident.
In 2002, a headhunter who was working on behalf of InfoComm, CEDIA, and NSCA was looking to recruit someone to launch an AV show in Europe. "I remember thinking, 'This looks cool. I could enjoy this,'" Blackman recalled. "And the rest is history."
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Early in his career, Blackman had different plans. "I wanted to be an accountant," he explained, "and I got bored to tears." He shifted gears with a move to marketing for the Financial Times, and eventually opened his own consultancy business.
Blackman worked with several high-profile clients, including BMW, which fed his passion for fast cars, and Harley-Davidson, which fed his passion for motorcycles. He also launched several IT events in Europe, many focused on specific manufacturer platforms, including Personal Computer World Show, Macworld Expo, Unix Expo, and Windows World. He was in Germany to launch IDG World Expo when he was recruited for ISE—and after his first InfoComm, he was hooked.
"I love technology, always have," Blackman said. "You don't have to force me to read this stuff. I keep up because it interests me personally. Talk about falling into something you love."
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Blackman helped launch the first ISE show in Geneva in 2004. The show moved around a bit—to Amsterdam in 2005 and then Brussels in 2006—before settling into the RAI Amsterdam convention center for the next 14 years.
By 2017, Blackman realized the show was outgrowing its Amsterdam venue, and ISE began searching for a new home. Extensive research led the company to Barcelona, which is striving to become a leading technology destination for companies in Europe.
Then came COVID-19. ISE did take place in Amsterdam in early 2020, despite losing about 70 exhibitors and instituting a "no handshake" rule, but the 2021 show was cancelled. The 2022 show wound up delayed until May, but ISE's Barcelona debut was considered a big success. "That was the right decision," Blackman said. "We had a good show.”
At 64, Blackman is a father of five and grandfather of three who still likes fast cars and motorcycles. He even rode his Harley-Davidson with a group of other AV professionals who ride from Germany to Barcelona to attend a regional event in 2021. He also offered some wisdom for young professionals entering the Pro AV space. "The key is finding the right company to work with," he advised. "Keep learning. Don't stand still. The most important thing is to enjoy what you're doing. I'm excited every morning I get up."
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Blackman also knows that ISE's success was not a solo effort. "I get all the credit of ISE, but I don't like people to forget about my team," he said. "Everyone contributes to what we've done and built."
ISE is poised for even more success in its new home. Blackman said ISE 2023 will likely be near the show's pre-pandemic 2019 levels. "We have the potential to be the largest exposition in Barcelona," he added. "The growth of our industry, both commercial and residential, leads us toward huge growth. We see that growth because we see where it's going, how AV is touching people's lives. It's not about size—it's about serving the market, bringing together buyers and sellers of Pro AV. I think that's what makes this so exciting."