An American export success to celebrate

  • From a modest beginning in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2004 – when barely 3,700 hardy souls showed up – the event has gone from strength to strength. The 2008 edition, which closed its doors last week, drew more than 22,000 people.
  • Part of the reason for this rapid growth is the breadth of ISE's appeal. Unlike InfoComm, http://www.iseurope.org" target="_blank">ISE brings the worlds of commercial and residential AV together, and puts them under one roof. In part, this is because the event is backed by both http://www.infocomm.org" target="_blank">InfoComm and its residential counterpart, http://www.cedia.net" target="_blank">CEDIA.
  • When the show was first launched, the representatives of these American-based trade associations (they included http://www.nsca.org" target="_blank">NSCA then, too) adopted high-profile positions in ISE's promotion. In the intervening years, though, they have tended to take more of a back seat. Sensitive to the possible charge that they are foisting the American way of doing things onto a skeptical European audience, these associations have shifted the emphasis to the creation of a local events team on the ground – of which this writer is now a member.
  • The idea of being served by a local team is appreciated by exhibitors and visitors alike. But there are still some unmistakably American things about the way ISE is run, and I think they benefit the event enormously. There is the emphasis on training and education – taken for granted in the States, less frequently offered in Europe. There is the fact that, as not-for-profit organizations, InfoComm and CEDIA are happy to throw surplus profits into the marketing of ISE, rather than use it to line the pockets of shareholders.
  • Perhaps above all, there is the transparency with which ISE goes about its business. As Randall A. Lemke, InfoComm's Executive Director, puts it: "When we do our rebooking, all the exhibitors come into a room and can clearly see where everybody else is on the floorplan, and where they can be in relation to them." Book a both at many a European trade show, and your company will end up where it suits the organizer, not the customer.
  • To an American, the customer is king. And while there are lots of European things about ISE, and about the European AV industry generally, that I like, the show could not have grown as fast as it has without the proactive approach of its supporting associations. As the event grows, everybody benefits – including InfoComm and CEDIA themselves, both of whom are reporting substantial increases in European membership.
  • Lemke may describe ISE as "Europe's show", but we should also view it as an export America should be proud of. I certainly do.