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InfoComm 2020 Connected show review

InfoComm 2020 Connected show review

InfoComm 2020 Connected show review

Caroline Moss walks the virtual aisles to understand how a tradeshow of the magnitude of InfoComm can work in an online setting

Given that Covid-19 has taken a sledgehammer to this year’s tradeshow calendar, with events beyond ISE having to postpone – if not cancel completely – until next year, tradeshow organisers and manufacturers alike have been quick to put things into the virtual space. Webinars, virtual product launches and presentations have quickly become the norm, and tradeshow organisers are also embracing an online format to keep engaging with members and exhibitors. The latest initiative, AVIXA’s ambitious InfoComm 2020 Connected, ran online from 16–18 June, following the cancellation of its US edition until 2021.

AVIXA CEO, David Labuskes, pointed out the inherent, and unknown, challenges of pulling this off in his opening keynote speech. “This is certainly not the tradeshow I anticipated attending as the New Year arrived, and not the type of tradeshow any of you anticipated, as this type of tradeshow has never been done before. This is a living, real-time experiment in how we connect the entire world of AV to each other when we can’t be in the same space,” he commented. “Not everything is going to work well but I’m certain you’ll leave this event smarter, stronger and richer, with deeper connections than when you arrived.”

A total of 496 exhibitors were present for the virtual experience, and while this is just over half of last year’s count of more than 950, it was a tremendous achievement to present a show of this scale in an untried, new format.

Three levels of heightened visibility were available, giving companies Premier Plus, Premier and Enhanced status, with seven, 66 and 76 companies, respectively, taking advantage of different opportunities to upload content, improve visibility and forge connections. Companies that had booked stand space at InfoComm 2020 in Las Vegas but didn’t upgrade their packages – 347 in all – got a basic listing.

In addition to the exhibition, AVIXA was presenting a healthy programme of multilingual sessions, both live and available to watch on-demand. These covered a plethora of AV-related subjects including topical issues such Forget Normal: Five Categories of Innovation That Will Change AV by Sharp associate director, Mehryn Corrigan. There was a total of 74 live sessions and featured on-demand presentations from 67 companies. "When we were planning InfoComm Connected, we made a conscious decision to trim down the number of sessions that were scheduled to be presented at InfoComm in-person in order to make the virtual show more navigable to attendees," explained Rochelle Richardson, senior vice president of expositions and events, AVIXA. "We worked with the speakers to adapt their planned presentations to the new format of the virtual show and added new sessions that spoke directly to the current issues facing the AV industry."

There was also a virtual networking zone and an opportunity to join several special events, including the AVIXA Foundation Virtual 5K and Trivia Night events to raise money for the AVIXA Foundation, as well as the free-to-attend #AVHappyHour, AVIXA Women’s Breakfast and AVX Award Winners Panel.

"Overall, the InfoComm 2020 Connected show went very well,” continued Richardson. “We decided to leverage the dates originally planned for the InfoComm in-person event to connect the pro AV industry to provide a robust programme and platform for industry professionals to network. The challenges experienced were largely due to the constraints of working to launch a platform in less than 60 days. Fortunately, we’ll have time to improve the process before we plan a future virtual show. We’ll retain parts of the programme that went very well and refine other areas to ensure continued success as we anticipate the future will include virtual and hybrid shows.” 

Companies taking part in Premier Plus were Kramer, Sennheiser, Christie, Matrox, Samsung, Newline and Premier Mounts. Kramer was showcasing the new generation of its VIA GO and VIA Campus open AV platform presentation and collaboration solutions. Meanwhile, Sennheiser had also opted for top billing to show the latest version of its Control Cockpit 4 control and monitoring software for large microphone setups, which now integrates the SpeechLine Multi-Channel Receiver and Digital 6000 wireless microphone series.

“We selected the Premier Plus package because it gave us greater visibility to attendees that weren’t necessarily searching for us,” explained Christopher Currier, manager, trade marketing. “Premier Plus gave us a top spot on the exhibitor page and provided additional brand visibility. For the end customer, this was a great opportunity to reach out to manufacturers and get answers to questions in an accessible way. From the brand perspective, we were able to make new connections and have interesting conversations. We enjoyed the ability to closely monitor and track booth visitors by their areas of interest and titles. This allowed us to more easily put visitors in touch with the most appropriate Sennheiser representative to answer their questions and discuss our solutions.

“As with any new conference or event, there are always learnings that can be taken away to improve the next instalment. For InfoComm Connected, the engagement with end users was much lower than what we are used to at the in-person events. We are hoping that AVIXA is able to find ways to better attract attendees for future virtual shows.”

Currier felt while the virtual experience needs to be more feature-rich to completely replace a real-life event, some sort of hybrid might be feasible. “If organisations were to offer a combination of in-person/virtual presence when real-life events are allowed again, I could see the benefit of providing that level of accessibility to someone who couldn’t attend the show. However, this would mean having to re-evaluate what both the real-life and virtual versions would look like. If attendance is down at the physical event because some attendees are opting for a virtual experience, exhibitors will be forced to downsize their physical presence. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how it changes the tradeshow landscape going forward.”

Matrox focused on presenting its recently released Extio 3 IP KVM extenders and D-Series 1480 graphics card. While the company is still studying the data after the event, Samuel Recine, vice president of sales, Americas and Asia Pacific, reported that its international scope was a positive. “There is at least preliminary anecdotal evidence that we were able to span Europe, Americas and Asia with networking and news,” he said. “Whether this was superior or not to conventional tradeshows is still being studied.” Recine also felt that the matchmaking networking tool should endure, with improvements to features and functionality, as well as the possibility of connecting with established platforms such as LinkedIN.

Dropping down a level to Premier status, which also included plenty of content promotion and networking opportunities, Adamson, Aten, Bosch and Shure opted to launch new products. “The Premier exhibitor option allowed us to list brand and product info, multimedia content and use the customer/exhibitor matchmaking feature,” said Guy Low, creative and brand manager at Bosch. “We hosted three Tech Sessions: 15-minute presentations followed by Q&As. One of these was the global launch of the Dynacord MXE matrix mix engine. We received the leads from Tech Sessions and followed up with info on our first-ever Summer Showcase sessions scheduled for the following week, significantly increasing registration. It all worked seamlessly, and we’d like to thank AVIXA for their collaboration in turning an unprecedented situation into an opportunity to add value. While we’re looking forward to participating in the physical show again – aside from the face-to-face interaction, it’s impossible to replicate an audio demo room experience online – Connected added a new dimension to the way we can engage in a meaningful way with our customers via the reach of a major industry organisation. The results were impressive, given the compressed timeline to bring it all online.”

Adamson used InfoComm 2020 Connected to launch its new CS-Series of intelligent powered loudspeakers, software and rack systems. “The media attention that was focused on the show certainly helped us get the CS-Series story out; we obviously would have preferred to show the new products off in-person, but we had a good response to our video content and managed to drive some great attendance for our two livestream launch events,” said Darcy Montgomery, head of marketing. “The Premier package kept us up above the crowd in the exhibitor space, but we’ll have to look at some of the data to see how good the return was.”

Montgomery also cited the online matchmaking tool as a good attempt at replacing face-to-face meetings and discussions. “I think there is real potential in the online matchmaking platform as a supplement to live interaction, particularly in the ability to connect one-to-one after the show,” he commented, adding that the company is still getting meeting requests about the CS-Series. “That ability to keep discussions going after the show floor closes is promising as an add-on to future events.”

Also in the Premier category, Aten debuted its UC3022 Camlive Pro one-person, dual-camera video production and livestreaming device, which can be controlled by smartphone or PC; Shure unveiled its first loudspeaker for AV conferencing: the Microflex MXN5 networked speaker, as well as the MXA710 line array microphone; and Audinate had two new Dante AVIO USB-C and Bluetooth adaptors. Bose, Allen & Heath, ClearOne, Panasonic, Philips, QSC and Sony were also in this category. “The AV market has always been extremely important to Sony and we’re focused on addressing the industry’s needs and ongoing evolution now more than ever,” said Theresa Alesso, president of the professional division, imaging products and solutions Americas, adding that Sony was highlighting its range of projectors, displays and camera networks as it was reminded of the integral role that technology plays in connecting people and providing a sense of community.

Companies participating at Enhanced level included Exerity, Meyer Sound, beyerdynamic, Clear-Com, d&b audiotechnik, Analog Way, Focusrite, LG, Martin Audio, Neutrik, Peerless AV, Roland, Ross Video and Sound Control Technologies. Exterity chose the Enhanced package to have a higher profile in the exhibitor listings as well as a fuller profile and more content on its virtual booth, including product highlights, images, collateral and company video. The company conducted its usual pre-InfoComm outreach to its own US database as well as PR, social media and targeted advertising focusing our newest product releases and feature enhancements, and is planning a follow-up campaign to its US database and new contacts made during the “show days”, noting that the InfoComm Connected exhibitor pages and contact opportunities remain online until the end of August.

“While not the same as seeing friends, colleagues and exploring new business opportunities in person, InfoComm Connected still proved a valuable meeting platform during Covid-19,” commented Steven Forrest, sales director, Americas. It has been great to re-engage with some key partners and discover some new future opportunities.” Added Carolyn Baillie, director of marketing: “It was important and the right thing to be there and it was really well put together by AVIXA and the InfoComm team in the short time they had available to plan and implement it.”

Meyer Sound participated in InfoComm Connected in a bid to support one of the first virtual tradeshows in the industry. “It is important to us to support and connect with the InfoComm and AVIXA community and we appreciated their efforts to explore this virtual frontier,” said director of global marketing, Tim Boot. “As virtual events continue, we look forward to seeing how future tradeshows will apply initial key learnings and incorporate new ideas as these concepts evolve. There is still much work to be done and we hope, by being an early participant, we can contribute to improving the experience going forward.”

Also paying for Enhanced status was Clear-Com. “We appreciate the effort by AVIXA to keep us all connected and we look forward to the industry applying the learnings from this show into future virtual initiatives,” said president, Bob Boster.

Companies that had booked stand space at InfoComm 2020 in Las Vegas got a free listing at the bottom of the exhibitors’ area, with basic company details but no ability to upload resources. This included Harman, Yamaha, Audio-Technica, Avid, Roland, ROE Visual, Avolites, Barco, Biamp, Crestron, Powersoft and Lawo. Instead, Powersoft opted to hold its own webinar and online marketing to launch the new Duecanali and Quattrocanali range of amplifiers, the 6404 DSP+D and 8804 DSP+D. “We were one of the first companies to increase our webinars and online training capabilities,” said brand, communication and trade marketing manager, Francesco Fanicchi. “Our first webinar took place on 17 March and since then we have organised dozens of them, covering various topics, with hundreds of people attending each time. We decided not to take out one of the upgraded packages for InfoComm Connected as we felt we’d had an honest, virtual discussion on what was available and didn’t deem it needed at that time. However, I attended a number of manufacturer sessions at InfoComm Connected and I was impressed: some of them looked like real TV productions. Being forced to move into digital environments has allowed a massive leap forward in terms of quality for those online sessions. Exhibitors are now capable of better engagement with their audience, increasing brand awareness and extending their reach outside of the traditional show floor.”

ROE Visual partnered with Lang AG which was organising AV Innovation Days, a live onsite event for regional visitors held at the Lang Academy in Germany, combined with broadcasts during InfoComm 2020. ROE Visual created a small stand dominated by its Ruby LED screen, with the Black Quartz outdoor screen and Vanish transparent LED panels also on display. “Although the exhibition drew a nice number of visitors, it’s of course not comparable with a full InfoComm show,” said Roelof Bouwman, general manager of ROE Visual EU. “The organisation by Lang was perfect, and we’re glad we had this opportunity to connect with our client base, but we’re not back to a normal status by far. Talking with our clients and realising the impact of the Covid-19 measures on our industry is hard to take in. And though we see nice initiatives and new ways to create events, we can only hope for a fast recovery.”

This sentiment is shared by the entire AV industry as it surveys the business landscape for signs of green shoots. AVIXA has undoubtedly pulled off a successful, well-attended and professionally produced event in a short timeframe, to fill the void left by the cancellation of its show. However, it’s clear the common hope is that this time next year, the aisles we’ll be walking are concrete, not virtual.

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