May 8, 2019 by Brad Grimes
The annual trade show doesn’t just reflect the state of an industry, but also its state of mind.
IC18 Ribbon Cutting

It begins, as it always does, with comfortable shoes. Only this year, make them running shoes. InfoComm 2019, June 8-14 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, will once again span more than half-a-million square feet of exhibit and event space (be good to your feet if you plan to cover it all), but it will also host a new 5K race benefitting the AVIXA Foundation’s work to develop the next generation of AV professionals. Find all the information and register for this year’s show at www.infocommshow.org.

And that’s just one of the changes in store. In short, the annual InfoComm trade show keeps evolving, along with the industry it showcases. It attracts new and longtime participants who come to learn, experience, make new connections, and nurture old ones. Aside from packing those ASICS, here are a few ways to position yourself for a successful InfoComm:

Broaden your thinking. AV is everywhere, being used in a variety of ways. The market for bread-and-butter conferencing and collaboration solutions remains strong, for example, while a new community of creative professionals is using AV to invent new experiences for retailers, hotels, public organizations, and more. From product activations, to digital art, to what are called “public interactives,” applications for all that technology on the InfoComm exhibit floor are virtually limitless when combined with the right content and consideration for the space where it will be experienced.

Anyone who visited Integrated Systems Europe 2019 in Amsterdam earlier this year witnessed the projection-mapping skills of Bart Kresa and his BARTKRESA Studio. Kresa will take part in this year’s TIDE conference (Technology. Innovation. Design. Experience.) in Orlando. TIDE is in its third year and comes the Tuesday, June 11, before the InfoComm exhibit floor opens. It was developed in response to feedback throughout the industry seeking new perspectives on the application of AV technology — an opportunity to gain fresh context for what takes place later in the week. This year’s TIDE includes speakers from companies such as ESI Design, iLuminate, MASARY Studios, Mood Media, Storied Systems, and Wildbytes. Representatives of the University of Texas Dallas will hold a workshop on executing AV experiences in public spaces, and Srinivas Rao, host and founder of the popular podcast The Unmistakable Creative, will deliver the keynote. They’re artists, dancers, scholars, and entrepreneurs — and chances are, their ideas about technology may be new to you.

If you can’t attend TIDE, or if your line of work never requires you to, for instance, build an interactive video wall for a public art installation, get on your Google machine anyway. Drop some of those company names in the search box and simply explore ways people are using AV.

Prepare to address the questions of AV customers. InfoComm — and the overall ecosystem we call the AV industry — has grown and evolved to include technology managers and the decision makers who buy AV systems. Depending on the year, they now make up about 40 percent of InfoComm attendees. Say what you will about this evolution, InfoComm exhibitors have long sought more interaction with what we’ve come to call “end users.” And many solution providers throughout the industry agree that better-informed buyers lead to better solutions, stronger customer relationships, and more business.

But if your company operates in the AV channel, be prepared to engage these end users at the InfoComm show. That sounds obvious, but it can mean a different conversation than some on your team might be used to. For manufacturers, it’s one thing to tell a reseller or integrator about the technical specs of a new product; it’s another to ask an end user about their business and describe a solution that meets their needs (and includes your products).

Anecdotally, feedback from some end-user attendees has been that it can be hard to get the information they want on the show floor (some have even felt ignored when they visited booths). They’re not necessarily going to wear shirts that scream “I’m an End User,” and their faces won’t be as familiar as industry friends you catch up with every June, so it behooves us all to be able to talk not only about the products, but also about real-world application of those products.

If there’s any question about how different markets are applying AV technology, or what business challenges they’re facing that AV can help address, InfoComm continues to integrate those communities into the show. This year, the emphasis is on the retail and hospitality markets — two sectors where sales of AV solutions and services is growing faster than the overall AV industry. There will be more than 30 sessions at InfoComm 2019 about AV in retail and hospitality, covering everything from ADA compliance in hotel meeting spaces to using sensors and data to create unique retail solutions. Such sessions, part of the show’s Seminar and Workshop package, are designed for AV, retail, and hospitality professionals and include the perspectives of all — part of an overall push to bring industries closer together and allow AV professionals to have better conversations with customers.

Consider the ultimate users of AV. It’s exciting to hear the AV industry discuss the importance of creating solutions with users in mind — not just end users, as we commonly call customers, but also the end users’ end users, like workers in conference rooms and shoppers in front of digital signs. This also sounds obvious, but the concept of user-centered design, or user experience (UX) design, is relatively new. But as it’s been noted many times, Apple didn’t make the first MP3 player; it made the one that best reflected how users would interact with the technology — and the rest is history.

Designing AV solutions should incorporate the same focus on (1) what users need technology to do for them, and (2) how they want to do it. It’s at the heart of every needs analysis, a critical component of AVIXA’s AV design curriculum and CTS-D certification. As Mark Coxon, CTS-D, CTS-I, Regional Sales Manager for Barco, has noted on Twitter, “If you want to be a better partner to your customers, you should be talking more about their business and their people and less about technology.” (Coxon will be teaching a session at InfoComm 2019 called “Using AV Technology to Trigger Customers' Biological Responses” — a uniquely user-centric seminar.)

For a deep dive, Lisa Perrine, CTS, CEO of Cibola Systems, and Jesse Fishman, CTS-D, Senior AV Systems Design at The Sextant Group, will run a special three-day workshop the week of InfoComm 2019 on “Design Thinking for AV.” It starts with a field trip to watch people experience a space, then proceeds to an exploration of five design-thinking principles — empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test — and how they apply to AV experiences.

None of this is to say that everything you’ve come to expect from InfoComm won’t also be part of the 2019 edition. There will be thousands of products, opportunities to study and test for your CTS certification, standards development, networking opportunities like the AVIXA Women's Council Breakfast and AVIXA Diversity Council, and much more. But context is also king. Encouraging new conversations and fresh approaches to applying AV technology makes InfoComm a must-attend event. So grab those running shoes, and see you in Orlando.

About Brad Grimes

Brad Grimes is Editor at Large for AVIXA and the former editor of Pro AV magazine. He has been writing about technology for more than 25 years.

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