By Mark Coxon, CTS (Systems Contractor News)
I spent the last five years working for manufacturers, which meant I had very little time to walk the InfoComm show floor. This year, however, I am on the integration side of the industry with Tangram Interiors, and InfoComm was a purely optional event for me. For the first time in a long time, I had complete freedom to prioritize my time at the show.
Just going to walk the floor and peruse new products would most likely be a colossal waste of time for me. I take my profession seriously, and, as such, I keep up with innovations and new product releases as a matter of course. As one of my industry veteran friends once said, “If you rely on trade shows and industry publications for your product news and information, you’re most likely behind.”
So, if I don’t go to InfoComm specifically to learn about new products, why do I go? The answer is simple. I go to InfoComm to make new connections.
Those connections can be personal, like meeting new people and reconnecting with industry peers, or they can be conceptual, establishing connections between the buzz on the show floor and potential new verticals in our business. They could also include connecting the dots between a panel discussion or educational track to new business methodologies to drive the next round or growth and prosperity after the show.
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This year, I took a three-pronged approach to making those connections. I attended networking events, I taught a course for AVIXA, and I chose to meet with a few key manufacturers—not to discuss products, but to discuss strategies to grow our businesses together.
I was only in Orlando a few days, so I really had to load up my calendar to accomplish my goals. From a networking perspective, I attended the Starin Marketing VIP event, AV Karaoke, the AV Tweetup, and the #AVintheAM breakfast. All of these included influencers and thought leaders from every walk of AV life, including manufacturers, integrators, and technology managers from corporate and educational backgrounds. These events not only allowed me to forge new alliances and reconnect with allies, but also to share best practices and have big picture conversations about the future of the industry. All of these things are essential to me as an integrator trying to guide our company into tomorrow while maintaining a value proposition that is valuable for our customers and profitable for our business.
On Wednesday, I gave a talk on Using AV to Trigger Biological Responses. They say if you ever want to truly understand something better or organize your thoughts, teach it to someone else. Not only did teaching a course rekindle my passion for why we utilize AV in the first place, it also provided me connections to several people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
The majority of my audience were end users, and many came up to me afterward to have larger conversations about how we may be able to collaborate in the future. Speaking at InfoComm positions you as a thought leader to the people who may be able to utilize your services in the future, so if you ever have a chance to teach a conceptual class on AV, I’d highly recommend that you do it.
My course also had a “Now What?” workshop later in the day, that encouraged attendees to return and talk specifically about a project where they feel they need assistance. That turned into an intimate fireside style chat with about a dozen people. As you may imagine, with a group that small, we had amazing conversations and formed much deeper connections.
Finally, I handpicked a few manufactures to see and discuss partnerships, not based on product sales goals, but based on specific market opportunities that I feel our company is well-positioned to capitalize on. I can see my local sales rep anytime, and I’ve already seen most of the products up close and in person. With 950 exhibitors on the floor, there was no way for me to see them all, nor was there a reason to see them all. I had already started a Q3 and Q4 business plan for our company, so I utilized the show to find products and have conversations around how we bring that plan into reality.
I visited a few current key partners, explored a couple of other companies that align with our goals, but we haven’t worked with historically, and attended a mastermind dinner of sorts to have a detailed discussion on a gap in the market that is not being filled, as well as what would be required to fill it.
So as you can see, from my perspective as an integrator, InfoComm the show is not really about products at all. It is about people, business models, and education and information critical to building our future businesses. The world we live in is highly competitive and commoditized, so a product centric show just isn’t as valuable as it used to be.
This is why I have been an advocate of the experience movement that AVIXA has been promoting around the show. It attracts more of the people I need to connect with, end users. It provides a platform to connect with each other around the problems our businesses face and develop strategies and solutions together to be successful in the future. Products are merely the vehicle that get us to that destination, but using the show to create valuable connections and alliances provide the roadmap to actually get there.
So why did I attend InfoComm19? The truth is, based on the value I get, I can’t afford not to. See you all in 2020!