This is part one of a series discussing the power of the relationships you can make at an in-person trade show. After attending InfoComm 2021, I decided to write about my experience. Enjoy!
I have been attending/participating in trade shows for a very long time in every industry I’ve been part of (film/video production, data storage and backup, telecom, video managed services, AV integration and now digital signage). I attended my first InfoComm show in 2009 while selling video managed services. When I worked in AV integration from 2013-2019, I attended InfoComm then too, and I would set up booth tours for my clients to save them time by scheduling in advance with companies exhibiting at the show. Typically, we would see about 25 exhibitors in two-and-a-half days with 20-30 minutes in each booth along with a lunch break.
This year’s InfoComm was different for me for a number of reasons. I’m working for a software company and participated in a hardware manufacturer’s booth. Due to the pandemic, the logistics of travel have been difficult to plan, and don’t get me started on the difficulties of trying to plan meetings in advance with other exhibitors and attendees (who were canceling right up to the start of the show).
Since there were conferences and courses sponsored by AVIXA prior to the first day of the opening of the InfoComm exhibits (Oct. 27-29), I flew down to Orlando on Oct. 25. About seven hours after I left my house, I arrived at the hotel. By the way, my plan was to participate in Kramer’s booth, one of our manufacturing partners.
When I took the elevator in my hotel to the first floor in the late afternoon (I was meeting a friend for dinner down the block), the VP sales (1) of Kramer was standing in front of the elevator when it opened, very karma-like. We talked for a few minutes and met him again at the booth on Tuesday afternoon to join the team during its (two-hour) pre-show logistics discussion.
When I met my friend, Henry Mestre (2) from AKRF for dinner, his associate William Nattress (3) from Biamp joined us and we had a great dinner and good conversation at Oceanaire (we know many of the same people in the industry).
On Tuesday, I attended an early-morning conference at the convention center called, “Emerging Trends: Is this the Era of IoT?” featuring two speakers — Chanan Averbuch (4) from Primeview and Robert Matthews (5) from Corsair — with whom I spoke to prior to their session. I also met Lauren Moore from AVIXA (6), whom I have spoken to over video a number of times but had never met her in person.
Since I had a few hours until my next meeting of the day, my friend and I drove to Animal Kingdom, (I had never been) and it was amazing. One of the rides was set up like a safari tour with all types of wild animals (giraffes, gazelles, flamingos, tigers, etc.).
While in the 24-person Jeep, the driver had to stop as a very large white rhino walked right in front of us, looked up at the driver and made a sharp left walking around our vehicle, about a foot away. In fact, my friend could have reached down to pet the rhino (he did not).
After walking a total of about five miles and getting to a majority of the attractions, we drove back to the convention center so I could meet at the Kramer exhibitor booth and discuss the strategy for the show. There were 12 participants at the show floor, including myself and the VP of sales (7-17).
After we finished our booth meeting, I went to dinner with my friend. We had another person join us, Steve Soto (18), from the Coconut Grove Properties, who I had not seen in 23 years.
On Wednesday morning, the first day of the exhibits, there was a small group of people at the main entrance to the show, but I was hoping that a lot more attendees would show up throughout the first and second day. I got to our partner’s booth and spoke to a number of people, including my friend Sheri Hurley and her team from Wachter (19-30) — some of them I had met over video, but never in person, Abbie Ashford (31) from THE rAVe Agency, Todd Hutchins (32) and Theresa Hahn (33) from USIS, Edwin Gonzalez (34) and his associate (35) from Brandeis (my niece attends that college, so good contacts for her) as well as consultants, distributors, end users, integrators and other manufacturers. There was a large space with tables and chairs behind the booth, so a great place to sit down and speak to additional contacts, such as Tim Donovan (36) and Laura Haykel (37) from Bravo Media and Susan Rullo (38) from Rullo Technologies.
My friend and I were invited to Topgolf that night, which turned out to be much better than I anticipated. We arrived shortly after the event started and saw Brian Studwell (39) from Mersive (who had invited us when we met with him in the AKRF NYC showroom a week before the show) with his three associates, Joel Carroll (40), Simon Yelfimov (41) and Mitchell Dunasky (42). We just happened to sit on the couch in section 213 as I did not realize that Mersive and a few other vendors (such as LG) had rented out sections 200-213. We took turns hitting the ball. I went to the bar and saw one of my DSF Education Committee associates Tony Green (43) from Snap Install and met Dan Baker (44) from LG and Terry Nagy (45) from AVI Systems. When I got back to our section, the tee was open and I started to hit balls out onto the green.
We happened to take a break when Henry got food from the buffet inside the facility. When he got back to the couch and sat down, the few people who were standing in the immediate area left and went inside to get food. After a few minutes, a couple walked over and asked if they could play in our section. It turns out that all the other sections were still full of people, so our section was the only one available to either sit down or have one person hit the golf ball off the tee. Again, karma. The gentleman who sat next to me was wearing a red shirt with a company logo on it. I asked him if he worked there and, wait for it…he was the COO (46); his wife (47) was hitting the ball off the tee. We talked to him for over an hour and found out there were projects he is working on that we could help him with. The next day (Thursday morning) he brought his team (48-50) to InfoComm to meet with us to discuss more details about the opportunities that would start next year. Henry and I are flying back to Florida to provide a site survey with an analysis of their environment. As Adam Sandler would say, “Not too shabby.” So far, InfoComm was going pretty well.