A Roadshow By Any Other Name

Well, as you have probably heard, our international trade association has changed its name. I have heard a lot of opinions about it this week (or at least been sent a lot of emoticons about it).

Those of you who have been around a while may know that this is not the first time we have gone through this exercise. I came into the business as a young kid in the mid-80s, when our organization was in the middle of changing its name from the National Audio Visual Association (NAVA) to the International Communications Industries Association (ICIA). Even as someone new to the industry at the time, I questioned the wisdom of the name change because I thought the organizational name didn’t say enough about what we do. Being the kind of guy I am, even though I was new, I had no compunction about expressing an opinion on the matter. My opinion was that audiovisual was changing, and we were simply redefining what it meant. I thought the NAVA name actually described us better. Many of my friends who heard our organization’s new name thought that I was in the telephony business. (Of course, now we ARE in the telephony business, but nobody knew it at the time.)

Sometime after that organizational name change, we also wound up changing the name of our tradeshow a couple of times. Briefly, we called it COMTEX. Since at the time the world’s largest electronics tradeshow was called COMDEX, once again I questioned the wisdom of the name. On this one, I turned out to be right, and after significant pressure we changed the name of the tradeshow once again — this time to InfoComm. I gave in on this one quickly, since the tradeshow name didn’t really matter much to me at the time. However, I still whined a lot in committee meetings about wanting to change the name of the organization back to NAVA. Looking back, it must’ve been around this time that I acquired my reputation as a curmudgeon.

So a couple of years passed, the industry grew and our tradeshow grew with it. In fact, due to the entry of larger players into our growing industry, and to the association hiring some exceptional tradeshow people, the tradeshow grew even faster, in many ways, than the association. This put us in the position of being recognized around the world by our tradeshow name, InfoComm, rather than by our organizational name. A number of my closest friends went to work for the association during this period of time, and I recall well their frustration with it. So, once again we undertook to change our name (or at least our public brand). And we went ahead and became known by the nebulous moniker InfoComm.

Time has passed, and thanks to the hard work of a lot of very talented people, the name InfoComm isn’t nebulous anymore. We have shows all over the world, and the tradeshow staff alone is larger than the entire association staff was when I joined. We have educational people who have redefined instruction in our industry, and a global organization rather than the little North American group we had in the 1980s.

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So if you have read this far down the page, you’re probably getting the impression that I disapproved of all the name changing, and in theory I guess I did. But while the organization (under any name) has grown and developed, I have been along for the ride, writing, teaching, staging shows and loving the business that we are in. And during that time, I haven’t been shy about giving all of you my opinion. So here it is:

I love the new name.

The statement from the Association reads as follows:

“InfoComm International has changed its name to the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA). The change reflects AVIXA’s broadening mission to be an industry hub, while also acting as a catalyst for market growth beyond what has been thought of traditionally as professional AV.”

When I read it, I laughingly thought “finally, the trade association we have always needed!”

But as I thought about it, I realized that I had finally gotten what I had always asked for — a name for our association that comes much closer to describing what we actually do. Especially in the staging portion of the industry, what we do is to create integrated experiences using audiovisual technology. In fact, with all due respect to the rest of the business, rental and staging people do more to create integrated experiences than any other vertical. We have traditionally experimented more than the rest of the business with the services that we offer, and with the way that we offer those services. And they have always been services (experiences), rather than product sales. This will be a logo I will be proud to wear on a t-shirt, and one that will be much easier to explain to my friends outside the industry. I look at it not as something new, but as acknowledgment of what always has been.

There are going to be issues. It will be years before people stop calling the association InfoComm, and maybe they never will, since so much of our public face is the tradeshow, whose name (at least for now) will not change. And it remains to be seen where the association’s idea of “market growth” will take us.

But for today, we are the same group, with a new name that I feel describes us more closely. So I will close this, and go back to creating integrated experiences.

And I will have to look for something new to gripe about at committee meetings, I guess.