In Defense Of The Regional Trade Show

Last week I attended a small, regional trade show by the name of “CI Expo” in Oakland, Calif. It was one day, lasting less than eight hours, and came with a free lunch, free training and education throughout the day, and my personal favorite part of attending any size/length trade show, lots of meet and greets and face-to-face time with each vendor, rep, distributor and their associated teams.

Again, this was a small show, but it wasn’t any less important due to size, or any other determining factor by any means; in-fact, it was rather insightful, educational, moral boosting and a great primer to a much larger show that is coming soon, CEDIA — more on this later.

As with any show that I attend, I try to make each visit to a brand meaningful and educational, in hopes to bring back knowledge to team members who may not have been able to attend, inspire the uninspired, educate anyone who will listen in our industry and those who design within it. You see, not everyone can take time to go to the large trade shows like CEDIA, InfoComm, ISE, CES, etc. Whatever reason you may have for not attending them — travel cost is too expensive, can’t get away from work for very long, you weren’t picked to go from your team this year, or any other reason — please consider attending a smaller/local show; they are 110 percent worth your time to do so, with no disrespect to their larger counterparts.

A smaller and local trade show is typically free, often has free education from the vendors and/or in separate larger rooms, is obviously a closer distance so that you can be back home before the end of your afternoon/evening and allows for a good amount of product demos, face-to-face with your regional reps and typically the crucial team members for each brand as well. Not only do you get all of this, you most definitely still get that reunion experience with old friends who attend, you meet new friends, get some insights from other companies attending who are asking questions that maybe you didn’t think to ask about while you were there, and a new outlook on your trade; in this case, AV, IT, IOT, automation, power and even lighting, yes lighting (more on that later too).

I’m not the only one who believes that a small/regional trade show is important; there are a large handful of regional shows in the AV Industry that you may have already attended like the Almo ProAV E4 show, InfoComm Connections, the CI Expo, or maybe even The C.A.S.T.L.E. Summit &/or Tech & Business Summit, most recently acquired by CEDIA. Each show is aimed at a slightly different audience. By no means am I saying that you should attend all of them, nor am I saying any are better than the others; rather, I’m simply saying that our industry believes in itself and wants to educate us for the future of residential, commercial, industrial and other applications that we are expanding into.

Earlier I mentioned lighting at the CI Expo — not only has this presence affirmed what I have been saying for years about electricians and AV been true, it has solidified what you should be looking at in your projects — lighting and lighting controls. No, this isn’t another merging of two spaces, but instead an obvious expansion/inclusion that many of us have been unable to quote without sub-contracting first; but that’s another story.

CEDIA is on the way and while it’s not a small/regional show, you should definitely attend it, even if you are more commercial than residential; there is something there to be learned by everyone. Yes, it’s a residential show, but there are plenty of custom application demonstrations that don’t just “meet the spec,” it makes a dream come true. From one AV Insider to another, attend a show, learn from the show, share ideas at the show, listen to others ideas at the show, and most importantly, share them back at the office with others who did not attend in hopes that until next year, they are just as inspired to create as you are. Since there are more smaller/regional shows than the larger ones, I encourage you to send your employees to them, especially if you can’t make it to the prime time; your company’s sales will grow, your designs will get better, your team morale will improve and your business will thrive.