Inaugural INTEGRATE ME Brings ProAV Back to MENA Region — Looking Back at the 2023 Show

Congratulations to the organizers of INTEGRATE ME for their first show dedicated to ProAV. Co-located with CabSat, the show drew in an enthusiastic crowd of ProAV May 16-18, 2023 — much to the satisfaction of the exhibitors.

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The industry held its breath (several attempts in the MENA region have failed) and at first glance, many weren’t sure of the compatibility of CabSat. While official numbers haven’t been released yet, nothing talks louder than buyers coming in the door and exhibitors (who must be tough about getting the most out of their investment) singing praises.

One of the show highlights was the INTEGRATE ME Summit, an impressive stage on the show floor where industry leaders (like Manish Bakshi, MD of BenQ in the Middle East) and ProAV veterans like the inimitable Mike Gopal, director HL Group, joined the stage.

Tim Jacobs, COO of HQWS made a big impression with his overview of the ProAV behind the region’s largest events (such as the visit of the Pope).

Futurist Amelia Kallman opened the event and Brad Koerner, principal and creative director, Koerner Design followed with a talk on “Immersive Digital Experiences For the Hospitality and Healthcare Sector.”

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Joe Way, director of learning environments, University of Southern California, rocked the theater with his talk on how he directed the award-winning AV overhaul at the University of Southern California.

TeamLab sent Takashi Kudo from Japan to show how the world-famous studio uses ProAV to create art at the highest level.

It’s important to highlight these speakers because they represent part of INTEGRATE ME’s winning formula. You have to ask WHY the region didn’t have an existing ProAV event.

Many people have their own theory. Here’s mine.

If New York City and Las Vegas hooked up on, their offspring might look a lot like Dubai.

Skyscrapers everywhere and a glitzy landscape of awesome man-made dreams with bright digital signage shouting their allure.

And, of course, it’s not just Dubai where things are looking up. The whole Middle East/North Africa region is one of AV’s most aggressive regions in terms of quality and size of projects. Dubai may be an epicenter and symbol but Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar and others in the region are equally ambitious. Even Abu Dhabi competes for attention.
Most people heard about Expo 2020 Dubai — The Middle East’s first World Exposition and many of the footprints (exhibition centers, car parks, hotels, transportation, theme parks, restaurants, kiosks, etc.) are still there, along with the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.

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Then there’s the Red Sea Project, next-level tourism on 92 islands in a stunning archipelago on Saudi Arabia’s western Red Sea coast. How about Qiddiya — a Qatar resort city set to be 2.5x larger than Disney World with 300 ground-breaking recreational and educational facilities (including high-end theme parks, water and snow-based activities, sports arenas, and the fastest, longest, and tallest roller coaster).

We can go on and on about the massive projects in the region, and they serve to raise the bar for other corporate, government, educational and institutional developments. In this region, to stand out you really need to make an effort.

With such a pedigree, why didn’t the MENA region have a big AV event?

It’s not for lack of trying. Several organizers tried and failed. Timing is everything and to have a successful show you need a lot of support from the manufacturers. And the MENA market wasn’t on their list — there were too many other parts of the world that needed attention.

When organizers tried their events, manufacturers would balk while local Dubai distributors would step up. While these distributors usually sell across the region, a show with mainly distributors tends to be more of a market than an industry event.

Now, the region has grown in importance, and it’s hard for manufacturers to ignore. If they send only their distributors, they may miss out on these immense projects that require hand-in-hand work between manufacturer and distributor. Distributors will, of course, exhibit but as a part of a mix and not the majority of the offerings.

Whatever reason you want to subscribe to, INTEGRATE ME is off to a great start and the next edition will only be bigger. The region deserves its own event — you only need to look at the cityscape in Dubai to be convinced of how high ProAV can go.