Even though I’ve been in AV for 20+ years, it was not until June 2022 that I attended my first InfoComm in person. To be honest, for the first 15 years in the industry, I was supporting operations for corporate videoconferencing. I had never even heard of InfoComm and the organization that became AVIXA.
To be honest, my experience of AV and conferencing operations was from inside an enormous corporation as part of my tiny department. AV was all alone in the bigger world of business. It was everything I could do to keep the AV equipment in working order and make the connections happen. It wasn’t until COVID-19 hit that I reached out to the broader AV community. I was stuck at home, laid off and hungry to connect to my AV people. I started with LinkedIn, which led to Twitter. I plugged into a world I hadn’t known.
When I made the effort to connect to other people like me, I was like Dorothy leaving Kansas and getting swept into the vivid world of Oz. The golden age of the “AV Happy Hour” via Zoom was a game changer for me. Thank you, Chris Neto.
In these happy hours, people couldn’t stop talking about InfoComm. It sounded like a cross between the Rolling Stones reunion tour and summer camp. Was it really all that? This year, 2022, I went to check it out myself in Las Vegas.
When I arrived in Las Vegas, I immediately hit a wall of humanity. It had been so long since I was around a large group of people. I forgot what it felt like to smile and greet and gather with people ready to celebrate. That first night was a social night, meeting people I’d only known remotely. I was introduced to new friends and we easily connected. We had our industry in common.
When Wednesday came, I got on the show floor. It overwhelmed me how many people there really were in this niche. My experience was that we were few and far between, but everywhere I turned I was surrounded by my people. Logo-embossed polo shirts and name badges declared that we were a tribe and a family of AV professionals. From what I heard, the crowd was less than half of the pre-COVID attendance in 2019, but it was the biggest AV gathering I’d ever been part of.
This year, InfoComm was held in the convention center in both the North and West Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The 100+ degree heat made travel between the halls something to consider carefully. There was a Tesla-powered loop that ferried us between sites, but even a minute in the punishing desert sun was unpleasant. It was easy to get wrapped up in just one hall; there was plenty to see in each location. In fact, I found so many people that I had to talk to as I walked that it was difficult to get from one place to the next.
I was attending on an expo pass, so my focus was on the show floor. One hall was focused on video displays, and the other was audio. Those are two broad categories, but it doesn’t include everything. As I looked over the biggest manufacturers with their giant booths, I compared like to like to get a feel of what the industry was. Then I went deeper into the halls looking for the unexpected. I would go from booth to booth and ask the staff to show me what they had. There were a lot of software options to make the best use of the equipment on display. In wire and cable booths, I looked over the racks of cable terminations. The staff was glad to show off their version of the best AV had to offer.
In addition to the show floor, a major part of InfoComm is education. AVIXA has taken a global leadership role in the education and certification for AV. They had put out a call for speakers months ago and scheduled a wide variety of training opportunities. Starting Monday and continuing through Thursday, there were classes to sharpen skills and gain new ones.
Both the training and the expo were things I had known about from the brochures and marketing materials that were available online for the public. What I didn’t expect were the many networking opportunities. The AVIXA Women’s Council Breakfast was filled with dozens of women AV professionals. The HETMA Lunch provided a moment of quiet where I could hear from those who are supporting AV in higher education. Then there were the manufacturer-sponsored parties. Vegas gave us all a place big enough to meet and mingle. I took so many selfies with new friends.
Now that I’ve been to InfoComm, I can see what I want to make a plan for the next time. I’ll want to look at the layout beforehand and target specific booths and workshops I want to see. I could plan ahead with colleagues to connect and different quieter meeting spots so we could share impressions.
Reviewing the materials and making plans will help me enjoy the show more and get the most out of it. I realize that with so many people in one place my plans are likely to fall apart. I will need to carry them loosely. Now that I’ve seen InfoComm for myself, I know that I need to make room for the wonderful and unexpected to happen.