Well, as I write this, I am on a United flight from Dallas to Chicago, trying to route around Winter Storm Saturn to get home to NY. I am returning from a packed two days at Infocomm Live, which is the association’s annual event for leaders in the Live Events portion of the industry (read: Rental and Staging. I wonder if they think that the sales and installation portion of the industry builds meeting facilities for events that are NOT Live?).
So let me give you some of the highlights:
The event was held in Dallas, and attendees stayed at the NYLO hotel, which is a trendy and interesting place built in a renovated factory in an old industrial section of town. More about that later.
The meeting events were held at Gilly’s, a rather famous Dallas saloon, which put on a pretty good breakfast and a second-evening cocktail party that was well-received. And, as I mentioned, they were also the site of all the daytime meetings.
There were a number of professional presenters, on a variety of subjects, as well as by InfoComm staff.
The opening was delivered by InfoComm’s new CEO, Dave Labuskes. It was well thought out, and delivered in an earnest manner by a guy who has not been in our particular little corner of the industry, with an underlying theme of InfoComm trying to remain relevant to the rental and staging portion of the industry. As an aside, later on in the event, I got to meet Dave for the first time, and could see a lot of why he was chosen to lead the organization after Randy Lemke’s departure. He was both personable, and interested to hear from the attendees about how the rental and staging segment was faring.
Then, there was a parade of professional presenters, of various levels of expertise — and presentation skills. I’ll make a point here, and up front, so as not to belabor it. InfoComm Staff needs to realize that most of us in this segment of the industry live through professional presentations and presenters every single day of our lives. While all of the presenters were good, to various levels, there were no themes or subjects that I hadn’t sat through many, many times before. Enough said.
Among the highlight presentations, though, were some on law and regulation that made great sense for the group. One, by a member of a labor-practices law firm, went through the current state of federal and state laws surrounding the differences between contract labor, casual labor and employees, and the rights of each. He went into how the government determines if a contract or independent worker has crossed over into being an employee with employee rights (as in benefits) – and I thought it was a great, informative presentation.
Another great one was by Betsy Jaffe of InfoComm, about the current do-nothing Congress, and how it affects us in the rental and staging end of the industry. Often, I’m a fan of the idea that the best government is the one that governs least, but this Congress has taken that to a whole new level, and Betsy presented a great summary of what their actions (or lack thereof) will mean to all of us.
There was also a presentation very interesting to the portion of the attendees who are also owners, about succession planning and the sale of a business — and the formulae that will be applied by a potential buyer to determine the value of your company.
Other than that, there were presentations on customer service and dealing with the generational differences in employees, and those were received by the various attendees with different degrees of enthusiasm, and I won’t go into it here, except to say that, like last year, it was a very full agenda.
However, I mentioned earlier that the NYLO hotel would come up again… it was during one of the customer service presentations that the presenter was going on about how great the hotel was, and that they were making a big mistake in not making more out of their origins and history. A couple of us had to point out that we had already figured out why they didn’t. We had found out from members of the staff that the building had been a coffin factory.
Of course, there was also a second night cocktail party and buffet at Gilly’s, where attendees tried out sports like shooting a cork gun and handicapping an armadillo race (OK, the armadillos were cool, for those of us who hadn’t seen one up close). Outside the event, several members were competing at riding a mechanical bull, after signing the appropriate release, of course. Yours truly was really careful about how much Lone Star I drank, and managed to stay off the mechanical monster, no matter how I was goaded by Johanne Belanger of AVW-Telav, who seemed to be the leader of the group that were determined to have that 8 seconds of terror to remember.
Anyway, metaphysical questions aside, this was the second InfoComm Live event, and I enjoyed it as much as the first one. As with any event, there were parts I felt could have had better content, but the fact that InfoComm holds this particular event is the most important part. And like I said last year, you couldn’t put this group in one room and NOT have a great event, because as I heard more than one attendee say, the most important content comes during the breaks anyway. In fact, I want to suggest an event: How about “Infocomm Live Unplugged,” where there are no professional presenters at all, just the group and moderated discussions? While most of the talks were useful, there were plenty of important subjects in the industry that could have used more time and discussion.
But sometimes, the MOST important thing about an event is that somebody went to all the work to put it on and bring a group together, and I must take my hat off to InfoComm on this one. Kudos.