ISE: If You Sell to Education, You Should Go

Integrated Systems Europe will take place this year from Feb. 6-9, in Amsterdam. Many of us in the United States view this show as “Europe’s InfoComm.” While the show takes place in Europe, it’s a viable show for people throughout the world. If you sell to education in any way, or work in education, you should seriously consider attending ISE this year.

First, I want to dispel a few possible misconceptions. The first one is that ISE, due to its location is simply too expensive. The logic is that of course it’s less expensive to send people to Las Vegas or Orlando than it is to another country. A quick search on the internet will show you that this is likely true in terms of flight only. A flight to Amsterdam for ISE will cost about $850, while a flight to Vegas in June will cost about $400. However, hotel and food is very comparable to what you will pay at either InfoComm location. A second concern for a lot of people is the idea of being in another country and the challenges it presents. While Dutch is the official language in Amsterdam, English is regularly spoken by everyone you meet. During my time at ISE last year, there was never a time when I could not speak with anyone from hotel staff to restaurant staff to taxi drivers. Everyone spoke fluent English. The food in Amsterdam is great and you don’t need to venture much from your usual palate if you choose. Although, the Dutch do seem to like mayonnaise more than Americans, and don’t seem to eat mustard.

With those misconceptions taken care of, let’s discuss why you should attend. For me, the first big issue is timing. Mid-winter is always a slow time for the higher education market. Classes are in session so there is a limited amount of installation work taking place. Additionally, our budgets for upgrades are likely spent, and now we are only maintaining spaces while we wait for a new fiscal year to begin in July. However, it is when we start thinking about the spaces we will be working on in the next year. We start to look at different products, different designs and try to catch up on some training that we have not had time to do since last winter. Attending ISE in February provides the perfect time for all of this. I don’t mean to knock InfoComm in this regard, but for many of us, it’s too late in the year to be valuable for the current set of installs. By mid-June our designs, programming and budgets are largely done. It is too late to look at new products and think about substituting. Your attendance at ISE will allow you to bring the new products to your customers when they need them. Even products that have a May or June release date may be viable, as that is still before the fiscal year turns for many educational institutions.

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Another reason to attend ISE is to start and see what the rest of the world is doing in AV. I was fortunate enough last year to take place in a higher education forum at ISE. I met people from around the world and heard about their successes and their struggles. As a tech manager this helped me see the bigger picture for what we had to do at our institution. As an integrator or designer, this can also be an eye opening opportunity for you. Have you ever considered international business of any sort? What are higher ed institutions doing in Australia that are similar or different to those in the U.S.? Can you bring some value to either of those places, by learning about the other? Many smaller firms have been branching out regionally in the U.S. over the past several years. I recently found out that a small firm in Maine was actually doing international business in the rental and staging areas. So it’s possible to do, even if you have a small firm.

Most well run businesses will do some calculations on the value of attending trade shows, and educational opportunities. Obviously, you can not attend them all and some provide more value than others. By looking at the minimal additional cost to send people to ISE and the potential increase in value from the show, I believe you will find it to be a worthwhile investment in money and resources.