The Little Things

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Well, here it is again. Time for “The Show.”
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InfoComm time.

And, as usual for someone in the rental portion of the industry, I go off to “the Show” looking for things a little different than the rest of the industry, a little different from the things the advertising and hype will attempt to direct my attention to.

What makes the expectations of the Rental portion of the industry different? Well, first of all, Rental companies don’t go to the show to buy, at least not in the same way the dealerships and distributors do. Our purchases are normally determined by specific needs for specific events or seasons, so we’re less likely to be influenced by “show specials”, unless they replace the utility of existing equipment that needs replacement. Sure, we go to the show to kick tires, but for most of us the actual purchases will wait until there’s a direct need – and a show with a deposit.
So, much as Gary did in his column here, I’m going to suggest that there are much better reasons to attend InfoComm than the product exhibits. In fact, if you think about it, in an age of Internet-based information, we no longer go to InfoComm to see product anyway, because it’s going to come to us. There are few surprises in product at InfoComm anymore anyway, and those that are there will almost immediately be brought TO us anyway. InfoComm stopped being a dealer show years ago anyway, so there’s just not as much management or pricing information to be obtained there, and nothing that won’t be brought to dealer principals whether they attend the show or not. So, in latter years, I’ve actually found it more important that my employees attend the show than I do.

So why DO I think it’s important for people in the industry to attend the show?

Well, first, I go to see people. Suppliers, distributors, friends from around the industry – all the relationships with people that you only see at industry gatherings, but are necessary to your business. Sometimes these are simply personal relationships, and sometimes these are alliances that help us in our day-to-day operations, but all are people I need to see for one reason or another. This is also my excuse for the fact that you are much more likely to see me in the bars and restaurants than on the show floor.

Next, I go to the show for intelligence. No, I’m under no illusions that the inane advertising we see at the show is educational, or that the clowns, magicians and showgirls that beckon us to the tackier booths can do anything for my I.Q.  The kind of intelligence I’m referring to is also more often encountered in the lobby bar than on the show floor. It’s the whispered asides that tell you you’d be better off waiting for version 2.0.

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But the REAL reason for going to the show (or, better yet, sending somebody ELSE to the show) is one of the few things I completely agree with Gary on. It’s training.
Unfortunately, because the show is the biggest gathering in the industry, many of the manufacturers take the opportunity to hold their most important training classes there. However, we, as dealers, often don’t get the right people there to attend them. In most organizations, especially the smaller (read “dealerships”) ones, attendance is seen as a perk. The dealer principals and senior salespeople go, while the people who actually implement the products we sell stay at home. This is one of the things that puts me in a training class on how to mount a new plasma, while my staff snickers, knowing that I haven’t picked up a hammer in, well, a few years.

So, despite the fact that I feel the show has lost a lot of its original purpose, there’s still a great reason to send people, while the industry (as it must) sorts out better ways to get training to the people out “where the rubber meets the road.” Fill up your schedule with meetings and training rather than the tradeshow booths, and take as much of it home with you as you can.

joel-2011A personal note: Many of us in the rental portion of the industry are avid photographers and videographers. Lots of you know that when I’m not staging a show I’m often stalking some poor unfortunate creature in the woods with a camera. Anyway, Olympus is sponsoring one of the best photo contests I’ve ever seen – and one that will send you away on an incredible photo safari, and in this business we ALL need to get away. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/getolympus

rAVe Rental [and Staging] contributor Joel R. Rollins, CTS-R, is General Manager of Everett Hall Associates, Inc. and is well known throughout the professional AV industry for his contributions to industry training and his extensive background in AV rental, staging and installation. Joel can be reached at Joel can be reached at joelrollins@mac.com