Bill O’Donnell on what industry trade show can learn from the comics
Conventions for AV folks are not that uncommon. On the commercial side there is Infocomm and for the residential side there is CEDIA. While in Europe ISE combines both sides of the AV industry into oneshow. As a change of pace to my daily AV suties I decided to indulge my inner comic book nerd and attend the east coast mother of cons, the New York Comic Con.
I’ve attended my share of comic swaps at Elks lodges and Knights of Columbus halls, as well as some larger conventions in Baltimore and Hartford. These are small in scale compared to New York, so much so that the final attendance level this year was 151,000 over 4 days. If anything the New York comic con has now overtaken the San Diego comic con in terms of attendance by about 20 thousand folks. Let that sink in for a moment and then realize that Infocomm 2014 had an attendance of 37,000 over 6 days. For the New York Comic Con that number was surpassed on opening day alone. The NYCC is run by ReedPop, who are no slouches to the convention world. And if anything there were a few things that stood out to me as at the NY Comic Con that could add to the Infocomm Show experience. Here are a few observations that I took away as an attendee to both Comic Con and Infocomm 2014.
- RFID Badges – Due to the huge popularity of the convention there have been a ton of fake badges made for the event. The RFID chip allowed for two major advantages: instant badge verification via an RFID reader, as well as the attendees having their contact info registered to the badge in the case of theft or ease of collecting mailing info for the merchant booths. The RFID was a much quicker pain free way to collect attendee info while at the show. If the cost of providing RFID badges at the show is prohibitive then why not send Infocomm members an InfoComm membership card with the RFID imbedded. That way they is less paper, users can keep their info current and it would be reusable at other InfoComm events.
- The Mobile app – Everything that I needed to see at the New York comic con was available via their iOS and Android apps. Once installed I was able to map out a schedule and floor plan as well as make a to-do list for all the artists I wanted to see. Infocomm does have their own app; however ReedPop was on the ball as there were constant updates for added guests and artists. The main difference here is that the comic con was constantly updating and giving the latest information. Notifications from the showfloor events would be great at InfoComm such as contests, prize drawings and demonstrations.
- VIP and early access – All VIP badges allowed the guest to have a separate entrance along with early access to the convention. This is something that Infocomm should really take a look at as there are attendees who have a limited time frame and want to talk with specific vendors to meet their needs. Granted many can meet before or after the show but I think exhibitors would welcome a VIP hour to meet with guests on the showfloor minus the interruptions. This can be controlled by each exhibitor so that the VIPs are met by a representative, brought onto the showfloor early, and given that extra attention that a VIP would expect. This would a great opportunity to give guided tours that not rushed or colliding with other commitment from both the Exhibitor and the Attendee.
- Charging stations – Having 38,000 people in a single space will certainly eat up the available 4G and 3G signals in the building. And with that you have 30K+ smartphones all constantly looking for signal and eating their batteries alive. There were various charging stations and while you were juicing the smartphone back up, you were treated to say a trailer for “Constantine” on NBC or an Xbox One game trailer or two. The attendees get their much need “juice” for their smartphone, and the sponsors get in some advertising to a captive audience. Not to say Infocomm did not have charge stations, thanks Microsoft, but the sheer amount of Charge stations at the Comic Con was a welcomed oasis. For both the Infocomm Association and the exhibitors the charge stations can provide other benefits. Adding charge stations at a booth will draw in the power needy, keep them there for a more than 5-10 minutes and it’s give that user the power they juice their phones and possibly share what they just say via social media. Sounds like a win-win for both parties.
- Food trucks – My final tip is more of a personal recommendation. Being from New Jersey, food trucks are nothing new to me. However they do offer a satisfying alternative to paying $15-18 for a cheeseburger and soda combo (No fries they cost extra). While the Javits Center does have their in house provisions available, a large number of food trucks were parked directly outside with a good variety of foods and beverages. This offered a quick place to get some eats and allow everyone to duck back in and hopefully see George Clooney or Karl Urban (I saw neither as the lines for each were 4 hours long). Chances are that those celebrities will not be at Infocomm but you may strike up conversation with “AV Celebrities” while standing online for some Shawarma.