Widgets Magazine

Did the CE/CI Summit Go Too Commercial?

Last week I attended the CE/CI Summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by AE Ventures. This conference is a chance for leaders of the AV industry from both the residential and commercial sides of the industry to gather, share ideas and practices about what works and doesn,Aeot work for their companies with presentations and roundtable discussions. This exclusive event also has a vendor showcase for one-on-one meetings with the attendees to talk products and how they can help.
The Summit started on Monday afternoon with the ,AeuMilk, Cookies and Marketing,Aeu seminar which dealt with how to sell to millennials. One of the main themes discussed was not selling equipment as much as the experience that can be had from the equipment.
From there, the attendees split up between the CE, or residential, side and the CI, or commercial side. The CI attendees rolled right into a seminar on hiring and retaining millennials in your workplace. A few ideas that came out of that seminar are to make sure they feel like they have a stake in the company and are contributing, as well as allowing remote/flexible working conditions. Comparisons between the baby boomers and the millennials drew the conclusion they had many things in common except millennials are tech natives. Several members at my table, including myself, felt left out as members of Gen X. But we,Aeore used to it. We,Aeove been looked over since the 80s. Gen X is the thin slice of bologna between huge halves of potato roll, accustomed to being ignored.
The evening capped off with a reception including dinner and drinks. Afterwards, the AVNation crew retired to the podcasting suite to stream and record a special episode from the show. The special episode gives a first hand description of the show experience from the attendees and a few local visitors.
Tuesday brought a breakfast panel led by AVNation on hot technologies and applications for commercial integrators. Wireless and wearable devices were discussed for data mining purposes as well as touch-less automation. Tom LeBlanc was dismayed that no one appeared to like dealing with sound masking projects. Collaborative technologies were discussed with some examples given from the current marketplace such as Mersive and WePresent.
After that session the format departed from last year,Aeos Summit. Last year, day two was filled with round table and panel discussions where the attendees were encouraged to mingle and share experiences. This year, those sessions were gone and replaced with boardroom sessions where small groups were shuttled into smaller conference rooms and were basically given a sales pitch by one of the sponsors exhibiting on the show floor. These boardroom sessions were 35 minutes each and varied from a great session on business processes that had hardly any selling, to one particular session that made a time share sales pitch seem like a soft sell, complete with yelling and throwing things.
The lunch presentation was on the Internet of Things. While it covered many of the possible items that can and will be integrated onto the network, it seemed a bit short on how these devices would be used, by whom, and the privacy concerns many of us in the audience had, but we held our tongues as we didn,Aeot want be directly confrontational to the invited guest.
Following lunch, a roundtable discussion was held on regulatory practices and how to use them to your advantage. Topics such as wage laws, ADA compliance for assisted listening, and mass notification for emergency communications were discussed, giving a brief overview of each.
In another departure from last year, one-on-one ,Aeuspeed dating,Aeu sessions were held on the show floor starting on the second day, as opposed to last year when the first time we saw the exhibits was at the second day evening reception. I had five fifteen minute sessions spread over three hours. The tones and announcements cueing the end of each fifteen minute session added to the air of speed dating with manufacturers.
On our final day, we had a breakfast panel that covered trends and opportunities in six key vertical markets. Here the trend for simplification and experience-based selling was the order of the morning, echoing topics that had only been touched upon in other round table discussions from the previous two days. Then it was back to the show floor for more speed dating, where I had five more fifteen minute appointments over the two hour show floor session. Before the tone sounded for the final one-on-one sessions, many vendors were already visibly packing up their areas, adding to the rushed feeling of the show.
The final lunch session was a presentation on ,AeuOperating Practices and Company Valuations,Aeu which seemed to be focused on getting your business ready to be sold and how different items such as customer list, service contracts, and assets affected valuation. Some interesting and contradictory information was presented. Charts showed that while audio visual sales, including portable devices, were on the rise, that rise was entirely due to the portable devices and the installed device market was sinking relatively fast. I believe this was focused on home users, but the info was sobering to think about on the commercial side as well and served as one more reminder of how systems need to be designed to take advantage of this fact. The CE/CI economic report came across very rosy with many companies saying they expected 10%+ growth this year, and almost none expecting any decline.
Lunch was followed up by three more boardroom sessions and then the final presentation of the show, titled ,AeuThe Power of Purpose.,Aeu This presentation could be boiled down to having a reason for your business aside from make as much money as possible and you will have happier workers and happier customers that will lead to a happier bottom line. And with that, the CE/CI Summit of 2015 was closed and everyone said their goodbyes.
Overall, this Summit felt very different than last year,Aeos version, and not just because it was all but in my back yard. I came this year expecting a similar experience to last year where we had many discussions among the attendees and presenters which gave us all some ideas on how to improve our own business when we got back home. Unfortunately, the pendulum this year seems to have swung very far towards it being a sales-based show. As an example, the schedule for Tuesday included four and half hours of active presentations and discussions, balanced against almost seven hours of selling, with some of it having the distinct feeling of being stuck in a time share presentation when you thought you were getting a free weekend at the ski resort.
In 2014 we didn,Aeot see the show floor until the reception the evening of day two. This time around, we had already spent more than three hours on the floor before that reception even started. I understand the need for vendors to get their money,Aeos worth out of sponsorship, and I am extremely grateful that they support this type of activity for thought leaders to get together and discuss the AV topics of the day and brainstorm on ideas to overcome problems. Unfortunately, this year we didn,Aeot get nearly as much time to do that as we did last year. We had just four total sessions dedicated to the commercial side of audio visual over three days. While I don,Aeot have a copy of last year,Aeos schedule, I seem to remember much more time being spent in the CI room for multiple round tables and presentations that encouraged discussions among the attendees. That seemed lacking this year with the new boardroom format. Of the six board room sessions I attended, only one decided to go with an educational slant to their presentation with the undertone of ,Aeuwe developed our product to service this need.,Aeu The rest were various forms of hard selling and completely product based. Among attendees, the educational version of the boardroom was universally held to be the best of the entire show on the CI side.
In general, the CE/CI Summit is a great opportunity for the leaders of this industry to get together in a more relaxed environment than InfoComm. After discussions with the staff, I am confident that the 2016 version in Atlanta (held in November) will be even bigger and better. I got a sneak peek of the size of the show floor plan for next year, and it is growing. With some tweaks to improve the balance between selling and discussions, I think this show will continue to grow and I would recommend it to anyone who gets invited.

About Author

Comments are closed.