Mr. McGinnis goes to ISE

A Newbie’s First Impressions of #ISE2018

ISE, International Systems Europe, is an exceptional trade show experience. So much so that, should I have to choose only one AV exhibition to attend next year, it will be ISE.

Amsterdam is a better host city than Orlando or Las Vegas; more interesting, more intimate and much more welcoming. Attendees quickly become part of the fabric of the city, like tourists rather than ‘business soldiers’ shuttled from the barracks to the parade grounds and back.

Others have complained about difficulty navigating the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre’s 15 buildings, multiple levels and twisting aisles. I found it crowded, and was frustrated by the number of ‘zombies’ either reading their phones while walking or stopped dead in the middle of a narrow aisle, but loved the venue.

The RAI, like its host city, is far more engaging than InfoComm’s US venues of Orange County and Las Vegas Convention Centers. It was great to ‘get off the grid’ that’s typical in cavernous North American exhibit venues. Each day required thoughtful advanced planning, making it more intentional and, as a result, more productive.

The quality and availability of coffee and food at the RAI was fabulous. The menus were diverse, with lots of healthy meal options. My cafeteria-service pasta bolognaise, for example, was topped with a handful of arugula, a layer of shaved (not powdered) parmesan and olive oil. And lunch, seated at space-efficient communal tables, was much more a dining rather than ‘refueling’ experience. Orlando and Vegas, by comparison, serve prison food that most often needs to be consumed standing up.

Europeans are often considered more design conscious than their colonial peers, and their ISE stands were no exception. Many also appeared to have a far better understanding of how to engage a trade show attendee.

Many of the booths I visited focused more on hospitality, fostering conversation and communicating company culture than attempting to show as many metal boxes as possible. Many offered visitors a place to charge their phones while talking, which is also a clever way to minimize distractions during the sales pitch. And many offered demonstrations or other ways to experience their products’ benefits as an alternative to touring a wall of metal boxes.

English is the world’s business language, but the Europeans have been trading abroad for six centuries and have mastered the art of servicing their customers in their mother tongues. I even heard some Europeans speaking to prospective clients in what I assume to be Chinese. I only wish the exhibitors from that country had the same fluency in English…and knew that if I can’t understand you, you aren’t ready for my market. And I won’t buy from you.

The icing on the cake? Attending ISE has given me a tangible business advantage. More new technologies, new products and important product iterations and upgrades were introduced this week than will be introduced at InfoComm in June. You’ve read about some of them, but I’ve had the opportunity to see and touch, ask important questions and interact with product specialists and design engineers. So, while you’re still perusing through the brochures, I’ll be out selling all the new stuff, possibly to your customers.

Visiting ISE takes a little more time and costs a little more money, but both are investments that pay off handsomely. ISE is a superior trade show experience. ISE provides broader and earlier exposure to the world’s technology, the people who invent it and others who use it. And ISE provides the type of exhibition experience InfoComm and its AVIXA owners should aspire to.


Brock McGinnis (@brockmcginnis) is Vice-President of Canadian systems integrator Westbury National (http://www.westbury.com/). He is an early-prototype Millennial who craves attention, praise, validation, meaning and a work/life/life/life balance.

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