Total Production


March 2008

An increase in live events-orientated business? This year marked a sea change for the ISE Show. TPi reports from Amsterdam...

When the idea of Integrated Systems Europe was first unveiled on the eve of the 2003 InfoComm show in Orlando, few could have predicted that in less than five years, the event would grow to the point where it almost matches its US counterpart in size and significance.

    The first show, held in Geneva in February 2004, drew barely 3,700 attendees, who nonetheless somehow succeeded in making the event seem busy. Then again, they had only 120 exhibitors, occupying just 3,400 net square metres of booth space, to occupy.

    This year’s ISE, the fifth, held at Amsterdam’s RAI Convention Centre, drew altogether more impressive numbers, with over 22,000 attendees visiting booths from 484 exhibiting companies, who in turn occupied 17,600 net square metres of space.

    InfoComm International is one of ISE’s supporting trade associations, and its executive director, Randall Lemke, admitted to being surprised at the speed with which the event has grown. “We knew there was an unserved market in Europe, and we were confident that we would have a big show eventually,” Lemke said. “But we never thought we would get there in this time frame. There are a lot of good shows in Europe, but they don’t serve the market in the way that ISE does.”

    ISE is staged by Integrated Systems Events, a company originally founded as a joint venture between InfoComm, NSCA and CEDIA. Last year, InfoComm purchased NSCA’s share as part of the latter’s withdrawal from the trade show business, and the company is now a 50-50 partnership between InfoComm and CEDIA, whose own interest is in turn split between the US and Europe.

    Ironically, the amount of pro audio equipment on display at ISE has risen markedly just as the association most closely associated with sound, NSCA, has withdrawn from the action. But there is a curious logic to this. Part of the reason NSCA decided to consolidate its tradeshow activity with InfoComm is that the latter’s summer US tradeshow — historically, very much a video event — was taking a bigger and bigger share of audio manufacturers’ budgets. With so much overlap between the exhibitor (and visitor) bases of the two shows, it was inevitable that they would have to join forces sooner or later.

    European-based audio exhibitors have been a little slower than their American counterparts to recognise the increasing purchasing power of the AV industry, but now it seems they’re making up for lost time. “The next big step is audio,” Lemke proclaimed. “Our existing audio exhibitors are developing their participation, and there are many more coming in. And, as at the InfoComm show in the US, we are also looking at broadening the visitor base so that we attract the end-user buyer, as well as the channel.”

    In fact, ISE has been targeting non-channel personnel in its event promotion over the past year, and that emphasis seems to have paid off. Attendance analysis shows that 30% of ISE 2008’s visitors came from outside the show’s core constituency of AV integrators and contractors — up from 15% last year. These so-called ‘vertical market’ visitors came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but one statistic in particular stands out: a six-fold increase in the numbers of people citing ‘live events’ as their main area of business.

    Again, this reflects an established trend in the North American market. While InfoComm’s success was built on visitors whose main line of work was fixed AV installations, in recent years the show’s organisers have dedicated an area to lighting and staging. The attendees who visit it are not from the rock’n’roll touring market — they’re either AV integrators who are diversifying into corporate events, or they’re events companies themselves.

    There’s not yet a dedicated lighting and staging pavilion at ISE, but this year there was no shortage of audio... and not just white-painted ceiling speakers, either. Martin Audio has been coming to ISE since 2005, and the company’s UK sales manager, Simon Bull, said: “We’ve watched the show grow and become steadily more important. It’s become an ideal event for us to grow our business and enhance our company’s presence within the European market. We like ISE because you meet with real decision-makers, not time-wasters.”

    The lack of a ‘tyre kicker’ element has found favour with exhibitors pretty much across the board. For those accustomed to the sweaty tumult of a PLASA or a ProLight Sound, ISE can seem eerily quiet. But those massed ranks of earnest-looking men in suits clearly have money in their pockets, and many of them are looking for new audio partners.
Harman Pro, Australian Monitor, Vieta Pro, Community, RCF and Audica were among the sound companies to exhibit for the first time in 2008. “The key benefit of ISE is that you get to meet new prospects outside of the usual ‘inner cicle’ of known contacts,” said Vieta Pro’s sales & marketing director, Mick Brophy. “We achieved exactly what we came to do.”

Another difference between ISE and some other shows is that its visitor base is not excessively obsessed with new product launches. Yes, there is plenty of new technology on show. But a typical ISE attendee is somebody who needs to design a system, not buy stock for a shop. The old “solutions, not products” catchphrase was never more apposite than in Amsterdam.

    As a consequence, many exhibitors put the emphasis on meetings and socialising, rather than full-on product demos. TM Audio, Martin Audio’s distributor for the Netherlands, is a case in point. Since 2007 the company has exhibited at ISE in partnership with its recently founded AV distribution business, PixlVision. This year, PixlVision used ISE to celebrate two new distribution deals, one of which was with another exhibitor, low-res LED wall manufacturer Element Labs.

    PixlVision MD Marc Kocks said: “ISE 2007 was very good for our launch, when a lot of customers came to see us and also directed their own customers to our booth. The response to that convinced us to give our 2008 booth a hospitality focus again, rather than filling it with equipment, as we found the networking element of the show was extremely important.

    “The people who visited us were mostly AV production professionals, and while the 80% of the show’s visitors who were international were great for the rest of the Ampco/Flashlight Group team to talk to, the 20% who were Dutch were perfect for us, because no other Dutch show attracts these customers from our own geographical market.”

    From a lighting and video perspective, there is less at ISE to interest the live events market than there would be in London or Frankfurt. But, again, that situation is changing. Lighthouse, Barco, Mitsubishi, Daktronics, displayLED and Philips Vidiwall were among the companies showcasing hi-res LED videowalls, with several taking space outside the RAI Centre to show their products’ ability to deal with daylight. PSCo’s presence was also felt, by way of its latest plasma and LCD solutions.

    In 2009, Barco will add lo-res LED products to its line-up, as the company’s PR manager, Frank Vanmeenen, explained: “In the past, Barco has concentrated on its presentation projectors at ISE, but on the basis of our experience in 2008, we will be doubling our booth space next year. This will give us the opportunity to showcase our full range of video solutions, from lo-res and hi-res LED through to command and control.”

    Barco is not alone in preparing a big increase in stand space next year. In fact, as this issue of TPi went to press, around 80% of the booth space for the 2009 show had already been sold, even though the organisers have reserved more space than was available to exhibitors this year.

    The last word goes to Marc Kocks, who sayed: “ISE is the only European show that attracts such a wide range of systems integration professionals. Next year we will probably have more space, and we will certainly concentrate on providing high-quality hospitality, making the most of the show’s very business-to-business environment.”

    The next Integrated Systems Europe will take place at the RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, February 3-5 2009.