So what am I looking for in a tradeshow booth? I have a few tips - and rants - in no particular order. Read on..
|THIS is how you show a product|
By this I mean that I want to see the back of it. The back shows me what kind of connectors you use, how they are laid out, if there's room for easy wire management, and how many inputs and outputs of varying types there are. The front of it, in most AV components, shows that you have a pretty faceplate. If there are front panel controls or an LCD display, then exhibit two of it, one pointing each way. Better yet, take the cover off so I can see the innards. I like innards.
Know Who You Are, Know the Market
This should go without saying, but if you're exhibiting at a trade show you need to understand the market, understand how your product fits into the market, and know what you don't know. When I asked the folk at Comnet why I should consider their video-over-ethernet encoders over similar offerings from SVSI, they could tell me their advantages (lower bandwidth requirements, lower cost) and disadvantages (a proprietary variant of JPEG2000 which is lossy). Likewise, the good folks at Xilic were able to tell me that their Jupiter line of audio DSPs were low cost, high audio-quality, and easier but less flexibly configured than others.
Contrast that with someone demoing an HDMI extender which the OSD said was running at 1080p/24 FPS. I asked if this was a function of the source or if it could handle 1080p/60, and got a deer-in-the-headlight look before the rep asked "uh... you mean 60... gigahertz?" If you want me to walk away from you, that's a good start. I don't expect everyone manning a booth to be an engineer, but knowing the very basics of what you're displaying is kind of a nice thing.
Also, don't bash your competition and please don't direct me to the results of comparison studies, shoot-outs, or comparative lab tests that you did yourself. I not only won't believe you, but I'll take it as a sign that you lack the confidence in your own product to tell me how it stands on its own merits.
Beware Mixed messages
I only found one group guilty as this one and it's really a quibble - the folk at Projector Lamp Services. They recycle lamps, which saves money and is more environmentally friendly. So what does a company committed to the environment to the point of using the recycle logo symbol as part of their recycle logo give out at their booth? Bottled water.When confronted with the fact that bottled water is terrible for the the environment they said that they knew but gave in to the temptation to give out something. I grabbed a bottle to rehydrate on the show floor. It tasted of refreshment and irony.
|Matrix switchers. With a|
side-order of boobs.
This should be obvious, but it's not.The guilty party here was Key Digital who were running a loop of what appeared to be a Sports Illustrated swimsuit photoshoot on giant displays atop their booth. I asked the person manning said booth (whose name badge identified him as a national VP of sales or similar) if he thought this was appropriate and got a smirking "I like it" as an answer. I'll start off by saying that if we want what is currently a male-dominated industry to gain some level of gender balance we really need to not use women as eye-candy. The shame of it is that the smirking, frat-boy response cost them the chance to tell me about their product. It's a crowded market for video transport and routing, and there are plenty of vendors who did try to set themselves apart from the crowd. Some of us in this industry - as is the case everywhere else - need to grow up.
For a better take on how to handle potential off-messages, I brought a concern to who my possibly faulty memory tells me was Jan Sandri of FSR at the Women in AV reception. They generously invited a local charity to their event and solicited donations so as to leave Orlando a little better off than before we arrived. My concern is that the charity of their choice - The Salvation Army - has a poor track record as of late for statements about the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered population. Jan took my concern seriously, explained her reason for choosing the SA (that they spend a very large percentage of their money on actual operations as opposed to overhead) and assured me that WAVE in general and she in particular did not want to be exclusionary. The WAVE reception, as an aside, was a terrific event about which I probably should write more. Let it suffice to say that I left feeling good about both the cause and those working to promote it.
Be Interactive. Be fun
I'll close on a lighter note about how some manufacturers managed to bring an element of interactivity and fun to their booths. I already talked about the pure whimsy from vendors like Vaddio and Gator earlier. This time I'm talking about those who showcased their product in a way we can remember. One favorite was Beam telepresence robots, who had about a half-dozen milling around their part of the show floor. Real people from the company were using them to chat with eachother (robot to robot) and with guests. Better yet, they had a console set up where you could drive one yourself around the office where there remote personnel were. So, I could drive a robot to talk to someone driving a robot which I could then stand up and chat with. Pretty cool.
If you smelled burning electronics, you might have been near the SurgeX booth where they took the very obvious strategy of blowing things up. It made a point not only about the quality of their protection, but also the durability of their product. They claim that the unit protecting the AMX panel (shown here) was a veteran of several Infocomms, where it had spent hours being "zapped" several times per minute. Still no smoke from the panel, even if stuff next to it got exploded.
And with that, I'll end the recap of Infocomm 2013. It was a great week for meeting people, learning about technology, and taking a look forward at where the industry is heading. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more.