Pro AV Logo Originally published as a Consultant's Connection
column in Pro AV Magazine
  July 2003

The Urge to Merge

Beginning next year, ICIA, NSCA, and CEDIA will join forces to produce AV shows overseas. Is it time for a combined show in the U.S.?

By Tim Cape, CTS-D

With InfoComm 2003 now a memory, the pro AV world is a little different. We have some new products to consider, Pro AV magazine has a new look and sharper editorial focus, and there are some new associations among our industry associations. ICIA has announced that the international versions of its InfoComm shows will now be produced jointly with NSCA and CEDIA, two groups that previously had no international shows. This is a landmark of common sense, but what effect might this have on us in the United States?

Within the pro AV industry, there have been many conversations over cocktails and dinners about how much time we put into American trade shows (not to mention the international shows), the similarities between the shows, and the reasons to combine some of them. Consultants, integrators, manufacturers and users invest a lot of time and resources into these events. Of course, they have their purpose: learning about the products, the industry, and the science of what we do, as well as seeing old friends, networking to make new ones, and finding new business relationships.

Many of us, consultants or otherwise, generally visit several shows a year. NSCA, InfoComm, and NAB are probably the big three for most pro AV folks. NAMM,  CEDIA, CES, and AES are also big pro AV draws depending on one’s concentration in the industry. Then there’s Comdex, SuperComm, and BICSI (for IT), not to mention all of the other shows like IES, ASA, and a host of miscellaneous specialty shows.

This leads many to complain that since we see the same companies and people at some of the shows, why can’t we just combine them and save ourselves a few trips to Las Vegas and Orlando every year? Wouldn’t it save everyone a lot of money and time to combine these into fewer shows? In particular, why not combine InfoComm and NSCA? In fact, dare it be asked — why don’t these organizations merge?

Though not much has been written about this subject, many people talk about it. On the surface it seems obvious that there should be some sort of consolidation. Or should there? And what about CEDIA, or even NAB? Can we have one mega show for everybody? If they can do it overseas, why can’t they do it here?

One reason that the combined international shows should work with InfoComm is that there will be only a subset of the U.S. show exhibitors at the international shows, so it should be more manageable. Many would be crossover NSCA and InfoComm exhibitors anyway.

CEDIA, being a more residential-oriented show, draws a different crowd in the United States because the residential industry is largely separated from the pro AV realm. This is true for the users, contractors, and many of the manufacturers who are either not in the pro AV market or have a separate division that addresses residential products. Overseas there is much less separation between the residential and pro AV markets, so it makes sense to put it all together as one international show outside the United States.

In the States, we have a different environment. First, the separation of residential AV and pro AV makes it less than compelling to put CEDIA together with either NSCA or InfoComm. Though it would be convenient and interesting for those few who work in both markets, there’s probably no real advantage to combining shows. It would just be too big to see it all unless it was for a longer period of time, and the shows are long enough already.

The big kahuna, though, of InfoComm and NSCA getting together has always been something of a taboo subject. I used to moan about this myself, but the more I thought about it and got to know the organizations, I began to see that it may not be such a logical path. I got back to the question of “why do we go?” There are a lot of good reasons, but seeing the show floor, networking, and learning something in a class or two — not to mention attending association meetings, manufacturer events, and presenting — becomes an overwhelming if not impossible agenda. There’s not enough time to do everything at the shows we have now, much less at a combined show that might last a day or two longer. The education portion, in particular, would suffer from the attendee’s standpoint.

In fact, the manufacturers would likely be the only group to benefit since they would reduce their travel budgets by one show. However, they would also miss out on some exposure because their presence would be diluted at a larger, combined show. NAB has been that kind of too-big show for me and I never feel like I can take it all in. In an industry where an increasing rate of change is normal, having fewer opportunities to learn and stay in touch doesn’t make sense. For now, we need to keep the home fires burning separately.

In addition, there is a lot to do as our industry matures — not just in terms of technology, but also in terms of business and professionalism. This takes effort on a lot of fronts and both the ICIA and NSCA are working on their own to address these issues. From unions, licensing, and certification to education and marketing, each organization has been making its contribution to the pro AV industry and will continue to do so. And a little competition isn’t a bad thing either. Besides, the different organizations and shows we have now still serve slightly different audiences. Hopefully these forces can team up to tackle their shared concerns and help further pro AV and related industries. But for now, the urge to merge may be premature.



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