Hardware Infrastructure Global Viewpoint – January 2022

Trade Show Future

With more cancellations than any of us care to think about, do we now have a definitive answer on whether trade shows should go ahead or not? Have virtualized events really taken over and are they the future?

From my very earliest days of working in broadcast manufacturing the debate of whether to attend NAB and IBC has been raging. Can we afford to attend? Can we afford not to attend? Does the number of enquiries justify the cost? How do we measure success?

Lockdown has given us a glimpse of the much-lauded utopian future where virtualization and streaming allow vendors to demonstrate their wares without the expense of leaving the office, even more so if they’re providing software only solutions. Every feature can be demonstrated and tested, and systems can be assessed and judged without being jostled by crowds looking for the next best thing in television. Buyers and influencers can have demos streamed to their desks and make decisions in comparable luxury.

So, does this mean I think the trade show is over? Not quite.

Am I the only one who can’t resist opening a fader on a sound desk to feel the quality of the glide? Or pushing CAM1 on the program bank of a production switcher to experience the tactile feedback? How does the T-bar behave? Can I easily operate the eq-pots? How fluid is the camera head? And on it goes.

I accept it is possible to attend a vendor premises and have these experiences, but for me, the human interface control (HIC) is incredibly important and being able to compare many devices under one roof is essential when assessing new kit. Even in a software dominated environment the HIC is of paramount importance due to the intense and often random nature of working in live television.

Some of the best opportunities I’ve ever been offered have been down to impromptu meetings at trade shows. Just happening to walk past a long-lost colleague through the densely packed aisles or being randomly introduced to somebody on a booth, the unscheduled and unplanned meetings for me, are an incredibly important part of the trade show. I’ve yet to achieve the same success on Zoom calls!

Then there’s the new vendors who are incredibly important to our future. How do they progress their products if they’re not talking to a multitude of end-users? I’ve spoken to so many influencers and buyers over the years who actively target the back walls of the exhibition halls to see what’s new and up and coming.

In my opinion, trade shows provide many opportunities not only for individuals, but also for the larger broadcast industry. And by giving a feeling of longevity, stability, and community, we gain a collective sense of our future success.

CES seem confident they’ll be opening their doors this week, and this is surely an important indicator for NAB and IBC (and many other trade shows throughout the world). Fingers crossed!