Services Global Viewpoint – September 2020

Tradeshow Technology Demo’s

As more products are moving to software, do we really need to be providing technology demonstrations at tradeshows? Especially as most software products can be demonstrated from the comfort of our desks and hardware can be demonstrated using virtual remote presentations.

When I say technology demonstrations, I’m actually referring to hardware, or metal as it’s becoming affectionately known. I know from experience that vendors spend huge amounts of money shipping metal around the world for trade shows. It’s not just the amount of effort involved in achieving this and all the support services that go with it, but also the cost of inventory tied up in demo-products that only ever see tradeshows.

With the two largest international shows cancelled and I’m certainly not putting down any bets for next year, how will vendors demonstrate their equipment? Maybe the more interesting question to ask is, do we actually still need to be shipping large amounts of hardware around the world to demonstrate it at tradeshows?

Hardware will always have its place. We may be moving to centralized software processing at breath taking speed with all the benefits it provides, but the human interface is still paramount. There’s nothing more reassuring than opening a fader on a sound console or moving the T-bar on a production switcher. The psychological effect of mechanical feedback is as important as the quality of signal processing.

Broadcast television has moved from a cottage industry to a full industrialized process, at least as far as the technology is concerned and the domination of IP and COTS is testament to this. Consequently, equipment has matured and it’s quite reasonable to now assume that it just works, at least compared to the emerging hardware technologies that have dominated the industry for the last sixty or seventy years.

Even if a technology is new and still being developed, it’s built on equipment that is incredibly reliable and knowledge that is well established. Also, professional broadcast procurement departments are outstandingly good at using contractual tools to reduce the risk to the television stations, both financially and technically.

Furthermore, decision makers are usually well established in their careers and have decades of experience under their belts, they know the intricacies and detail of the equipment they’re buying. Are they really attending the trade show to assess the technical quality of the product?

Although there has been a lot of consolidation in workflows, most, if not all television and production facilities have their own unique working practices and associated workflows. They have their own methods of operation resulting in very specific problems to be solved.

Maybe this is the primary reason why buyers attend tradeshows? That is, to find which vendors are able to satisfy their unique challenges and to discuss how they would achieve this.

I’m sure this period is allowing CEO’s the world over to look very closely at tradeshows so they can better understand how to leverage their value when they return. My view is that expecting vendors to deliver reliable and high-quality products is now a given, but broadcasters would gain a great deal from understanding which vendors have the technical expertise and experience to work in partnership with them to deliver and solve the unique challenges for their broadcast facilities. Do we really need to ship crates of kit around the world to achieve this?