So on my doctor's recommendation I limited my InfoComm exposure for my first time to one day (Translation: Live Design wouldn't spring for the whole week), meaning it's time for my sum up.
For those of you who have never been to InfoComm before, here's the only way I can come up with to describe it: It's like watching that episode of The Office where Michael and Dwight go to the paper convention. Only you're watching it on a network-administrated, fully-interactive HD digital sign in a crowded hallway. Finally—and this is the important part—all the funny parts have been removed.
Now, don't get me wrong: Yesterday was incredibly productive. I found solutions to problems I didn't even know I had, made contacts with people and companies I never would have met, and saw some of the coolest display products on the market. There's an overwhelming aura of, appropriately, Information and Communication.
The strange part is the soul-destroying personality-less-ness of it all. I'd been to three other trade shows before my InfoComm experience: SuperComputing (which is sort of a trade show/conference hybrid), the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and LDI (Full disclosure: I have worked at LDI for almost ten years now). InfoComm seems to occupy a sort of middle-ground between these three.
SuperComputing is pretty much the ultimate nerd fest—and darn proud of it. The technical information distributed at its booths requires a PhD to decode—and the inhabitants dispense said info with the air of astronomers being interviewed on Nova. InfoComm has it's nerds, certainly, but they tend to seem sort of weighed-down by being press-ganged into service as part of such a baldly capitalistic enterprise. (There are many shining exceptions to this description, and, if you are reading this and you are an InfoComm exhibitor, I'm certainly not talking about you.)
CES, on the other hand, is proud of its status as a kind of festival of bald capitalistic enterprise. It's right there in the name: Consumer. The air in the room is roughly, “Ooh that's so cool I want one! Gimmee! Gimmee! Gimmee!” It's like watching a really, really funny commercial. InfoComm's attitude towards business feels like it has undercurrents of $200 hammers and in-triplicate forms.
LDI takes advantage of its relationship with show business to have personality. My theory is that you only need a very small proportion of former (or current) road guys to lend a certain flair for the proceedings. Yeah, let's turn all the lights off, turn the music up and watch the pyro and lasers in the far corner. At InfoComm, the full-on high-bay convention center lights give even the brightest projector or the most powerful light a kind of sad pall. Let's not even talk about what they do to skin—I look pasty even in the dark.
Look, I know I'm being overly harsh and that all of this stuff has to do with the bottom line. I'd be the last person to impugn InfoComm's usefulness, and maybe I'm just a flaky artsy-type most of the time who is just not cut out for real corporate credentials, but I sincerely believe the day would feel shorter, the booth-banter happier and more sincere, the general experience just cooler if the organizers of the event would stop thinking so much "trade" and think a lot more "show."
That said, see you in Orlando at InfoComm '09.