An inside look at the show's logistics, and the host of events aimed at the staging community
InfoComm's Staging Focus
At press time, preparations were furiously underway for the A/V communications industry's premier tradeshow — the InfoComm International conference and exhibition, slated to take place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on June 5 to 11. The ICIA, at press time, was expecting over 20,000 people to attend, including 1,000 rental and staging professionals, helping to celebrate the ICIA's 65th anniversary.
This issue, we thought it would be interesting to provide an inside look at how the massive show is planned, organized, and staged to provide maximum service for attendees. ICIA staff and member volunteers have spent three years planning the exhibit floor, conference program, promotion, and logistics for the event. As we reflect on the months of preparation, we're reminded of an old mnemonic known as “the five P's”: Proper planning prevents poor performance.
Much of our InfoComm organizing is based on old-fashioned hard work, and listening to customers, members, contractors, and other stakeholders. In that sense, it's a process similar to that used by stagers every day to produce myriad events across the world. By combining environmental, technical, and creative elements, we strive toward an interesting, innovative, and informative show each June.
InfoComm's record-breaking growth over the past 15 years has not been an accident. It's the result of thousands of hours of blood, sweat, tears, and an explosive pro A/V communications industry that continues to expand.
Highlights of this year's show will include over 625 exhibitors — 12 percent more than last year and a record number — 300,000-plus net square feet of exhibits and special events, 20,000-plus industry professionals from 65 countries, more than 300 educational sessions (another record), six in-conjunction conferences along with technology application tours, a new-product treasure hunt on the show floor, an expanded streaming media and collaborative conferencing pavilion, and a new lighting and staging pavilion with free education sessions.
InfoComm 04 also promises rental and staging professionals a comprehensive offering of new products, and education and networking opportunities to strengthen their knowledge of pro A/V communication technologies, applications, and business skills.
Planning InfoComm is like planning a really big party, so let's look at some of what's been done:
To get the best dates, cities, and venues, we begin research, with the help of ICIA member companies, more than five years ahead of each show. Facilities and hotels are booked about three years out. In Atlanta, the World Congress Center offers nearly one million gross square feet of exhibit halls, meeting rooms, and function space.
Each year, we develop a theme relevant to the industry's current direction. For 2004, we wanted to highlight the marriage of audiovisual (A/V) and information technologies (IT), and how much we live in an interconnected world enabled by audiovisual communications systems. Hence, this year's theme: See, Hear, Connect!
To get the word out, we designed and mailed more than 350,000 direct-mail brochures, distributed more than 125,000 passes to exhibitors and dealers to invite their customers, advertised in over 45 trade publications worldwide, and broadcast over 800,000 e-mail bulletins promoting the show. All marketing leads to the InfoComm website (www.infocomm.org/ic04), which is packed with information.
Our four-person sales team spent a full year contacting and servicing exhibitors and 3,000-plus manufacturer prospects.
We produced 800 copies of a 200-plus page, 6lb. Exhibitor's Manual, also available online, that covers everything exhibitors and contractors need to know to plan their successful participation.
Once onsite, we kick into high gear with a choreographed production managed by a three-person staff operations team assisted by our general contractor, Freeman Decorating of Orlando. Here are a few of our key logistical preparations we were taking at press time and beyond as the June show moved closer. Many of these steps, of course, will be familiar to staging and rental professionals.
To set the stage, Freeman Decorating moves in more than 700 tractor-trailers and 2 1/2 million lbs. of exhibitors' displays and products over five days. At the same time, this team manages more than 300 laborers and works with the Congress Center to rig and fly more than 150 overhead signs, trusses, lights, and screens.
Hundreds of signs are decorated and hung inside and outside the facilities, using an online floor plan and photo tool. We use more than six miles of carpet, thousands of square feet of banners, and hundreds of plants and flowers.
We launch a registration website with housing and travel services five months prior to the show. We print and distribute more than 22,000 name badges and lead-retrieval cards. We hire more than 125 hosts and hostesses for registration and direction onsite, and more than 115 security guards. We'll also operate a fleet of 20 shuttle buses connecting nine downtown Atlanta hotels, as well as to the sites of our AVolution Technology Tours.
Each year, we issue a request for proposals (RFP) to ICIA members seeking an official A/V contractor for InfoComm. This year, we selected AVW-TELAV Audio Visual Solutions, a company with key locations across the U.S. and Canada, for this job. AVW-TELAV is working with exhibitor-supplied gear as well as its own, along with nearly 30 technicians on peak days, to equip and operate more than 65 meeting spaces at the Congress Center.
We move in all the freight following a schedule based on booth size, location, and structural complexity.
We carefully coordinate the lights as needed, and to comply with fire and life safety regulations.
We manage the exhibit hall floor plan online with a CAD-enabled program updated daily to keep everyone informed.
Of course, security is key to managing the myriad potential issues that can arise at any event. Careful advance planning and hiring of security professionals keeps problems to a minimum.
These and countless other activities, coordinated by the entire ICIA staff and numerous vendors, go into making a seamless event.
Targeting Industry “Shifts”
According to Randy Lemke, the ICIA's executive director, this year's “See, Hear, Connect!” theme “is really about the importance our members, and the A/V industry as a whole, are placing on the implications of A/V and IT convergence. As a systems show, InfoComm is uniquely positioned to help the industry strongly prepare for the shifts we see around us.”
Among the offerings staging and rental professionals will find useful at the show will be the so-called Super Tuesday event on June 8 — a new, educational program offering all-day training sessions on such topics as IT and A/V Converged.
If your interest is video-, audio-, data-, or web-conferencing, you'll find an expanded Collaborative Conferencing Technologies Pavilion and Conference Track at InfoComm. Sponsored by the Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA), the pavilion's activities reflect advances in conferencing technology and its broadened market acceptance. IMCCA will also hold a full-day workshop and additional sessions throughout the show.
InfoComm will also showcase the second annual Streaming Media Pavilion: The Essentials to Digital Media Workflow Production, Infrastructure, and Applications, a joint project of the ICIA in partnership with SRO and its Primedia sister publications Sound & Video Contractor and Video Systems. The Pavilion brings together exhibitors, products, services, and technologies in the streaming media and production markets, and serves as the site for a series of hour-long panels on new trends and technologies.
Also of interest to stagers, the show will include a new Lighting and Staging Pavilion, an Educational Conference for A/V buyers, decision makers, and managers in the K-12 and higher-education markets, and the show's first, day-long forum to explore new digital cinema technologies called Beyond the Cineplex: A Forum on Digital Cinema's Impact on ProAV. The two-day, Annual Projection Summit also returns on June 6 through 8 to give A/V professionals insight into projection technologies and the business of projection system manufacture.
ICIA will also offer a series of behind-the-scenes technical tours of Atlanta institutions during the week. Visitors taking the AVolution Technology Application Tours planned at Georgia Tech, Emory University, Jackson Memorial Baptist Church, the Georgia Dome, and the Philips Arena will obtain unique insight into how A/V technology managers at these famous facilities take their work in stride.
Our load-in for the show was slated to begin on June 4 as the ICIA and its partners and vendors geared up to bring the newest products, technologies, and networking and educational opportunities to industry professionals. Hopefully, the rental and staging community will find the experience as useful as we did getting the show ready.
Jason McGraw is the ICIA's senior vice president of expositions, responsible for the management of the ICIA's annual InfoComm International exposition in the U.S., as well as ICIA's participation in the Integrated Systems brand of events held in Europe, China, and Singapore. Jason has 18 years of exposition and conference management experience with both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. He has worked with ICIA on 11 InfoComm shows dating back to the 1991 show in Orlando. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
InfoComm's Staging Focus
InfoComm 2004 was slated to offer more events and activities for staging and rental professionals than at any previous show. Here are some of the highlights of particular interest to stagers:
- Syn-Aud-Con's renowned training in sound system optimization will be presented by Pat Brown on June 6 and 7.
- ICIA's Rental and Staging Council will hold an Industry Forum on June 9.
- Technology tours of the Philips Arena and Georgia Dome will be held June 10 and 11.
- The Large Venue Display Gallery will feature the latest high-resolution projection, multi-image, and edge-blending systems from industry leaders Barco, Christie Digital, Digital Projection, JVC, NEC, Sanyo, and Sony.
- The Lighting and Staging Pavilion will feature the Barco Live special event, and free technology sessions throughout each day.
- The InfoComm ICTV Studio, sponsored by iShow.com and Sonic Foundry, will show attendees how to shoot, edit, encode, upload, and host streaming media content.
- Top signal distribution, routing, and control manufacturers will be on the show floor, including Altinex, AMX, Analog Way, AutoPatch, AV Stumpfl, Communications Specialties, Covid, Crestron, Cue, Extron, Folsom Research, FSR, Kramer, Mediapointe, Pesa, and Vista Systems.
- Leading projection screen, rack, and case manufacturers will be available, including AV Stumpfl, Calzone, Case Design, Chief Manufacturing, Da-Lite, Draper, Gator Cases, Georgia Case, Forbes Industries, Large Screen Displays, Lowell Manufacturing, Middle Atlantic, Stewart Filmscreen, DNP, OSI, Porter Case, Premier Mounts, and H. Wilson.
- Over 200 audio manufacturers will be exhibiting, including Allen & Heath, AKG, Anchor Audio, Atlas Sound, Audio-Technica, Azden, beyerdynamic, Biamp Systems, Carver Professional, Community, D.A.S., EAW, Electro-Voice, Fender Pro, IED, IVIE, JBL Professional, Lectrosonics, Mackie Designs, Martin Audio, Meyer Sound, Midas, Nady, Paso Sound, Peavey, Samson, Sennheiser, Shure, Soundcraft, Sony, Tannoy, Tascam, Telex, and TOA Electronics.
In addition, ICIA's InfoComm Academy will offer numerous educational sessions designed for professionals in the rental and staging industry. They include:
- Super Tuesday: Today's Rental and Staging Market — And Tomorrow's, led by Joel Rollins, CTS-R, June 8.
- Emerging Markets for the Rental & Staging Industry, led by JP Brozyna, CTS, June 9.
- Introduction to Live Audio, led by Bill Magod, June 9.
- Avoiding Rental and Staging Disasters, led by Karl Rosenberg, CTS, June 9.
- Audio 201: Limiters, Equalization, and Multi Zone (Distributed) PA Systems, led by Bill Magod, June 10.
- Intro to Streaming Video for Corporate Events, led by Donald Guzauckas, Jr., CTS, June 10.