EARLY ADOPTION IN OUR INDUSTRY can be extremely beneficial for you and your clients, but it also involves a degree of risk. Being one of the first — if not the first — to adopt technology is about delivering the best show possible for clients, staying on the cutting edge by delivering never-before-seen technology, and taking calculated risks at the same time.

Whether you're in audio, video, and/or lighting, in the show technology field, manufacturers are constantly creating the “next best thing.” The hard part? Deciding whether you want to be the first out of the gate, for better or worse.

The Pros

While some technology has no moving parts, and there is little risk in implementing it, that's not the case for most technology. So some say, “Why take the risk of adopting early?”

Get price breaks

Often times, manufacturers need to find early adopters for their technology so they can set an early adopter trend and others will follow suit. Even if they have built the “next best thing,” its worth is questionable until the equipment has successfully delivered results in the marketplace. [Note: Manufacturers look for rental and staging companies that have a strong reputation in the industry. A show can only be as good as the people creating it, and manufacturers want their products to shine.]

Stay ahead of the competition

As an early adopter you're going to roll out new technology to your clients before anyone else. You will offer clients the newest, most innovative solutions to their show needs.

Be recognized as an industry leader

By choosing to be an early adopter and devoting the staffing resources to make it work, you will establish your company as an industry leader, one that continuously seeks out the newest technology to serve clients better and delivers on making their events as effective and innovative as possible.

The Cons

In any business venture, it's important to weigh the possible negative outcomes along with the positive because of the level of risk involved. Ask yourself, “Why wait?”

Dealing with “short-timers” disease

Some manufacturers have “short-timers” disease, which means they are not interested in your long-term success; they are interested in selling boxes quickly to meet their revenue goals. The solution? Know your manufacturer.. Reliable manufacturers will give out after-hours numbers and offer to troubleshoot any complications you come across. Sometimes they will even send their staff to your show to make sure everything runs smoothly during the equipment's first use.

Incurring training costs

Whenever you invest in new technology, you have to pay to train your staff, which is often a costly undertaking, but a necessary one. Buying the latest and greatest technology is only the first step. It does no good (and you will not see a return on your investment) if it sits in your storage facility because no one knows how to use it. Or worse, you send an operator to a show without the proper training, which sets the operator and the show up for failure.

Investing in the wrong technology

If you choose to adopt a piece of technology that is completely new to the marketplace, do your research. If you make the investment, and the product isn't well received in the industry, then you are stuck with ineffective technology that no one wants on their show. Be sure to compare the technology that may be coming out from different manufacturers and weigh the differences to be sure the version of the technology you are purchasing will work the best.

Rule of Thumb

Part of our homework is being adept at what manufacturers are coming out with new products. Find potential investments by going to trade shows and reading trade journals. Typically, when looking at a product that is coming out, we figure it's cost-benefit. If it's the only product coming out in the marketplace that will be able to perform a certain function, we're willing to pay the price and take a risk.

For example, LMG was the first company in the US to take delivery of the Snell & Wilcox Kahuna switcher. As a reputable and trustworthy manufacturer, Snell & Wilcox was receptive to our questions and actually sent staff to our first show earlier this year in case we had to troubleshoot. Because, as you know, in the event presentation industry, you can't afford to fail; there are no second chances.

Though some manufacturers focus on “moving boxes,” good manufacturers do not want their products to fail in the marketplace. They also have a general understanding that as an early adopter you are investing in the future of the product. To ensure success, they establish a dialogue and answer questions to fix any problems that come up.

How to Adopt Well

If you do decide to become an early adopter after weighing the pros and cons, you have to make the commitment to do it well. Before going to a client's show, you must be completely aware of whether the new equipment works in your show's environment, whether it's reliable and whether you can count on software and hardware support after hours. (Part of the early adoption philosophy is about looking at each purchase as a risk and mitigating the risk by testing it in the environment in which you will be using it.)

If you're a reputable, established company, manufacturers may even call you because they believe you are a good candidate for their upcoming product. Sometimes they are looking for feedback, good or bad.

Ultimately, if you invest in products on the front end, you have to be confident that the manufacturer will be around to bring the product to fruition and answer questions along the way. Also, you need to understand and research the marketplace to determine whether or not the product will be well received.

All in All

Nothing is a sure thing. Companies have to decide where they are and what risks they are willing to take. Some people want to use existing technology that is proven and not high risk, where there are known quantities. Other companies want to be on the cutting edge, offering clients the most innovative show solutions possible. If you want to be able to bring your design up a notch, you need to bring in new technology. If you choose to take the path of the early adopter, do everything you can to make sure the risk falls on you and not your client and their show. The bottom line for any company is that you must put your client's best interest at the forefront.

Goldberg is the president and CEO of LMG Show Technology in Orlando