Welcome to the premier issue of SRO, a bi-monthly magazine designed to provide staging and rental professionals, as well as the producers and event planners they serve, with the kind of practical information needed to succeed in a fast-paced, rapidly changing industry.

To say that the staging and rental market can be a challenging place to do business is probably an understatement. Indeed, this past year has been especially difficult. Plagued by a sluggish economy and the stifling aftereffects of the September terrorist attacks, many staging and rental firms saw revenues plunge as corporations and entertainment venues cancelled events. In fact, says Donald Guzauckas, Jr., chairman of the ICIA Rental and Staging Council, some firms lost 50% of their revenue in the last quarter of 2001.

The good news, says Guzauckas, is that people seem optimistic that business is poised to turn around. Though nobody's expecting a banner year, indications are that business is on the mend. People are traveling again, events are being scheduled (or rescheduled), and economists are suggesting the worst is behind us. In the meantime, small and large staging and rental companies alike are doing more than just crossing their fingers waiting for their fortunes to turn — they are rethinking their business models, seeking productivity improvements, and searching for new ways to build their client bases.

But it doesn't take just a slow economy to make the staging and rental business a challenging place to work. By its nature, the staging and rental business is a fast-paced world, filled with tight deadlines, complicated logistics, and endless travel. On top of that is the fact that the technology is constantly evolving and customers' expectations are constantly rising. At corporate events, slide shows have given way to multi-screen, multi-camera performances. High-profile entertainment events, such as the Academy Awards, have reached levels of staging extravagance that one could hardly have imagined just a few years ago.

Understanding all that, we are launching SRO with the goal of providing staging and rental professionals with the information they need to stay competitive and stay current with the best practices in the industry. Our case study stories will strive to spotlight the challenges faced and obstacles overcome during the event production process. Our technology stories will keep readers abreast of advances in video, display, audio, and lighting technologies. Our business stories will provide practical advice for dealing with a variety of business challenges, from inventory management to event security.

Complementing our print magazine is our website, www.sromagazine.biz, where we will archive back issues and post extra web-exclusive material. Looking ahead, we eventually plan to launch e-newsletters that will bring targeted, time-sensitive news and analysis to you more quickly. We'll also plan to play an important role at the LDI tradeshow, sponsored by our sister publication, Lighting Dimensions.

In fulfilling our editorial mission, we will be drawing upon not only the expertise of veteran staging professionals, producers, and event planners, but also seasoned journalists from several other sister publications in addition to Lighting Dimensions, all of which are leaders in related fields. These magazines include Video Systems, Sound & Video Contractor, Entertainment Design, Special Events, and Mix. To each of them, we offer our thanks for sharing their resources and talents. And to you, our readers, we invite you to share with us your thoughts, your frustrations, and your success stories. On with the show.