Professionals from the rental and staging industry have traditionally accounted for a little less than 10 percent of all attendees at the annual InfoComm show, according to officials at the International Communications Industries Association (ICIA), the event's sponsor. With this year's InfoComm slated for the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta from June 5 to 11, ICIA officials are hoping to increase rental and staging's presence at the event. Among other things, they are planning an expanded menu of exhibits and seminars to lure industry pros.

“As a systems show, InfoComm has committed to grow in areas that are extremely relevant to rental and staging companies,” explains Randal A. Lemke, Ph. D., executive director of the ICIA. “Audio, lighting, and staging are examples of not only the technologies displayed on the show floor, but also the educational programs and special events catering specifically to this audience.”

InfoComm's seminars and other special events will begin June 5, and the exhibit hall will open June 9 and run through June 11. ICIA officials expect more than 400 companies to exhibit and 20,000 to 25,000 people to attend.

Part of InfoComm's full-court press to serve the needs of the rental and staging community this year will be a day of seminars on “Super Tuesday,” June 8, built around the theme of “Today's Rental and Staging Market, and Tomorrow's.”

Similarly, the show floor will include a Pro Lighting and Staging Pavilion, anchored by a large Barco booth and including exhibits by High End Systems, Techni-Lux, HVB Presentation Services, and other industry providers.

Joel T. Rollins, CTS-R, general manager of Everett Hall Associates in Stamford, Conn., is among the organizers of the Super Tuesday program. Rollins notes that InfoComm's growth in the staging specialty springs from a new awareness of that sector's unique needs.

“We have a higher degree of specialization than we have had in the past, and more and more of the things a rental and staging company needs are actually different from the needs of, say, a dealership,” Rollins says. “Our concerns tend to be more operational.”

The seminar program aims to tackle two big questions: What are we going to be asked to do this year? And how do we need to prepare our inventories and our people in order to do these things?

Today's rental and staging market is being shaped by digital technologies, Rollins suggests, including streaming video/audio webcasts. Industry professionals could learn about many of these tools and techniques at more specialized technology shows, like Streaming Media at Comdex, he adds, but they need to see the tools “in the context of what a rental and staging company would actually use them for,” making InfoComm a prime venue to illustrate their usefulness.

In addition, streaming media and other web-based technologies are moving out of the “early adopter” community and into the business mainstream, which Rollins says makes it likely more rental and staging clients will be expecting — and demanding — that their contractors be able to deliver these resources.

The key to InfoComm's role in this equation, Rollins says, is context. “We're trying to make InfoComm the place that people can come to get practical information that's specific to the rental and staging environment,” he adds.

Seminars on Super Tuesday will include an introduction to streaming video for corporate events and a review of “emerging markets and trends.” There will also be sessions called “Introduction to Live Audio,” “Audio 201: Limiters, Equalizers, and Multi-Zone (Distributed) PA Systems,” and “Avoiding Rental and Staging Disasters.”

InfoComm's exhibitor roster will include the mainstay companies serving the professional A/V market, including the systems integration and permanent installation segments, as well as rental and staging. Some of these companies, though, also see strong value in InfoComm as a specialized showcase for staging tools.

“Remember, almost all staged events are live, so application expertise, product quality, and product performance are paramount to success,” says Mike Levi, president of Digital Projection. “InfoComm provides an exceptional opportunity for attendees to interact with the latest technology, and for the users and innovators of that technology to exchange ideas, education, and solutions. There is no other event more important to the staging and rental professional than InfoComm.”

Digital Projection will show new, high-brightness, single-chip, DLP projectors, along with its large-venue systems, including the new 2K×1K Lightning 35HD unit it launched last fall. These new products, Levi says, “have rugged mechanical features that make them especially well-suited for rental and staging.”

Sandy Schroeder, director of corporate market development at Shure, Niles, Ill., cites her company's new line of wireless microphones as typical of the sort of innovation the rental and staging community can expect to see at InfoComm.

“This new system will drastically change what staging and rental pros expect in terms of set up ease and performance,” she suggests. “With the speed at which technology is converging, InfoComm will be a very useful conference to stay on the cutting edge of both technology and business trends.”

The ICIA will also offer a free, two-hour rental and staging forum on Wednesday, June 9, to provide an opportunity for industry pros to “talk about unique challenges and solutions in relation to the markets they serve and competitive issues,” according to the ICIA's description of the event.

The association's Rental and Staging Council will also meet during the show, chaired by Don Guzauckas, CTS, of Connecticut's HB Group. The council has proven an invaluable resource for the ICIA to gauge the needs of the rental and staging community and develop program content to meet it, according to Rollins. “Through ICIA, we have a pretty good idea of what the hot buttons are, and what questions are being asked.”

Rollins also comments that many industry professionals are reluctant to add new trade shows and conferences to their agendas and would not be likely to go to a different event simply for an introduction to new digital technologies and other issues. Instead, he suggests, they turn to a show they're already comfortable with — InfoComm — and simply expect that show to provide more. “People need to be able to look at new things in connection with systems with which they're already familiar,” Rollins says.

Complete information about InfoComm, including online registration, is available at http://infocomm04.expoexchange.com.