“The best option in the current situation!” Industry leaders react to ISE 2021 road show plan

ISE 2021’s shift from traditional in-person trade show to regionalised road show has had a mixed reception from industry leaders approached by Audio Media International.

Organisers moved away from plans to hold the traditional in-person trade show, at its new home at the Fira Barcelona this summer, announcing instead ISE Live & Online, a series of local events in Barcelona, Munich, Amsterdam and London.  ISE says the move followed extensive talks with exhibitors.

The rolling schedule will be supported by an extensive online programme of virtual events.

Dirk Born, Technical marketing manager at Tascam, a leading provider of audio solutions for musicians, engineers and broadcast professionals, approves of the ISE 2021 pivot to more regionalised events. “As we are still struggling with travel restrictions, either legally or by our own decision, this is a good idea to do.  It fits in with pandemic strategies to reduce the number of contacts and to keep things local.”

“I see this as the best option in the current situation, but not long-term. Local events might have an increased number of local attendees, who might not be able to travel to Barcelona, but from the exhibitor side they cause a much higher effort of logistics and preparation than a one-off 4-day show.”

Born says that while Tascam won’t be taking part in any live event, it does plan to get involved with ISE’s digital programme. 

“After much consideration, we decided not to exhibit at one of these live events but we will take part online,” Born told Audio Media International. “This is because a large amount of our team is located in Germany and it seems highly unlikely that we will have received the first vaccine, let alone the second. When ISE announced the local events, I was hoping they might happen in the autumn time, where the situation will hopefully have improved.”

“Although we do not join, I would expect the first trade shows to have a good positive vibe, as it is one of the steps back to business as usual, although it will surely be different than before.”

Born says he’s hopeful that Tascam “might be able to exhibit at IBC in September together with most international countries.”.

Not everyone is convinced the industry is chomping at the bit to get back to face-to-face meetings.

Gordon Innocent, Chairman of AV distributor RGB Communication, said: “It is too early to be trying to forge ahead with any form of international trade show. Vaccines need to be administered and the effects of variants need to be seen before, I for one, would consider investing in a show where we hope sufficient visitors will attend to make it worthwhile.  I am also not at all comfortable with asking our staff to manage an exhibition booth.  It looks like ‘the industry being very keen for an in-person event’ is more to do with the exhibition organisers wishful thinking.”

Innocent adds that he thinks a road show is “ a clever stop-gap idea.”

Stuart Tickle, Managing Director of distributor AWE, told us:  “It is definitely correct to move away from an international event, as we all need to do what we can to limit the international transmission of variants. Vaccinations appear to be the only safe way to get through, and eventually out, of the pandemic and it feels too early to risk bringing so many people together, so the regional events are a much better option.  June seems to be pretty keen date-wise for most of Europe, but with the UK vaccination program being so strong it is a good move to have the option of attending in-person alongside the digital format. I presume all venues will be COVID secure and have to assume people will be sensible in the evenings, but at least in the UK a large portion will be vaccinated by then.”

Tickle says AWE is currently consulting with its manufacturer partners and will be making a decision about attendance in the coming weeks.  “From an attendee perspective, we will certainly partake in online sessions and will be consulting with key staff once the UK agenda and exhibitors are detailed with a view to a small in-person attendance if sufficiently beneficial.”

Andy Lewis, Managing Director of pro-AV equipment supplier Audiologic, said: “I honestly think that it’s just too early for a trade exhibition of any kind right now. Yes, it could be argued that some human interaction with a platform to show some products/technologies and network after a lot of months of video calls could be welcome. However, many companies have had a tough year throughout the pandemic with the various restrictions and I just think the timing of this – both from the exhibitor-side and the attendee-side – is too soon after the final restrictions are hopefully lifted.”

“Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Amsterdam every year and it was a great focal point of networking, information gathering and education. It will remain to be seen whether a regional approach would dilute the impact of all the manufacturers and customers being in one place at one time, as not all will exhibit at all of the regional events, I shouldn’t imagine.”

ISE 2021 Live & Online takes place  June: 1-2 June, Fira Barcelona;  8-9 June, MAC Forum, Munich; 15-16 June, RAI, Amsterdam; 23-24 June, Evolution, Battersea, London.