Mike Blackman, Executive Director of Integrated Systems Events, welcomed the event reaffirming its importance, both for the AV and events sectors and for the city. “ISE’s journey to Barcelona has taken 17 years. For this reason, the impossibility of having the premiere in a big way as we all would have wanted leaves us with a bittersweet taste. But we understand the value of live events in building trust, deepening business relationships, and driving business. With this edition, we want to send the message to all cities around the world that it is possible to hold live events safely and successfully. And in February 2022 we will be back in Barcelona in style”.
We had the opportunity to speak with Mike before the show. He presented this edition to us as an “amuse-bouche”, an appetizer, an edition with a symbolic component… and a pioneering event in a city that only now begins to recover the live trade shows.
What does Mike think of this double format change? The first change is to give this event an online component. Mike tells us: “We are in the events sector, and we bring people together. It is clear that if we cannot see each other, we will maintain the connection through online communication. And some of this will stay: there will always be people who will not be able to attend, and online will allow them to participate”. However, going digital in an experience such as the ISE one is not easy, so the online version of ISE focused on education, with little networking and no online product presentations. The visual impact that you experience in a live show is not achieved on a screen.
The second change in format was to divide the show into several more local editions, to reach several local markets without people having to travel. It is not really a novelty: Mike has done a road show in several Eastern European countries in the past, with about 20 exhibitors, and he tells us that it has worked very well to reach groups that did not come, but it is not the panacea. “The exhibitors want a great show in which they bet on an impressive set-up.” He does not rule out doing other road shows, but the great show will continue to be essential.
Will digital allow a more continuous relationship with your target audiences? Mike tells us that yes, there will be discussions and online training. “We have a community, and we can bring content to them throughout the year, and thus stay in the mind of our community.” It will mainly focus on “thought leadership” and training.
This edition was organised very responsibly: all attendees had undergone a COVID-19 antigen test at the entrance and were wearing FFP2 masks. And as we have seen in all professional events since the beginning of the pandemic, the behaviours were totally responsible.
ISE got the full attention (of course) of the local authorities, including a visit from Mayor Ada Colau. ACCIÓ Catalonia Trade & Investment set up a space in which local companies could exhibit, a way to give them visibility and business opportunities. Let’s not forget that hosting a large event has important benefits for the local economy of the sector in question, helping local companies to attract customers, and allowing the establishment of companies at the local level. Indeed, two companies (Lang and Infiled) have already decided to open an office in Barcelona after the announcement that ISE would be held in the city.
The positive comments collected among exhibitors confirm the optimism with which the AV sector has received the celebration of ISE Live & Online in Barcelona. A few examples? “Barco came to ISE 2021 Barcelona to meet again with customers. We had been communicating by video for too long, and we needed to see each other live and face-to-face. The future is hybrid, that is: there will be videoconferences, but we will have many more face-to-face meetings. Seeing our partners again is what recharges our batteries”, said Peter Pauwels, Barco’s Vice President of Sales EMEA.
Oriol Massagué, Field Marketing Manager at Panasonic, commented: “After more than a year without events or exhibitions, we were eager and excited to meet face-to-face again. Vendors, distributors, system integrators… Everyone!”.
And despite a logically small audience compared to a normal edition, everything we hear from exhibitors goes in two directions: understanding for this reduced attendance, great joy at being a participant in a event of recovery… and even a sensation of a useful show in which, without large numbers, they were able to speak more calmly with serious attendees. An example of “quality more than quantity”. Ramon Vilar, Sono Project Manager, commented: “We have met with clients and suppliers, and we have detected enormous interest and a great desire to reactivate the industry. It has been a truly positive experience”.
And now? The fair will celebrate its London edition on June 23 and 24. And the ISE Digital content (which includes the sessions broadcast from the Fira de Barcelona Main Stage) is available on demand and includes news from reference brands, keynotes, round tables and interviews with more than 100 speakers. The channel will be available until the end of 2021 at https://digital.iseurope.org.