My Post-EXPO Assessment
9/14/2009 8:19 AM
I just got back from CEDIA EXPO 2009 in Atlanta, and man are my legs tired.
All hype aside, it was a relatively good show. There was plenty to talk
about from a product news standpoint and most exhibitors, with their
lowered expectations, were happy with their quality over quantity
experience with attendees. It seemed that rather than fielding
sometimes elementary questions from trunkslammers and junior-level
installers roaming in packs, most exhibitors were able to spend quality
time with industry veterans and key decision makers who visited their
Amazingly, CEDIA reported a 20,000-person turnout, with only a 12
percent decrease in individual attendance. The general feeling in the
main hall was that the show was busy and CEDIA confirmed that 50
percent of attendees were key decision makers in ESC firms.
Unfortunately, the "auxiliary" Hall B (the infamous "Island of Misfit
Toys," I heard from one exhibitor there, or the "(Ray?) Lepper's Colony"
from another) wasn't as full of exhibitors nor attendees as Hall C.
Fortunately a cell phone signal extender firm was handing out free
full-size basketballs at its booth and SnapAV hosted a money grab
booth, which created a buzz and a little more foot traffic.
As a member of the industry, I was pleased that the show was generally
considered a success. Yes, attendance was down overall, and especially
in the classrooms, but business was conducted and new technologies were
successfully introduced to the channel. This was despite the overall
vibe from exhibitors and attendees alike that Atlanta was the least
popular host city since New Orleans in 1998 (remember the hurricane?)
This almost universal distain for our host city was mostly due to
inhospitable walking distances, a poorly designed Georgia World
Congress Center, and southern humidity (though the hospitality was just
fine). There was no escaping the consensus of the EXPO masses, when
Electronic Lifestyles banquet MC Evan McBroom's "see you next year back
in Atlanta!" closing remarks were greeted with groans and some boos on
Saturday night. The reaction wasn't lost on CEDIA CEO Utz Baldwin, who
told me on Sunday that he and his board will be ironing out as many
kinks as they can before next year's show, in an effort to make the
show more walkable, especially.
I wasn’t exaggerating a few months ago when I wrote about how much
Atlanta had improved as a convention city. However, I greatly
under-estimated how much the size of the GWCC and the lack of
pedestrian-friendliness in the downtown area would take its toll of
even the most optimistic among us. I still argue that Atlanta has a lot
to offer, if you do your homework before you come and bring your
walking shoes. It's not the scary place that some people make it out to
be (including Atlanta cab drivers and residents) and there are a lot of
great restaurants when you know where to find them. The first year
(since 1997) for any host city is always a challenge for attendees and
exhibitors, and I'm sure we'll all come more well prepared next year.
Now about that rumor that Denver wants CEDIA back. It's true, but no
decisions have been made yet about EXPO's "opt out" third year in
Atlanta in 2011. Next year is definitely set for the ATL, but then we
MIGHT be back in Denver in three years, if either the show contracts
enough to fit into a smaller exhibit hall again or exhibitors
collectively agree to downsize their booths. Many are quick to forget
that EXPO was bursting at the seams in the Mile-High City, just as it
was in Indy. I'd love to go back to the conveniences of Denver, myself,
but sometimes growing up means dealing with new hassles and a extra