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About Atlanta…

There’s no doubt about it, the size and layout of CEDIA’s newest host city took its toll on EXPO attendees and exhibitors this year. The downtown area, despite major restaurant and hotel additions, was still tough for those of us who live most of our lives behind the wheel of a car, and the convention facility is way too big and just plain confusing.

I will acknowledge, as well, that I underestimated all of this when I went on my preview tour of Atlanta with fellow members of the trade press. The thing that jumped out

at me back then was the sheer size of the Georgia World Congress Center. It does have the word “world” in its name, doesn’t it?

Yet, despite rumors to the contrary throughout the four days of the show, CEDIA is staying in Atlanta for at least one year. According to CEDIA CEO Utz Baldwin, there is an opt out for a third year, but nothing has been decided yet. So, I think it’s time that we move on and talk about stuff that’s really important, like new products and business from another very worthwhile CEDIA EXPO.

I was more-than-a-little relieved that EXPO 2009 was considered a success to most who attended the show. Yes, numbers were noticeably down overall, especially in classrooms, but plenty of business was conducted and exciting new technologies were introduced to the channel. EXPO never felt like a dead show to me, not even on Sunday at 2 p.m.

From a product news standpoint, there was plenty to talk about with exhibitors. Most companies, having measured 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 more time with industry veterans and key decision makers in attendance.

CEDIA reported a 20,000-person turnout, but only a 12-percent decrease in individual attendance. I interpreted this to mean that most ESC firms simply brought fewer people. 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. Initially, the “auxiliary” Hall B wasn’t as full of attendees as Hall C. Fortunately, however, a cell phone signal extender firm was handing out free full-size basketballs and SnapAV hosted a money grab booth, both of which created notable attendee buzz and more foot traffic for their Hall B neighbors as the show progressed. Next year, I’d like to see a company like Crestron serve as an “anchor” in Hall B, much like they were in an secondary hall at InfoComm earlier in the year. I’d be willing to bet that with the proper incentive, this deal could happen.

Some of the product stories, which I will cover in greater depth next month and on our website, included the biggest launches ever from industry leaders, like Crestron, Lutron, and SpeakerCraft, and cool retrofit products from both NuVo and Russound that are ready to ship. The premiere of a new company from the owners of Sonance, called TRUFIG, was also noteworthy for its creative re-thinking of simple wallplates and electrical outlet frames, and beautiful new products from all of the video display manufacturers showed that those companies now have another story to tell with both 3D and LED backlight technology.

It’s still an exciting time to be a member of the CEDIA channel. We’re an industry in transition, and we should not sweat the silly stuff like which city plays host to our annual trade show.