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EXPO, Part Deux

It was the buzz of the show, but it wasnt a new company launch or revolutionary new product release that had everyone talking at EH Expo (EHX) last month. No, the big news from the Orlando convention was, in fact, that CEDIA had scheduled its own rival springtime trade show to be held April 18-21, 2007 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

The timing of the announcement, which hit BlackBerries and web-phones bright and early on Day 1 of EHX, was as big a topic of conversation as the announcement itself. Its no secret that EHX has been a thorn in the side of CEDIA leadership since its launch seven years ago. After first wishing the upstart competitor would simply go away, CEDIA briefly switched to the if you cant beat em, join em approach. Now, with the addition of its own spring convention, CEDIA is going head-to-head with EHX, letting the market decide which event to support.

Upon hearing the CEDIA news, Ill have to admit to a bit of skepticism myself. I was at first amused at the timing of the announcement, then taken aback by the audacity of the show dates (barely a month after EHX Spring 2007, March 6-10.) Next, I questioned the choice of Las Vegas, not one of my favorite destinations, for the event. Finally, I wondered to myself, Whats the point? Do we really need another trade show?

Many of the manufacturers that I queried during EHX voiced the same reservations. Most admitted that they would have to drop one trade show in 07 to exhibit at the Spring CEDIA EXPO. Most with whom I spoke also frowned at the prospect of returning to Vegas so soon after CES and the Builders Show, and nearly everyone was unclear about the focus of the new CEDIA EXPO.

While CEDIAs press release emphasized that the new trade show is in response to the industrys amazing growth, the real hook for the event will be the co-location of the EXPO with the associations second-annual Electronic Lifestyles Forum. The EL Forum, which successfully launched at the CEDIA Management Conference this past February, is designed to draw the most influential architects, builders, and interior designers from around the country. As EL Forum chairman Utz Baldwin stated in the press release, the forum component of the 2007 event is focused on increasing collaboration among architects, builders, interior designers, and residential electronic systems contractors. By doing so, Baldwin noted that CEDIA is fulfilling its leadership role within the residential electronics systems industry by reaching out to other disciplines and creating profitable relationships for CEDIA members.

The point is that while EHX continues to market its show to the broad middle market, via builders, IT professionals, security installers, and electricians, CEDIA is looking to expand in the other direction by attracting the upper echelon gatekeepers of the design and builder community. Whether or not this will resonate with exhibitors and attendees remains to be seen. Even if it doesnt, CEDIA will probably succeed by virtue of its name and reputation alone.

I think that the more architects, builders, and interior designers recognize the potential of the custom installation channel, the better it is for all of us. If that means yet another trip to Sin City, then so be it.