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With ISE London now closed, the industry looks ahead to 2022 and a full Barcelona show – Covid permitting

Now that Battersea's Evolution regional event has closed, after leading brands from the pro AV and systems integration world had showcased their latest solutions, industry experts look at the past, present and future of ISE

Now that the two-day regional ISE@London event – which took place at Evolution in Battersea, London – has slammed its doors, we look back on recent comments from the industry on the past, present and future of ISE.

2021 was never going to be an easy year for ISE, and following the cancellation of two of the regional shows it’s fair to say that many of us were looking past this year to 2022 and a true return to normality. But whilst 2021 will always be remembered as the false inaugural Barcelona, ISE’s star still shines brightly and the AV industry is largely supportive of how Integrated Systems Events handled what was an impossible situation.

editor Rob Lane recently spoke to the following industry alumni on the past, present and future of the event: Jeff Hastings (JH), CEO at BrightSign; Nicki Fisher (NF), director of sales, EMEA, Clear-Com; David Claringbold (DC), d&b CMO; Craig Storey (CS), sales director UK & Ireland at Lightware Visual Engineering UK & Ireland; Kim Franklin (KF), vice president of marketing at Listen Technologies; Marc Risby (MR), Boxer Systems’ managing director; Nancy Knowlton (NK), Nureva CEO; Rainer Sprinzl (RS), managing director DACH at Exertis Pro AV (formerly COMM-TEC); David Charbit (DC [SB]), business development manager, EMEA, ScreenBeam ; Ian Aitken (IA), Exertis Pro AV UK director; and Cecilia Wills (CW), UK country manager at Matrox Video.

What is your first memory of ISE, and what year did you first attend/exhibit?
JH BrightSign first exhibited at ISE in 2010. My first memory was showing up for ISE 2010 where we had a booth in that small area in the middle of the hall. We had a super small booth, maybe 3 meters by 6 meters. Our booth was a modular booth that was not built to hold monitors so we were using 32″ monitors. Only 4 could be held on the wall. For days we had small amounts of people come by and they were constantly asking us “who are you?” and “what do you do?” The memory of those four long days with just a few people coming by sure makes me appreciate how far we’ve come!

NF My first ISE with Clear-Com was in 2015, this was just around the time that we introduced the Award Winning Clear-Com FSII Wireless product to the market. Photos show myself and our customer from South Africa confirming it’s outstanding coverage across the entire show floor.

DC The first ISE I attended was as a customer when I was Technical Director for the Sydney Opera House, I am guessing this was probably 2008/2009My first ISE on the manufacturer side was with d&b in 2016. My memory of the show is that it is a huge and dynamic show that perfectly reflects the trends in the market for integrated solutions. ISE also reminded me of what a beautiful city Amsterdam is. At the last ISE in 2020, I got the opportunity to visit my son who now lives there, so that’s also pretty memorable.

CS I have been fortunate enough to attend ISE as an End User, Systems Integrator and as an Exhibitor since my first show back in 2009.

KF I first attended ISE in 2015, but Listen Technologies has been participating for close to 15 years. My first memory is how spread out the event is and how many attendees it attracts, it has always been a great event for us.

MR I first attended about 8 years ago and remember being caught out by things being in a different physical locations from IBC which I had been attending for 20 years. It felt like a more ordered, focused show with more people wearing ties!

NK I remember the first year that ISE was proposed. At the time, we had been involved in the mega shows like CeBIT in Hannover, and we thought that the concept of an AV show in Europe was “interesting.” Our channel was excited about the prospect of the show, and so were we. But we didn’t dive in and attend with a stand right away.

I first attended ISE in 2009, and I was impressed – impressed with the vendors who were there and who felt that ISE was becoming an integral part of their global plans and with the conversations we participated in. After 2009, I attended regularly.

RS When ISE 2004 was held in Geneva, Switzerland, for the first time, we attended the event as visitors. The fair was small, clear and familiar. At that time, it was not yet clear that ISE would develop into the leading trade fair for the AV industry in Europe with more than 80,000 visitors every year. In 2005, ISE moved to Amsterdam to the RAI halls. Already at that time we exhibited with our own stand and presented our solutions to the AV audience. From then on, we have exhibited at ISE every year and have accompanied its growth, which of course also had a positive effect on COMM-TEC’s development and as it is now known, Exertis Pro AV.

DC (SB) I attended my first ISE 8 years ago. I was amazed by the quality of the attendees to the show. People from all over the world with different expertise and more importantly, different viewpoints on overall solutions. Also seeing how such a large show can adapt easily to integrate new divisions is impressive. For example, the UCC category was nonexistent several years ago and now it has a whole dedicated area.

IA Wow, I need to really search through the memory banks for this! I think I attended for the first time around 11 years ago. Although it has only been over the last couple of years that Exertis has had a stand at the event. My first memories of ISE are rather hazy to be honest, I very clearly remember the excitement on the flight out and how dreadful I felt on the flight home after 4 days of heavy “networking”!!

CW Thinking back through the mists of time, Matrox’s first presence at ISE was in 2008. My earliest stand-out memory was from the 2009 event when a snowstorm caused most flights from the UK to Amsterdam to be severely delayed or cancelled. All our employees were stranded back in various UK airports and arrived a day late to the show resulting in one lone product manager having to do the stand build-up all on his own after a long flight over from Montreal—and after having lost his wallet in transit! Despite the adversity in ’09, we have never missed an ISE since, and the episode still makes for amusing ‘do you remember when…’ conversations more than a decade later.

What’s your favourite aspect of ISE (fine to say the end-of-day cocktails!)
JH There are really two things, and it’s impossible to pick one. I love meeting with and catching up with partners and customers from around the world that we typically may only see in person during this one show each year. But of course, making acquaintance with new potential customers and partners is why we are there. ISE has been a great source of global leads for over a decade now.

NF In recent years, I have really enjoyed attending the Women in AV support events, as this has created an opportunity to network and meet new people entering the industry. As an outsider myself from the Broadcast industry, this provided a forum to engage with an entire new group of industry professionals. I also appreciate the “end of the day” events that are a great opportunity to relax, network and catch up on the vibes of the show with customers and suppliers from the industry whilst enjoying a cocktail or three!

DC It’s difficult to pinpoint one aspect of ISE that I’d consider my favorite. I look forward to the show each year and always find it vibrant, diverse and most importantly, future focused. Naturally, the show has evolved over the years but it still represents our industry and the fully integrated solutions that customers are looking for in AV/IC. This, along with many other aspects makes it highly appealing for global manufacturers and customers.

CS As an exhibitor, I absolutely love the back-to-back meetings on the stand and the constant excitement to overview the latest and greatest products. It makes the aching feet at the end of the day all worthwhile!

KF Seeing and connecting with our partners and friends in the AV industry and drinking coffee in Europe.

MR It’s a well supported show by vendors and customers and it’s possible to achieve so much in a short time by directly engaging with the right people on all sides of the conversation.

NK The people connections at ISE are the best part for me. These connections run the gamut from channel to end users to media and simply friends. We have used the show for channel meetings, breakfasts, lunch, dinner and drinks.

RS Over the time, ISE has become an institution. For us, it was the industry meeting point every year. Welcoming customers and potential customers to our stand and of course the get-together at our stand on the 2nd day of the fair was the most favourite aspect for us.

DC (SB) Definitely the energy of the show. While meetings during the show’s hours are essential, there’s a lot happening after the show closes for the day. Amsterdam was a great location for after-hours meetings and spending time with colleagues. Barcelona will be great as well and I am looking forward to the next in-person ISE.

IA The event itself is great to attend in order to see all of the major vendors products, in the same place at the same time. It is always a great barometer of industry trends and helps us as a distributor to ensure we are aligned with the market. What I really enjoy is wandering around the small halls trying to find the next gem, the next big product or vendor.

CW It has to be the people aspect of it. Meeting colleagues from all over the world, and of course, most importantly, our customers—old friends and new acquaintances alike. It really is the one time of the year when the whole industry is under one roof for a few days: being a time for catching up and fun while also showcasing all of our latest encoder, decoder, IP KVM, and video wall products and technologies in one place. It is also one of the most important lead-generating activities of the year.

How do you feel ISE compares with other trade shows in the same / similar sector?
JH ISE doesn’t compare to any other shows that BrightSign does. InfoComm is our biggest and best show in the U.S., and given around 2/3 of BrightSign sales come from N. America, it is a great show for us. However, ISE has that International turn out that’s important for our business as we grow.

NF ISE offers a great basis for anyone involved in AV Systems business but in reality, it attracts huge diversity of professionals from multiple industries and market applications. One minute, I can be talking to a touring events company and then the very next to a command-and-control centre operations manager, all looking to use real time communications in many different ways. There are always new and exciting projects that are facilitated at ISE ensuring a worthy return on investment for exhibitors.

DC All trade shows address a specific need, whether that be market-wide or regional. It is difficult to compare trade shows, but instead it’s best to enjoy them for what they are as we invest in each show for a specific purpose. ISE in particular has helped formulate the systems integration industry and allows for increased collaboration across a wide range of technologies.

At d&b, we look at ISE as a great opportunity for our team to connect with the global AV industry, showcase our latest technology, and to meet and keep up with the changing needs of global integrators.

CS There are none that compare or even come close to ISE.

KF  I think ISE is very well-organized, from the venues/locations to the time of year and sessions, ISE is one of our best events every year.

MR People seem to have a more specific focus at ISE over say IBC. Customers are far more willing to book a specific meeting time and keep it.

NK ISE has eclipsed its parents – InfoComm and CEDIA – in attendance and importance. The timing for ISE at the beginning of the year gives it an automatic leg up on shows occurring later in the year. This timing really is optimal in our view for new product announcements.

RS There is no comparable event to ISE for the AV industry in Europe.  If you look across the ocean, there is INFOCOM with a similar concept and similar success for the US market.

DC (SB) ISE is unique. There are no other shows that equal its size or it’s draw of key players in the AV industry. It is the one show that you must attend to keep up to date on new technologies and trends.

IA I think that ISE has become the benchmark. It is natural to compare it to Infocomm in the US, which in itself is a great event, but I think that over recent years ISE has become the industry leader more especially for EU based businesses.

Opinions on how the show is run (this year aside!): venue/s, size, signage at the event, hospitality at the event, timing, mix of pro and residential AV, etc?
JH The only complaint I ever got was about how cold the hall was, and it looks like that’s all taken care of with the move to Barcelona!

DC The show has always been very well run, especially given the pace of growth it has seen in recent years. It really provides a unique opportunity for the global stakeholders in the business to come together and reconnect and is a breeding ground for new innovative ideas and technology.

CS I feel ISE learns from every single year and returns even bigger and better year after year and I suspect 2022 will be a fantastic event with everyone so keen to get back to BAU.

KF I don’t venture beyond the professional AV halls. The exhibit halls are really spread out but  the signage seems to be clear.

MR ISE definitely always feels like a well-run show and it the broad mix of product types and markets is part of it’s appeal, particularly as markets evolve and cross over.

NK Our experience with ISE has been very positive. Show management does an excellent job on so many fronts – timing, events, attendees, etc.

It has been frustrating being a new and smaller exhibitor to get a good space. We understand the priority system and how companies build up their points, but that has limited our ability to get into the hall that we have wanted and the space that would work well for us.

RS ISE has always been very well organised, and the organisers have done a very good job of providing the best possible support and service to exhibitors and visitors. The trade fair has grown with the industry over time and has always taken on board the current topics of the day, thus developing the event further. It is also important to mention the active marketing and the consistently implemented visitor marketing to ensure that the fair is well attended.  The fair in Amsterdam always had a familiar character with an international reputation.

DC (SB) The organisation and execution overall have been very good, but like all major tradeshows the key drawback is hospitality partners taking advantage of the peak season during the show with high pricing.

Also, having more centralised space will, I hope, make the walk around the show floor easier as walking from one booth to another was sometimes quite long and challenging.

IA As mentioned, it has been clear for a while that ISE was outgrowing the RAI. The event was physically spilling out of all the main halls and catering for such a large number of people was an increasing challenge. One thing I would say is that it was almost impossible to hold customer meetings at the RAI and equally difficult to get food! This needs to be looked at for Barcelona as ISE is not just a trade event but a wonderful networking event. We need more space to make the most of this.

Thoughts on how Integrated Systems Events handled this year’s difficult situation? Was the move to June too premature? Should it have moved to Sept? What you feel about the regional shows? How things were communicated, etc?
JH Given the fact that we all want to move back to a normal February gathering at ISE, I think the move to June was the best shot possible at getting back to the annual February schedule and routine. Looks like we’ll be able to take advantage of two out of the four planned locations, so that’s not bad. We look forward to exhibiting in Barcelona and London. While regional shows make sense during a year when travel is restricted, but one big show in February is what we’re all aiming for.

NF It’s always much easier to use hindsight and advise how you would have handled the situation differently, often for political gain. However, being in the centre of a pandemic is something that very few of us could have imagined. With situations changing daily, multiple waves and variants arising, the last person that I’d want to would be a show organiser in 2020 or 2021! Regional shows seems like a sensible approach from a virus perspective however from an exhibitors perspective, it is almost certainly a costly one and a logistical nightmare. Moving the show to September for those covering the Broadcast industry with IBC, is also not a good choice. I think we should now focus on what it will take to see a phenomenal ISE 2022 in it’s new home of Barcelona.

DC It’s a very difficult time to try and plan anything with any assurance and the team at ISE have had to handle many moving parts. From d&b’s perspective they have handled everything extremely well given the circumstances, our relationship with the team and the transparency of information they have provided has been first class.

CS Personally I feel ISE have done what they can, when they can, when information allows them to make a decision. It has been a difficult situation for everyone and I personally look forward to an in-person well attended event and have my fingers crossed 2022 will deliver this.

KF I think the move to June was premature and really prevents U.S.-centric companies from attending. The virtual event and smaller roadshows aren’t the same, and again, they are hard to participate in as a company based in the United States. Communication was fine, I just think ISE should have been postponed to September to allow more participation from companies and attendees outside of Europe.

MR It was indeed a difficult situation and one that evolved quickly so I have nothing but sympathy for the organisers when making decisions. In retrospect June was premature but in my mind September will be too. We are dealing with a global pandemic, company travel policies and many nervous people. Under the banner of ‘we’re not safe until we are all safe’ and considering the international nature of a show like this, regional, agile shows make more sense until we have clarity on the global situation.

NK ISE management was in an impossible situation this year. There were many starts and stops to their plans and communications, but we felt at all times that they were trying their best in a very changeable world.

Our early assessment was that June in Barcelona wouldn’t happen due to low levels of vaccination, high rates of infection and sentiment around safety. Everything pointed to September or October as being much more viable.

We really wanted to do the regional shows proposed for June, so when that idea was first floated, we reached out to a variety of people (staff and channel) to get their insights and perspectives. Unfortunately, no one gave us the raving enthusiasm for an in-person event that we felt we needed. I hope that they will be successful even though we won’t be there.

RS 2020 and 2021 were a great challenge for everyone. Making the right decision early on that meets all the requirements is a difficult task. We think it was the right approach to plan with healthy optimism and realism in the first step and to move the event to June. The alternative solution of the planned roadshow was also a very positive step and an important statement for the industry. Unfortunately, the situation for both options has changed again due to Covid, which could not have been planned in this way.  We hope that the situation will ease again and look optimistically into the future.

DC (SB) With ISE 2022 happening in February, we understand that there is limited time to select without making each event too close together. However, a June date may have been a bit ambitious even for regional events. Europe’s vaccine rollout and approach to the pandemic has not created the best environment for live events. Going virtual with ISE Digital for 2021 is the best option which is how we will be participating this year.

How do you see the future of ISE? It gets bigger year on year (hence the move to Barcelona), but do you see this continuing?

Moving to a bigger venue will certainly address many of the issues we’ve seen from being in a facility too small to accommodate ISE, but the show should not expand limitlessly in size or duration. It’s already a very physical event for both attendees and exhibitors.

IA I think that to even suggest that ISE could have gone ahead in June was premature, the call should have been made early not to do the event this year but make 2022 the biggest and best ISE ever. I think that this would have been a more proactive move. I am not a big fan of the regional shows, it is impossible to create the same impact as the main event. I would like to see Oasis at Wembley stadium not at my local pub- I am sure I would still enjoy it, but it wouldn’t be the same.

How do you see the future of ISE? It gets bigger year on year (hence the move to Barcelona), but do you see this continuing?
JH It should! It doesn’t really feel like ISE has a competitor at the same level.

NF AV systems are everywhere and growing in our lives throughout the pandemic, so I have no reason to believe that ISE will not continue to grow too. Technology continues to advance at a rapid rate, and we must continue to adapt to disruptive change in our lives and how we work. Barcelona should provide the opportunity for that growth, diversity and also sustainability to create an even better future for the industry that we all extremely proud to be part of.

DC ISE is an important meeting place for the entire industry. I see the future of ISE in the same way I see the future of our industry- dynamic, inspiring and full of opportunity. There is a natural growth scale at which any experience is diminished but I think ISE has plenty of scope for growth while still ensuring that the experience of attending and investing in the show is worthwhile and feels personal.

CS The industry continues to grow, and therefore attendance will alongside this. Long may that continue!

KF I would think it will level out eventually, any bigger and it is difficult as a company to stay top of mind for our customers and partners, too big becomes a distraction.

MR We ‘ve had some time without shows and there are huge shifts in how people work on the horizon. I think regional, smaller shows may be more important in the short term.

NK It’s always tempting to assume that things will continue on the trajectory that they are on. It is still early to tell if some of the changes that have occurred during COVID will be transitory or more permanent.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dip in in-person attendance in 2022, particularly if the show is structured as a single large event. The smaller regional events may be more appealing for some time.

RS ISE is growing from year to year in terms of exhibitors and visitors, which is also the reason for the move to Barcelona. In our opinion, ISE does not need to continue to grow to this extent. The question is rather in which direction ISE will continue to develop. An important approach here would be to develop the industry meeting place further in the direction of Pro AV / IT and to steer growth via the IT sector. The two sectors and markets cannot be separated from each other.

An adaptation of the format of the event is also conceivable and, in some respects, necessary due to this enormous step in digitalisation during the pandemic. The future will lie in hybrid events – a mixture of face-to-face events with an online component via remote participation.

IA I see the whole world of AV changing, the tech moving forward and therefore the vendor list that would be interested in ISE expanding further. I think it is inevitable that trends born out of the pandemic will spurn new opportunities for AV.

Anything else about ISE that you’d change if you had a magic wand (and the keys to Mike Blackman’s desk!)?
NF The ISE points-based system for rebooking has always been a point of contention and could do with a refresh. Specifically, the support given to new entrants to the market and small business that would like to attend and provide their support without feeling they have limited or no choice at all.

DC Overall, ISE has always been hugely successful for d&b and our booth and demonstration room have seen a massive increase in foot traffic year on year, meaning we are always looking for a bigger space to accommodate us. I’d love to discuss the points system and how the investment in demo rooms by pro audio companies could be included in the calculation. I’d also love to see more space on site be designated to demo rooms, they are such a valuable aspect of the show for our customers and must be prioritised.

CS A magic lotion for sore feet, a pill that stops hangovers! All joking aside, I think ISE do a fantastic job providing exhibitors with a superb platform to showcase their products and services, and for attendees to soak in as much information as possible whilst at the show.

MR I’ve never been a fan of February.

NK I would really like to see ISE become a global show instead of largely European. That would mean having more attendees from North America.

RS As a distributor, we represent manufacturers in all possible areas. Therefore, the right positioning in the halls near to our industry partners is very important. In this respect, the division of the fair according to themes and market fields is a very important aspect.

DC (SB) More spaces for booths at a cheaper rate! Budgets are tight and coming off of the pandemic, will present more challenges than ever. We know the value that in-person events offer but must balance all of the elements involved.

IA I was going to suggest moving it to a warmer month than Feb, but this has been taken care of!

Thoughts on the move from Amsterdam to Barcelona (that we’ll all look fwd to hopefully fully enjoying in 2022!)
JH We support AVIXA in moving if more space is needed, which it clearly was from what we saw at the RAI in 2020. Wow, did we all really go to the RAI in Feb. 2020? It’s hard to believe that we were all feeling pretty foot loose and fancy free only just over a year ago. Here’s to hoping our industry will be that way again in 2022 so we can fully enjoy Barcelona.

NF Attending Amsterdam twice per year, once for ISE and again for IBC very much creates a “Déjà vu” so I was personally looking forward to the change of scenery and culture that Barcelona brings to the party. ISE 2020 may have been the last show that many of us attended but it’s also very possible that ISE 2022 may be the first exhibition where the industry returns some sense of normality!

DC Both Barcelona and Amsterdam are fantastic cities with great infrastructure and amenities, and this adds to the overall alchemy of business and networking that makes a great trade event. The move to Barcelona will allow the show to expand further and will be a nice change for us all. d&b has a regional office in Barcelona so we will support the event in 2021 and look forward to returning to Barcelona in full force in 2022. We can’t wait to see all of our friends, customers and colleagues in person again. Our industry is weathering a huge storm, I am sure we will all have a lot to share once we can gather together again.

CS I personally cannot wait for Barcelona. I loved Amsterdam, it was a great show and a great location but I hope for a slightly warmer climate!

KF  I will forever have a place in my heart for Amsterdam and will miss the excitement and energy, but am looking forward to Barcelona as I know ISE simply outgrew Amsterdam and seemed very spread out.

MR The jury’s out from my side right now. I’ve done events in Barcelona and the hotel and transport infrastructure are less straightforward than in Amsterdam especially since the Metro opened. That said, there’s no doubt that the weather will be better in Barcelona!

NK Changing from one venue to another always carries an element of risk. We understand the reasons why show management has made this decision, and clearly, Barcelona has a wonderful venue and great reputation. We are concerned that people who would have driven or taken the train to Amsterdam and who have to fly to Barcelona will not attend. Only time will tell.

The size of the venue will allow for more companies to be located close to each other, which is important for end users as they want to make the best use of their time as they consider competitive options.

RS With the move from Amsterdam to Barcelona, the catchment area for visitors will change. The proximity and also the logistical connection to Amsterdam has made it easy to exhibit and to be there as a visitor. Certainly, the aspect of “habit” also plays a role here. Nevertheless, ISE will in future be held at a modern, spacious and international trade fair location, where other leading trade fairs such as the Mobile World Congress are also located. For the new logistical requirements, the organisers of ISE have done an enormous amount of work to make the transition as smooth as possible.

We look forward to this new venue and new era of ISE and hope that we can all enjoy again in 2022 – and not only because of the better weather conditions in February.

DC (SB) As I mentioned previously, Amsterdam was an amazing city for the show but moving to Barcelona is a great change. The Fira convention center is known to be one of the great convention venues in Europe, more space and located in one of the most attractive cities in Europe. Looking forward to a bigger and better laid out venue, plus an updated night life in Barcelona.

IA One thing this will mean is the need to pack a lighter suitcase! My goodness Amsterdam can get cold in February. I remember one-year walking back to my hotel along a frozen canal! ISE has grown exponentially, and it was clear from a few years back that a larger venue would be required. Barcelona is a perfect location in my view, a great exhibition centre with excellent transport links and the City itself isn’t too shabby for a night out!

CW The RAI has served ISE and its exhibitors and visitors well for over a decade, and I believe many people have lots of fond memories from the shows in Amsterdam—and perhaps even a teary eye at the thought of no more ISE events there. But things move on, and Barcelona is another visitor-friendly city used to hosting big shows. Sometimes it is important to re-energise a show before it starts to wane, so I think this is a good move. We look forward to many more successful shows and new memories being made in the Catalonian capital, and lots of tapas!

Anything else you’d like to add about ISE that I may have missed?
MR I like show days that begin at 10am.

ISE needs to be more than just a single point in time, and some of the virtual activities that ISE started this year should be retained, even after in-person events start up again.

IA No – just that I can’t wait until next year and to make up for two years of the show that I have personally missed.

Leading brands from the pro AV and systems integration world were showcasing their latest solutions in London over the last two days, alongside a two-day content programme on the main stage – which included a speaking contribution from James Kirby, pro audio analyst at Futuresource Consulting, where he presented highlights from Pro Audio in AV: Emerging from a Pandemic, an article in Installation’s Pro AV Technology Outlook report. An extensive set of anti-Covid measures are in place to create a healthy and safe environment for attendees, exhibitors and venue staff.

You can check out a video interview with James here and download the full Pro AV Technology Outlook report here. Full details of all the events on the main stage can be viewed here.