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Q&A: Mike Blackman, Integrated Systems Events

Mike Blackman, managing director of show organiser Integrated Systems Events, talks to the ISE e-daily on the eve of ISE 2011.

How do you feel the day before the show compared with this day in previous years?

It’s interesting – every year the build-up seems to get more relaxed! Our exhibitors are a lot of the same companies, they’re used to the venue, they use the same contractors, so all the build-up and preparation get done pretty quickly. We get less questions – our team are out on the floor, and we try to make customer service the high point of what we do, making ourselves very visible during the build-up period.

You have a record 715 exhibitors this year. How is the exhibitor profile changing?

We have 152 new exhibitors this year. Our exhibitors come from a myriad of countries, but around 60% come from the UK, Germany, the Benelux region, USA or China – we have a lot of new exhibitors from China this year.

We’re seeing pro audio growing substantially at the show now. The numbers of manufacturers and the size of space they’re taking have been gradually increasing each year; now there are very few companies that are missing. We’re seeing d&b audiotechnik and Funktion One showing here for the first time, and the AVnu Alliance is also showing in a big way here.

We’ve seen major growth in digital signage as well. You’ll see more digital signage solutions at ISE than at any other show in Europe. If we only look at the dedicated digital signage area of ISE, it is the largest digital signage exhibition in Europe. When we add all the display companies, such as Sharp and LG, who are not in that area, then there’s no comparison.

How are visitor numbers looking?

As of now [Monday morning] we have 28,770 pre-registered attendees, so we’re already higher than the 28,489 total attendance last year. We anticipate that we’ll get to around 30,000 pre-registered by the close today, and on the first day of the show 2,000 new registrations, another 1,000 or so on the second day… if you were a guessing man, you would probably say we’re going to be at around 34,000-35,000.

That reflects on the marketing effort – there have been a lot of new initiatives this year. We’re using social media extensively for the first time – we have nearly 5,000 regular users of our Facebook page, for example, and we’ve established links with 40 or 50 new media partners. We expect to have 330 registered press, which will be over 20% up on last year.

More importantly, people are coming and being satisfied with what they see. This is no longer a one-day show – we’ve come a long way from our first show in Geneva [in 2004], where we were a tenth of the size in both square footage and attendees. We’ve seen massive growth on both sides.