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Reflecting on ISE 2021, with Mike Blackman

As part of Installation's review of this year's ISE events in Barcelona and London, plus the ISE Live & Online digital component, we speak to Integrated Systems Events MD, Mike Blackman to discuss attendance, feedback, and what we've learned for future events

How do you think the two ISE in-person events went, logistically and in terms of exhibitor involvement and footfall?

We were very happy with how both events turned out. The Barcelona event in particular was very successful in helping us to build and strengthen relationships with government agencies and industry bodies in Catalonia and further afield. In Barcelona we had a number of Spanish companies exhibiting with us for the first time and presenting Spanish-language sessions to their peers.

There was a wonderful atmosphere at both Barcelona and London. They were both among the first live events to be held at their respective venues for many months, and it was great to be able to demonstrate to the industry and the wider world that successful face-to-face events can be held against a background of social distancing and face masks. The overriding sentiment from exhibitors and visitors was gratitude for making these events possible.

What about ISE Digital: how did it go and what’s the feedback been like?

With ISE Digital, we’ve created something completely new for the industry in a short space of time. It’s been very well received by the industry, both during the event itself (on 1-2 June, complementing our show in Barcelona) and afterwards; the platform remains open till the end of the year, and we’ll be adding content from London shortly.

We had excellent feedback from the industry, particularly for our virtual studio technology.

Would you have done anything different with regard to either show, and are you happy that the correct decisions were made with regard to cancellations, etc?

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve tried to make the best decisions based on the information that was available at the time. The first change to our plans was to move ISE 2021 from February to June, but we also promised to advise our exhibitors of any further change by the end of March, as this was when they would start to incur significant costs in preparation for a big ISE. It was then that we announced our move to a regional show model for June, but we didn’t want to compel any of our customers to take part, so everyone who wanted to cancel was offered a full refund, or a full credit towards ISE 2022. By doing this, we’ve kept our customers on our side, and the wisdom of that approach has been demonstrated by the significantly increased amount of space that we have already sold for next year to our existing exhibitors.

What takeaways are likely to influence future ISEs; for instance ISE Digital’s involvement, possibilities of regional break-out events, etc? And any general findings from this year that you can use going forward?

I’ve been saying for months that all trade shows need to have a digital component from now on; not just while pandemic restrictions are in place, but permanently. A digital platform doesn’t deliver what a face-to-face event can, but it can broaden access to your event and help you to keep the customer conversation going beyond the timespan of a physical show. We’re currently working on exactly what we want the digital component of ISE 2022 to look like.

The Spanish-language sessions that AVIXA organised in Barcelona were the best attended at the show, so another takeaway is that we need to put greater amount of focus onto Spanish (or even Catalan) content at ISE 2022.

Also, the Spanish media don’t seem very keen on attending press conferences at breakfast time! I think we will have to adjust the timing of our opening press conference next year.

Any other thoughts about 2021?

We always knew that our ISE Live & Online events would just offer a taster of the full ISE experience. But we’ve sent out a signal to the pro AV markets in Spain, the UK and elsewhere that people are ready to learn, network and do business at ISE once again.