AV Technology Europe caught up with ISE MD Mike Blackman, ahead of the show’s final outing in Amsterdam.
What are your expectations for the final ISE in Amsterdam?
It’s going to be bigger and better than ever. I know I say that every year, but somehow we always manage it. We’ve got what promises to be a fascinating Opening Address from Duncan Wardle, formerly of Disney, about untapping the innate creativity within your business. We have our biggest-ever professional development programme, supported by our co-owners AVIXA and CEDIA, with no fewer than 13 conferences. We’re organising a projection mapping extravaganza on the façade of the RAI’s Elicium building, and we’ve got a great ‘VR at ISE’ feature in Hall 14. We’re also holding a special event on the last day, called ‘¡Hola Barcelona!’ which will look ahead to ISE 2021 but will also give us the opportunity to say ‘goodbye and thank you’ to Amsterdam and the RAI.
Why do you think end user attendance has grown so much in recent years?
I think there are two factors, each feeding off the other. End users have become much more knowledgeable about audiovisual technology and have greater involvement in choosing the solutions they are going to be working with. At the same time, manufacturers have become more interested in talking directly to end users, either to promote their technology generally or to make end users aware of solutions that their integrator might not be putting forward to them. Both indicate a maturing of the AV systems integration marketplace.
How are you catering for this growing demand at the 2020 edition?
The growing end-user attendance is the main reason why we are continually expanding our conference programme. I mentioned that we have 13 conferences at ISE 2020 – that compares with 10 last year. Among the new ones are the Control Rooms Summit on the Tuesday – which has the title ‘How better integrated AV will save and protect lives’; and the CEDIA Cybersecurity Workshop on the Monday. Although CEDIA is the association for residential AV integrators, this particular event is just as valid for those in commercial AV.
On the show floor, we’ve managed to make some additional space available by making the extension to Hall 5 larger and permanent. But the lack of growing room at the RAI is the main reason why we are moving to the Fira – Gran Via in Barcelona in 2021.
What feedback have you had to the move to Barcelona?
People are very excited. When we were researching where the show might move to, we polled some of our exhibitors and attendees about various aspects of some of the cities we were looking at. Barcelona came out as the favourite for hotels and dining.
The Fira is a modern, open venue, which should make build-up and breakdown logistics much simpler. And no-one is going to miss the chill February winds of Amsterdam blowing through the halls during show build-up!
Do you think the geographic breakdown of AV professionals attending will change considerably with the relocation?
It will, to some extent. There are some attendees from the Benelux region and from parts of Germany who drive to Amsterdam for the day to attend ISE – I would be surprised if we managed to persuade all of them to get on a plane to Barcelona. But on the flipside of that, I’d expect a greater proportion of attendees from Spain and Portugal.
Outside of work, how do you like to spend your time?
I love the outdoor life. I like driving motorbikes and old cars, and I also enjoy golf, skiing, snowboarding and skateboarding. In my youth I was a skiing instructor in Austria and Switzerland, and I’ve kept up my winter sports. Recently a long-standing colleague noticed I was walking a little awkwardly, and I explained I’d fallen off my skateboard. His reply? “Serves you right!”
Finally, tell us something about yourself that may surprise people…
I’m a big Harley-Davidson fan. I used to organise all their events in Europe, and I’ve ridden right across Europe and into Africa on a Harley – as far north as Scotland and Norway, and as far south as Casablanca.