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Exhibiting At Regional Events

Taking part in local and regional business expositions can yield important payoffs for AV companies, if the events are well selected, and the objectives are clear and realistic.

EACH YEAR, a few huge exhibition facilities around the country fill up with thousands of AV systems integrators, dealers, consultants, and other professionals. They're visiting InfoComm, the NSCA Systems Integration Expo, the NAB show, or some other event to shop for the latest technologies, products, and marketing ideas.

At least some of these expo visitors, though, also get to experience “the shoe on the other foot,” when they select smaller regional or local exhibitions in which to participate as exhibitors. Instead of shopping, they're selling — promoting their rental, staging, design, installation, and other services to local businesses.

Taking part in local and regional business expositions can yield important payoffs for AV companies, if the events are well selected, and the objectives are clear and realistic.

“I think they're instrumental, and they've been critical to our success,” says Sidney Lissner, president of Sterling, VA-based AV systems integrator Avitecture Inc. (AVWashington), referring to the numerous regional and specialized trade events his company participates in yearly.

Lissner says Avitecture mounts exhibits in “dozens” of events each year, including both shows serving special business niches and others that cover geographic areas. The biggest key to selecting these events, he says, is exclusivity. “We go into specialized shows where we hope we'll be the only purveyor of our kind of products,” he explains.

It's very hard, though, to quantify the payoff from these shows. Return on investment can be very anecdotal, Lissner says. “It's a function of how many people attend a show, and how many stop by our booth, which we've labored to make attractive,” he says.

Complicating the equation further, he adds, is the dominance of the federal government in the greater Washington area. “In other parts of the United States it's pretty easy to track the origin of a purchase order,” he says. “In Washington, it's very difficult.”

At a minimum, Lissner says, a well attended show helps the company expand its mailing lists.

Avitecture's exhibits range from a basic 10- by 10-foot space to a 20-foot square the company devotes to its most productive and important events. In the booth, “we don't show boxes; we show how these boxes are used in the real world,” Lissner says. “We give people a chance to try the equipment, and we show photos of installations. The trick is to show pictures that don't look just like everything else.”

Lorrie Morrow, assistant director of operations at design-build AV systems integration firm Audio Visual Resources (AVR) in Williston Park, NY, was interested in participating in regional business organizations and events, but had a more difficult time identifying which ones were worthwhile.



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