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InfoComm '09 in Orlando: Forget Mickey

to underscore the joining together of InfoComm International's and the National Systems Contractor Association's exhibition efforts. With the merger, AV pros could see, hear, and learn everything new about AV technology under one very big roof. This year, Orlando serves as the host city and the event's status as the one show is unquestioned. And even a battered economy won't be enough to hold it back. So what should AV pros do with their time in Florida? Let's break it down.

Last year, the InfoComm trade show was dubbed "The One Show" to underscore the joining together of InfoComm International's and the National Systems Contractor Association's exhibition efforts. With the merger, AV pros could now see, hear, and learn everything new about AV technology under one very big roof.

This year, Orlando serves as the host city and the event's status as the one show is unquestioned. And even a battered economy won't be enough to hold it back. So what should AV pros do with their time in Florida? Let's break it down.

First, don't forget those comfy trade show shoes because, according to Jason McGraw, InfoComm's senior vice president of expositions, the 2009 show has approximately 115 new exhibitors, over 250 audio exhibits, and more than 200 display companies.

It's expected that 10,000 products will be displayed during the show, with many companies offering new product demos and exclusive training sessions. "Over the years, the InfoComm show has evolved into a horizontal show focused on AV solutions," says McGraw. "According to our attendee survey, the number one reason people come to the show is to see the new products and technology." Pro AV has more than 70 of those InfoComm products in the June 2009 issue.

Industry trends, especially technology trends that can save customers time and money, manifest themselves in special pavilions at the show. "Telepresence and conferencing technology were very hot topics last year. They're still hot for 2009 due to sustainability and green concerns," adds McGraw. "InfoComm 09 has the largest collection of conferencing technology anywhere."

As for the IT influence on the industry (and on this year's show), executive director Randal Lemke, is quick to point out the difference between embracing IT and becoming it. "In 2001, it was the first time our industry saw a projector with Ethernet and the IT influence has only grown from there," he says. "IT is everywhere, but we wouldn't call ourselves an IT show." show."

According to McGraw, "AV is about the beginning and the end of the network. To that end, our education courses address AV and IT issues, but more so with a focus on the applications."

One of the Smart Crowd

AV, with its IT influences, role in green building, integration with lighting and control, and more, remains an industry that's constantly evolving and branching out. That's why even in a down economy, InfoComm draws new and diverse attendees. And it's unique in that is attracts the pros who design and integrate the systems, as well as those who use them.

"The show is a great place for networking and educational opportunities," says Lemke, who chatted with Pro AV as preparations were finalized for InfoComm 09. "There is always a new group coming to the show. This year, 35 percent of attendees are first-timers. In addition, 50 percent of educational sessions are new this year."

Part of the effort to broaden educational offerings is the introduction of advanced, master classes. "There is a need for more advanced courses for people who hold top certifications like the CTS-D or CTS-I," Lemke explains. "They won't necessarily want to take basic courses for their certification renewal."

Lemke says he personally sought out Buford Jones of Meyer Sound to teach the Advanced Mixing master class. Other master class topics include display metrology taught by Joe Miseli of Sun Microsystems; future audio taught by Pat Brown of Syn-Aud-Con; advanced acoustics taught by consultant Steve Thorburn, CTS-D, CTS-I; event lighting taught by Richard Cadena, editor of Projection, Lights and Staging News; and display color management taught by Extron's Steve Somers.

That's not to say there aren't plenty of educational topics for those 35-percent first-timers. In fact, if history if any guide, the first-time attendee usually spends more time in education sessions than on the show floor. "There is always a focus on new technology and we bring in new instructors for a different perspective on topics we've previously covered," Lemke says.

Want five recommendations of classes anyone could learn from? Try these:

¦ Project Management for AV. Taught by Brad Malone of Twin Star Consulting, this course will address specific AV project management needs through instruction and hands-on exercises. The class will use the book "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" as a framework for discussion, facilitation, and practical scenarios. June 14, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¦ Green Building Basics and LEED. Hosted by the Central Florida Chapter of the US Green Building Council, this course will serve as an introduction to USGBC and the LEED Green Building Rating Systems. Topics include the benefits of green building, return on investment, choosing the appropriate rating system, green building tools and resources, and project case studies. June 16, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

¦ Business Executive Symposium. This Super Tuesday event will address critical business issues in a challenging economy. Led by several industry leaders, the seminar will focus on core competencies in finance, accounting and control, employee retention, social media, and project management. It will conclude with Jeff Dietrich of the Institute for Trend Research presenting the "Economic Outlook and the State of the AV Industry." June 16, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

¦ Networking Fundamentals for AV. Taught this year by Edwin Morman, CTS-D, CTS-I, this course will bridge the communication gap between you and the IT department. Pros will learn network configurations, how networks function, and how to set up a basic network for an AV system. Coursework is based on the CompTIA NET+ certification reference manual. June 17, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

¦ Fiber Optic Basics for the Pro AV Market. Taught by Ed Miskovic of Meridian Technologies, the overview class will review various fiber-optic technologies and their capabilities for the audiovisual market, including multimode and single-mode fiber, one-way and bidirectional transmission, and video, audio, and data fiber transport technologies and specifications. June 17, 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

In the Pavilions

Strolling the show floor can be like shopping at Costco: Everything's there and you can browse the aisles until your heart's content. Stopping by one of InfoComm's pavilions is like heading straight to Pep Boys–when you know for sure you need auto supplies. In addition to this year's audio, digital signage, and worship pavilions, check out:

NSCA Electronic Systems. For the second year in a row, this pavilion will feature commercial electronic systems including life safety, data, security, paging, and nurse-call systems. In other words, systems you might not currently install, but could add to your arsenal. The popular NSCA Zone is also found here. Hall A.

Unified Collaborative Conferencing. Showcasing a hot technology category, this pavilion is sponsored by the Interactive Multimedia Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA) and will include solutions in video, audio, data, and web conferencing. It's a good place to really learn how conferencing benefits your customers and why they might be investing in it today. Hall B.

Lighting & Staging. This particular pavilion continues to grow, say InfoComm officials. This year it gets support from Lighting & Sound America and the Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA), and lighting manufacturer Martin Professional becomes the latest major exhibitor. Stop here for products and services for the rental and staging market, concerts, and corporate events–and maybe a little about "green" staging. Hall D.

And When You Think You've Learned It All...

There are always the related conferences that take place during InfoComm, such as the Projection Summit (June 15-16). According to Matt Brennesholtz, senior analyst for Insight Media, which puts on the conference, the Projection Summit is one of the few places where attendees get an overview of the entire projection industry, through exhibits, application presentations, and market research.

"InfoComm sessions may focus on a small niche," says Brennesholtz, "but we offer a broad look."

If the education market is in your wheelhouse, make time for EduComm (June 16-18). New York Times columnist and bestselling author David Pogue returns to provide one of five keynote sessions at this education technology conference. This year there are more than 40 breakout sessions in four tracks, addressing technology issues and best practices.

And don't forget to unwind, too. Heck, the economy stresses out everyone. There's a trifecta June 16 starting with the Manufacturers' Forum (4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Chapin Theatre,) moderated by PRO AV's Brad Grimes, followed by the InfoComm Opening Reception (5:50 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) and NSCA's ExpoJam (7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) in the Valencia Ballroom,

You can support the NSCA Education Foundation at the Industry Charity Concert, featuring the Drunk Unkles, June 17 at B.B. King's Blues Club (9 p.m. to 11 p.m.). The Drunk Unkles is a blues band featuring industry veterans Felix Robinson of AVI-SPL, Steve Emspak of Shen Milsom & Wilke, Marc Hochlerin of Cerami & Associates, Mike Phillips of Hudson Marketing, and Johnny Cardone of Cardone Solomon and Associates. And the price (free!) is right, with passes available at the NSCA Zone.

Finally, InfoComm International will celebrate its 70th birthday throughout the week at Booth #5261. Swing by for refreshments from 2 to 3 p.m. each day, plus social media application demos and an "ask the expert" expert holding court on industry certification.

Think of it: a drink in one hand and a discussion about what makes AV pros indispensable to today's commercial building, remodeling, and rental and staging markets–InfoComm 09 in a nutshell.

Linda Seid Frembes is a freelance AV writer and contributing editor to PRO AV.

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