Record numbers of exhibitors and attendees, a euphoric show-floor atmosphere and unprecedented levels of interest in next year's event are among the key themes of Integrated Systems Europe 2008.
A total of 22,199 attendees (up from 16,269 in 2007) were drawn to 481 exhibiting companies (up from 363 last year) during three hectic and, at times, breathtaking days inside Amsterdam's RAI Convention Centre at the end of January. If anyone in Europe's AV and electronic systems integration business doubted that ISE was the premier event for their business, then the 2008 edition must surely have silenced them.
Huge crowds gathered at the main entrance to the RAI on the opening morning - so much so that the traditional tape-cutting ceremony had to be moved to an adjoining area. The show remained busy right up until the afternoon of the third and final day, with record numbers of AV professionals not just visiting the exhibition space, but attending manufacturer training, taking part in education sessions from ISE's two supporting trade associations, InfoComm International® and CEDIA, and enjoying the many after-show social activities, many of which were over-subscribed.
Reflecting on the speed with which ISE has risen to prominence, Mike Blackman, Managing Director of Integrated Systems Events, said, "ISE 2008's exhibition area of 38,500 gross square metres is ten times that of our inaugural show in Geneva - just four short years ago. No other event in our industry can demonstrate that kind of growth, and what is really gratifying is to see that space being filled with professional visitors, many of whom have come to ISE for the first time."
After the 2007 edition of the show, organiser Integrated Systems Events focused its PR and marketing efforts on increasing the proportion of visitors from vertical markets. The figures show this paid off, with 30% of visitors to the 2008 event coming from outside ISE's core constituency of AV integrators and contractors - up from 15% in 2007.
"Architects, interior designers, IT facilities managers, live events organisers... these are the people who will help to grow our industry in the years to come, and that's why we are so pleased to have brought so many of them to ISE in 2008," said Blackman. "What is especially pleasing is the fact that so many exhibitors designed their stands to give them extra appeal to this ‘non-AV' audience. Some of the exhibits were simply stunning."
Also broadening markedly is the geographical make-up of ISE's attendee base. Once seen primarily as a show for Northern Europe, ISE now attracts substantial numbers of visitors from across the continent and beyond. Italian attendance was up almost 40% on 2007, while Spain, Portugal, and many East European countries also sent more attendees than ever.
Among exhibitors, the post-show mood was almost universally upbeat. "ISE is the place to be," commented Rainer Stiehl of Extron. "The event has really matured and is now too big to visit in just one day. And it has become far more than just a tradeshow. Education is also very important; this year all our training sessions were full to capacity."
The show's many first-time exhibitors also expressed their satisfaction. "This was our first year at ISE and we are very pleased," said Nick Cottis of Digital Projection. "This show is now attracting global awareness and we felt we couldn't afford not to be here. We were delighted with the volume of visitors to our booth, and the real interest shown in our products."
Visitors were similarly effusive in their praise. "The stunning technologies on display were incredible and just blew me away," said Ann Pickard of Saville Audio Visual. "We came to ISE to maintain relationships with existing suppliers and to seek out new ones. ISE has met our requirements and offered us everything we wanted from the show - and more."
ISE will return to Amsterdam in 2009, in the slightly later time-slot of 3-5 February. Exhibitor rebooking is at record levels, with around 80% of available stand space already taken, as many companies seek to build on their 2008 activity by reserving additional space.
Collaborative conferencing, lighting control, and home automation technologies are all expected to be drivers for expansion in 2009. And, as the worlds of professional AV and entertainment technology increasingly converge, commercial audio looks set be one of the big growth sectors in 2009, just as it was this year.
"ISE is the ideal event for us to grow our business and enhance our presence in the European market," said Simon Bull of Martin Audio. "We like ISE because we meet with real decision-makers - not time-wasters."
Another audio manufacturer, Stuart Craig of Australian Monitor, revealed, "This was our first year at ISE and we are returning in 2009 with a booth twice the size of this year's. Our only disappointment is that we had not attended the show before!"