Truth is, I'm skilfully avoiding talking about InfoComm. I'm not ready. As of this writing, the show is less than 30 days away. There are so many exciting things that will happen at the show. And, unfortunately, I won't be able to write about all of them.
So, how can you up your marketing game and get your pieces published for the show? With over a decade of InfoComm marketing experience, and now being at the helm of SCN and the InfoComm Show Dailies, here is some advice from me to you.
Let me give the standard disclaimer: These are my opinions and mine alone. They don't reflect the opinion of my employer, my co-workers, the InfoComm Show, etc.
Press Releases: Around show time, I'm getting 25+ press releases a day (and that could be a generously low estimate). How do you make your stand out? First and foremost, give me everything I need all at once. Be sure the release includes all the product details and your booth number. Don't forget to include images and the company's social handles. I want to share you news so make it easy for me to tag you on Twitter!
Break down all that product mumbo-jumbo and be sure to give me more than the what. I want to know the why and how. Why does your widget make financial sense? How does your widget make life easier for installers, experience designers, and consultants?
We prefer releases in a Word doc so it's easy to copy and paste all those fun facts. I like to receive multiples images, but please don't embed 10 MB files in an e-mail. Have you ever tried to download a large image using a VPN over hotel WiFi? Yeah...not fun. If you can, use a service like DropBox or Google Drive. Put all of the assets I'll ever need in one place, including the Word doc, contact info, and images. Don't forget to provide captions for the images!
Also, get on The Wire for avnetwork.com. It's a free service that automatically uploads your press releases to avnetwork.com. Also, it's where we dig for stories for the InfoComm Sneak Peeks e-mails.
Need instructions for The Wire? E-mail me: email@example.com.
Social Media: Be sure your social media, especially your Twitter account, is active year-round, not just shortly before the big show. If you haven't tweeted in the last six months, @SCNMag probably isn't following you. We routinely go through and unfollow inactive accounts.
Social media is the perfect free and fun way to engage the industry in thought-provoking conversations, or show off the fun side of your brand (who doesn't love to post a funny situational gif?). Don't forget about Instagram. I sometimes find my next systems snapshot on Instagram when I see a really cool AV installation.
Post plenty of #AVSelfie pics—we want to see you and your staff having fun at the show. And you totally want to be featured in the official #AVSelfie video!
Don't forget to use the official hashtag: #InfoComm18
Pre-Show Phone Calls: The latest trend is to get editors on a pre-show call to talk all about the cool technology you'll have at the show. Great, right? For you, maybe. For me, no. On a normal day, I'm busy. Three weeks before the show? Can't eat, can't sleep, can't breathe busy. While I'd love to talk to everyone about their revolutionary product launches, I just simply don't have enough time in the day. I'd much rather have a press release with all the details I need. I'll file it away and pull the info when I'm looking to write about that particular product category.
Free Marketing: Did you know AVIXA offers a ton of free marketing resources for the InfoComm show? If you're not already, you should be taking advantage of these services. Click here to get them: http://www.infocommshow.org/for-exhibitors/free-marketing-support/free-marketing-resources
Don't forget to tell everyone you know about your Exhibitor VIP Code. Attendees will love you for getting them onto the show floor for free. Make it fun and turn it into a contest for your own staff—see who can get the most customers to use your code. Oh, and you can win up to $10,000 off your 2019 booth space if you get the most registrants! Details here: http://www.infocommshow.org/for-exhibitors/free-marketing-support/exhibitor-vip-code-contest
Want more tips like this?
Check out me, Barbara Blaskowsky (aka Queen of AVIXA), Chris Neto, and TIm Albright on the latest episode of AVSocial: #NoPosers
Want to meet me IRL at InfoComm 2018?
Then catch me (and SO many more cool #AVTweeps) at the AV Tweetup.
Wed, June 6
4 - 6 p.m.
LVCC, Room N217
Here it is a month later and I'm STILL thinking about CES. I'm so disappointed and disillusioned with the show. Let's start with something that sparked the conversation: all six CES keynotes were male; five of those males were white. If that's not a slap in the face of diversity, I don't know what is.
I wanted to start this blog with facts and the number of women in tech. But it was SO hard to find any current information, which was scary to me. I'd love to think it's because there's a 50/50 split and it's not an issue...but we all know that's not the case. The closest thing I could find was from a 2016 Girls Who Code report: 26 percent of computing jobs are held by women. For the sake of this conversation, let's assume 26 is also the "magic" number for women in tech.
So if the tech population is 26 percent female, why couldn't CES find ONE female speaker? Just ONE—that would be proportional to the percentage of women in tech. When asked about it, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), who runs CES, had a lackluster and disappointing response: ""This is a global issue—not just within the technology sector—all industries and our society at large can and must do better."
If you ask me, this is a sorry excuse for a huge miss. The way we do better is by actively recruiting and inviting qualified minorities to speak. Believe me, it is not impossible to find a C-Level female executive willing to speak at the largest consumer technology show on the planet. In fact, it's not even hard. Kristin Lemkau, chief marketing officer of JPMorgan Chase, who has spoken at CES herself, drew up her own list of 21 women headliners "in less time than it took to drink coffee."
We can say to ourselves, it's all about recruiting females and minorities to STEM as much as we want. This is only a small part of the solution; most of the time, it's just the default CYA excuse when we're not actively working to recruit diverse populations. To serve the community, we need to work harder to seek out minority groups, whether they're females, people of color, transsexual, disabled, etc.
My friend Alexis LaBrois has a great quote that I steal often "If you can see me, you can be me." When we feature diversity in positions of note, it attracts minorities.
CES has been "apologizing" and making excuses for years with no real movement to becoming a more inclusive environment, especially when it comes to gender.
Want to actually do better? Ban the booth babes. Once again, the CTA has a weak answer to this. The association said each exhibitor "should choose how they want to represent themselves." I'd love to just skip the booths who choose to have scantily-clad females, but it can't be avoided. CES is a professional trade event, not a car show, so why are we putting up with this? It's clear that exhibitors will not stop using booth babes until a professional dress code policy is put in place. Should those exhibitors be held accountable? Yes. But should CES just take the step to stop it? Also yes.
InfoComm, for example, put a professional dress code policy in place, a measure that was actually voted in by its Exhibitor Committee. Why does this matter? Why do I care so much about this? Because when hired females are wearing minimal clothing on the show floor, it sets a precedent that women in booths are just hired talent there to look good. Don't believe me? Ask pretty much any female exhibitor and she'll likely share a story about how she was summarily dismissed because she was attractive and visitors believed her to be just eye-candy.
I feel like I need to sum this up with saying I don't want females and other underrepresented populations in speaking slots just to be .the token minority. I see this a lot on social media—a woman shouldn't be a keynote speaker just to have a female keynote speaker. No, they shouldn't. But we need to represent all minorities, even if that means we have to change our policies and spend an extra few minutes finding someone to fit the bill.
Every year, I look forward to the Women of InfoComm Networking Breakfast. This event gives me a chance to catch up with some of my favorite people in the industry. While I was thrilled to see all these women (and a growing number of men!) in one room, I, sadly, heard several stories of sexism at the show.
I'm not going to repeat these stories as they're not mine to tell. However, I will share with you a personal incident that happened to me at InfoComm 2017. I was working the reception counter at my booth when a man, we'll call him Jake*, came up looking for one of our product managers. I told Jake the team had already departed the show and I would gladly take his card back to them. He asked if there was anyone else he could speak to on this matter. I again repeated that the team had left but I could take the information back to the office for them.
Jake then told me he was going to call Dave* because he was sure Dave, who was not on-site nor involved in tradeshow planning, could direct him to the right person. I again ensured him I knew Dave and there was nobody on-site to speak with. Nevertheless, he made the call. When he couldn't get a hold of Dave, he walked around the booth to find a male booth staffer to ask the same question. That staffer gave him the same response and Jake then left.
Luckily for me, my team all recognized this incident as Jake not wanting to listen to a woman. They were very supportive and all agreed it was inappropriate.
So why am I telling you this story? Because it is not the first, second or even third time I have experienced this at a show. Certain men just do not want to believe I am an authority figure, insisting they speak to a man who must know more. And I'm not the only one. This happens over and over and over again and it needs to stop.
After repeating this story to an executive, he told me "This is 2017 and it makes me sick that we need a woman's group in this day and age." This is the attitude we need to have. We shouldn't have to host special interest groups for women because women should be accepted in this industry as the authority figures they are.
So what can we do to change it?
Keep up with the groups - there's power in numbers and our numbers are growing.
If you see something, say something. Don't let anyone get away with degrading women or treating them as less-than. Speak up and let people know it's not okay.
If you're a woman, keep being the AV Rock Star you are. Get those certifications, win those awards, teach those classes!
If you're a man, join Women of InfoComm and similar groups. We appreciate you showing up and supporting us!
Have you experienced something similar? Leave it in the blog comments.
*I've changed the names in this story .
Well, I've officially made it in the AV World...I got to appear on AV Social! For those of you who don't know, AV Social is a wildly popular marketing podcast focused solely on the audio-visual industry hosted by the lovely Dawn Meade & Kelly Perkins.
On this episode, we talked all about #InfoComm17 and how this is going to be their most innovative show ever, I challenged Barbara Blaskowsky to an #AVSelfie Battle and, oh yeah, SO MUCH FREE BEER! You can check out the podcast here: https://avnation.tv/podcast/avsocial-23-free-beer/
If you're heading to InfoComm and want to attend for free, use code PAV657.
In case you haven't heard...I'm kind of a big deal. I've been appointed Chair of the InfoComm 2017 Steering Committee! #notsohumblebrag
But in all seriousness, this is a huge privilege and I'm honored to be working with InfoComm to create a great show experience. InfoComm is one of my favorite tradeshows every year (yes, even with the hot June weather in Orlando and Vegas). The people who run the show truly care about every attendee and exhibitor's experience. They care so much that they want to hear what you have to say - all exhibitors are invited and encouraged to attend the 2017 Exhibitor Committee Meeting.
We're going to kick things off with a breakfast so you can get to know other exhibitors. At previous meetings, I've found networking is one of the most valuable aspects of the meeting. You'll get to know other exhibitors and bounce ideas off each other. Bonus: if you're in a pinch on the show floor, you can turn to all the new friends you've made for help!
After breakfast, we'll review some show logistics and stats. Sounds boring? WRONG! It's actually really interesting. You'll get the nitty gritty on attendees and hear all the marketing plans for the show. After these meetings, you can take all these new fun facts back to your team and work in-tandem with the InfoComm team on marketing messages.
This meeting is the one time before the show that you get to meet all of the show vendors (I'm talking Freeman, FedEx, etc). I know you've probably met these people via e-mail but seeing their shining faces in person will make a big difference. You can form a personal relationship with them (aka they're totally going to be more willing to help you out in a pinch) and ask them allllllll the questions your little heart desires. Want to know if catering can get you hundreds of In-N-Out burgers? Well, they can't but I did ask this in Vegas last year. Good to know, good to know.
The next part of the meeting is going to be the most exciting for me. This year, we're going to do breakout sessions. This is your chance to get your viewpoint heard! The InfoComm team is STOKED to listen to all of your ideas and have one giant brainstorming session. We're going to chat about all kinds of exhibit-related topics and I, for one, am very much looking forward to this brain dump.
Finally, you get to tour the OCCC. Immensely helpful if you haven't done a show here yet. Helpful even if you have. They're going to review the exhibit hall, meeting spaces and where all those fancy marketing banners you bought will be placed. Wait, you didn't buy a banner yet? Get on it!
We'll end the day with a cocktail reception where you'll get to learn more about other exhibitors (remember, these people are the ones who are going to be your new BFFs come showtime).
For those of you who have been before and thought, eh, this isn't for me, I promise this year is going to be different! And for those of you who have never attended - what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to get involved!
P.S. I forgot to say you get to meet the AWESOME InfoComm team in person. They're beyond helpful and fun be around. And you'll get to meet me...which I already told you is kind of a big deal. :)
Megan A. Dutta