Monday, September 8, 2008

CEDIA EXPO: The Numbers Are In, and the Verdict Is...

CEDIA has officially released data on attendance at this year's Expo, which just wrapped up yesterday. As many expected, attendance was down by about 16%, from 29,000 visitors last year to 25,000 this year. However, CEDIA calls it a "minimal decrease", especially considering the current economic climate. The organization also claims that the number of non-exhibiting attendees was actually up, along with the number of system contractors taking courses.

What it sounds like, then, is that exhibitor numbers were down, because the actual show floor was certainly crowded on any given day of the show. Last year, there was a relatively small room on the lower level that housed maybe about 40 exhibitors showing off their wares in a more intimate setting. This year, that room sadly didn't exist, and many guess that there were just too few exhibitors that showed up. Indeed, it was observed that some companies magically appeared on the main floor on the second day to set up, leading many to believe that they had relocated from that bottom area.

While CEDIA is an important event for the custom A/V industry, it does cost a lot in both time and money to purchase a booth, set it up, fly down a team to man the booth, and then entertain dealers whilst there. Attendees don't have to worry about booth set up or any other costs but a flight, hotel, and meals (and time, of course). So it makes sense that if anyone were going to lay low this year and cut costs in relation to trade shows, it would be the manufacturers.

Nevertheless, CEDIA says that more than 500 companies exhibited at the show, 90 of which were new. While there wasn't one item that caused major buzz, there were a handful that really caught the attention of some. These include Russound's Collage system that provides multi-room digital audio distribution by using standard, AC wiring; Savant's ROSIE surface touch-panel controller that was on display in a coffee table-like setting that visitors could play around with; and, of course, anything and everything from Crestron!

Booth-wise, there's no question that Speakercraft stole the show with its oversized, oddly-designed booth that did not feature any products. Yes, you read that correctly: Speakercraft did not have ANY products in its booth! The company opted to use the show as a way to help dealers do better during these trying economic times, handing out cards that provided tips on remaining profitable, or inproving customer service. This was topped off by comfortable seating areas and something no one can say no to: free beer! Needless to say, the booth was jam-packed 'round the clock. A daily performance featuring Thriller-like, derelict and masked dancers accompanied by enchanting music really took this booth over the top. Stay tuned for a video interview with SpeakerCraft Canada's Linda van Zanten explaining the booth concept, along with some footage of the performance (soon featured at

Now that CEDIA has officially wrapped up, everyone's already thinking about CES and making their reservations for that show.

As an aside, any time I fly to any trade show, especially CEDIA and CES, it appears that at least half the plane is occupied by Canadian CE industry members. We should really think of banding together and getting a private plane. It could potentially save money, and hassle for everyone. And if we could find one without the dreaded middle seat, everyone would be a little bit happier upon their arrival.

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