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AXPONA 2018 - Eleven Observations

04-18-2018 | By Dave Clark | Issue 97


Observation 1

Okay we all get it—the bigger the better. The more rooms the better for profits and attracting attendees, but let's be realistic, it does not work for pretty much anyone other than the hotel and perhaps the promoter. The recent AXPONA had at my count 165 exhibit rooms (spread over 9 floors and three buildings) along with a quite large exhibit hall for tables and the like (headphones, LPs, and so on—this room had well over 100 exhibitors/booths).

In doing the math just for the exhibit rooms (which includes the larger ball rooms), one has 8 minutes per room, over the course of the three days, to see all the rooms—and by the way, I am not counting the large exhibit hall where there were over 100 booths/exhibitors. Oh, and the 8 mins does not include walking between rooms or the buildings (which are a good 8 mins apart) and/or floors (waiting for the elevators—which can be an easy 8 mins by itself—and/or walking the stairs between floors), stopping to listen, stopping to talk to people in-between rooms, stopping to pee, stopping to eat, stopping just to stop... or stopping for anything else. Just 22 hours which is 1320 mins divided by 165 rooms which gives you 8 minutes per room. Add in the large exhibit hall and that 8 mins is easily cut down to 5 mins or so.

But in all honesty, we need to stop. We need to stop and listen, to talk to people in-between rooms, we need to pee, we need to eat… we need to look at who and what is here and report. There is simply not enough time to cover the whole show. So, what does one do?

You assign and/or you delegate. Okay, divide and conquer. It works in that if you have X number of writers, then you have less rooms to cover and can spend more time and/or cover more rooms. But the downside is that you do not get to cover the rooms, equipment, manufacturers you want... which can be somewhat disappointing. In speaking to several friends who write for other publications, they were wanting to visit rooms that they were not assigned to—you are covering digital, or loudspeakers above $20k, or whatever…. Yeah but I really want to see various analog front-ends and these people, so I will need to make time. I get it, the publication is paying for the flight, the room, the food and so the writers have to do what they are told but assigning or delegating can create less than ideal show coverage. We do not pay our writers to attend, we don't cover any expenses, but if they do a show report, well, yeah, we pay for that. So, we let them go where they want, see who and what they want. They get to cover what interests them so that their report comes from the heart. We had a good 8-10 PF writers there and so we will see what we can come up with. But even then, in reading most show reports (even ours), they don't get them all—you just can't. You miss rooms, you run out of time… you run out of energy.

Which leads to one skipping rooms or exhibitors. Meaning unless by chance another one of our writers hits a room we choose to skip, they are not getting the Press coverage they had hoped to receive. How do we choose those to skip? We prioritize based on interests and needs. For example, we might want to see the latest in digital streamers/renderers, specific analog, or speakers. Writers who cannot attend might ask us to search out specific manufacturers or products for reviews. We need to see those who support us—past and present. We want to see friends and people we love and know. We want to see new companies that are doing something different or new. All of which means we might not—will not—see everyone there. If time permits after seeing those we need to, wanted to, had to, we do our best to hit those still left…. But then that is going to be fleeting. Heck, even seeing those we want to tends to be fleeting.

For Carol and me, we had to prioritize who to see, who to talk to, who to spend time with… we had to eat, we had to rest, we had to pee… and so we did our best to cover as much as we could, but we had to make decisions as to whom we did not cover. Simply the way it is… everyone attending a show is going to prioritize who to see… and who not to see.

Some exhibitors will complain that they did not get the people they wanted, they complain it costs too much based on the numbers in their rooms, and so on. But then there are exhibitors who only want to see "certain types" of attendees... the people who get what they are doing. My market is type A people and you are type B people... less type B people coming and I have more time with the type A people coming in. Right or wrong, that is the truth.

Okay are the exhibitors getting their money's worth? Are the attendees? Maybe, possibly, don't know. Every room we walked into had a good number sitting and listening, coming in or going out. Spread the attendees around and I am sure it averages out to a great turnout for the exhibitors.

Now don't get me wrong here, hats off to AXPONA for putting on a wonderful show, and to the hotel for being as helpful and gracious as one can ever expect under such a deluge of people and all that a show such as AXPONA brings to such a venue. But man… could we make it 4 days? I realize that results in additional costs to everyone, but it would mean more time to see more rooms/exhibits… which could mean more money well spent by everyone there.

Observation 2

Shows are expensive to attend and to exhibit, so adding a 4th day is not going to be feasible. Sigh.

Observation 3

Could we add a few more bars and places to sit and eat? For sure there was the main bar/restaurant in the lobby and a bigger upscale restaurant with a way smaller bar in the rear of the lobby, as well as a café for take outs, but there was not enough seating. The main bar/restaurant was packed from opening to closing requiring a good 10 to 20-minute wait. Food was good, service was solid, prices were what one would expect, though way less than one finds here in Los Angeles' hotels. There was a bar in the convention area (very limited seating), one up in the bigger suites on the 15th and 16th floors (also limited seating while being in an exhibit room as well) and a sandwich/snack line down on the main floor by the convention area. All good, but then one has to deal with where to sit.

Observation 4

Please have a sheet listing what is being show in the room. Seriously. Get it together. Talk outside and don't go overboard on the press at the expense of those sitting and listening. It also helps if you put your room number on the sheet.

Observation 5

I get it, you want the room to look nice and inviting, but could we perhaps add some lighting so we can see what is in the room? I appreciate the mood you are trying to create, but in the end, you want people to not only hear what is going on, but to be able to see it as well. Black drapes with black speakers is so not good. Nor is open window drapes with no lighting what so ever, resulting in whatever is sitting in front of the window (the system) to be pretty much in shadows. And then there are those who do nothing. Those who lack any sense of design consciousness. Sorry, but this is not a dorm room gone wrong show. A poorly hung bedspread is not room treatment. Rooms were small. Hallways were narrow. Hotel was very nice.

Observation 6

Exhibitors need to bring a lot of music—a lot of diverse music. Play stuff that will draw people in… not stuff that is overplayed at shows; even if you like it. I get that you want to play what you like, what you want to hear, what you think presents your system the best, but put away the titles we hear show after show, room after room, year after year. Try to educate, try something new… play something from Nils Lofgren other than "Keith Don't Go". Play something other than "Hotel California" from the Eagles. Share new music. Share new artists. Share music that excites you… because we heard way too many conversations from attendees about the rooms playing the same old, same old. And it was not complimentary. It does not help you reach new people.

Observation 7

Please do not stereotype genders or generations. Sorry, but saying that women care about how things look and men care about how things sound is not helping anyone, or that young people don't know what good music is or only listen with the phones and earbuds and so don't care about good sound. Stop. I will say it again, stop… it is not helping. Even so, we did see a lot of families, couples, and younger people attending AXPONA. That was good to see. Of course, they were in the minority of the usual attendees at such shows; males over 45. But still, attendance was solid, rooms and hallways were crowded, and elevators packed—on all three days. Usually Friday is slow at many shows, but not at AXPONA. For sure it was slower than Saturday, but we were surprised with the number of people there during Friday's opening.

Observation 8

This was our first time at AXPONA and the show's first time at this location, so we had nothing to compare it to. That being said we had a good time, saw a ton of stuff, ran into a lot of friends, ate and drank well, slept well… and will return. The show was well organized, the people friendly (Show and hotel). It was windy, cold, and rainy (temps in the low 30s during the day)—dark and gray. We did find the Midwest to be rather ho hum—not the prettiest place, but then it was still winter there….

Observation 9

Next time we need to go out and eat. In leaving we saw a good number of places to eat that were no more than a 5-minute drive from the hotel. Feel free to include us in any plans… no promises, as we are old.

Observation 10

Great choices for entertainment on Friday and Saturday. Friday was a presentation of David Bowie's career (a tribute) followed by a band covering his tunes and others from the period. Well done and quite entertaining. Saturday was a blues band that was also quite entertaining as we were told by those who went. Both were very well attended (at the Bowie tribute I would estimate 200-300) suggesting that this is what people are wanting to see... and hear. Way cool. Need to see this at other shows—diversity of music; not everyone is into jazz. 

Observation 11

O'Hare is old and air travel sucks.

Carol is puting together a show report from the images we took… be patient though, with 365 images to sort through and piles of notes and room sheets to sort out…  it is a process.