InfoComm Expanding Global Reach

InfoComm International’s push to increase memberships and bring exceptional experiences around the world is bearing fruit.

Although the concept of “creating exceptional experiences” has been the goal in InfoComm International’s latest strategic plan that has generated the most conversation, that doesn’t mean it’s the only one the organization is working on since the plan’s creation in 2013.

Another focus for InfoComm in the past year-plus has been growth of the organization’s membership and footprint outside North America, an effort that’s already seen positive results, say InfoComm staffers in a recent InfoComm Today podcast.

“We’re going into markets where we’ve seen a need,” says Terry Friesenborg, chief global officer for InfoComm International, during the half-hour discussion “Global Reach of AV” which also included InfoComm director of international member services Scott Wills and InfoComm senior market research analyst Matt Robbins.

Those decisions about where InfoComm should host trade shows, bring its educational offerings or even open new offices come from InfoComm’s own research as well as listening to customers, says Friesenborg.

“The technology is usually ubiquitous but the applications can be different from place to place. We’re looking to understand these differences and understand how the roles change for manufacturers, distributors and integrators,” he says.

RELATED: Are You Creating Exceptional Experiences?

InfoComm moved its Colombia show to the capital city, Bogota, this year and saw attendance at the show (3,200 people) and in the classroom (324 people) both go up 50 percent over last year’s numbers. Rebooking rates for the 2015 Colombia show means next year will have more trade floor show space than this year.

Wills recently taught 32 students in Russia on “The Essentials of AV Technology,” and saw that about half of them listened only to his lesson in English during the three-day course, which finished with 26 of 32 students earning a new certification.

“You have to deliver the content methodically and on pace to make sure the deep technical elements are understood,” says Wells, noting some of the conversation focuses on culture and nuances in how to run a business. “They deal with the same things we do.”

InfoComm will host nine shows outside North America in 2014, hoping to reach its members in 86 countries as effectively as possible. Overall, InfoComm has about 20 percent of its membership outside North America. Globally, the industry represents about $91 billion, a number that could double in the next 10 years, says Robbins.

“Overall, the theme (of InfoComm’s new Global Market Definition and Strategy Study) is growth—in every region, every product line, every customer base, every service base,” he says.

Robbins points to “pretty explosive growth” in several markets and notes the U.S. has fallen behind Asia Pacific in product sales for the first time this year, partly triggered by China’s move from analog to digital.

RELATED: What I Personally Learned at InfoComm’s AV Executive Conference

India, says Wells, “has an insatiable appetite for learning more,” which is reflected in the jump from 600 to 850 people who attended classes during InfoComm’s India show this year. InfoComm also opened an office in India and has formed a relationship with the Computer Society of India. They also had to cut the price of their classes in half, because InfoComm’s pricing represented three or four months’ average salary in India per class.

“We understood we needed to be there and we also needed to be sensitive in our pricing,” says Friesenborg.

India represents an opportunity for integrators, manufacturers and distributors, says Robbins, “but there some very real roadblocks to being able to move in and have a successful business plan.” They include infrastructure issues, education (especially on products) and pricing, with value-added taxes and duties making it more of an issue.

Latin America and the Middle East represent InfoComm’s fastest-growing markets, “but they were coming from a smaller base,” says Friesenborg.

“You have to understand the regulatory side, the cultural side and see if what you do fits the market,” he says when asked how integrators, manufacturers and distributors should approach the idea of entering new markets.

China has “a lot of regulatory challenges,” he says, but InfoComm has been translating many of its core materials into Mandarin. Since 2011, InfoComm’s China show has almost doubled in attendance every year, with 3,500 people taking classes in 2014, says Wells.

The industry’s largest show, Integrated Systems Europe, brought more than 51,000 people from 220 countries in 2014 and could attract more in 2015, says Wells. The event has sold out 12 halls at the RAI in Amsterdam, he says, and will include 30-plus sessions, including a master class on displays by Electrosonic co-founder Bob Simpson and several free offerings for InfoComm members.