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E4 Chicago Breaks Records, Illuminates Key Initiatives

Published: 2024-04-30

My visit to E4 Chicago — Exertis Almo’s marquee #E4Experience event — reaffirmed the remarkable value of this curated industry event, which brings together networking, education sessions and a packed exhibit hall. Held on April 16, E4 Chicago was a record-breaker: nearly 600 attendees, 60-plus exhibiting vendors and 625 CTS RUs earned.

The E4 Experience — the “E”s are for Education, Explore, Expo and Engage — is now in its 15th year. The event visits Chicago biennially, drawing local integrators who might not have the opportunity to travel to larger shows like InfoComm and Commercial Integrator Expo. Many of those integrators bring along key end-user clients who are excited to get hands on with vendor partners’ latest offerings.

E4 Chicago: Truly Dynamic

Rob Voorhees of Exertis Almo.

Rob Voorhees (center) underscored the dynamic nature of the Exertis Almo E4 Experience. Image courtesy of Exertis Almo.

My E4 Chicago started with a conversation with Rob Voorhees, business development manager/technical specialist, who underscored the mini trade show’s dynamic nature. “Not only does E4 change year over year,” he says, “but it seems like it changes event from event!” One modification that organizers made was to democratize the content program, inviting industry members to propose sessions and presentations. “Over time, you want to have fresh faces, fresh voices and fresh ideas,” Voorhees declares. In Chicago, education sessions touched on monetizing digital signage, modern meeting room design, enhancing collaboration by harnessing AI and more. The added benefit of getting CTS RUs from attending makes the opportunity for industry professionals even better!

The E4 Chicago exhibit floor was packed with leading vendors, with key categories like direct-view LED (DVLED) particularly well represented by companies like Absen, Christie Digital and Planar. Plus, Exertis Almo’s organizational focus on emerging technologies — for example, extended reality (XR) headsets, drones and AI-enabled Microsoft Teams Rooms — was abundantly evident.

Dan Ferrisi experiencing XR headsets at the Exertis Almo E4 Experience.

Dan Ferrisi experienced an XR demo. Wearing a headset and leveraging TRIPP visualization software, Ferrisi saw how XR can enable a relaxing, meditative state. Image courtesy of Exertis Almo.

I was particularly awed by the headsets from Exertis Almo’s newest partner, PICO Business. Tristan Aldinger, technical sales specialist – XR, gave me a full demo. Wearing a headset and leveraging TRIPP visualization software, I experienced how XR can facilitate a relaxing, meditative state, which can help schools, for example, soothe overstimulated students. Voorhees is equally awed. “It’s very different when you’re able to put a headset on and select what reality you want to be in,” he says, adding, “It’s kind of trippy at first!”

Another E4 Chicago highlight was a DJI drone live demo, displayed on a beautiful Absen videowall. It was fun to witness the drone’s command-and-control features as a remote operator flew it in Florida. Technological wizardry aside, the underlying message was clear: A significant percentage of integrators’ clients are already leveraging drones — or they soon will be. Do you want that business, or are you willing to cede it? The compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) are stunning, and there’s still massive potential for integrators to tap.

Executive Perspective at E4 Chicago

I had an opportunity to sit down with Dan Smith, executive vice president at Exertis Almo, to get a sense of the organization’s strength and competitive positioning. Citing IDC data, he relates a story of consistent overperformance. “We outperformed the market, I think, every month but one last year,” he states. “In the IDC data that was just released in March, we saw that we hit record market shares in the industry for January, February and March. So, we continue to grow.” With Exertis Almo’s large and active AV sales team, the organization has the resources to offer more customized, more personalized attention. What’s more, Smith emphasizes, Exertis Almo continues to hire and grow, buttressing its ranks in sales, service, business development, marketing and more. Indeed, at this moment, Exertis Almo’s business development manager (BDM) team has crested 50 — significantly larger than it has ever been before.

Drones on display at E4 Chicago.

New DJI drone products launching this year include FlyCarts for delivery, box drones (autonomous base stations) and agricultural drones. Image courtesy of Exertis Almo.

Asked about Exertis Almo’s strategic positioning, Smith says, “To be in this technology segment, you have to constantly think about the evolution of what’s coming up and what’s next.” He highlights new DJI drone products launching this year; examples include FlyCarts for delivery, box drones (autonomous base stations) and agricultural drones. Moreover, Smith mentions Exertis Almo’s belief in VR/XR’s usefulness for training, medical applications and more. When it comes to the core business, he points to audio, higher-end projectors, cameras and conferencing technologies as growth engines. Smith says that, as older technologies age out, newer offerings (e.g., beamforming microphones, technologies to visually identify who is speaking) will lie at the heart of the deployments of tomorrow.

Smith underscores that the hospitality vertical is doing extraordinarily well for Exertis Almo. “[Our hospitality business] set records in October, November, December and again in March,” he declares with pride. The company’s success in this market and others is attributable to its ethos of market enablement: continually adding to its team, refining its in-house expertise, and growing its mix of offerings to align with market direction changes and integrator needs.

E4 Chicago Explores Robust Service Offering

One way that Exertis Almo directly meets integrators’ needs is with its professional services, a portfolio of offerings that Cory Allen, vice president of services, oversees. According to Smith, “Our services business nearly doubled our expectation this year,” saying that three main factors — labor shortages, end-user geographic distribution and differentiated technology specializations — help explain its remarkable growth. Exertis Almo Professional Services have blossomed far beyond labor and digital signage disciplines, coming to enfold design, engineering, drafting and more. Exertis Almo’s acquisition of partner Caddrillion in January 2023 was a key milestone; it brought those strengths into the organization as in-house core competencies, while also springboarding new ideas for Exertis Almo Professional Services.

A major new focus for Exertis Almo centers on field commissioning. As Allen explains it, “Just connecting the hardware together doesn’t optimize the system. That field commissioning component tunes the system, optimizes the system, makes sure all the components in that AV ecosystem — whatever environment we’re installing in — are optimized for the full capability based upon the end user’s needs and desires.” He adds, “It’s the next iteration — the next layer — of the things our customers are asking us for.” He underlines that no other distributor offers commissioning services to the degree Exertis Almo does. And these offerings perfectly complement setup-focused installation services by adding an additional layer of fine-tuning to ensure an outstanding outcome.

Let’s dive deeper into the field commissioning services Exertis Almo delivers. They can encompass elements like checking quality assurance metrics, fine-tuning system settings and configurations to optimize AV performance, identifying and resolving any challenges that may arise during installation or setup, and training end users and documenting system configurations to help futureproof installations, while making changes and future upgrades smoother. “I think that comfort aspect of being able to functionally use the system is, to me, the real closeout of the project: When the end user — whoever is actually using that system — goes, ‘This is exactly what I need,’” Allen says.

Education session during E4 Chicago.

For integrators with a mind to expand their business and ensure better client outcomes, there are few better choices than to attend an E4 Experience event. Image courtesy of Exertis Almo.

For integrators with a mind to expand their business and assure better client outcomes — without having to broaden in-house expertise, hire a fleet of field commissioners, etc. — commissioning via Exertis Almo Professional Services represents a highly attractive supplemental/augmentable option. “We want to be able to plug in where you need us,” Allen declares.

A Mindful Company

If there’s a word for what Exertis Almo exudes, it’s “mindfulness.” From its award-winning #E4Experience events, like E4 Chicago, with their trademark blend of networking, education and hands-on technology engagement, to its diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, Exertis Almo approaches everything with uncommon thoughtfulness. Indeed, DEI lies at the heart of the company’s recruitment and retention efforts, with hiring managers seeking to bring new, diverse talent into the company and give employees an environment conducive to their growth and development. Key staffers like Kim Lonas and Emily Baumgarten are the tip of the spear, ensuring consistency and uniformity across DEI-related initiatives.

Voorhees has a great deal of personal passion for DEI advocacy, and he’s excited to work for an organization that is similarly committed to action. “Companies need to start that conversation,” he exhorts. “It’s not just something where you wake up one day and say, ‘You know what? We’re going to put a DEI poster in our break room.’ It’s all about [real] education.” And Voorhees is doing his part to educate our industry community, participating in an InfoComm session on June 13 at 10am: “Autism and AV: Furthering the Discussion to Unlock Abilities.” He’s also about to release a podcast on this topic, the first half featuring his daughter, and the second half featuring an interview with Lonas. Commercial Integrator will share the podcast when it’s released.

That only scratches the surface of Exertis Almo’s organizational mindfulness, though. Voorhees also mentions internal Employee Resource Groups — they’re now known as Affinity Groups — that raise awareness about DEI and seek to implement data-driven strategies. These include webinars that illuminate paths to success for under-represented groups, a training event tied to International Women’s Day, and ways to give employees with disabilities additional support and scaffolding (i.e., assistive technologies) to enable them to achieve their very best.

Exertis Almo Has a Story to Tell

Clearly, whether it’s the record-breaking E4 Chicago, its rapidly growing market share, its ever-expanding professional services or its organizational mindfulness, Exertis Almo has a story to tell. You have a chance to experience the next chapter yourself by attending either or both of the fall E4 Experience events: the first in the Boston area on September 10 and the second in Anaheim, Calif., on October 8. For details and to add to your calendar, go to https://e4experience.com.

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