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‘We’re ready for the return of trade shows’: Media tech industry prepares for NAB Show 2022

TVBEurope speaks to a select few who will be attending this year's event to get their thoughts on returning to the trade show floor, and the technology they're looking forward to seeing

With just a few days to go until NAB Show throws opens its doors in Las Vegas, the media technology industry is preparing to meet face-to-face again for the first time since 2019.

TVBEurope has spoken to a select few who will be attending this year’s event to get their thoughts on returning to the trade show floor, how shows will have evolved due to the pandemic, and the technology they’re looking forward to seeing.

“The industry is ready for the return of trade shows,” says analyst Paolo Pescatore. “The world has changed and though we live in unprecedented and uncertain times, you cannot replicate the show floor, networking aspect in a virtual environment.

I’m curious to see how the organisers have evolved the show experience due to advances in technology, new ways of working and the acceleration towards streaming,” he adds. “For me, the NAB Show remains one of the must attend broadcasting events. Like CES for consumer devices, it sets the tone for what’s coming next. As an analyst I will endeavour to be the eyes and ears on the ground; what’s the buzz on the show floor, what are the key themes, the weird, wonderful and crazy?”

For a major industry player like Grass Valley, in-person events offer an opportunity to strengthen key relationships and build new ones, says the company’s CMO Neil Maycock. “We will make the most of that at NAB Show this year — we’re looking forward to engaging with our customers and partners in person again.

“Our experience from smaller trade shows towards the end of last year proved to us that people want to be back talking in-person. We’re confident there is a real appetite to get back to trade shows – and attendance is looking healthy, with a strong representation of customers from key brands and a balanced list of attendees.”

Fiona Blake from PR company PageMelia agrees that NAB offers the opportunity for colleagues from across the globe to connect once again. “Whilst the past two years have clearly demonstrated that businesses can, and have, survived by operating remotely, there is still a really strong desire to meet face-to-face again and we are really looking forward to that aspect of the show,” she says.

“From what we have heard, many are anticipating that the show will be very much a vendor-to-vendor event. Having said that, we are aware that some key broadcasters will have staff on the ground, so it’s going to be quality over quantity and we don’t see that as a negative at all.”

Blake adds that without live trade shows, companies have had to find other creative ways to market their products and services, and for many the alternatives have proved successful. “There is still a place for trade shows certainly,” she states, “however we feel that attitudes towards large-scale events have changed, and we’ll start to see much more focus on smaller regional trade shows instead.  Smaller, regional events will offer a more intimate experience for both exhibitors and visitors alike, and will garner a greater ROI.”

This is a point echoed by Kieran Kunhya, founder and CEO of Open Broadcast Systems: “Things have changed a lot over the last two years. For vendors, trade shows require time-consuming preparation beforehand, then tiresome days at a booth and surrounding events. There has obviously been a focus on physical and mental health over the past two years and a reduction in trade shows is going to be one way to reduce the strain on staff. It is clear that trade shows are not the be all and end all in the sales and marketing process.

“I think it’s baby-steps for everyone to see what works and what doesn’t,” he continues. “A lot of the regional shows are squeezed into May and June and doing those back-to-back is unsustainable.”

Pescatore suggests NAB Show 2022 will probably look and feel different compared to previous shows. “Noticeably there will be fewer exhibitors and delegates which might not be a bad thing. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising to see the event organisers take a different approach with the halls led by themes. 

“Don’t expect a barrage of news or earth-shattering innovation. For many this will be the first opportunity to see people they’ve been working with in the last few years,” he continues. “While the industry has moved on significantly, exhibitors will be able to highlight their latest and greatest developments as well as build upon the connections fostered during the pandemic.”

Maycock agrees that things have changed since the media tech industry gathered for NAB 2019. “We’re expecting the dynamic of the show to be different from before, and we’re changing the way we engage with our customers accordingly,” he states. “This year we’ll have less emphasis on products and solutions on our booth and a bigger focus on networking and thought-leadership activities.”

“We expect to see a focus on innovations in cloud, IP, and software-based workflows that help media organisations create and distribute more content more efficiently— that’s at the heart of our GVMU vision and will be the focus of our booth.”

In terms of what he’ll be looking out for at NAB Show 2022, Pescatore says he’s keen to see efforts in emerging technology, new ways of production and broadcasting as well as how to engage with users in different ways. “Though the streaming pandemic party is now firmly over, all focus will be on solutions for direct-to-consumer services with more efficient workflows,” he states.

Kunhya adds that he’s expecting a big push on cloud and 5G which he believes will be industry-defining topics over the next few years. “I don’t expect many new physical products to be launched and ready to ship owing to supply chain challenges and the complexities of developing new products over the last two years. So most product launches will be software or cloud-centric I expect.”