An Exceptional Experience Was Had by All?

Respect AheadI’ve returned from InfoComm Las Vegas and a few days of vacation with great pride in our industry, our membership volunteers and governance and InfoComm’s staff. By almost all measures our show was, if not “The Greatest Show on Earth” — the greatest show ever held by InfoComm — fittingly held during our 75th year anniversary. We had record attendance, record exhibition space, extraordinary content and education take-up (honestly, I don’t know if it was a record yet!) and new events about UCC and Digital Signage that were popular beyond our highest expectations.

But, despite that success, and maybe because of all that success, the issue of booth staffing has been raised as a reflection by attendees, exhibitors and others. As many of you know this is only my second show as CEO of InfoComm and as such I don’t see myself as an expert on a lot of things — and certainly I’ll never have the expertise that most of the people involved in our show have, both within our exhibitor community and within our expo team. And secondly, now on my “second lap”, I’ve learned how intertwined our industry is and how important it is for us as your trade association to remain impartial in our balancing of competing interests among such a broad swath of membership. But I must say that our success must never be taken for granted and our genuine commitment to impartiality must not lead us into a position of timidity or disengagement.

It is for that reason that I feel we must weigh in on this discussion. I (and my staff) think that the use of “booth babes” is a bad idea. We think that all that has been said about the practice as one that creates an environment that is unwelcome for some, that perpetuates “old school thinking” which should have been abandoned 75 years ago (frankly, it should have never existed), and one which diminishes the professionalism of our practice, is true. Within the next month we will ask our Exhibitor Advisory Committee to review the show policies to address this issue in a manner that is practical and yet demonstrates leadership. We will produce educational material for our exhibitors that will help to highlight for them the negative impact that these practices can have and let them weigh for themselves the cost against perceived benefit. And we’ll put together a mechanism to ensure that any attendee can easily communicate with InfoComm show management regarding anything they experience on our show floor that is offensive.

That’s what we’ll do.

But let’s not forget that although we believe in an obligation to provide leadership and we share a commitment to the future of our industry, we cannot change the world alone. In the market environment that we live within, the voice of the industry influencers, the sound of your feet and weight of your wallets carry far greater weight than the sound of my voice.

And I don’t see the practical value of imposing InfoComm into a role of deciding who is a hired model and who is a hired salesperson. Would we administer tests on product/industry knowledge of booth personnel? I don’t see us successfully inserting ourselves into the debate of defining a wardrobe or dress code with any impact on truly fixing this problem or any likelihood of satisfying everyone. What possible positive outcome could from this?

And let us all recognize that this debate is not happening at the extremes of the examples – those are easy to stop and we’re already committed and have rules in place to ensuring we don’t have egregious behavior at our show. It’s the big grey area where this gets messy – what is offensive to one person is attractive to another. It’s here that the greatest change will only happen through a changing definition of acceptable behavior that develops from a growing appreciation of the value of diversity that will come from the obvious benefits that are realized when we admit and welcome those whom today we (even subtly) disinvite. Your Board of Directors has strategically committed InfoComm to expanding its community membership, thought leadership and advancement of the industry. We cannot even begin to consider ourselves sincerely committed to this advancement without a paired and equal commitment to enhancing the respect and openness with which we deal with all who are different from us. And you can see that commitment, not in our words, but in our behavior and our action.

Dave Labuskes

About Dave Labuskes

David Labuskes, CTS, CAE, RCDD, has been the Executive Director and CEO of InfoComm International, the trade association representing the commercial audiovisual industry, since January 2013. Since joining InfoComm, Labuskes has worked to promote industry professionalism, expand global programs and raise awareness of InfoComm offerings. He serves on the Board of Directors of Integrated Systems Events, LLC, a joint venture European trade show company, and InfoComm Asia PTE, Ltd., a joint venture company in Singapore operating InfoComm’s Asian trade shows. Prior to joining InfoComm, Labuskes served as vice president of RTKL, now a division of ARCADIS, a leading architectural and engineering firm. He is the founder of the company's Technology Design Practice, overseeing the delivery of audiovisual, voice, data, wireless, environmental media, electronic security and acoustics services. He earned a BA in International Politics from Penn State University and earned an MBA from Loyola University of Maryland.

9 Responses to “An Exceptional Experience Was Had by All?”

  1. I agree with similar thoughts, however this should not be new age thinking, it should have been acknowledged years ago when a well known OEM speaker manufacturer kicked off their own product line with Babes & Beer at CEDIA. They were successful in marketing residential installation products to car stereo installers. However it wasn’t an image that the industry as whole condoned.

  2. Mr. Labuskes,

    Thanks for your public stance on this issue. It is nice to see the new “people-centric” attitude InfoComm is embracing.

    I agree that we need to vote with our wallets and let the market decide what is effective.

    Thanks to Jennifer Willard, Penny Sitler and Leonard Suskin as well for speaking out and opening the door for my comments as well.

    Lets focus on evolution, both of innovative new products and of more primitive thinking and we will all be better off.

  3. As an attendee, I’d like to join Ms. Sitler in my appreciation for your comments and your choice to take this issue seriously. As an attendee I find the use of sexually provocative models to be not only distracting but a barrier to increased participation by women. In response to my post on the topic I’ve heard from several women in this and other tech fields who have become uncomfortable at trade shows to the point of non-attendance.

    The electronic entertainment (video-gaming) industry has, if anything, a significantly worse history than our industry. At this link is the booth staffing policy from gaming convention Pax East: I’m not sure that the problem at Infocomm is so great as to require this strong a step, but even a formal issue as a non-binding guideline might be a positive step.

    I’d also consider some attention to video material; quite a few vendors use loops of swimsuit models as demonstration video. This has many of the same issues as scantily-clad models and is, perhaps, another place for guidelines even if not outright regulation.

    Thank you again for your attention to this.

  4. Many thanks for this post. I appreciate your comments and the commitment to support diversity and fairness in our industry.


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