I attended my first ISC West trade show as a small, two-person company in the spring of 2005. My only previous experience with a trade show was of the Jeweler’s Circular-Keystone show I had attended in Las Vegas, years before, with my dad as an exhibitor. I was in a new industry, and there were so many manufacturers displaying their versions of the best solution. It was hard to know where to begin.
I clearly remember walking the floor at my first ISC West, looking for an opportunity: trying to closely examine the trends, comparing the differences in performance and value, asking questions to the sales people about their products, and observing demonstrations of the latest ‘new thing’. I remember quietly growing excited, developing an itch to become a part of this industry in a meaningful way. I looked up in the rafters, and seeing those protruding banners hanging over the big stands, I began dreaming of the day that I would have my place in the rafters, with my oversized banner, with my company’s logo on it. I now recognize this as a juvenile goal of my early 20s, knowing that I had yet to create a product, brand, or strategy- but on that day those all just felt like minor details.
In 2007, I decided to take the plunge. I spent way more than we could afford at the time on a 10×10 booth in the very back corner of the conference. Finally, my company was exhibiting at ISC West for the first time. And it was nearly a total disaster.
There were only two of us to set up our booth, so we decided to start around 5pm the day before the conference started- big mistake. We arrived at our booth to find our palletized materials shrink wrapped with two nicely placed holes (by diameter appearing to be from a fork-lift) which of course penetrated the only side of the pallet which held our monitors. We had to scramble, and immediately run out to the local Fry’s Electronics store to purchase replacements and by the time we returned to ‘start’ setting-up it was already 7:30pm. Next, we really struggled with our panel style backdrop which took over an hour to set-up (instructions said 30 minutes) because when we put up one panel- attached the hooks- the adjacent panel displaced itself causing a (not funny to us at the time) yo-yo affect.
Finally having our structure up, routing cable, using our newly purchased monitors we began to power up the cameras and servers to do the final focusing and configuration. Then Nothing… No happy lights on the cameras only the servers were powering on but NO Video… By 12am I was beginning to feel like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation- shaking the Cat5e cabling screaming for the cameras (Christmas lights) to power up. Thankfully, one of the last available electricians took pity on us (must have been the embodiment of Mrs. Griswold) and upgraded our underpowered circuit breaker. Like magic- we were in business- getting back to our hotel for three full hours of sleep before our ISC West debut.
In the next several years, we encountered our share of setbacks, but never as much as that frustrating first year when I learned what ‘Murphy’s Law’ truly meant. My company has grown a lot since our first ISC West, and last year my dream of having my company’s logo on a banner in the rafters came true. I no longer saw it as the sign that I had achieved my goals and finished climbing the mountain, but it was another small, satisfying step in the journey of growing my business.
I still value the hour or two I get each year to walk around the show floor by myself looking at the technology, asking questions and thinking about the possibilities. Because I know this year there will be someone new here: walking the aisles of ISC West, quietly observing, learning and planning… and it’s my job to stay two steps ahead.
“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better- all the time…” Henry Ford