Last week, I did something that I never would have dreamed of a few years ago: I bought a new bicycle over the internet. I’ve had a decrepit, used 1980s folding bike for a few years and it’s been begging to be put out of its misery in that “I’m either going to get you killed or leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere” way that aged bicycles do. I wanted another folder, but none of the local shops carry them, so I was out of luck. While it seemed counter-intuitive to buy a bike without riding it first, faced with no other choice, I did some research and wound up ordering one over the web.
The experience—or lack of an experience, to be more accurate—highlighted to me the importance of real-world interaction when it comes to sales and purchases. If I had bought it in a shop, a salesperson would have helped me narrow down the choices and I would have gained all that subtle information you get in-person—what a product really looks like, the sounds it makes, the tactile sense of its surfaces, the cool little features you didn’t realize were so important to you, and so on. Most of all, I would have been able to ride it and hopefully judge it against another model. Online shopping may let you compare prices, but it doesn’t let you compare experiences. As a result, while I like the bike a lot, I’ll never know if I would have made a better choice had I seen in person.
In recent years, virtual existence on the internet has made doing anything in person seem hopelessly passé—call it the other Analog Vs. Digital battle if you will. Now it seems the tide is turning, with the real world making a comeback as people start to miss and appreciate what they’ve given up for the sake of convenience. Many companies are honing in on that revival and now we’re seeing that trend in the pro audio industry, too.
Take our September issue’s cover story on the rise of pro-audio experience centers. Brands like Harman, Shure and QSC have been building permanent multi-use spaces that are showrooms, training facilities, trade show booths and more all rolled into one. Those spaces are specifically created for illustrating how products fit into real-world situations, but they also serve another purpose: Providing that kind of attention and inciting confidence in a product goes a long way to building lasting relationships between brand ambassadors and customers.
Face-to-face interaction is likewise a key part to how pro-audio trade shows have rebounded over the last few years. The upcoming AES Convention, being held October 17-19, 2018 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, serves as yet another example of not only how the shows have bounced back, but also how in-person interaction is still crucial. A slew of new, first-time exhibitors will be on-hand this year, while other industry mainstays like Universal Audio, Sound Devices and Meyer Sound will have booths on the exhibition floor for the first time in years.
Getting up-close and personal with gear at the AES Convention is always fun, but the great thing is that you’re liable to wind up talking to the people who invented that cool new audio tool. Networking is a key ingredient of the convention, and I can’t count how many times I’ve interviewed someone for an article and they said their new job, collaboration, corporate merger or some other life-changing event happened because “we started talking at AES.” Those kinds of personal advances are the sort that no amount of “likes” on social media will ever spur.
If you can make it to the AES Convention, you should go. We’ll be there covering it for everyone who can’t make it via our website, daily newsletter, Tweets, posts and more, but don’t let that dissuade you from heading to New York. You can read our expansive, detailed coverage of the show in our pages and on the web, but like everything else in life, you’ll get even more out of experiencing it in the real world.