The Eastern Video Expo……. There and back again!

by Paul Distefano, Eastern Regional Sales Manager, DeSisti

After the two-year hiatus as a result of the apocalypse, as I like to refer to it, what a pleasure it was to participate in this year’s Eastern Video Expo, IN PERSON, again!  Since I was privileged to have been a part of the expo, in all its forms and names, since its start in 2003, I was asked to comment on this year’s conference.  When I was asked, the first thing that came to mind was the term “full circle”.

I distinctly remember how this whole thing came about.  It was the Spring of 2002.  I was working for Visual Sound of Broomall, PA.  My rep from Panasonic, Pat Bucher, asked me if I wanted to join him for a meeting of this group called JAG.  He said that he was invited to do a presentation at one of the monthly meetings.  I remember sitting through the meeting with Pat, and AFTER the nice long meeting, we had about 30 minutes to demo the AG-DVX100 camcorder.  Pat pretty much did the demo and I let those in attendance know I could sell it to them!  At a later date, I was invited, this time solo, by the group and did another quick demo and talk after quietly sitting through one of your meetings.

Skip ahead about a year and I was asked to design a video system for the new Metuchen Municipal Building council chambers that was currently under construction.  I did a proposal for Rich Desimone who was the station manager at the time, and then waited for what seemed like forever, as the construction project seemed to drag on for one reason or another.  Finally, the township was ready to move forward and publish a bid spec based on my design.  I submitted my bid documents and went to the municipal complex, which was still temporarily housed in several trailers, for the bid opening.

While I was waiting with Rich, we started chatting.  Somehow, we started talking about the current way that vendor presentations took place at the meetings.  I cannot recall specifics, but I am pretty sure that I said something to the effect of…… “you know, Rich, we really love you guys and are happy to present and demo at your monthly meetings, but ya think we can do it without having to sit through all the business that did not concern us and wait until the very end of the meeting?  I mean, by that time, everyone is itching to leave and we do not exactly get too much mindshare”.  Again…… probably paraphrasing, but I can imagine it was something like that!  Then, we started to brainstorm.  Not sure who, exactly, came up with the idea, but the discussion ended up with me saying something to the effect of….. “What about this…… What if I can get 10 or 12 of my vendors on board and ask them to kick in a couple of hundred bucks….. enough to cover the cost of a ballroom at a hotel……. And what if I have the ballroom sectioned off so you guys can have your meeting there?  I would have the room for the day…… You guys could check out products from several vendors before and after your meeting…… the vendors would be able to get in front of dozens of potential customers in one shot……. JAG might get better attendance to one of the monthly meetings……. And I will have the hotel cater a lunch for all……. Do you think the membership of JAG would be interested?”.

Well, Rich thought this was a great idea, but I think it took a little coaxing for him to convince some of the others.  So, with the blessing of the JAG board, I got a green light and started lining up vendors.  We chose the Clarion in Edison, figuring a central location would help get people from both north and south to make the trip.  It was a success.  I think the turnout was much higher than any previous JAG monthly meetings.  If memory serves, I believe that over 75 members either attended the meeting or came before or after just to check out the vendors’ wares.  I remember having to get more food brought in!  The twelve vendors who supported me in this endeavor all thought it was the best use of $250.00 that they could have asked for.  I remember one telling me, “do you know how long it would take, and how much it would cost me to visit all these customers?”.  It was a great success……. And it was also my last day at Visual Sound! 

Rich organized it again the following year and, this time, I participated as one of the vendors, Shadowstone.  Once JAG took over the event, it grew and grew and became a major event for TV professionals in the northeast, eventually being rebranded as the Eastern Video Expo.  While at Shadowstone & 4Wall, I was delighted when I was able to buy blocks of tables and get several of my vendors to partner with me to create a whole lighting section of the trade show floor.  Once, I was even able to buy an entire row for my vendors with truss archways, complete with color changing LEDs and moving lights, and branded it the “Lighting Pavilion”.  Workshops grew in number and included wider ranges of topics.  The Affinity Luncheon was created, with a moderator and host at each table to lead the group in a discussion of a particular topic.  The first two years I participated were a blast.  Our tables had some great spirited talks!  The Vendor of the Year award was added and, on behalf of my fellow vendors, we really appreciated your recognition of our efforts to support you all….. And the whole cake thing and “serving the PEG community”….. Genius!  I was honored to be there from the beginning and watch it evolve the way it did up to its peak, I believe in 2019, with the largest number of vendors and attendees.  And then…… the apocalypse!

Jump forward to 2022, and this year’s Expo reminded me very much of those first two that I helped get off the ground.  Sure, we had the banquet, all the virtual workshops, and such, but we were back in a single room at the Clarion Edison, now called the Crowne Plaza.  We were back to just a few vendors rather than dozens.  But, even with the smaller number of vendors and attendees than we had become accustomed to, I would say this year’s Expo was a complete success……. Just like that first one in 2003!

In my conversations with everyone, the overwhelming sentiment was that it was great to just get together again.  All felt these were the first baby steps towards getting back to what the Eastern Video Expo had become.  In speaking with other vendors, there was nothing but enthusiasm for the future of the event.  Some of us talked about forming an advisory committee to help JAG plan future Expos, with ideas to expand participation, workshops, and events.  In the past, we used to set up a stage for the purpose of recording content that could be used by various JAG member stations.  This year, the idea of setting up a stage again, with several vendors supplying gear, was discussed.  But rather than just recording content, it could be used to broadcast live programming, interactive workshops, and such.  If we market it right, the Eastern Video Expo, and JAG, could go global!  All these great ideas came up, literally, at the close of the show!  Imagine what we could come up with if a group of creative individuals from JAG and the organizational member companies got together to brainstorm and discuss ideas in the light of the currently available technology.

Yes……. The apocalypse slowed us down a bit.  But, as a group, we have gone full circle, and we are back!  If we all work together, I am confident that we can grow the Expo back, even better than we did before, and introduce our group to the entire country….. and beyond!  Should be easy…. After all, we’ve done it before!