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Check back here often for the latest news on our new product releases, awards, recognitions, and other exciting achievements.

Press & Awards

Check back here often for the latest news on our new product releases, awards, recognitions, and other exciting achievements.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #171: An Industry Q&A With Jason McGraw

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Jason McGraw, Group Vice President at CEDIA Expo & KBIS at Emerald shares what to expect from the 2021 CEDIA Expo including top brands attending such as Crestron, Lutron, and Savant.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Jason McGraw. Recorded live on Wednesday, May 26th, 2021, at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Jason McGraw

Prior to managing the CEDIA Expo show for Emerald, Jason spent 25 years with Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA), most recently as Senior Vice President of Exposition and Event Services, leading the InfoComm show.

Interview Recap

  • Will there be a show?
  • Current Health and Safety protocols in place for the show
  • What to expect from the 2021 CEDIA Expo
  • Some of the top brands that will be attending the CEDIA Expo including Crestron, Lutron, Savant, and of course, One Firefly 

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #170 A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Cory Reistad



Ron:  Hello, Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. We have CEDIA Expo 2021 from September 1st through the 3rd, and it's going to be in Indianapolis. I know many pent-up demands and interest in this show and from my friends and peers and customers and all the different folks that make up this industry. And I said, 'Let's go ahead and have Emerald on you guys.' Emerald bought the CEDIA expo event several years ago from the trade organization. Today's guest is Jason McGraw.

He's Group Vice President at Emerald, and he is in charge of the CEDIA Show and the Kitchen and Bath show. It's called KBIS. I've got many questions, and I'm here to ask these questions on behalf of you guys, the attendees, and the manufacturers. We're going to hear from Emerald directly about the state of the CEDIA show, the state of Indianapolis, the state of the convention center, and the hotel spaces. Without further ado, let me get Jason on, and let's jump into it. Jason, how are you, sir?

Jason: Doing great, Ron. Thanks for the opportunity to join you today.

Ron:  So is there a show happening?

Jason: In fact, there is. It's exciting. We are actually going to be live in person September 1-3 in Indianapolis. I get that question a lot. Is it really a show? We are having a show and so thrilled to do so.

Ron:  Let's jump in real quick. What is your area of responsibility? I read your title, but in the Emerald Universe, and for many of our listeners, they may not be that familiar with Emerald and who and what Emerald is. Some people listening may not even know that Emerald bought CEDIA Expo a few years ago. Fill us in on those details.

"Emerald is one of the largest event and publisher organizers in North America. We host over one hundred events annually, just starting to get back to having in-person events. The last year, of course, has been hugely devastating for the live event industry and still has recovery efforts underway as events start to come back online in cities across the country."

Jason: Yeah. Back in 2017, Emerald acquired the show from the CEDIA Association. That being said, the show is still called CEDIA Expo. CEDIA Association is still intimately involved in having their conference programming at the show booth membership activities. We work very closely with the creative staff and organization to welcome and host the CEDIA members, the CEDIA industry at large, and of course the manufacturers and integrators and design consultants, and everyone who comes to the event every year. Emerald is one of the largest event and publisher organizers in North America. We host over one hundred events annually, just starting to get back to having in-person events. The last year, of course, has been hugely devastating for the live event industry and still has recovery efforts underway as events start to come back online in cities across the country.

This is hugely positive in the trade show industry and employs millions of people. You don't honestly think about it, but let's just take a second. People who work at the convention center, the laborers, the trade unions, the people who work in the hotels, work in catering or the travel industry, the entertainment industry, the bars, and restaurants. Everything you can think of if you travel to a trade show that you touch, see, do, and interact with has implications in the economy. That's why trade shows are certainly vital to that. But also, they're a catalyst for the marketplace that each event serves. When you can connect buyers and sellers, you can provide education and networking opportunities, the opportunity for brands to show their newest products. It's just an unparalleled chance to get a lot of value in a short period of time. We're excited about bringing events back together. This past year, we had a pivot. Everybody did create virtual events and try to connect online. We've all been living online like this, connecting in our world.

Ron:  Zoomed out is probably spoken at least once a day by everyone I know. They're Zoomed out.

"There just haven't been opportunities for the industry to gather or connect in-person to shake hands, have a beer, and earn. We've been doing it all online, and that's been great, but there is no replacement for in-person events."

Jason: Sure, we're excited about events. A little bit about me. I just joined the organization this past November. But before that and for many years, twenty-five years combined, I managed the Infocom professionally. The show with Avixa and I have attended CEDIA Expo many times and worked very closely with the integrated Systems Europe show that I helped launch back in the day. I had the CTS certification, much an AV geek myself. I love technology, love learning about new products and new solutions. Back in the day, you might see a little bit of guitar on the wall back there. Used to be in a band back in college. I used to be a soundman. I was involved in theater arts when I was in high school and college. Maybe that's why I'm so much of a ham. But I do love technology. I'm very passionate about it.

For me, this is somewhat of a dream job to organize the industry gathering at CEDIA Expo. That's why I'm personally very motivated to have the show come back together this September and to see everything firsthand because it'll be two years since we gathered the last in Denver in 2019. As you mentioned, there just haven't been opportunities for the industry to gather or connect in-person to shake hands, have a beer, land earn. We've been doing it all online, and that's been great, but there is no replacement for in-person events.

Ron:  I can recall back some months, maybe many months at this point when all of the shows worldwide were getting canceled. There was certainly out there in the ether this idea maybe trade shows are dead. Maybe the time for trade shows, their day has come and gone. What's your rebuttal to that? Hopefully, you're not offended by that statement, but what's your rebuttal or response to that?

Jason: Not at all, Ron. And I've heard that one for actually a couple of decades.

Ron:  Actually, a couple of decades. Alright. This is not a covid thing.

Jason: Ever since discussions of online virtual events or meetings, digital, every time there's an advancement in technology that's going to put face to face to face events out of business. I kind of chuckle at that because tell that to CES or NAB or Infocom or CEDIA. Tens of thousands of people, professionals, still gather, even though they have all these digital tools, still come together repeatedly year after year to see and experience things first hand, touch a product, feel it, talk to somebody face to face, share a beverage, have a dinner, go to a party. You just cannot do that online and have the same kind of experience. There's also the serendipity, frankly, of coming to an in-person event, strolling the aisles.

Of course, you're going to see the brands you plan and schedule at meetings with and see their latest product. But then you're talking hundreds of exhibits, and you're like, wow, that's cool. I never knew about them before. I never saw that product. Or I have this need, and I'm trying to find a solution. They are a way of going on a trip to one place, one time to see hundreds of brands in person from an attendee point of view and access dozens and dozens of education topics and meet people for business purposes. There just isn't any comparison on the digital domain that that compares. As you said, I think there's pent-up demand. People enjoy commuting in person. We're human beings. We're analog beings until we get a chip implanted in our heads and the experience.

Ron:  Give Elon Musk another maybe ten years.

Jason: Trade shows have been going on for hundreds of years. Any kind of marketplace and not just B2B, but consumer shows, boat shows, car shows, craft shows, what have you. People still love to do that in person. Yes. There's been a huge wave over the last year, particularly with online shopping, you know, brick and mortar retailers under pressure. But I predict that a lot of that's going to come back because the experience of seeing products and engaging with others in person is a social experience that we crave as human beings. I believe that will translate to, hey, we've been online for so long, let's get back to work. Let's get back in the office. Let's get back on the road. Let's hop on a plane. Let's go to trade shows. Let's see our customers in person.

This will all come back, in my opinion, and it's starting to open up. I think the progress made with vaccinations and herd immunity is definitely moving in the right direction. Certainly in North America, in the United States. The recent CDC guidelines changing about mask-wearing for vaccinated individuals are welcome. It instills more confidence. I think cities and localities are opening up back to full capacity in many areas, in many parts. I think that's just going to keep moving forward and make it easier for people to get back on the road and get back to in-person events.

Ron:  You told me before we went live that you went to Walmart this weekend for the first time without a mask. What was that like?

Jason: Yeah. Ron, I'm coming to you from my home office here in Northern Virginia. I live near Dulles Airport. If you're trying to figure out where I'm coming from, live there.

Ron:  My parents live in Winchester.

Jason: That's west of me. Western suburbs of Washington, DC area. I live in the state of Virginia. It's been fairly restrictive for some time. My kids finally got to go back in person to school in the last couple of months wearing masks and having their desks spread apart. But, yeah, I was able to actually go into the Walmart, my neighborhood, Wal-Mart, this last weekend without a mask. I will confess it felt kind of odd but liberating at the same time. I also am vaccinated. Fully vaccinated, and I'll add that that's why I was not wearing a mask, but I'm also respectful, and I wear a mask where I need to and where I'm required to buy businesses and locality and in by the rules. We mustn't minimize or detract from health and safety concerns that individuals and companies, and localities have. We have to be mindful, respectful that it's not uniform yet across the country. Some areas and pockets still have higher numbers of cases, and people have different health concerns or issues. I think we'll have mask-wearing for some time. Honestly, it would be great, and we're looking at this not to move forward in our conversation about health and safety at the show. Still, currently, we're following the localities guidelines, and they do have mandatory mask-wearing in place at the convention center in Indianapolis.

Ron:  I've got a whole line of health and safety questions I'm going to run you through. We will get there. For those listening, we'll get there. But I want to speak for a moment about the dealers, the integrators, my customers, who make up the volume of the show's attendeesWhat are the big draws right now? I don't know if you can say this publicly or not, but what are the big-name vendors that have said, yes, they're going to be in Indy, they're going to be at CEDIA? Who can you tell us you know is going to be there?

Jason: Well, it's a great list. Yes, it's true. The show floor will be smaller than it was two years ago for very obvious reasons. We certainly have several international brands that could not join us this year due to travel restrictions, shipping issues, et cetera. That being said, we have large brands like Crestron, SNAP AV, Control4, L.G., Samsung, Elan, Savant, Origin, Acoustics, Lutron, and the list goes on Yamaha. We have a ton of major brands. Harman.

Ron:  You forgot one.

Jason: One Firefly, major exhibitor. If you go into CEDIA Expo, please see Ron and his team at One Firefly. Yeah, and that's an unpaid plug, by the way.

Ron:  I appreciate that. I just want to end the interview right there. There's really not much more to say on that.

Jason: But yeah. It is exciting that these major brands are fully committed to the show, making their plans for the show, the new products that they're bringing working on their stand display designs, the training sponsor, in conjunction with events that they're going to host of the show. We've had tons of conversations every week with these brands and then hundreds of others. We're expecting 250-300 brands at the show this year. It's probably a third less honestly than in space than we had two years ago. But that trend is very similar to other industry events out there. But more than anything, it means that you're still going to see many new products from leading brands well worth the trip. When was the last time you had that opportunity again? It was two years ago.

"A lot of what makes our industry special is the people and the relationships with those people."

Ron:  I might just add, Jason, that a lot of what makes our industry special I would challenge is the people and the relationships with those people. Right. And I mean, in my observation, if there are third fewer vendors at the show than the vendors that do show up, There's just going to be a tremendous networking opportunity and, frankly, just catching up and probably telling war stories about our last twenty-four months. It's just so much more powerful to do that in person than through a video conference. I'm the biggest advocate out there on video conferencing. I was doing Zoom's before they were cool. But you can't argue that that's more effective than the face to face time with your friends, with your customers, with your peers. I mean, it really is priceless.

Jason: No doubt. There are many different facets and reasons why people attending another big one, obviously, is the educational content offering from CEDIA. The other manufacture product training demo rooms where you can see products and listen.

Ron:  If you allow Jason, let's go through some of those logistics and talk about the mechanics of being at the show as you know it right now, dealers and vendors are going to be wearing masks. And might that change? What's it going to take this point by point?

Jason: Today, that is our policy. We have our health and safety protocols and guidelines on the website that everyone can look at. We are hopeful that some changes will be made by the local jurisdiction and the convention center. Several other large events are happening in Indianapolis before the CEDIA Expo. We'll get to see how things transpire for them as well. But we are looking at that from Emerald's perspective corporately across all of our event portfolios. What is the recent CDC pronouncement about mass screening for vaccinated individuals? How will that impact our position with our events, and what updates we may have to make to our policies accordingly? But I want to stress repeatedly. Our number one mission is to have a healthy and safe show experience for everybody attending the show, exhibitors, and attendees. That's our greatest concern, and putting on the show and getting back together in person safely.

We want to be respectful and mindful of that and deliberate in our plans and policies concerning health and safety. Even though it may ultimately come to pass that our policies change. If you're vaccinated, maybe you may not have to wear a mask, but masks will be encouraged for everyone's safety and protection. We certainly recognize that there will be individuals coming to the show who may not be vaccinated or have health conditions, and they're probably gonna wear a mask, and that's OK and encouraging. But we also recognize that if you have to take your mask off, you're going to drink a beer or have something to eat. Hello. Then you're going to put your mask back on if that's the case. We definitely have great plans in place today to ensure a healthy and safe event. As I said, we're viewing those plans, and we'll make updates accordingly as we're able to. That's always been our primary focus is let's get back together safely. Let's have a great event. Let's make sure everybody feels comfortable being there and can have a smooth experience. That's really what we've been focusing on.

Ron:  We have a question posed here from our folks watching, and I'll put it on screen. This is Mario. He says, "Jason, are you considering providing an online platform for companies that are not able to attend due to covid?" In fact, I want to say Mario is in Canada, and there might be a Canadian travel restriction there.

Jason: Yes. We're aware of that today. We've spoken with several brands with challenges coming to the show this year for clear reasons from our friends up north and Europe and Asia. We do have digital exhibiting opportunities. We have an online digital directory link to our floor plan where exhibitors can put on videos, product information, et cetera. Half of these education sessions that CEDIA offers this year will be on-demand, and they're selling a registration pass. We'll talk about registration in a minute, where you'll have access to sessions on demand. We're also capturing a lot more content this year at the show via video. We will have our stage sessions on the show floor recorded and available on-demand after the show. Our goal is to try and have as much of the show experience be available to the external industry who may not be able to attend the show. We're also looking to introduce a new matchmaking platform portal for the show this year, which is a first, and that'll be a new, exciting way for attendees to connect and with exhibitors. Stay tuned for more news on that. But it also goes into that whole theme that we're talking about of the digital experience.

Whether you want to call it a hybrid event, virtual event, we don't plan to have the simultaneous online everything live from the show floor this year, but we will have many digital tools available that extend the show. Experience for brands at the show and attendees who cannot attend will at least see who's exhibiting their links to their sites, how to contact the exhibitors, how to connect with others. We certainly encourage everyone to register for the show when the show comes up. We hope everybody can attend in person. But we understand that some may not. That's fine, too. We're also with our media brand CE Pro magazine, which many people may be familiar with. They're going to do a lot of coverage at the show as well, in addition to many of our other media partners in the industry covering the show, videos from the show, webinars, pre-show, post-show, that type of thing to really connect the industry around the in-person event.

Ron:  Jason, I don't know if this is a question for you or a question for the CEDIA Trade Organization members. But in terms of education, I know that education is always a big draw to the event. I know that many of the classes are often sold out, and there are education passes. There's a diversity of courses and curriculum. Actually, in my firm, we're teaching a bunch of courses. I want to say five or six around different themes tied to marketing. What I don't know, of course, I could have asked the questions, but why do that when I could ask you live? Do you know if all of those courses will be taught to an audience and a virtual audience? Are people going to be logging into those classes or have that option? Or is it only folks that are sitting six-foot separation in the classroom at the convention center?

Jason: It's a combination, Ron. They will have one hundred sessions, and approximately half of them will be on-demand, pre-recorded, and available during the show week and thereafter or record it at the show and available immediately after so that those who attend in person can do those sessions. There's a pass, a conference pass that will include both the in-person and the on-demand sessions. They're still planning to have the in-person, sit in the room, see the speaker, engage discussion, Q&A, as has been done for many years. We did a tour of the convention center last month, together with the CEDIA team, and looked through all the meeting rooms and how those are set. Today, the rooms will be set for social distancing, and there are some capacity limitations on the rooms. But we've combined rooms so that we can accommodate as many people as possible around the sessions.

As I mentioned, we'll review that, and hopefully, capacity limits increase, and then we'll be able to fit more people in the rooms and so forth. But they have a robust program planned this year, tracks for the business owner, project managers, sales and customer relations system designers, technicians, and a lot of talk around the CEDIA certification. Of course, we have manufactured product training sessions from the brands talking specifically about their products and solutions: a very robust program, a great slate of speakers. Registration is going to be opening on June 9th. It's not open yet. It's coming.

Ron:  Well, let's talk about that for a minute. I'm going to put it on the screen. It's important to note that you cannot yet register, but you can pre-register to be notified. I'm going to put it on the screen, and maybe you could describe to our audience what we see here.

Jason: When you first go to in your browser should be a blue box that pops right up that says, hey, if you want to get added to our newsletter list where you'll get notifications, and so forth. Put your name and email in there and get on the list. If you've attended in the past, we have likely had your name already, and you will also receive a notification. If you subscribe to CE Pro magazine, you'll also probably receive a notification. But if you want to be sure, you could go to the website and when that blue box pops up, enter your name and email, and that'll get you on our notification list and show updates. And like I said, it's coming here in a couple of weeks. We will issue a press release as well, but launching June 9th. That's also when housing is open for general attendees.

If you are a CEDIA member, you can book a hotel room now and do that online. If you're an exhibitor, you can also book hotel rooms online and reach out to On-Peak, our housing provider. But we're getting ready to get everybody signed up and get it going for the show. But a great program this year. We also have two stages on the show floor. I'll mention our smart stage and our innovation hub stage. Those stages will have sessions on thought leadership, on a variety of industry topics, manufacturing case studies, product-specific solution conversations on the innovation hub stage. What's new this year, the innovation hub. A couple of dozen sessions more than that combined on both stages. And those are kind of like TED talks. They're like 20-30 minutes. They run throughout the three days of the show. We'll have a public schedule before the show where everybody can look and see. This is a topic I'm lighting or thought about raising outdoor living or work from home technologies and business challenges. For the state of the industry, we have a variety of topics that we're planning for this year. We have bite-size, drive-by sessions on the floor. We have more in-depth conference programming with CEDIA off the show floor, show floor manufacture, product training, and demo rooms.

We also have been talking with many buyers groups out there and the industry and having in conjunction meetings at the show for their members aWe know a lot of manufacturers are planning their own in conjunction meetings, sales meetings, and so forth. It's just really simple and easy between the convention center meeting space and all the adjacent hotels. When you come to the show, like, hey, I'm going to be on the show floor visiting the exhibits, then I'm going to take the session. I'm going to have some lunch. I'm going to come back. I'm going to meet my friend. I'm going to see that product demo. It's all clustered right together. It's very easy, a very simple campus to navigate and go between the downtown area of Indianapolis is fantastic because all the hotels are literally within a few blocks of the convention center. There are tons of places to eat and meet and greet. That's what I enjoyed, and it had been a long time since I've been in Indianapolis. We went on a site visit last month, and it's just fantastic. They are ready for business. It is super clean. The convention center has been hosting events actually since last June. They had March Madness there. I think everybody's familiar with that, hosted tens of thousands of people through their building. They've had a lot of public events. They've done all these events safely and effectively. They're ready for business.

We think it's all going to be just a great environment to get back in person. I think 2012 was the last show was in Indianapolis, if I'm not mistaken. Of course, CEDIA's headquarters is there in the suburbs of Indianapolis, and it's a great destination to get to. I think everybody can easily plan to come to the show, navigate. Divide your time effectively between education, networking, meeting with manufacturers, socializing with your friends. Heck, they even have a ballpark right next door to the convention center. There are Indians games there. I think it's AAA or maybe AA, minor league baseball right next door on Wednesday and Thursday night during the show week. There's plenty to do. Museums, a great place to bring your family. Indianapolis. We're really excited about it. Do I sound excited?

Ron:  You sound excited. I've got the map pulled up for those listening on the podcast. I've got a floor plan pulled up on the screen. By my estimate, it looks like Crestron wins the award for the biggest booth?

Jason: Yes.

Ron:  Am I doing the math wrong here?

Jason: No, that's correct.

Ron:  They're coming out swinging.

Jason: Absolutely. They were supposed to come back last year. And then, unfortunately, the show was canceled, and they're fully committed and coming back in a big way. This year, they'd taken a hiatus for several years from the show, really back in a big way. Very excited to have their support for the show. I think it also helps up the game for all the manufacturers coming back. But I think it's a big boost. Having Crestron, as you said, we talked about many of the major brands there and a great variety of products. Lighting, audio, video control, security. We've got everything that you need to see to put a system together.

Ron:  A question for you, Jason, on the floor. I'm zoomed in here. First of all, I've got the whole map filling the screen. And is everything on one level, or am I looking at multiple levels here?

Jason: This is the street-level view. If you're coming in from the left side of that plan or the bottom side of the plan from the street, most of the adjacent hotels are on the bottom side of this plan if you're looking directly across the street. But registration is right there on the main level adjacent to the CEDIA association.

Ron:  Alright. Registration is in this main hall. It's up here to this upper side. Is it fair to say most people will enter the entire show from right around this registration area where Savant Lutron Sonance Legrand SNAP Control4? Or is there an additional way to enter down here at the bottom where I see Sony, Harmon, Samsung, Crestron?

Jason: We have hall entrances all along with the lobby into each section of the hall today. The entrances are like one way into the hall, one way out. The right side is the entrance, the left side to exit. We have designated from the exterior of the building. Some of the entrances will be entrance only, exit  But once you're inside the convention center lobby, no matter which side of the building you come from, from the street once you have your badge at registration the building. It may be the first morning you get there, you enter the hall when the hall opens, you know, and you're going in there by the Lutron booth, or maybe you already have your badge. You're coming back to the show, and you're entering on the side of the hall where a restaurant is, and so once you get in, you'll be able to flow around the pink wide aisles. There are major thoroughfares that connect the two halves of the hall. Then also, you can see on the plan there at the bottom, we have some of them called MPT rooms. Those are manufactured product training rooms. Then over to the left, we have some more manufactured product training rooms there. Now, there is a second level above this. And actually, I think on top of our web page there. You can navigate up to the second level.

Ron:  We might quickly be going above my pay grade here.

Jason: Yeah, well, there's a way to do it, but essentially the second level is meeting rooms. We have got some ballroom space upstairs, an additional set, kind of a mirror image of the meeting rooms on the second floor that they're also using for sessions. Manufacture product training, partner, group meeting space, et cetera. But generally speaking, this is the main thoroughfare ground level. You enter the building. You can get in the hall. There are concession areas inside the hall, the food court area in the lobby. We're going to add seating areas in there. And I said earlier, you could cross the street, go one block down, go to the steak and shake, or there's a mall down there and two blocks from the convention center with a food court and the restaurants the hotels. There's plenty of dining options for lunch breaks or cocktail after the show, et cetera. Great places to meet up before, during, and taking a break during the show.

Ron:  I did not yet ask you. I meant to ask you just a few minutes ago. Historically, there are sound rooms like where you listen to the latest speaker audio package or surround audio package at these events. Are those going to be at the event this year?

Jason: Yes, in fact, we're going to have about 10 rooms on the show floor. We also have some meeting rooms off the show floor that we call high-performance audio rooms. We have some of those earmarks now, and we still have companies signing up for them. We definitely will have that. We know several exhibitors will also have similar setups in their exhibit booths. An enclosed area of the demo product as well. That's a very traditional feature of the show, a highlight, and a reason many folks come to like it. I want to hear these things and see how they work. That certainly is a component that will still be featured at the show this year. And something for folks to look forward to.

Ron:  Awesome, I want to give Michael a shout-out. He says he can't wait to go. Thank you, Michael, for that comment. Shawn says the same. He says, "Looking forward to it for sure." I know you've done some surveys publicly. I think you've done them through CE Pro. Maybe you've done them beyond that. What is the consensus around attendance at the show?

Jason: That's also a big question. The first question was, are you doing a show? Second question from exhibitors, how many people are going to be there? I don't have a crystal ball that will tell me exactly how many folks will be. But, yes, we have made some surveys—two data points I can share. We did a sentiment survey last month in April to past attendees and 70 percent. We had, I think, twelve hundred respondents with 70 percent said that they were definitely or likely to attend the show, which was fantastic. We have a little poll on the website that several people have answered in the last month or so and a very similar response ratio.

Separately, there's a trade show group called Freeman, large general service contractors, and the trade show industry across many different sectors. One of the largest companies they have a research group. They just recently fielded a study that said 84% definitely plan to travel this fall. 74% said their companies are easing their travel restrictions or will not have travel restrictions. That also reinforces and bodes well about folks' desire and intention to come back to an in-person event. This is very encouraging. We will do another attendee sentiment survey in June. Just open up registration, and we'll do another survey and just say, hey, now if things keep improving out there with the pandemic. Things are changing. Does that change people's attitudes and ability to travel and so forth?

We're also hoping, and we hear from some of the international countries, that hopefully, some of their travel bans start to ease, and they're being reviewed this summertime. Hopefully, in July, we'll see a lot more accessible for travel open up, and hopefully, our international guests will join us. We're very optimistic about attendance this year. But I'm going to go ahead. I'm going to say this.

Ron:  Is this breaking news?

Jason: Well, I'm just going to say this. What other opportunity have you had to see hundreds of brands in person in the last 12 months? Zero. Let's say we have 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 people. There is no other trade event in this channel anywhere in the United States that has happened where you'll see thousands of people. I'm speaking directly to exhibitors that haven't signed up for the show yet and exhibitors who are in the show. This is a great opportunity, and for those of you that want to meet your colleagues and buddies that you haven't seen in two years, this is the perfect opportunity to get back.

Ron:  This is where the party is at. The party is in Indy.

Jason: Exactly. In some respects, and not to minimize the value of marketeers put in headcount and so forth, trying to calculate, calculate ROI. But it's about the quality from an exhibitor's perspective. It's about having the industry come back together. People who make the trip will be glad to be there, glad to see the exhibits, and glad to take the education. That's why I think it's so important we get so fixated in the past on numbers. What's the attendance? I think that's changed now. The view of what's valued. We've all learned to do this digital experience over the last year, but getting back together face to face, having quality conversations, talking with people who are seriously interested to know what's coming out next. That's the number one reason, by the way, that in every survey, in any industry, why do people come to a trade show? They want to see new products. It's also one of the top reasons that exhibitors come to the show. They want to show the new products.

I'll just say that regardless of whatever the final attendance number is, and we hope it's as great as possible, it'll be a great show. To your point, it means it's a great opportunity for those that do show up to connect with the brands that are there. I don't want to use the word it's going to be more intimate or whatever. It's a great show. It's going to be a big show floor, and a lot of walking around still do and a lot to see. That's what everyone should be excited about and look forward to.

Ron:  Well, I agree. Jason, for those who are tuned in and want to touch with you directly or learn more about the show, maybe they have more questions. What are the directions you want to give those watching or listening?

Jason: Well, there's a lot of information at, and you can certainly contact us through the web forum there as well. It lists my information or my colleague's information on there. If you're interested in exhibiting, or you're interested in attending, or you have questions. There are many FAQs on the website now about health and safety, travel, hotels, and the conference program. Please take the time to visit the website. It gets updated regularly. But if you like the email, it's This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is my email address and feel free to reach out to me. I don't do a ton of tweeting, but my handle is @mrshowguy on Twitter. Appreciate the following.

Please connect with us on LinkedIn, on Facebook, follow the #CEDIAExpo2021. The #CEDIAHQ that the association uses will also post a lot of information about their programs and what's going on at the show. And, of course, pay attention to the CE Pro website and the magazine. There'll be a lot more information coming up. Stay tuned for the registration opening. More than anything, I look forward to standing there right in the lobby and greeting you as you come into the hall.

Ron:  Amen, I'm going to put it on the screen here. We have The CEDIA Godfather here in attendance, Ken Erdmann, and he says he'll be there. Ken, thanks for tuning in and chiming in. And Jason, it was a pleasure to have you on the show, sir. And I look forward to seeing you in Indy in September.

Jason: Thanks a lot, Ron. I appreciate it. And thanks, everybody. We'll see you there.

Ron:  Alright. Be well. Guys, there you have it. I was going to add. I agree with Jason's sentiment that I know that there will be fewer people at the show than in '19. I don't think there's any way to think that's not going to happen. But, to think of our role, One Firefly, at a show like that. There's going to be X thousands, let's call it, I'm guessing, 5000-10000 integrators, people in the space other than the manufacturers. We just need to meet a couple of hundred that come through our space, and that we'll meet maybe that a few more hundred and all the classes and courses that my staff and I are offering. Ultimately we'll be able to see our current customers and our friends. We're going to meet some new people, and then we'll leverage that over the course of the next year or so. It's really quality over quantity.

"As a vendor, to hear that we want the biggest show ever like that means nothing to me because there are only certain decision-makers for my brand that ultimately have the conversation about marketing and strategic direction of their company and are ready to engage in a conversation with my team."

As a vendor, to hear that we want the biggest show ever like that means nothing to me because there are only certain decision-makers for my brand that ultimately have the conversation about marketing and strategic direction of their company and are ready to engage in a conversation with my team. We're excited. CEDIA has always been the biggest lead generator for my business in all of my years. I've been doing this for 14 years, and before that, I did every CEDIA with Crestron, and then before that, I did every CEDIA with Lutron. It is always a big deal. And I'm excited to see all of you that are planning to attend the show. Definitely make sure to find One Firefly and come and say hello. My team and I, we're going to be in and out of courses. There are many courses that we're teaching on websites on hiring and HR, on social media management, on SEO, on CRM.

If you know me and you know One Firefly, you know we like to teach. We're going to be giving you guys all the goods and teaching you all of the fundamentals and some deeper dives into marketing strategy and, of course, giving that away for free. I definitely would love to see you guys at the show, either in the classes or by stopping by our booth. On that note, I'm going to give you my normal plug, which is if you have not subscribed to this audio podcast, please do. Just go to your app, look for Automation Unplugged, and you can find us. And then, of course, we're always dropping nuggets of gold and fun content out on our Instagram page. We'd love to get a follow on Instagram. You can follow us at One Firefly LLC. On that note, I'm going to sign off. I will see you all next week, and hopefully, I will see you, Jason, and I will hopefully see you in Indy. Thanks, everyone.


Jason McGraw has a background including 34 years of for-profit and not-for-profit conference and exposition management. His prior experience includes B2B trade events and working as Senior Vice President of Exposition and Event Services with the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA), leading the InfoComm show. Jason now is Group Vice President and Show Director for the CEDIA Expo and Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), the leading annual events in North America serving the kitchen & bath and residential systems integration industries.

Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview:

To keep up with Jason, visit CEDIA Expo's website at the CEDIA expo or email him directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Be sure to follow CEDIA Expo on Facebook and Instagram.