On Wednesday, September 25, Almo Professional A/V held its E4 Experience in Teaneck NJ at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe. The event drew 630 registrants—one of the highest registration numbers in E4’s history—and those attending were a robust mix of integrators, consultants, installers and end users. The end-user category continues to grow, now amounting to perhaps 10 or 15 percent of registrants. Marking 10 years of evolution and expansion, the E4 Experience offered its usual mix of networking and high-quality education, while also offering a showcase of some of the AV industry’s best products.
Sound & Communications spoke to Warren Chaiken, President and CEO of Almo Corp.; Sam Taylor, Executive VP and COO at Almo Professional A/V; and Melody Craigmyle, VP, Marketing and Communications, at Almo Corp., to learn more about why the E4 Experience continues to attract scores of AV professionals. “It has become an industry event,” Craigmyle said. Registrants gain access to free, high-quality education through which they can earn Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) renewal units (RUs) from AVIXA, and, what’s more, Almo has initiated partnerships with the SDVoE Alliance and the Digital Signage Federation whereby attendees can get certifications in those areas. (Since those partnerships were established, more than 400 individuals have received certification.)
“E4 represents the chance to see the latest in AV technology,” Taylor added. He noted that it’s quite common for smaller AV integrators to bring their end users with them to E4, essentially using the experience as a showroom for the latest AV innovations. And, since the event’s inception, there’s never been a more diverse mix of manufacturers and products on display. This year, Almo added several companies to the fold: Absen, Huddly, ClearOne, MXL Microphones, Yamaha Unified Communications (Yamaha UC) and NETGEAR, just to name a few. Notably, Absen has signed Almo Professional A/V as its first national distributor, a powerful partnership at a time when LED solutions are transforming the display landscape. “We see a big future in direct-view LED technology,” Chaiken affirmed.
One factor that sets the E4 Experience apart from many other AV industry gatherings—even very large ones—is the percentage of attendees with extensive technical knowledge. When perusing the manufacturers’ booths, a visitor is likely to find engineer-level experts who can dive deeply into the technologies on display; moreover, because overall attendance is kept in the high hundreds, rather than the tens of thousands, registrants can enjoy in-depth conversations and plenty of one-to-one attention. In my own dialogues at the various booths, several manufacturer representatives mentioned that they’d conversed with numerous higher-education end users. Given that end-user attendance is on the upswing—and given that the higher-education segment is one of our industry’s largest—the swell among these technology managers is perhaps unsurprising.
One of the event’s most notable developments centered on Zoom Video Communications, which, Taylor said, “is becoming the standard-bearer in videoconferencing.” At the E4 Experience, Almo Professional A/V announced the availability of fully kitted Zoom Room Hardware Bundles. Brian Rhatigan, CTS, Director of Business Development for Almo Professional A/V, explained, “We worked with Zoom to design specific bundles based on their ease of installation for our integrators and to help them create the most seamless customer experience.” He continued, “Through these carefully selected Zoom Room Hardware Bundles, Almo is making it easy for integrators to get all the necessary components in a single box, with a single SKU, from a single supplier. All the hardware included in these bundles has been approved by Zoom for use on the platform, which takes out all the guesswork and ensures compatibility.”
At present, two Zoom Room Hardware Bundles are available: ZR-BUNDLE-FOCUS, which suits small huddle spaces of one to two people and which includes components from MXL and Logitech, and ZR-BUNDLE-HUDDLE, which suits huddle rooms of two to seven people and which includes components from JBL, MXL, Huddly, Lenovo and Samsung. A third Zoom Room Hardware Bundle is planned—this one for conference rooms—and it should be available in the next two or three months, pending approval of a camera for the bundle. Because every component of every bundle is Zoom-certified, end users can be confident that the system will always work reliably.
The E4 Experience also presented an opportunity for me to chat with Rob Ziv, CTS-D, CTS-I, ISF-C, DSCE, Director of Business Development with Almo Professional A/V, about Sound Options. That program, launched in April 2018, has seen Almo aggressively expand its audio lines, work with a wide range of manufacturers and offer concierge-like service for integrators looking to deploy audio systems for their clients. According to Ziv, “The offerings are now complete.” He cited the fact that Almo has virtually every audio-related category covered: unified communications and collaboration (UCC) products, conferencing mics, digital signal processors (DSPs), speakers, etc. Indeed, at present, Sound Options encompasses well over 30 brands. (Ziv did note that one additional brand—kept anonymous for now—is soon to be added; after that, however, the program should be fully realized.)
It has taken about 18 months to get Sound Options to where it is now, and Ziv’s willingness to listen to partners’ and clients’ comments was critical to bringing the program to fruition. “The feedback we received has been executed on,” he said with evident pride. He added that the most common feedback he hears now are notes of surprise…surprise that Almo Professional A/V is a one-source solution for their audio needs. “I frequently hear, ‘I didn’t know you could do that!’” he chuckled. Sound Options’ success has Ziv looking forward to facing down the next mountain someone tries to put in Almo’s way. “I’d love someone to bring us a challenge we couldn’t meet,” he declared.
The E4 Experience’s strength reflects that of Almo Professional A/V, and vice versa. Even so, in an industry as dynamic as ours is, no entity can allow itself to become complacent. “We have to evolve as the AV industry evolves,” Craigmyle observed, and then she listed some ideas the management team is already executing. For instance, they’re trying to bring different voices, from adjacent industries, into the E4 Experience. In particular, she cited those involved in space planning, productivity, interior design and architecture. And, naturally, the organization is moving aggressively to attract even more audio companies to the E4 audio pavilion.
Summing up, Chaiken said that Almo doesn’t want to be an audio and video hardware provider; rather, he said, “We’re trying to be a solutions provider.” And that, he specified, includes everything from remote monitoring, to content creation, to installation assistance, to concierge services for AV professionals. It’s a vision that allows our industry’s lodestar—the experience—to chart the course ahead.
The E4 Experience next travels to Alpharetta GA on October 15. For additional details, go to www.e4experience.com/ga19.