If the recent ISTE conference—held in the closing days of June in Atlanta—is any indicator of the future, then the education market is alive and well.
ISTE 2014 is the largest ed-tech conference in the U.S., organized by the internationally represented International Society for Technology in Education. At a leadership reception on Monday, Brian Lewis, CEO of ISTE announced that all attendance records were broken during this Hotlanta event. More than 16,000 educators and thousands of additional vendors converged in the halls of the Georgia World Congress Center for a remarkable technology experience.
While past ISTE conferences have always been well-attended, rarely has that attendance spilled over into the exhibit halls. Educators were always there, but many shunned the expo areas. Some likened previous ISTE exhibit hall traffic to working in a bowling alley: “enough room in the aisles to lay down some bowling lanes and curve a few strikes and spares.” Hashtag, sparse traffic.
This year was decidedly different. The exhibit halls were packed with educators, from opening to closing—even in the far remote corners of the expo space. I spoke with some habitual exhibitors, asking them about the quality and quantity of the attendance. “Best I have seen in years,” was one answer. “Second best I have ever seen,” said two more. “Second best to what?” I asked. “Second best to BETT in England,” they responded. (The BETT conference is 4x larger than ISTE, for perspective.)
Most interesting to observe was the wickedly heavy exhibit hall attendance even on the final day of the expo. I have seen nothing like it ever. Last days are for early departure and relaxed strolling down the exhibit hall aisles. Not so at ISTE. From my perspective, the pace was frenetic even on the last day, up to the last few hours. There were still lines to talk to people and slow going in the major arteries.
Some of the traditional display companies were there (e.g. Panasonic, Samsung, Vivitek, Hitachi, Epson, Boxlight, BenQ, and a Korean pavilion ), but I noticed the absence of 5-6 major display companies that, for some reason, did not choose to exhibit this year. Boy, did they miss out. The award for best and boldest new presence goes to the Panasonic exhibit, which offered a fresh, open, striking, and accessible new look for their booth.
On another note, the 3D marketspace was the most vibrant and populous I have seen in 5 years at ISTE. I will cover that story in next week’s post. You will be quite surprised.
Perhaps all this was nothing more than pent-up demand, spontaneously released with easing of our recent economic straightjacket. Or maybe it was because people were happy with the fact that wireless was working reliably for the first time at an ISTE conference, so attendees had more spare time to spend in the exhibit halls. Or just maybe… we are witnessing the education market bouncing back to life. Cross your fingers.