In Sync in the Music City

For the first time, the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) and the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) are partnering to host a security show all their own: the Electronic Security Expo (ESX). The event will be held June 25 to 27 in Nashville, Tenn., and it’s being billed as “The Premier Training Event for Security Integration and Monitoring Companies.”

Despite this being the inaugural ESX, the organizers have planned ahead to give this show a great shot at being well-attended the first time around. Several industry meetings and award ceremonies which have tended to take place at other times of the year have been moved to the ESX, ensuring solid attendance. Furthermore, by picking Nashville as the destination, the show is banking on the fact that the Music City is a fun, affordable place that attendees will be able to reach with relative ease.

“I’ve been involved with a number of event launches over the years and it gets to the point where you can just sense whether you have the ingredients for success, and that’s what we have in ESX,” said John Galante, vice president, EH Events, which is producing the show. “We’ve designed a niche and mission for the event that is uniquely useful and needed. We have passionate owner/sponsor organizations in NBFAA and CSAA and an equally proud and passionate NBFAA host chapter in the Tennessee Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. Led by ESX Expo Chair, George De Marco, we’ve had great association volunteer contributions on conference content and attendance promotion to create an event that’s truly designed for the industry by the industry.”

A security show is born
Many years ago the CSAA and NBFAA participated in the revenue sharing of the ISC shows. However, when that stopped being the case, both associations found themselves almost entirely dues-dependent for funding. Now that the CSAA and NBFAA own the upcoming ESX show, both associations hope this new stream of revenue will enable them to better fund projects and issues important to the industry. However, getting the CSAA and NBFAA to agree to terms on the show didn’t happen overnight.

As Mel Mahler, owner, ADS Security, Nashville tells the story, the discussions, negotiations and eventual implementation of this June’s inaugural ESX were more than five years in the making. Even though he can remember the associations trying to think of ways to increase non-dues revenue for as long as he’s been in the business, the CSAA and NBFAA weren’t necessarily on the same page regarding how it should be accomplished. Mahler said that in those days there wasn’t a lot of trust between the CSAA and NBFAA.

“But about the time Ralph Sevinor became the president of CSAA, you began to see increased bridge building between CSAA and NBFAA,” continued Mahler, referring to Sevinor’s term as CSAA president from 1999 to 2001.

Mahler followed Sevinor as CSAA president from 2001 to 2003 and it just so happened that at the same time his good friend Cecil Hogan, president, Security Consultants Inc., Memphis, Tenn., became NBFAA president. “So now you’ve got two presidents from Tennessee who are friends and that began to develop,” explained Mahler. “And it was during that time that we started to hear about EH (Electronic House). And if you look into them, you’ll see that they run some very successful shows around the world.”

“Then along came George Gunning as president of NBFAA, and John Murphy at CSAA; and then it went to an even better level,” continued Mahler, referring to the trust between the two associations. “It was like each president of those two associations bonded even more and more; and I really give credit to George Gunning and John Murphy and Merlin Guilbeau (NBFAA executive director) and Steve Doyle (CSAA executive director) for making this thing happen.”

Gunning also recalls that the concept first came up about five years ago when the NBFAA was approached to be a part of a show. “Although that didn’t materialize, I have been talking to John Galante of EH Events on and off for a while. Then he called me and said his president Ken Moyes would like to talk with NBFAA. We then set up an NBFAA executive committee meeting and invited Ken and John to make a presentation. After that, we knew we were interested, but we really wanted the show to be an industry event, the whole industry, NBFAA and CSAA. I called John Murphy, the president of CSAA and we agreed on doing this together. John Murphy and I attended a meeting at EH’s office in Massachusetts; John Murphy is a master at negotiation and the industry ended up being the owners of the ESX event.”

Ingredients for success
With this being the first time ever the CSAA and NBFAA have come together for a combined expo focused on training, there is building excitement for what this show could do for the industry in terms of furthering education.
“We are strongly promoting the idea of team learning at this event, because every individual actually learns more when they have colleagues along with them and the company benefits multiply,” said Galante. “The expo floor, while not the largest in the industry, will be unique because exhibitors will be focusing exclusively on messages for the trade. In all the other national trade shows dealers are the minority of attendees, so exhibitors need to be careful about what they promote to avoid channel conflicts. They can’t exactly promote dealer pricing, promotional support and the salability of product features to the security managers that ultimately are being sold. At ESX, vendors can focus their conversations on what will help integration and monitoring companies maximize revenues, profits and company value.”

“In addition to the technical focus, the educational tracks provide training for sales and marketing, business development and management and customer service training,” added De Marco. “In other words, the educational tracks are geared to provide quality and meaningful programs for increasing business knowledge of owners and executive management or job functions of employees for alarm dealers, integrators or contract central stations.”
Mahler agreed that the ESX aims to have strong educational content, and a key component will be that its geared toward companies of all sizes. “For example, the first time I went to an ISC show, I went to one of the programs and the speaker said, ‘Well, this is really for the SDM 100 companies,’” recalled Mahler. “At the time, Dave Carter had his company in Raleigh and I had mine in Nashville. We looked around and we were the only two people in the room from SDM 100 companies.”

“Whereas these seminars that were developed by NBFAA and CSAA really go across the gambit and appeal to companies of all sizes because most of the 14,000 licensed security companies in this industry are small companies and they very seldom get the opportunity for some of this educational content,” continued Mahler. “I’m not talking about becoming Level I or Level II, that works really well. I’m talking about how you run your business, how you hire people, how you train; those types of things.”

Location, location, location
“Nashville has a good convention and hotel center, plus the Country Music Hall of Fame has a great theater and reception area for the Weinstock and Jackson award ceremony,” said George Gunning. “Plus, there are a lot of country music fans in our industry. In fact, the Tennessee alarm association is taking attendees on a Club Crawl to listen to all the great country music. Besides the great atmosphere, we knew from some of the statistics about other shows, that the southeast has fewer people attending the other national events and would attend one in this particular region. It has the benefit of being centrally located and is less expensive for our members than venues on either coast.”

Galante pointed out that Tennessee is a Right-to-Work state, so that should save exhibitors on display installation and dismantling. He also noted that Nashville has a track-record of working from an attendance perspective—it was home to the best attended NBFAA convention ever in the early 1990s.

Mahler predicted 3,000 people will attend the ESX in June and he gave a few reasons as to how he came up with that number. First off, the CSAA Annual Meeting and the TBFAA Annual Meeting are both being held at ESX, so that should boost attendance. Also, the NBFAA’s Weinstock and Jackson Awards have been moved from ISC West to ESX, which should also boost the numbers. He also noted that with the NBFAA celebrating its 60th anniversary this too will have an impact and is sure to book some exciting entertainment.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘This industry has far too many meetings, why don’t we start consolidating some of them?’” said Mahler. He went on to explain that ESX aims to do just that: start consolidating many of the industry’s meetings into one event.

De Marco concluded, “We believe the ESX will be a terrific convention for owners and employees of alarm dealers and integrators to come and learn more about the security industry from their peers and other business professionals. Our format appeals to exhibitors too, allowing for a more meaningful and useful venue for their current and prospective customers to discuss existing or potential opportunities with them. Our goal was to put the wow in the ESX with the focus of developing a win-win convention for exhibitors and attendees.”

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