intersolar Reboot: Impressions of a Biz Dever
Impressions of a Biz Dever
Intersolar North America was once a marque solar event. At its height in 2011, all three levels of San Francisco’s Moscone center was packed with over 800 exhibitors and 22,000 visitors. Alongside SPI, it was the event not to be missed if you wanted your brand to be known. But over the years, exhibitor and attendee numbers sagged. Large industry names choose to host off-site meetings and spare themselves thousands of dollars on exhibit space while still taking advantage of the industry gathering. As SPI moved from eastern locations out west, many exhibitors choose to consolidate their marketing dollars to one show. SPI's influence grew, while intersolar's waned. In 2019, intersolar took a year off and this year, a new conference organizer, Diversified Communications, rebooted the event.
Its been over a week since intersolar 2020. We've all returned home, nursed our hangovers, sorted through business cards, filed away our notes and had a few follow up calls. Looking back, was Diversified Communications successful in breathing new life this once glorious event? Is this the turning point that will regain intersolar's status as an industry event to see and be seen? Here are my impressions -- the impressions of a long-standing solar business development professional who's seen more than her fair share of industry get-togethers -- and someone who only had an expo pass.
It’s Not Just About Solar
It’s a trend we've all been seeing; solar now is the "older sister" to a growing family to technologies. While intersolar may be the name, "inter-st-olar-ev" may be more representative. Storage and EV charging had a strong showing with many traditional solar players using floor space to showcase their expanding capabilities and dedicated storage and EV companies making an appearance. No one seems to talk much solar these days without mentioning storage and EV charing is right behind.
Consolidation, Yes. Diversity, for Sure.
One argument explaining intersolar's decline is consolidation within the industry. This year's event had only 140 exhibitors. Yes, it was small. You didn't see nearly the number of grand, big-name booths handing out beer and espresso, but I was pleasantly struck with the diversity of small players that were either new market entrants or emergents from the shadows of the multi-million dollar corporations who didn't show up. It was a strong reminder that this industry ticks thanks to the efforts of small and mid-sized organizations who can nimbly navigate the ever-changing tides of solar, storage and EVCSs too!
Bye Bye Booth Babes
Gone appear to be the days of bunny rabbit bathing suits, kittens with whips and tight Elvis jumpsuits and I say "GOOD RIDDANCE!" Booth babes were a hot topic in the industry only a few years ago, and clearly we've made good headway. As a young woman in the industry - an educated, honed professional with a valuable story to share -- I remember having to vie for the attention of my male counterparts with busty, scantily clad, overly made-up, "booth talent". It puts a gal in an awkward position to say the least. Not that I'm against hiring attractive persons to welcome visitors to your booth but dress them professionally. And this year even the past's worst offenders seemed to have gotten that message. Perhaps this is another sign of industry maturity?
Nuts, Bolts, and Software
Hardware has always been a central feature at any industry expo. Its showy, flashy, you can touch it, it’s the brick and mortar our project-based industry is built off of. One interesting new hardware development for me was the roof-top storage units by Yotta Energy. "I've got a drone for that," continues to be a motto for the O&M side of the project cycle, with companies like Raptor Maps and Heliolytics offering aerial imagery and accompanying analytical platforms. But more and more the LCD screens of software-focused players are lighting up the show room floor. Where you once had to make do with hijacked software solutions from more traditional industries, now, every step of the solar business process has an industry-adapted software solution to help you do it easier, cheaper and faster. With the sting of launching an monster ERP still fresh in my memory, I especially appreciated seeing Blu Banyan offering ERP solutions tailored specifically for solar installers.
Nope, Not Bigger, but Still Quality
Over and over I heard, "the show is so small!" Yes, the expo footprint was a fraction of the past at best, but key players turned out-- perhaps out of curiosity -- and if you were looking to have a meaningful conversation with your counterparts, the more leisurely vibe of created a platform for unrushed discussions. Will intersolar return to its former glory? We'll see, but in the meantime, intersolar is a great venue for an early year check in with your industry partners -- both existing and potential.