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Experience is everything: 20 years at ISE

January 11, 2024

A look back at the first ISE trade shows

In this piece:

Are you headed to ISE 2024

Come by our booth, #3K500 in Hall 3, where “Experience is everything"

In 2004, Google went public, making its founders instant billionaires, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and scientists created two new chemical elements: Ununtrium and Ununpentium.  

Also notable: the first Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) trade show was held in Geneva, Switzerland at the Great Exhibition Hall.  

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Christie exhibited at that first show, and we’ve been there every year since. From Geneva to Barcelona, the show has marked several firsts for us, including the launch of our original MicroTiles® in 2010. 

We talked to three Christie employees about ISE’s growth, its evolution, and their memories of those early shows.  

2004: Geneva, Switzerland 

A tradeshow booth with a white ceiling, white support columns, and blue carpet. People are inside and screens with images projected onto them cover the interior walls.

Christie’s booth at ISE 2004.

The first ISE was held in Geneva, Switzerland, a location that ISE organizers felt was “neutral”, and covered residential, commercial, and ProAV technology 

“Germany was the place for any sort of trade shows in our industry at the time,” says Phil Lord, regional sales manager, Cinema. “As a pro-audio-visual show, there was nothing really like it in Europe. So that’s why we participated and signed up. We thought, let's support it and see what it's all about.” 

“I can remember the show very well: it was one hall, and it was half-empty,” says Phil. “We got there, and I remember thinking on the first day, ‘What are we doing?’ It was just a bunch of manufacturers talking to each other.” 

A man stands in front of a large building with the words “Geneva Palexpo” on the front.

Pal Roppa, senior technical support engineer, outside of the Geneva Palexpo, where the first ISE trade show was held.

Pal Roppa, senior technical support engineer, was at the first show in Geneva. “ISE wasn’t broadcast, it wasn’t cinema, but it was for the types of products that we had in our range at the time, like the Vivid Red and the Vivid Blue projectors. So, I thought it was a good fit for us.” 

And the first show was, by all measures, a success. Our partners came, and despite the quiet start, it was busy. “Even from that very first show, it's always been a great opportunity to meet my partners and my customers,” says Phil.  

"We’ve supported them from day one, and they’ve listened to us...From my point of view, we’ve had a really strong relationship with ISE for many, many years." - Phil Lord

However, there were some downsides to ISE’s original location in Switzerland. “One thing I remember about was how incredibly expensive it was. The hotels, meals, bar bills – it was all very, very expensive,” says Phil. Pal recalls how cold it was while unloading the gear for the show. “We were really close to the shutter doors, and the cold air from the Swiss Alps was blowing in and we were just shivering, unpacking the show.” 

Amsterdam, Brussels, and Barcelona 

The show doubled in size from the first to the second year, with over 7,400 attendees from 78 countries and 220 exhibitors, and Christie expanded as well. The booth was bigger, and our demos had become more complex. And ISE had moved from Geneva to Amsterdam. 

A tradeshow booth with a large screen in the background and people talking in groups.

Christie’s booth at ISE 2005 significantly grew in size.

“The show was much, much bigger,” recalls Phil. “The camaraderie in the evening and the nights at the Irish pub, you know, a few doors away from the show in Amsterdam, were certainly highlights.” 

But because of a scheduling conflict at the RAI Amsterdam, the show was on the move again for its third year, this time to Brussels, Belgium. Even before the doors opened, the show exceeded the organizers’ expectations with over 270 registered exhibitors. Ultimately, 11,000 people attended the show – an increase of almost 50% from 2005. And it was the relocation to Brussels that proved to be very memorable for the Christie team.  

“It was so cold,” says Phil. “The heating didn’t come on in the hall until the first day of the show. So the engineers were working in hats and gloves, and I remember some of the controllers and PCs were actually freezing, it was that cold.” The show took place in an aircraft-style hangar, which was not well-insulated against the elements.  

“We had a much bigger booth in 2006,” says Pal. “Vista Control Systems [which Christie acquired in 2007] were opposite us, and they had three of our projectors in a blended display. We had projectors with Stewart Filmscreens on our booth,” recalls Phil. But because of the cold, the screens wouldn’t stretch. “We had to buy hair dryers to warm up the screens,” says Marcos Fernandez, regional sales manager, Spain. 

A tradeshow booth with the word “Christie” shown throughout and three large screens on the booth walls.

Christie’s booth at ISE 2006, which was memorable for the team because of the cold temperatures inside the convention center.

Marcos and Pal remember the stand builders stapling a “roof” to one of the projection booths. “We turned the projectors on and then we all huddled in the room so that we could keep warm behind them!” 

From 2004 to 2024 

The move to Barcelona has been a welcome change. With ISE’s continued growth, the Amsterdam RAI was just too small. “They had to build temporary marquees because there were so many exhibitors. It wasn’t big enough for everybody,” says Pal. 

But regardless of the location or the temperature, the booth is always ready on day one. “It doesn’t matter what happens: the first day of the show everything is up and running. What I’ve learned is, especially at that time during the early years of the show as an engineer, is that there is always a Plan B and Plan C,” says Marcos.  

A birds eye view of the Christie tradeshow booth in the middle of a busy tradeshow floor

2023 marked another successful ISE trade show for Christie.

For Christie, the success of the show comes down to a few things: decades of experience, careful planning, and, in the case of ISE, a strong relationship with the organizers. “We’ve supported them from day one, and they’ve listened to us,” says Phil, of Christie’s relationship with the show. “From my point of view, we’ve had a really strong relationship with ISE for many, many years.” 

Are you headed to ISE? Come by our booth, #3K500 in Hall 3, where “Experience is everything,” and share your memories of ISE over the years. (Was it really as cold in Brussels as our team says? 😊).