Chairman’s Corner: Always Exploring New Horizons

By | May 1, 2009 | Broadcasting, Feature, Telecom

A time-honored inside joke gets played out each year the Friday afternoon we close up SATELLITE. Show director Jennifer Heinold tapes shut the last box of office supplies, eyeballs the remaining staff on hand and says, "Great work, everybody. Take the rest of the day off."

From SATELLITE 2009, a day off is just about all we’ll get as planning for SATELLITE 2010 swings into high gear. Why the rush? So many reasons: The overwhelming mood at SATELLITE 2009 was one of continued faith in the strength, the durability and the relevance of the world’s satellite-enabled communications marketplace. That aura of "all is well" was tempered only slightly by the nagging realization that no one can predict how long the current economic downturn will last or how deep it will go.

On the satellite broadcast and video side, prospects for the future were deemed to be robust. Regarding broadband services via satellite, the outlook was declared positively bullish. Likewise, the mobile satellite services sector proclaimed continuing strength, trotting out a series of year-end reports and current financials to chart the impressive growth of the marketplace. All of this was complemented by a resounding endorsement of ongoing requirements for commercial satellite capacity and capability from government and military users around the globe.

There were the occasional ragged edges: Launch vehicle providers suggested that the drive for the cheapest ride to space would leave them on the precipice of bankruptcy. Global satellite system operators worried that high fill rates on existing fleets exposed everyone to potential service disruptions. Spacecraft builders and equipment suppliers bemoaned razor-thin margins and fretted that the pipeline for orders and contracts, full enough for the near-term future, could start to wither if the economy does not improve.

Nonetheless, the final counts on SATELLITE 2009 will show that more than 9,300 professionals crossed the threshold at the Washington Convention Center, and more than 300 companies exhibited their services and products on a sold-out, 60,000-square-foot trade show floor. During the core SATELLITE 2009 conference, more than 300 speakers and experts informed the worldviews of more than 1,200 full conference registrants during nearly 60 panels and roundtables.

But enough of the recent past. A key question posed to the SATELLITE 2009 team during the show was why are we relocating a few miles south to the Gaylord National Convention Center for SATELLITE 2010. Suffice it to say that this was not our decision entirely. While we pride ourselves on organizing and hosting the world’s largest dedicated conference and trade show for the satellite-enabled marketplace, and we have a tendency to think of the SATELLITE show as a pretty big deal, what’s big to us does not loom so large in the eyes of the Washington Convention Center.

For 2010 the Convention Center offered us two options on dates — the week after New Years Day and the week or two just before the National Association of Broadcasters event in Las Vegas. Anyone who has participated in SATELLITE knows these dates for 2010 are simply unworkable. No one wants to travel and set up right after the holidays, and almost no one is willing to break down after SATELLITE to ship and travel to Nevada without at least touching down at the home and the office. For years we have struggled with the Washington Convention Center to get good dates for SATELLITE, but at the end of all the talk, they deal the cards that tell you when you’re welcome to set up shop there.

So the big adventure beyond the evolution of the marketplace for SATELLITE 2010 will be our short journey to the new facilities and charms of the Gaylord National. During the exhibitor rebook for SATELLITE 2010, we got a huge vote of confidence as about 80 percent of this year’s participants selected booths and confirmed their presence on the show floor for next year.

In the coming months, the SATELLITE 2010 team, having recovered from our afternoon off a few weeks ago, will be exploring the waterfront at National Harbor. I am attending a sizeable defense/military trade show there in May and part of my mission will be to assess the whole layout from the perspective of an attendee and an exhibitor.

Our goal on the trade show side, as always, will be to deliver the right customers and end users to your booth — no matter where we are — at SATELLITE. And, as always, our goal on the conference side will be to deliver the information and knowledge you need to be successful in the year and the years ahead. I look forward to sharing my findings with you as we ramp up to SATELLITE 2010.

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