A virtual AES Show workshop.

January 13, 2021 I Convention

AES 2020 Offers Month-long Celebration

By Katie Kailus


Each October, the audio industry descends upon New York City for three days of new gear, educational sessions and networking during the annual AES Fall Convention. But this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Audio Engineering Society celebrated the industry all month long, declaring October “Audio Engineering Month” and bringing with it the Fall Convention, which featured 300 livestreamed sessions hosted by more than 600 presenters and panelists. Covering everything from educational webinars on the latest gear to its Special Event series which featured Jackson Browne, Imogen Heap and Finneas, the virtual show saw some 4,400 attendees log in across 70 countries.

But turning an entire convention into a monthlong virtual event was no small feat. AES Executive Director Colleen Harper said its previous experience taking AES’s European show virtual in May was a good primer heading into the Fall Convention.

“We learned a lot with AES Virtual Vienna, and for the AES Fall Convention we were able to leverage that experience to offer every attendee the best seat in the house regardless of where in the world they were able to participate from,” Harper said. “We dove into planning the AES Fall Convention more with hopes than expectations as online events of this magnitude represent uncharted territory. We wanted to both replicate the quality and depth of our traditional events and try out new ideas that were made possible by going online with the convention. We’ve learned even more about what works well in an online format, and where we can still refine and improve the experience, but in the final analysis, we believe the convention was an unqualified success.”

To replace face-to-face meetings between suppliers and buyers, AES incorporated its Partner Showcase, a forum for interaction with pro-audio manufacturers that featured “virtual trade show booths” with product presentations and application information.

One benefit of going virtual? The Partner Showcase virtual booths, as well as a variety of sessions, were open for attendees to view for an extended period after the show closed. Additionally, on-demand sessions offered attendees the chance to view sessions at their convenience.

“[This was] a real plus given [that] there’s so much our conventions have to offer that participants have to make hard choices as to which sessions they attend during our physical events,” she explained. “Plus, we were able to spread the convention content [out] over an entire month, and we’re able to offer the on-demand catalog of sessions for an extended time after the convention.”

Focusrite attended the show, participating in the Podcast and Zoom Webinar, while its Focusrite Pro division took part in the AoIP Webinar.

“AES allowed us the chance to showcase our current Focusrite and Focusrite Pro products, as well as promote and tease our new product launches,” said Melissa Geiss, Focusrite’s event manager. “We were able to give our customers a chance to hear and see our audio interfaces at a time when they cannot get into stores to see them.” MI

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