14.11.19

Why the Inavation Awards launched Business categories

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The Inavation Awards moves to a new home for 2020: the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam

Anna Mitchell outlines the thinking behind the launch of the Inavation Awards Business categories for manufacturers of AV technology.

As the Inavation Awards enters its 14th year, we’ve decided on the biggest change yet in the history of the event. Gone are the Technology categories, replaced by a set of Business Awards exclusively for manufacturers of AV technology. 

The technology awards were oversubscribed; we had more than twice the number of entries than ultimate finalists. Online voting generated great engagement with the awards process across the world. 

So why scrap them? It wasn’t an easy decision and it’s been daunting to remove something that on the surface was a great success. However, the reasons for not continuing down that path became too overwhelming to ignore.

Our primary consideration is our core audience of AV integrators, technical end users and consultants. We regularly review the awards to make sure they work for them. The Technology Awards were increasingly taking second place to the Project Awards. Project Awards are where this core audience get to participate and be recognised and rewarded. The prestigious and global list of finalists alone is testament to what these awards mean to the integration community. 

But the Technology Awards were meant to be for this audience too. We want an Inavation Technology Award to be a badge of excellence by which our audience can be guided. But when we talked to this group of AV technology buyers, they wanted more from the people they bought technology from than simply a great product.

Product was important but they wanted to know the technology would be supported well and they wanted sales people that formed meaningful relationships. Marketing was important to their choices, so we wanted to recognise that contribution too.

Our readers also increasingly cared whether their suppliers and partners in business cared for their employees and the wider world. They wanted to know they were buying sustainable and low emission products to help them meet their own targets, but many also wanted to know manufacturers that sold to them cared about these things in the running of their own business.

The Technology Awards also tended to favour larger companies, when it’s important to us that smaller players are introduced to buyers too. 

Finally, technology is still important. But we don’t operate in a landscape of siloed products. It’s hard to put a badge on a single ‘technology’ when many manufacturers are selling sophisticated systems, hardware and software solutions that are inextricably linked, and modular ranges of products that cover a whole gamut of budgets and needs. The effort and successes that go into truly great solutions offerings are better recognised with the R&D Award.

Technology Awards were also problematic when it came to sensible categories. The number of awards had to be manageable but products that should not, and cannot, be compared were up against each other, side-by-side. 

We also stipulated that products had to be out in the market to be eligible. If it won an Inavation Award, we wanted the market to know it was available and that it worked; not just demoed with impressive claims. But that caused a problem too. The Inavation Awards is staged with the support of ISE and held during the ISE show. This is the preferred launch pad for AV technology manufacturers. The halls of the RAI were packed with breakthrough technology, while the awards were often celebrating what was launched the year before. 

So, armed with these reasons for change we launched a set of Awards that we felt would better serve both the manufacturers competing for them and the buyers in the Inavation Awards audience and following the Awards via Inavate magazine. 

Change is hard and in year one of this new scheme entries have fallen when compared to the 2019 Technology Awards. We don’t charge for entries, but we are asking for an investment in time. The AV market is flooded with technology awards programmes and applications were often created and then entered across numerous schemes. We also had to deal with many companies simply sending in specification sheets and existing marketing material for products they wanted to enter.

This year’s change requires a dedicated and considered entry and I’m heartened by the time and effort that our finalists have put into their applications. I’ve also learnt a lot about some companies I thought I knew very well. This reassures me that these categories are recognising aspects of businesses that simply aren’t celebrated anywhere else.

Judging sessions have been lively and passionate. Our judges have been engaged rather than tearing their hair out trying to compare microphones and loudspeakers for example. Every finalist we announce here truly deserves recognition for their efforts in that field and we’re looking forward to telling you more about them in the run up to, and after, the Inavation Awards 2020.

It was daunting to make this change and – when it comes to industry awards - it’s unusual to accept and even highlight a fall in entries. But more is not always better. I’m buoyed by the dramatic increase in the quality of entries and confident that our finalists are in a fair competition and have all successfully conveyed achievements they should be proud of. Finally, a big thank you to all manufacturers who engaged in this process in year one – whether a finalist or not. 

The Inavation Awards 2020 takes place on February 11, 2020 in Amsterdam. For tickets and details head to inavationawards.com

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