Read Rob Stead's journey from scepticism to embracing change as he discloses the news of the co-location of our iconic events, AutoSens and InCabin. A convergence that promises expanded networking opportunities, cross-pollination of ideas, and a renewed focus on engineering excellence.
To be honest, I’ve always been a little prejudiced against trade shows. I’ve been to many, from the almost unimaginable scale of CES to more walkable shows like SPIE and SAE World Congress, and even an automotive show in Leon, Mexico. But there’s been one consistent feature – bored looking exhibitors, often just working on their laptops, and a very diluted crowd. In my younger years I always favoured smaller, intimate music venues vs huge stadium concerts, and I think I brought the same views into my work.
Since starting AutoSens in 2015, I’ve always said that the secret formula for a successful show was to ensure that you remained at a size where any two individuals onsite could have a relevant conversation about their work. Often, at these huge trade shows, most people you meet work in fields so far detached from your own work it can feel lonely – a weird sensation in a place with thousands of people present.
So, in 2016 we set our initial target at 500 as the maximum size AutoSens could comfortably grow to before we started to get too dilute. We picked a venue that could easily accommodate this number, and we hit that target in the second edition of the event. But we’ve learned since then that our community of engineers, and potential attendees at our events, was a lot bigger than we had anticipated. The latest AutoSens had over 660 attendees, with tutorials selling out, and a healthy exhibition with over 50 stands.
AutoSens 2016 Images
But still the demand grows, and as recruitment continues across ADAS and in-cabin technologies, and imaging and machine vision delve deeper into safety and comfort applications, our communities continue to grow. Those who have been following will know we spun out InCabin from AutoSens in 2022, and have almost doubled our community engagement in 2023 as a result. And yet demand continues to grow, so we needed to revisit the gameplan.
Given my fear of diluting the audience, I have to admit I have been quite resistant to the idea of co-locating the two events to create a larger show with more critical mass (despite advice to this effect from industry experts). I didn’t want to become ‘just another trade show’. We’ve always gone to quirky venues – AutoWorld in Brussels, MiSci in Detroit, Scottsdale Arts Center in Phoenix – to help our events stand out, but also to help create a more intimate environment conducive to networking and getting the discussion going.
After circumstances outside our control forced a venue change for AutoSens Detroit this year, last month was our first experience running AutoSens at a large-scale, trade show type venue. And do you know what? I loved it! More importantly, so did everyone who attended. We felt right at home at Huntington Place (the former Cobo Center, and home of the North American Motor Show), and I don’t believe we lost any of the magic that’s made AutoSens so great over the last 8 years. It gave me a great vision for what our events can become in such a space.
As we look to 2024, it makes total sense to combine the power of AutoSens and InCabin, to bring all the benefits together without losing any of the important factors that have made both such crowd favourites. I believe it’s a 2+2=5 scenario with even more value added via cross-pollination between the two audiences.
In Huntington Place we have a modern, comfortable, well-equipped venue right in the heart of the Motor City, and our own zone down by the riverside that can accommodate both events for many years to come. In Europe, we will all shed a tear when we say goodbye to AutoWorld, our spiritual home, but we have exciting plans for a new venue we’ll be able to share with you soon.
I’ve always viewed change as a positive thing. It’s the opposite of stagnation. While I don’t feel we’ve stagnated in any way at our venues, this change will drive a new energy into what we do. It’s exciting. And you’ll benefit from that directly. New spaces bring new opportunities for creativity, and this new phase for Sense Media won’t erase any of the amazing memories we’ve made along our journey so far and the success we’ve brought our engineering communities.
The best part – I also firmly believe we have a long way to go before we see any dilution of the audience. Despite the global economic challenges, our communities centered around ADAS and in-cabin technologies are thriving. New people join the sector every day. Innovation is accelerating at pace, and the industry as a whole continues to address the challenges of a complex supply chain, production and manufacturing efficiencies. These challenges will keep us occupied for many years to come, we all have lots of work to do, and I believe a combined audience of AutoSens and InCabin experts at a show staying true to it’s roots of being ‘by engineers, for engineers’ can add incredible value for the automotive industry.
We’re excited to bring you these collocated shows in 2024, doubling up on scale and value while retaining the intimate feel and expert-level networking that is our signature. But in the meantime, we hope to see you at our last shows at AutoWorld, InCabin this June and AutoSens in September. We’ll be making more memories, and you’ll be making more new expert connections, business prospects, and valuable knowledge to support your daily work.
#onwardsandupwards as a wise man once said. Bring on the next chapter!