14 Mar 2023


by Jason Allen


For those exhibiting at the ISE tradeshow, there’s an award for best stand design up for grabs. It’s handled and judged by EXHIBITOR magazine and a jury of “highly esteemed designers and marketers, who have no connection to the show and its exhibitors.” Epson took out the gong in 2023 and respectfully, the judges got it wrong. Yes, the Epson stand had great art, immersive projection, and was beautifully made, but the best stand at ISE, hands down and by several miles, was QSC’s Q-SYS experience.

I’d never thought I’d be penning a piece praising a trade show stand, but here we are. On approaching the stand, which was quite monolithic, you saw; not much really. A big white wall, a reception desk, a café to one side, a rope line, and a door. Not a single product in sight, but many QSC staff. In order to find out what was behind the door, you had to book in for a tour.


QSC’s Senior Digital Marketing & Global Communications Manager Kristine Fowler told me as I booked in that they’d “taken a risk and done something really different.” It was worth the risk. This was the single best piece of live product promotion and technical communication I’ve ever seen.

Our small group was ushered through a door into a room around two meters by two metres. On the wall were two vertical displays flanking the next door. Various touch panels, a camera, and loudspeakers were also installed; all QSC, of course. When our entry door was closed, a contact closure sent a message to a processor somewhere, and we were off. The lights dimmed and changed colour, the displays sprang to life, and right there virtually in front of us were the legends themselves, Patrick Heyn, Vice President of Marketing at QSC and Nathan Makaryk, QSC’s Senior Training Manager. Or Pat and Nat, as they’re commonly referred to.

Virtual Pat and Nat

I’ve spilled several litres of ink over the years raving about the brilliance of Pat and Nat’s technical communication. They met at college and did improv and stand-up comedy together. Hiring two people with chemistry and skills like this to be the face and voice of products that can be spectacularly dull (to some, anyway) is just as brilliant as QSC’s core engineering skills.


It was explained to us that we were going to go on a tour through how QSC’s Q-SYS environment is actually implemented and used in the real world, progressing through a series of functioning rooms built to simulate various use cases; meeting room, education, huddle space, tech support. I was invited to enter my name and company name on a touch panel next to me. Others were invited to use another touch panel to alter the colour and brightness of the lighting. When it was time to go through the next door, a computer-generated voice used the text I’d entered to announce “Jason from CX is ready for the meeting now” and we were ushered through.

The Meeting Room

The next space was a standard corporate meeting room, with an actual Q-SYS product expert in it to talk us through. There were table mics, screens, loudspeakers; exactly what you’d expect. A simulated Teams call ran as a video. It included a demo of Microsoft’s new ‘Spatial Audio’ feature in Teams that promises “immersive meetings”; a rather grand term, considering it’s just left-right panning of the audio relative to where someone’s video feed is displayed on the screen. Calm down, Microsoft marketing. Then another interesting touch; one of the table mics wasn’t working, so our host logged a request for AV support via a single touch on a touch panel, prompting us to “remember that for later.”

Actual Nat in the Huddle Spaces

We exit to the next room and BAM! The human espresso machine that is Nathan Makaryk is there in person, delivering with all 10,000 Watts of his power. It’s a simulation of two huddle rooms, and all the ways Q-SYS can handle collaboration cheaply and easily. This also included a brilliant demonstration of automatic configuration as Nat deployed an ‘air wall’ by stretching a retractable nylon crowd barrier strap into a bracket with another contact closure in it, triggering actions from Q-SYS.

The Education Space

Nat’s a hard act follow, and we then went in to an education simulation. This was the most complicated set-up, AV-wise, and featured a high channel count Dante implementation in an auditorium style system that could be switched from lecture mode to full manual operation by production staff, including camera control and audio desk.

Full manual control in the Education Space

The pièce de resistance was the final stop; the nerve centre. Here, another Q-SYS expert played the part of our humble hero, the AV technician, presiding over all the control and monitoring aspects of the whole stand’s Q-SYS system on multiple screens. Due to everything that was going on in the stand, this was legitimately the size of a small corporate office.

Our AV Hero and Kristine Fowler

We were asked to recall the cry for tech support help from the first room. And there it was, in a custom GUI on a screen, pre-populated with four replies that the tech could press to instantly send a message to the touch screen, there were three stock replies along the lines of “We’ll be right there” and “We’re rebooting the device remotely, please wait for 30 seconds”, and right there at the bottom right of the screen, which they didn’t bring attention to, was “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Brilliant!


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