The Industry’s Evolution

Last week, the press and roughly one hundred audiovisual industry volunteers from all across the world were brought together near Fairfax, Viginia without a clue as to why they were gathering, or even who else would be in attendance. By now you’ve undoubtedly found out that InfoComm, the trade association, has taken on the new name AVIXA (Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association).

While the press got first crack at the news and were held under an embargo until after it had been announced to the volunteers, that was the end of their participation in the event. The press has done an incredible job of sharing the information about what’s happening and why, but they weren’t able to stick around for the next day and a half to witness the responses and reactions from the volunteers.

It all started with a campfire…

Those that haven’t had the chance to spend time with Dave Labuskes, Chairman and CEO of AVIXA, might not know what a storyteller he can be. In introducing the change to the volunteers he began with a story about a group of men gathered around a campfire. This was the story men that wanted to sell more projectors in the early 20th century. The result of their meeting would end up being the first trade organization to represent what AVIXA now is. Labuskes, known for his enthusiasm, was eager to invite the volunteers to gather ’round in anticipation of what he has been so eager to announce.

To say that the room was full of positive responses to the news of the rebranding would be true. To say that there was also immense surprise and some skepticism would also be true. Mostly, though, to say that there were a few jokes about the name sounding like something you might pick up at a pharmacy would be an understatement. Overall, I’m not sure words would do justice to the overall sense of positive energy that emanated from the reception crowd and the potential for what this rebranding could bring to the audiovisual industry.

The industry has been clamoring for a new identity. Calls for help in figuring out how to sell the idea of a career in the audiovisual industry to the next generation of professionals has been one of the loudest and most frequent requests from the membership.

This rebranding initiates a new potential path for the current membership with a hard push to expanding the partnership with content developers. Those developers are creating experiences based on content, and it’s our technology that allows the experience to be shared beyond personal devices. It’s a natural partnership and growth path. I wouldn’t be able to count the number of times that I’ve had to explain that while I can design and integrate a signage and display solution into a space, the development of the content would require the end user to put something together or hire another company.

The industry’s ability to provide exceptional experiences is dependent on three things, as Labuskes pointed out during the announcement: technology, space, and content. The first item in this is pretty straight forward for us. We control the technology in the spaces. We know what’s required to provide optimum visual and sonic experiences. While we are able to work with architects in order to attempt to optimize the spaces for our clients, we don’t always have control of this, but we still partner and attempt to advocate on behalf of our clients. The content material, though, has never really been part of our purview as an industry. There are companies out there that include content creation services, but they are few and far between. Our traditional skillsets don’t include this aspect of the user experience, and that can be to the severe detriment of the overall experience.

<- Watch industry members discuss the new AVIXA on AVWeek 316 ->

Change Comes With Questions

One common theme I’ve found among the volunteers of AVIXA is that many of them are considered to be, or consider themselves, troublemakers in the industry. If you gather about one hundred troublemakers in a room and make as big an announcement as changing the name of the trade association, you can be assured that there will be comments and questions. These ranged from simply, “Why?” to the much more specific question, “what is it that AVIXA can currently offer the content producers as part of our value proposition?”

This was the time for the volunteers to raise their hands and find out details about the plan that will move us forward. What was oddly reassuring was that the AVIXA leadership openly stated that they may not have all the answers right now. This rebranding is the first step in remaking the image of the AV professional. It’s the first stage in getting the perception of the industry beyond just the high school kid with a slide projector. There are ideas and targets within AVIXA of how they will reach the content developers and bring them into the fold to partner with the long-standing industry membership, but it is not a one-size-fits-all approach on how to move forward.

Without a hard and fast requirement of only one way to work with our new potential partners, it allows us to approach them all in the way that works best for them. We can approach the established companies in one fashion, reach out to the younger generation in another way, and find the outliers in a third. We can let them dictate the value that AVIXA has for them. This could be technology training so that they can better understand how to create the final results that they want for their creations. It could be through collaborative partnerships with manufacturers to build products that suit nuanced needs. It could also be sharing their immense knowledge with us about how to best create a user interface. This evolution has to be a two-way street for the integrated experience to flourish.

We’ve never done it this way…

As a fan of language in general, the line that stuck with me from the entire event was one that I later discovered was inspired by a member of the marketing team at AVIXA. Labuskes, after announcing the new association name, made the statement that we can do just about anything moving forward because as AVIXA, we can’t say that we’ve always done it this way.

That sentiment struck a very true chord that permeates the industry. We often get stuck in how we’ve always done it and don’t want to look at changing things because that’s more difficult than maintaining the status quo that has always worked for us. It was this idea that was a key focal point for the remainder of the conference. Yes, we talked about the name change and any concerns or questions, but AVIXA was far from sitting on its laurels with that announcement. They wanted to get to work.

Getting to work meant getting feedback from the volunteers about programs that we wanted to move forward. Did we need to create new councils or committees to support the evolving state of the industry? What were the disruptive technologies or cultural influences that we needed to be aware of and find a way to support our members in solving? How will the integrated life change how our industry works?  These were questions that AVIXA had for us and resulted in breakout sessions, new initiatives for AVIXA, and likely new programs for the membership overall.

Death and Taxes

The only two things that are guaranteed in life are death and taxes. A close third is that things will change. This industry is more aware of that than most because we’ve seen it happen so frequently. How long ago was analog video the primary way of how we designed systems? How long ago was it that devices first started getting connected to networks? How long ago were remote system monitoring and management just starting to be possible? How long ago did it seem like every company decided to offer a video streaming solution?

We evolve and change very quickly because our technology evolution is requiring us to. The new means and methods with which we can design and implement systems are coming at us faster than we can manage most days. The change of the association from InfoComm to AVIXA is recognition of that. It’s recognition that this industry isn’t a hardware industry anymore. It’s recognition that the primary things that we offer are experiences for people; experiences for people to connect to one another, to ideas, or to the world at large.

We are an industry that absorbs change and rolls with it. We are an industry that accepts new ways of doing things and gets excited about the possibilities of what’s to come. We are an industry that leads the way in how the world communicates with one another. We are an industry of creating experiences.

While we aren’t perfect and while there us much work to do, I’m excited about what could be possible as we proudly state – We are AVIXA.

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