From content creators to retail experts, AV newcomers can help drive industry growth.
By Margot Douaihy
In Part 1 of this report, we met professionals like Jake Levin of Shared_Studios who are using commercial AV in creative and meaningful ways. (If you missed Part 1, be sure to read it here.) In Part 2, we will explore the new titles and talents in the proAV conversation as well as the business realities of outreaching to AV newbies.
Who Are the AV Newcomers at InfoComm?
By all accounts, InfoComm 2018 was a success. The attendance of 42,811 attendees was 10 percent more than the last time InfoComm was held in Las Vegas, in 2016, but just south of the overall InfoComm 2018 attendance in Orlando, which was 44,077.
Of the nearly 43,000 attendees in Las Vegas, technology managers continue to increase their representation, accounted for around 40 percent of showgoers, a slight decrease from last year. AVIXA’s partnership with the AV User Group reflects the growing importance of users and managers.
Who else are new titles and or growing contingents? Content creation experts are increasingly finding value in the professional AV ecosystem as well as merchandisers, architects, event producers, graphic designers, sports and entertainment designers, and UX experts. The orbit for AV is expanding and all voices have contributions to make. For example, think about projection mapping in a hockey stadium. An artist might collaborate with one or more of the following experts: an AV consultant, projection specialist, stadium designer, programmer, tech manager on-site, and AV integrator.
New Perspectives Can Re-Ignite the Passion for AV
There is another benefit to welcoming fresh viewpoints: AV veterans might not even realize that they need an inspiration infusion. One InfoComm attendee, the head of an AV integration firm, told Rachel Archibald that she had been attending the show for so long that it had become “predictable” and almost boring. But this year, Archibald explained that she experienced TIDE, and with its exciting new ideas, she “was so happy to see the conversations shifting.”
Some of the topics at TIDE and content offerings at Center Stage might, at first glance, seem irrelevant. Would an AV director of a global law firm need to understand neuroscience or how it relates to the business of AV? Perhaps not. But igniting fascination and making big picture connections might make you a sharper thinker and more empathetic manager.
Reality Check: What’s the Business Value of Welcoming New Voices?
Business is—generally—on the upswing, with the most recent recession ten years old. Many challenges remain, however, requiring AV pros to do more with less. Mergers and acquisitions have shrunk certain departments. While many integrator members want more end users involved with AVIXA, supporting the idea that an educated end user is a better customer and will invest more in AV, resources are still finite. Some AV integrators might wonder why or if energy should be spent on so-called AV newcomers.
“Change can be jarring,” Brad Grimes, AVIXA’s director of Communications, recognized, “but we are not leaving anyone behind. Our mission hasn’t changed.”
Grimes explained that AVIXA has been in existence for almost 80 years, and staying agile is a necessity. “Our mission is to make the pie as big as possible.” He added that while outreach is a new strategic focus, training, best practices, and standards remain key components of AVIXA’s work. “We haven’t changed what we do; we still certify and train AV professionals, hold world-class tradeshows, and create standards,” such as the recent standard Recommended Practice for Lighting Performance for Small to Medium Sized Videoconferencing Rooms, created in partnership between the IES (Illuminating Engineering Society) and AVIXA.
Additionally, integrators need tools and training to respond to market threats, and new voices and new programs can support that goal. The encroachment of services such as security and IT is a threat, as is the commodification of AV hardware. Displays and some audio products no longer hold the appealing margins they once did. Both dealers and consultants are feeling the squeeze on a larger scale, losing project bids to the lowest offers. This is where creativity and new ideas can affect business outcomes. Indeed, new perspectives can pave viable paths out of commodification.
“Value exists in the creative ways that we can solve problems for customers,” Rachel Archibald, TIDE’s program director, stated.
Brad Grimes agrees. “This industry has exploded — AV is all around us — and the opportunities are incredible. We want more people to appreciate the role of expertly designed AV experiences and to see the value in it.”
One of the challenges, Grimes explained, is that some other vertical industries don’t understand that there are indeed experts in the science of audio and visual technology. He pointed to the transportation industry: “Airport executives are looking to enhance the passenger experience, and AV can play a critical role in that.” But these conversations take time, and results don’t happen overnight. Part of AVIXA’s initiative is learning who new influencers are.
“We’ve started to engage with decisions makers in many customer markets,” Grimes said. “The industry as we know it is clearly going to look different in the future. The research tells us that these opportunities are growing. Getting more people actively engaged is important. Part of our strategy is to be a catalyst for market growth.”
As more professionals like experiential designs, represented by the Society for Experiential Graphic Designs (SEGD), content experts, and digital artists, find relevance within AVIXA, the entire technology ecosystem strengthens. What’s more, an informed end user will likely invest more for quality service.
Specialized and Spectacular
Expanding the AV conversation also underscores that AV is a specialized field, one that requires expertise. AV is a pulse in the larger framework, including lighting and stage design, for example. AV can also be managed within an IT department, especially as more AV over IP designs.
Ultimately, new voices in the industry confirm the uniqueness of the AV space. From merchandising experts to VR storytelling, new ideas will shape the future of this industry. Shared_Studio’s Jake Levin encourages AV manufacturers and integrators to think boldly, push the boundaries, and blaze new trails.
“AV professionals have built all of this incredible technology,” Levin enthused, “that allows us to have real magic and create spectacular experiences. We have the opportunity to apply AV technology to enhance genuine human connection.”
To read part one of AV Outside the Box click here.
Margot Douaihy is a storyteller, writer, and editor-at-large of AV Technology magazine.