Most business leaders have attended their fair share of AV industry events, sitting in large ballrooms and around conference room tables listening to high-profile speakers talk to them about the ways they need to change or adapt their AV companies for the new landscape.
While that whole concept may sound like a bit of a paradox—successful AV companies taking notes on the ways they need to change what’s gotten them to the top of the industry—most AV association leaders say the fact these business leaders are open to constant change is probably why they’re successful.
“Being truly customer-focused and truly listening to the customer sounds simple and we think we’re all customer-focused, but probably not to the extent we need to be and should be,” says PSNI president Jeff Irvin, principal and founder of Spinitar.
“It’s a little bit harder than just going out and talking to your customer once in a while. It does take an integrated effort.”
AVIXA CEO David Labuskes disputes the notion that having the association’s most successful AV companies gather in one place for the AV Executive Conference or Experience Events such as the recent one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a paradox, discussing the notion of dynamic stability.
“I think it’s more an affirmation of the value of the event,” says Labuskes.
“The successful business owners and business managers have to recognize that the world is changing around them. The way you stay stable on a bike is by going fast; the minute you stop, you’ll fall.
“You have an opportunity not just to learn from the speaker on the stage, but from the person sitting to your left and your right, in front of you and behind you.
“If those are people who are successful in your marketplace, why would you not want to learn from them? I would argue that the smartest people in the industry are coming to [AV industry events and business conferences] and that’s how they got to be the smartest and that’s how they’re going to stay the smartest,” he says.
If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It Anyway
Irvin says the biggest takeaway for him from the recent PSNI Supersummit is about changing the way those in AV sell themselves and their services.
“I believe AV industry is lacking professional sales talent,” he says. “The majority of people in this industry are more sales engineers than they are salespeople. They walk into a room and start mentally designing the room in their head and they don’t even ask customers things like ‘what’s at risk if things don’t go well?’ and ‘what’s the communication objective?’
“Those are the questions that really uncover a need and get a better understanding of what the customer requirement is. That’s a more difficult process—taking a more technical salesperson and have them develop into more of an enterprise salesperson and I think that’s largely needed,” says Irvin.
Almo Professional A/V staff works to make sure the content they deliver and the courses they develop for the E4 Experience meet the needs of their members and the event’s attendees, says executive VP Sam Taylor.
Staffers ask attendees what they like from the E4 courses they take and what they want to see next year.
“We keep upgrading the courses and try to keep it with what we see as the hottest topics in AV,” says Taylor.
Don’t Take TOO Many Notes at AV Industry Events
Irvin knows it’s easy to give into the temptation of breaking out your notebook full of conference tips and try to instantly transform your company in every way you heard from the so-called experts during a three-day AV industry event, but it’s important to never do that.
“Everybody’s attended AV industry events where they’re breathing fire,” he says. “They’ve got the books, they’ve got all these notes, then they get back into the whirlwind of business, the activity trap of business.
“The challenge is not to take away all of the content, but to commit to a couple of things you heard that may be the most impactful and try to act upon those.
“The challenge is not to take away all of the content, but to commit to a couple of things you heard that may be the most impactful and try to act upon those.”
“Instead of trying to act upon 100 percent of the ideas and opportunities, take 10 or 20 percent of the opportunities that may equate to 80 percent of the impact,” says Irvin.
PSNI executive director Chris Miller warns against the idea of “scorching the earth” when you return from a business conference.
At the PSNI Supersummit, attendees work in teams and collaborate of activities during the event.
“We’re focused on generating ideas that teams go back and evaluate if they fit within their culture,” says Miller.
“Leaders and managers often don’t have much time to strategize in their own AV companies. They’re too busy running it. What that end user experience needs to look like is just as important regionally and locally as it is globally.”
What SVT Focused On
This year’s BLC “focused more around driving culture from the top down, organizational transformation through culture,” says NSCA president Josh Shanahan, president and CEO at SVT, with closer looks at customer experience, employee experience, recruitment and retention, among other topics.
“We have a lot of very mature companies in our membership and those companies are struggling with ways to reinvent themselves and to bring in that new talent and retain top talent, to identify A players and cultivate them within the leadership team,” says Shanahan.
When attendees return from conferences, the best thing they can do is “sit down with the leadership team, break it down into bite-size pieces and prioritize those,” says Shanahan.
How AV Industry Events Organizers Target Their Message to You
Labuskes knows it’s not easy to deliver a message that resonates with everyone in the same way, but that doesn’t mean AVIXA staffers don’t try.
“No two AV companies are exactly the same—neither the same size nor at the same stage in their growth and development, nor, for that matter in their offerings,” he says.
“But most face the same or very similar issues and we strive to find thought leaders with insight into those issues. Companies will come away with some of the same, but also very different, action items. Many will apply them differently. For me, that’s the mark of a good conference.
“I’m the kind of person who never feels like I know enough about anything, whether it’s cooking, running a business or AV over IP. I think that curiosity is a hunger that drives success. You can’t fix the absence of that hunger so celebrate that hunger and come to places where it can be fed.
The industry advances in a fashion that’s dependent on all of us being better and driving value for our customers by creating an integrated experience that justifies the value,” says Labuskes.