With InfoComm 2023 in the rearview mirror, Commercial Integrator continues its #AVLivingLegends series by profiling Richard Sasson of Crestron. This ongoing series exists, of course, to celebrate the individuals who have shaped today’s commercial AV industry. And that description is certainly fitting for Sasson, whose current role is pro community global director with Crestron.
Read on to learn about Sasson and his career trajectory, including a fascinating chapter of his career during which he worked in live entertainment. Indeed, during that time, he associated with headline acts like The Rolling Stones and U2. He shares what made him pivot to a career in commercial AV, touching on key family considerations. Sasson also reflects on the luminaries whom he calls mentors, while also articulating his desire to “pay it forward.” Notably, many of Sasson’s mentors are the most renowned names in the Rockleigh, N.J.-based company‘s history. Finally, he shares words of timeless advice that he heard from his grandfather when he was just 14 years old.
Enjoy this, the 15th chapter of our #AVLivingLegends series. Thank you for reading!
And if you’d like to read even more coverage relating to our #AVLivingLegends, check out our hub page, which includes direct links to every living legend!
Commercial Integrator: What motivated you to join the commercial AV industry? What has kept you motivated and engaged in the decades that followed?
Richard Sasson: I ended up in the commercial AV industry due to a career change. About 27 years ago, a significant event occurred in my life that made me realize I could not continue working in live entertainment. The demanding schedule of working 20 hours a day, seven days a week, was not conducive to having a family. So, when my son was born, I decided to switch careers.
I applied to various companies, and I was hired by AV Services in Fairfield, N.J., owned by Charles Rodriguez and later run by Ralph Capria. Both individuals were incredible and wonderful to work with. I started as an AV project manager, transitioning from the world of large-scale live events and audio/video to commercial AV and conference rooms.
My first project was a 36-room conference center with multiple auditoriums at JPMorgan Chase. It was a Shen Milsom Wilke design. I had the opportunity to work alongside Joseph Bocchiaro III, who is currently a principal consultant at NV5. Initially, the project faced challenges: We were over budget, behind schedule and faced dissatisfaction from the customer. However, we collaborated with the customer, the electricians and the general contractor to turn things around. We improved relationships, secured a long-term service contract and got back on track.
Some Groundbreaking Technology
The project implemented some groundbreaking technology. We had a 350-seat auditorium and integrated an IED Mix Minus system and an AMX control system, allowing us to use push-to-talk microphones with audio ducking and camera controls. This was an automated broadcast environment. Nowadays, with intelligent video systems, cameras automatically track the speaker. However, back in 1996, we had an EAO button that the user pushed to add them to a speaking queue. When it was your turn, the camera would focus on you. We recorded videoconferences using this technology, making it an early form of intelligent video before it became widely known.
That experience marked my entry into the commercial AV industry. From there, I worked on various conference rooms, training rooms, boardrooms, network operations centers and video teleconferencing projects. Initially, I worked with PictureTel, using large units the size of small refrigerators. Over the years, technology has evolved. Now, we conduct meetings and presentations using desktops, laptops, iPhones or Google phones. The world of commercial AV has progressed significantly during my almost 30 years in the industry.
Commercial Integrator: Reflect on your role as both a mentee early in your career and as a mentor later in your career at Crestron. Who helped shape the trajectory of your professional life, and how have you tried to help shape others’ careers?
Richard Sasson: Throughout my career, I’ve had several influential mentors. Charles Rodriguez from AV Services had a very valuable approach to handling customers. He emphasized taking care of customers, while maintaining a balance with company needs. Additionally, Randy Klein, Fred Bargetzi and George Feldstein played pivotal roles in shaping my career through their mentorship and guidance. Over time, I’ve had the pleasure of helping many individuals grow and succeed within the industry.
Recently, at our Crestron Masters events, I’ve been approached by people seeking my mentorship — not just those from our customer base but also those from our partners. They want guidance on presenting, running events and growing their businesses effectively. It’s heartening to see that people still value personal interaction and seek genuine connections in today’s digital age of TikTok and rapid presentations.
Commercial Integrator: What’s the most memorable story/anecdote of your career in commercial AV, whether at Crestron or elsewhere?
Richard Sasson: One of the most memorable events in my career took place in 2015. During that time, I was sent to Macau, China, working on a large project, while also needing to run the Crestron Masters event. Dealing with the challenges of a politically sensitive environment due to the project’s scale, I found myself in a unique situation. Although the issues we encountered were unrelated to our work, one important lesson I learned was that electronics and rain do not mix well. Storing products in an open warehouse and having them get wet turned out to be a significant setback.
Despite being in Macau, I still had a course to teach at the Crestron Masters event. We used the Crestron RL 2 system with Skype for Business. Despite the hotel’s poor internet connection, I managed to connect to the slow internet. Through our hotspots’ combined efforts, we conducted the entire presentation virtually from Macau to the Palisades in New York for the Crestron Masters event. This interactive session involved partnering with Kevin Dry onstage as we presented and engaged with the audience on project management and creating a proper scope of work.
Richard Sasson Draws Early Lessons from Crestron Masters
This event in 2015 exemplified the early stages of virtual and live events, which have now become commonplace. It’s incredible to reflect on the evolution of videoconferencing technology, with my experience in the field spanning over 20 years. Communicating seamlessly from different locations was once considered a mind-boggling (and expensive) concept. Now, we can effortlessly connect and collaborate through platforms like Teams, Zoom or Webex from our laptops or devices. This level of technological advancement would have seemed hard to imagine in the late ’90s.
The progress of technology extends beyond commercial AV and has a profound impact on our everyday lives. Although commercial AV is often overlooked or considered an afterthought, it plays a vital role in our modern world. Integrating AV with computers, displays, speakers, headphones, microphones and more enables us to create technology that affects and transforms the way we do business, interact and think. The integration of AV technologies with other systems has the power to influence and improve countless individuals’ lives.
Commercial Integrator: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date, either at Crestron or before? What has been your biggest professional regret to date?
Richard Sasson: My greatest professional accomplishment is seeing the people I have empowered succeed and take on leadership responsibilities. I am immensely proud of the individuals I have encouraged and supported along their journeys. Helping others to thrive and achieve their goals is a source of great fulfillment for me.
I have no regrets because I had a fulfilling life in the live-entertainment industry, and my path has led me to where I am today. There are times when I would like to get back to working in that industry. During the ’90s, I worked on incredible shows, including The Rolling Stones, U2, Elton John, Billy Joel, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and many more. Rigging and being involved in those productions was an exhilarating experience.
Another favorite accomplishment of mine is being an inflation team leader and pilot for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for 37 years. Since my early years, I have been part of this annual event, facing various challenges, such as working in snow or rain. The team that I have had the privilege of working with has been together for over 20 years, with some members approaching 30 years of collaboration. We are a dedicated and passionate group, willing to work tirelessly for 24 hours straight (or longer!) to ensure the massive balloons grace the streets of New York City and bring joy to millions of spectators. Continually returning to this endeavor each year while building strong bonds with my team members is an achievement that I hold dear.
Commercial Integrator: What’s the best advice or pearl of wisdom you either received during your career or came to realize on your own?
Richard Sasson: One of the most valuable pieces of advice I can offer is to slow down and learn to listen. It might sound simple, but it holds immense importance. It was the best advice I ever received, although, I must admit, I struggled to follow it initially because I have always been inclined to rush through things.
I remember my grandfather sharing this wisdom with me when I was just 14 years old. He pointed out that I was constantly moving too quickly, and he urged me to slow down, take a step back and appreciate everything that surrounded me before making decisions or reacting. Although my ability to react swiftly and make decisions has contributed to my success, I also recognize the value of finding balance.
Richard Sasson on the Best Advice He Has Ever Gotten
Slowing down and learning to listen are essential skills in any aspect of life. By truly listening to others and being receptive to their perspectives, we can expand our understanding, learn from different viewpoints and adapt accordingly. The ability to listen and learn is a key factor in achieving success. Without it, we limit our growth and hinder our potential for meaningful accomplishments.
Therefore, my biggest piece of advice to others is this: Embrace the practice of slowing down and actively listening. Through active listening and learning, we can gain insights, make informed decisions and, ultimately, thrive in our personal and professional endeavors.
Would you like to nominate a peer or colleague — or perhaps yourself! — to be featured in this #AVLivingLegends series? If so, just email Dan Ferrisi, editor-in-chief of Commercial Integrator, at email@example.com.
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