Inside the Virtual 2021 NSCA Business & Leadership Conference

Published: 2021-02-22

Like most live events across the pro AV landscape—and most other industries—since the spring, the 2021 edition of the NSCA Business & Leadership Conference is going virtual this year, with a two-day online offering Feb. 24-25.

While that will eliminate the ability for in-person networking and reconnecting, one look at the schedule for the BLC this year shows that the agenda is no less chock full with business advice for leaders during what NSCA officials call “the most important BLC ever.”

The 23rd annual BLC “is particularly crucial for the integration community, which is battling through once-unpredictable market-challenges,” the NSCA announcement says.

BLC 2021 content is “precisely focused on helping integration company leaders make smart decisions while delivering takeaways that can realistically be implemented,” according to the announcement.

Related: NSCA Releases 2021 Financial Analysis of AV Industry

“There’s no doubt that this is our most important BLC ever,” says NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson. “At NSCA we know what our role is – to be a trusted advisor to member companies and to help them run their businesses better.

“We’ve consulted with countless company leaders and watched integration companies battle through 2020. This year’s BLC content is laser-focused on helping them be successful in 2021. We take this very seriously,” he says.

NSCA and its integrator-led Events Committee identified pain points to be addressed at BLC 2021 and built substantive content sessions around critical objectives, including:

  • Need for Agility – This BLC is not about COVID-19, but NSCA recognizes how important it is for businesses to be nimble in the current market. Agile innovation expert Pamela Meyer will deliver a powerful keynote and breakout session on agile and effective leadership.
  • Reliable Indicators and Dashboards – Reading the tea leaves is not an option as we enter unchartered ground in 2021. NSCA companies need trustworthy analysis before making key investments or backing off spending. NSCA chief economist Dr. Chris Kuehl is back to deliver his industry-specific market perspectives (and trademark wit).
  • Leadership Infrastructure – It takes a well-built company to weather tough times. A BLC breakout session challenges the way NSCA companies think about their finance, legal, and HR leadership groups. It guides attendees on how to rebuild for sustained success.
  • Processes, Workflows, & Outcomes – These days it’s all about prioritizing high-value tasks. Through clear, consistent processes NSCA companies can achieve more. A workshop led by leading EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) implementer Jill Young will help you get your operations and processes on track.
  • Innovating Your Own Solutions – Why depend on manufacturers to innovate? Many integrators with their backs against the ropes due to the pandemic came out swinging by recognizing new customer challenges and solving them. Futurist Brian Solis leads an Executive Power Hour discussion on how to drive breakthrough innovation.
  • Trusted Advice – As your trade association and trusted advisor, NSCA is in this with you. From an outlook by Wilson on legislative challenges for integrators in 2021 to a closing keynote on how smaller companies can battle against big brands, all BLC content is 100% channel-specific and aimed at helping you succeed.

Electronic Systems Outlook, performing financial stress tests, Business Continuity, NSCA Committees, Electronics Systems Outlook, audio visual integration revenue

Inside the NSCA BLC 2021 Schedule

Here’s a closer look at the sessions scheduled for BLC 2021:

Opening Session: Economic Outlook 2021 (and Beyond) for Integrators

Reading the tea leaves isn’t an option as we enter unchartered ground in 2021. You need trustworthy analysis before making key investments — or backing off spending. NSCA chief economist Dr. Chris Kuehl is back to deliver his industry-specific market perspectives (and trademark wit).

Get a better handle on how the economy will impact business in 2021 and the years to come. This high-level economic overview kicks off the Business & Leadership Conference with an analysis of long-term trends, current conditions, and an economic outlook tailored to our industry by our expert economist. What impacts will COVID-19, the election, and a possible recession have on business for integrators? Take notes during this vital planning session so you’ll be ready for what the year will bring. The session concludes with a performance summary of key U.S. indicators: inflation, job creation, housing, and GDP.

Economy, BLC 2019, NSCA

Chris Kuehl shared his thoughts on the economy at the 2018 NSCA Business & Leadership Conference.


Opening Keynote: Making the Agility Shift: Creating Agile and Effective Leaders, Teams, and Organizations

This BLC is not about COVID-19. But NSCA recognizes how vitally important it is for businesses to be nimble in the current market. A leading agile innovation expert, Pamela Meyer, PhD, delivers a powerful keynote and breakout session on agile and effective leadership.

Success today depends on your ability to learn and adapt in the midst of change. This means shifting your mindset and organizational practices to improve the bottom line and sustain success. Meyer draws on her years of experience and research in helping teams and organizations become more agile and innovative to show you how other organizations are thriving in the midst of today’s uncertainty.

She’ll also offer unique ideas you can use right away to make your own agility shift. Learn how to improve your capacity to respond to unexpected challenges, discover six dynamics that make up an agility shift, and find out what types of best practices are followed by agile leaders, teams, and organizations.

Keynote: Business Benefits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Current data suggests that companies with an active diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plan are likely to outpace their peers. Empirical data from McKinsey & Company (a global leader in management consulting) demonstrates that embracing DEI makes great business sense: A DEI program produces an 11% likelihood of increased performance over similar companies and a 19% decrease in the likelihood of outperforming your peers without one.

NSCA’s Ignite 2.0 initiative supports the belief that DEI implementation should be a core tenet for all integrators to build better, higher-performing businesses—especially critical now with the economic pressures of COVID-19. Get started with your own DEI plan in this session.

Executive Power Hour: Designing for Digital-First Customers

Experience design and innovation are key differentiators and beacons for the way forward—especially in these times of disruption. While it’s counterintuitive to think about investments when everyone else is exploring cost-cutting, this is exactly the time to break new ground. Those who study customer dynamics, needs, emotions, and aspirations to reveal meaningful and empathetic ways to innovate will succeed in business and customer experiences.

General Session: Making Strategy Happen

According to Harvard Business Review, “most studies show a 60% to 70% failure rate for organizational change projects―a statistic that has stayed constant from the 1970s to now.” Learn how to drive the odds in your favor by turning strategy into reality, making sure your change efforts result in actual change, engaging your people’s hearts and minds, and embodying the right commitment. You’ll leave equipped and inspired to Make Strategy Happen.

Closing Keynote: Becoming No. 1 in a Crowded Market

Find the right types of clients and turn them into vocal fans. Even though we all seem the same, there are ways integrators can truly become different. Learn a framework in innovation and influence that will show you how to become the top choice. Gerry’s “Power of BECAUSE” framework has been used by manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and businesses of all kinds to clarify their messages, drive referrals, and close sales. You’ll also uncover the four critical questions you should ask to stand out in the sea of sameness.

The BLC 2021 will feature four breakout tracks attendees can follow: executive leadership, growth strategies and sales enablement, finance and risk management, and operations and process improvement.

Executive Leadership

Agility Champion Training: Developing Agility is a Continuous Endeavor

To become and stay agile, your leaders, teams, and organizational systems need ongoing support, fresh ideas, and inspiration. With effective training and coaching, the best and most consistent support can be harnessed within your organization from your own Agility Champions. This workshop prepares you to designate internal leaders (at any level) to serve as agility shift catalysts, facilitators, resource people, and, yes, champions of agile initiatives. Whether you’re in the midst of an agile transformation or your leaders, teams, or organizations are still understanding the need to be more agile and innovative, your strategy needs to include internal champions for ongoing support and inspiration.

Leadership: Pivot, Don’t Panic

Our panel of industry experts uncovers answers to NSCA members’ most frequently asked questions. This fast-paced workshop discusses key issues for scaling your business properly in 2021 and beyond. We’ll discuss ways to find new revenue, uncover new opportunities amid changes in commercial real estate, cope with uncertainty, consider mergers and acquisitions in unpredictable times, and leadership development and employee engagement in 2021.

Growth Strategies & Sales Enablement

Think Like a Scientist, Not an Engineer

This workshop features industry leaders who share best practices and action steps for building successful client engagement programs and processes. Combine the best of design-thinking practices and strategies with scenario planning and execution exercises to create more effective client interactions and help sales professionals collaborate with key stakeholders during the discovery phase. In today’s world of relationship-building opportunities, we help you find new ways to become a trusted advisor for your clients and lead them to solutions they help create along with your team.

Understand and Unlock the Power of Finding Your “Because”

Integrators often focus sales and marketing strategies on the products they offer rather than the “why” behind their recommendations. Learn from one of the world’s leading brand development experts on how to do a much better job of identifying and capitalizing on your “why.” Using research from an NSCA member case study, you’ll learn how to differentiate your organization in a crowded marketplace and make sure your clients don’t see you as being the same as your competition. (Hint: In part, it comes down to driving culture and brand through to frontline employees.)

Finance & Risk Management

Rethinking Finance, Legal, and HR Leadership 

Change the way you think about the finance, legal, and human resources leadership within your integration business. Learn how the role of today’s CFO is changing, with increasing levels of responsibility for groups beyond accounting and finance. Discover the challenges that lie ahead for workplace safety. Determine how to support employee engagement and manage behaviors and habits for remote workers without as much face-to-face interaction.

Execution with Ruthless Consistency

Tired of developing strategies and plans that are never executed? When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done. What’s the solution? Ruthless consistency. When focusing on customers, employees, and execution, your company’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) will see vast improvements. Walk through a proven strategic management system, which has driven results in some of the world’s leading organizations.

Operations & Process Improvement

Process Improvement Misconceptions: Getting Back on Track

So much of what we do can be improved through clear, consistent processes—yet we hear from integrators that processes aren’t being followed and engagement from employees is faltering. This workshop explores the common message we hear when integration firm employees are derailed to handle urgent matters (translating to too much work!). Leading EOC implementor Jill Young teaches you how to right the ship when the desire to get better gets to the breaking point.

Process Optimization Using EOS and Lean Principles

Knowing what to do to solve a problem is one thing. Being 100% committed to process improvement is something completely different. The majority of organizational issues are related to people and process. Without documented processes for your people to follow, you’re likely solving the same problems over and over—and aren’t maximizing ROI on labor, which is likely your biggest operating expense. This interactive workshop guides you through using an assessment tool that will be sent out in advance.

2021 BLC Awards

Traditionally, NSCA’s annual Excellence in Business awards honor systems integration firms and their efforts to implement new strategies to navigate the constantly changing industry. The stakes were raised even higher over the past year due to business challenges spurred by the pandemic.

NSCA is recognizing the uniqueness of 2020-2021 by introducing the Stepping Up awards.

Agility: Red Thread, Boston

This category is about integrators recognizing a rapidly changing market and adapting to customers’ evolving needs. During the pandemic, Red Thread quickly positioned itself as a back-to-work solutions provider and consultant. It developed a Workplace Re-Entry Program Guide and Safe Workplace Technology Playbook.

Meanwhile, it launched a slew of solutions that can be integrated into back-to-work strategies, including its RapidEntry system for temperature screening, an air purification system, and its AmplifyTeamwork collaboration system for facilitating workplace re-entry and working from home.

Customer Experience: Forward Edge, Cincinnati

This category is about finding ways to be there for customers when they need their integrator partners most. As school districts moved online due to COVID-19, many of Forward Edge’s K-12 customers were challenged with adjusting to the new environment. Forward Edge’s team of technology integration specialists pulled together an expansive library of distance learning resources and tools for districts to use while tackling online learning. A best practices guide, webinars, and virtual office hours every other day for teachers helped address issues related to data privacy, teacher training, and engaging students over digital media.

Employee Engagement: Integrated Security Technologies, Inc., Waipahu, Hawaii

This category is about implementing solutions to keep sprawling, uniquely challenged workforces productive and positive. As mission-critical security employees, IST’s employees felt fortunate to be working through the pandemic – but they also had personal and professional challenges. They worked in hospitals where the virus was present. They were on jobsites where other workers didn’t wear masks or properly social distance. They worried about their own well-being and the health of their loved ones. The IST executive team implemented several steps to recognize and support employees throughout the challenging work environment.

Community Outreach: ClearTech, Altadena, Calif.

This category is about taking steps to help those in need. During the pandemic, ClearTech is working with Western Service Workers Association (WSWA), which provides support for low-income service, domestic, in-home care, part-time, and temporary workers to provide things like emergency food, clothing, preventive medical care, and more.

ClearTech has supported WSWA for years but really stepped up during the pandemic with employees working on school supply drives, donating toys for the holidays, helping with PPP loan applications, and more.

Achievement: SIGNET Electronic Systems, Norwell, Mass.

This category is about beating the odds in a brutal market, achieving business growth, and measured success. In the midst of the pandemic, SIGNET launched its Remote Smart network operations center, which provides a highly professional and cyber-safe platform for the integrator to provide remote service.

This not only proved invaluable in terms of touchless interaction with customer systems, but also has infused the company with recurring revenue. The Excellence in Business Awards are expected to return in 2022. The Excellence in Product Innovation awards will remain as is for 2021.

Click here to register for the 2021 NSCA Business and Leadership Conference.

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