For an industry that is solely based around improving the broadcast and receipt of communicated messages, why, as an industry, does it seem we have fallen off the rails in terms of sharing the importance of our knowledge?
Let me be clear, I am not stating that every individual in the AV communications industry is guilty of this, but I am saying that as a collective whole we are failing the generation of technicians coming up behind us in showing how our knowledge base is relevant to the world.
For comparison, let’s look at the industry we’re always thinking about and working with in today’s world: IT. This is an industry that shares a similar time line with the A/V world with both emerging in the late 20th century. When it came to the IT industry presenting itself to the public marketplace, they reached out early on and talked about the ways that their innovations could improve people’s daily lives. As the IT industry grew it has become not just an integral part of how we communicate, but the way we communicate. There are minute to minute communications taking place across every industry and personal interaction. When looking to flush out how I wanted this story to shape up I was able to reach out over Twitter to the global AV community to discuss the idea. That is the proof in the pudding as to how the IT world has embedded itself in the end user’s daily lives. So where are the leaders in the AV community that are expanding the knowledge base of the end users? Where are the people stepping up to broadcast our message beyond the publications that are incestuously tailored to our own market? When 4K started getting talked about on the news networks, where was our representative to talk about the advantages and cautionary points?
It’s the worst kept secret of the industry that a large majority of products we offer are being commoditized on a daily basis. Screens, displays, projectors, amplifiers, microphones, and even touch panel controllers (as Tim Albright and Corey Moss have written about lately) are things that end users have become familiar with because the technology has been around long enough for them to forget when these things weren’t a part of their every day experience. But as we know, the AV industry is so much more than the end point devices. This is why it’s more common these days to hear a company referred to as an “integration” firm rather than a contractor. Our role as an industry is not only to understand all the technological devices as play, but how they interconnect and work with other disciplines to make the user experience simpler and comprehensive. As it stands, the AV community does an amazing job at making sure our members are informed about new technology shifts, new products, and how everything with work together to achieve that goal. But who outside of the AV world knows this? Who is the group that is speaking to the rest of the world on behalf of the A/V industry to advance our involvement in their lives?
We spend so much time focused inward as a community talking amongst ourselves that our initial interaction with those outside our group becomes reliant on their consumer experience. This leaves us in a position where we are answering the question “can’t we just buy it from Best Buy/Costco/Sam’s Club/etc.” on at least a weekly basis. Until members of this industry branch out to explain this new technology and integration capability to the public at large, we will continue to struggle to break through that wall and the public will continue to see us as a second tier industry that is there to hang a display that we just purchased from a consumer electronics shop.
The capabilities of the audio/visual industry should be a conversation that takes place out in the open on a mass scale, not on each individual jobsite with each client as every device or function of the job is discussed. Give the world the fundamental knowledge of how we can help them up front and we, as an industry, will increase our value to their lives.