business man shrugFor 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.


  1. victoriajferrari November 22, 2013 2:07 am

    Josh, I agree with your post and like your call to action. I’ve been in the industry for 13 years and have mostly worked for AV manufactures. I feel like our manufactures could do more to market and target end users; get the “AV message” out to architectures and GC’s. It seems like manufactures are so focused on their integrators and consultants. It makes sense, as those are the folks that write them PO’s, but how can manufactures help integrators and consultants sell to their end users? I think of all the big name AV manufactures Crestron has done a fairly good job of marketing to end users, but even they haven’t helped get our message out as much as someone like Cisco. Most AV integrators are considered small businesses, even the big guys like AVI-SPL and Whitlock. Most AV integrators don’t have the marketing budgets of the manufactures we sell. I’m sure there are things we could do though. I’d love to brainstorm with you sometime.

    Another thing is in IT there are real life case studies, and data that shows end users their ROI of a particular IT security solution or WAN optimization or telephony. Where is this data on the AV side? I feel it may be a little more difficult to capture things like increased productivity, but it can be done. Also, what about green energy savings, or asset management, or cloud based AV solutions? Where is the data on these offerings that we could bring in and prove to Mr. CIO that our proposed solution is going to save them time and money in the long run?

    Great of you to start this convo. I’ve often thought of these things, but you really put it into words very well. Thank you! Hopefully it’ll get the ball rolling!

  2. billmullin November 26, 2013 11:45 am

    Absolutely, Josh & Victoria! Our industry is too busy talking about the Stuff. People don’t want AV Stuff. And they surely don’t care about how it works. We are busy talking among ourselves about how the watch works, instead of showing people their lives are better when they know what time it is. People do not want to own AV! They want to communicate. Even more so, they want results of their communication.

    The absence of having a business case for every aspect of AV is a shame. InfoComm should be busy proving the actual impact of AV on organizations at the systemic level. Yet that means stop selling the stuff and when you earn big dollars from exhibits and manufacturer promotion of the stuff, some things do not change quickly. ROI models mean having true empirical studies of before and after performance, engagement and productivity outcomes.

    Do either of you wan to work with me? It is a few that get it and you need to learn about it and do it yourselves, because you will prevail. Many act like they do not want to get it because it will upset the paradigm they have had for years. Technology for technology’s sake is a broken axiom. The cheese is moving.

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  4. Philip Goetz December 31, 2013 6:48 am

    INFOCOMM doesn’t want to focus on sales. INFOCOMM wants to focus on equipment. I had an eGroup called SALES in 2010 and Beyond on INFOCOMM but it is gone now and there isn’t a way to make another eGroup.