AV People: Betsy Jaffe of InfoComm International

Betsy-Jaffe-0614If you’ve ever been to an InfoComm show, you probably know or have heard the name Betsy Jaffe. While her title says Vice President of Communications for InfoComm, Betsy really is so much more for the organization. And it’s no surprise, because Betsy has always been one to work hard and give of herself for the betterment of others — both vocationally and personally.

While Betsy does have a background in trade organizations, her background has not always been in AV.

“When I was first getting started in my career, I worked in government relations for various trade associations,” Betsy recalled. “I started as a legislative research assistant for the American Public Power Association. And from there, I transferred to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“After a few years, one of my colleagues suggested that I might like working for a private practice, so I went to work for a public affairs firm in Washington D.C. I realized that I enjoyed public relations a lot. There I was able to get the experience of working with Cisco, Microsoft, American Airlines, and companies like Philip Morris. We represented a portfolio of different trade associations and foundations — so I was able to keep my feet in the association world.”

Betsy’s resume quickly became filled with experiences of working with companies with both small and large budgets – a key strength of public relations professionals.

However, after a few years, Betsy decided to leave and venture out on her own to do freelance work and pursue her love of cooking as a personal chef.

“I really have always loved cooking,” Betsy said. “It was very much emphasized in my family to love cooking and be good at it. From when I was young in fifth grade or so, I definitely played a part in catering family events and such, but it was nothing I ever considered doing professionally. It was always just a nice fun thing.”

Appropriately, Betsy became active in the trade association for personal chefs and she had the opportunity to meet people all over the country doing the same thing full time and it only further fueled her passion.

Betsy would cook for people who were working during the week. She’d do their grocery shopping and cook meals. She catered engagement parties, baby showers, wedding showers, and a lot of local charitable events. Betsy loved the ability to give back to her local community.

All while she was cooking up a side business, Betsy was continuing to grow her personal freelance public relations business. However, after a couple of years of that, she realized that she was spending more time writing e-newsletters for other personal chefs, doing more PR for her own business, and spending more time out of the kitchen than in the kitchen, so Betsy decided to go back to the working world with everyone else.

InfoComm just happened to be the first place she applied after making that decision.

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As InfoComm had grown — the size of the organization, the size of its trade shows — the organization realized the challenges it was facing and knew it needed help. So, InfoComm created a position — director of public relations — and Betsy knew that this was a job she wanted. And in 2005, Betsy joined the team at InfoComm.

While she had experience in the trade association world and the public relations world, Betsy did not have much experience with AV. So, she read the AV Best Practices book cover to cover, various trade journals and anything else she could get her hands on to get up to speed. She knew that AV was unlike any other industry.

“If you’re going to work for InfoComm, you HAVE to have a passion for AV,” Betsy said.

And since joining InfoComm, Betsy has taken on many hats and helped both the organization and its members grow immensely.

“My favorite thing, the most important thing, about working for InfoComm is working with members all over the world on improving their communications practices,” Betsy said. “There’s definitely been a growth in the industry, a higher level of sophistication when companies are reaching out to people to tell their organization’s stories. I love to talk to companies about how they’re going to promote themselves at our shows or even at a local job fair.

“If I feel like I can be of help to people, I feel like that’s really great.”

A recent project Betsy worked on with InfoComm was the USA Science and Engineering Festival in April of 2014, of which InfoComm was a sponsor. Over 340,000 kids and their parents attended and InfoComm was able to be a part of it all — teaching them about AV.

“We had a big digital signage wheel that they could spin and win prizes,” Betsy explained. “They got to watch a video on different science topics related to AV. For example, choose the right microphone for this scenario.

“Then, we sponsored 160 visits from major scientists around the world and we were able to impact over 30,000 students before the festival even opened. Many of the top minds in physics and engineering and medicine spoke with the kids about why it’s important to study science, technology, and AV. It was so amazing to see so many people touched by our industry.”

The festival took place over a weekend and Betsy along with 36 InfoComm staff volunteer to work the festival. Betsy is passionate about changing the world for AV, one mind at a time.

Betsy has all of the ingredients — she loves her job, loves the industry, and loves helping other companies grow.  It really is the recipe for continued success.