Covering InfoComm 2015 – The Women of InfoComm Network: Part 1, The WIN Breakfast

Prior to InfoComm, I was looking forward to the WIN Breakfast for quite some time and while I felt it not only necessary to be there, it was also a privilege to be in that room with such great and important people in the industry. When I arrived, the room had started to fill and after getting breakfast as well as a bit of networking, my group and I headed to a table at the front of the room. As we waited for the program to begin, I decided to snap a few pictures of the room. Here was the best one, showing what was announced as a sold out event of 200+ (which I tweeted out as well):

WIN Breakfast attendees

Betsy Jaffe, Vice President, Communications at InfoComm International opened the event program. She has talked about statistics showing that only 10 percent of attendees at ISE and InfoComm are women, while further explaining that The Women of InfoComm Council has been established to provide a global community of InfoComm members and other professionals committed to supporting and empowering women who work in the technology and AV industry.* She had discussed more of the same here, as many are already aware of the issues that the industry currently faces.

Johanne Belanger, Leadership Search Commitee (LSC) Chair on the Board of InfoComm International (below) delivered the Opening Keynote with great emphasis and introduced the theme of the event — Step Up to Create the Career You Want, Need and Deserve. Ms. Belanger, well known as the former President of Freeman Audio Visual Canada as well as former President of the InfoComm International Board of Directors delivered an impactful keynote speech where no doubt all in the room were fully focused on the messages she delivered.

WIN 2015 Johanne 1

In an article from June 3, 2015, Leadership: Empowering Women, Ms. Belanger stated the following: While it is no secret that women deal with different barriers than men, sometimes those barriers are self-created. Study after study shows that women are not pursuing careers in technology for various reasons, from lack of interest, awareness and encouragement to assumed gender roles and industry misconceptions. In fact, research is telling us that, regardless of industry or gender, one of the major obstacles to the future growth of our economy is a severe lack of qualified personnel. We need a responsible, tech-savvy, business-minded, creative pool of candidates — and we need them now.

Ms. Belanger, along with discussing women in the industry, the importance of the Women of InfoComm Network Council (as well as making the statement, “Next year, bring a friend and we’ll have 400 people in the room.”) also introduced the following women, highly influential in this global industry, who sit on the InfoComm International Board of Directors:

Deb Britton – CEO, K2 Audio LLC: (from K2’s website) Deb Britton has chaired sessions on audio networking for the Audio Engineering Society, lectured for Syn Aud Con, InfoComm, the National Systems Contractors Association and the Acoustical Society of America, and also taught acoustics at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She served as a member of the National Systems Contractors Association Consultant’s Council and was honored with the first ever InfoComm “Women in AV” award in 2009.

Sarah Joyce – Vice President EMEA, Electrosonic Ltd.: Sarah Joyce, Electrosonic’s vice-president, EMEA and member of the InfoComm Board of Directors, hosted the first Women of InfoComm Network Breakfast (WIN) at this year’s ISE 2015. Over 50 women and men attended the event to discuss gender diversity within the AV industry. Ms. Joyce (according an article from March 2015) shared her leadership journey in technology, which spans almost 20 years, and acknowledged women are still very much underrepresented in the audio-visual industry in a wide range of roles. She has encouraged organizations and individuals to invest in leadership development and embrace diversity to create organizations which develop practices that invest and retain talent.

Maria Gaitan – Director General, Grupo Niza: (A caption from inst:all Magazine Mexico article) Maru Gaitan is spearheading among women in senior executive positions in industry integration in Mexico. Tireless traveler. Obsessive intellectual. Bold administrator. Selling avant-garde. Worthy heir of the genius named Thomas Gaitan, now serving 35 years in the family business and stands out as a leader in installation of audio-visual and multimedia communication in our country. Strong personality, Maru is also a bold entrepreneur. (Note: this was translated from original content).

The InfoComm 2015 Women in AV Award Winners were also introduced: Heather Callaway CTS-D, RCDD, LEED AP, Principal SiteReady Design and Wendy Cox Director, Product Group Development Milestone AV Technologies.

The Women of InfoComm Timeline which was also presented:

  • Q2 2013 – Women in Technology Super Breakfast at InfoComm in Orlando
  • Q1 2014 – USA Science and Engineering Festival
  • Q2 2014 – Women in Technology Breakfast at InfoComm in Las Vegas
  • Q3 2014 – Women’s Breakfast in Mexico and Columbia
  • Q3 2014 – InfoComm India Show Floor Tour for Students from M.H. Saboo Siddik College of Engineering
  • Q4 2014 – Formation and approval of Women of InfoComm Network Council (WIN)
  • Q1 2015 – Women of InfoComm at ISE 2015

The event was then turned over to Erin Bolton, Member of InfoComm International LSC and Chair of the Women of InfoComm Network Council who introduced the WIN Council and touched on numerous subjects. However one point that she put great emphasis on was that the Network is inclusive of both women and men. She delivers the WIN Council mission of building awareness as well as empowering the women of IT and AV through the membership of the council — again open to both women and men.

Erin WIN Breakfast

Her presentation and main message was in terms of How You Should Get Involved – mentoring and teaching of course being among the major topics of discussion, as well as obtaining industry certification and more. Erin also talked about InfoComm 2015 Instructors and Speakers – Jean Rosauer of Fuel Growth Group, Kelly Perkins of AVI Systems, Lisa Stephens of the State University of New York and Malissa Dillman of Kramer Electronics.

WIN instructors 2015

Erin then went on to introduce the event’s main speaker, Sam Horn, a respected positioning/messaging strategist with a 20+ year track record of results with such clients as Cisco, Intel, Capital One, NASA, Boeing and more. As President of Intrigue Agency, she has spoken to more than a half million people worldwide and for hundreds of organizations including National Governors Assn., American Bankers Assn., American Society of Association Executives, and the U.S. Embassy in London.

Sam Horn is the author of six books, including What’s Holding You Back?, ConZentrate and Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone (April 6, 2015) of which all who attended were able to receive a signed copy.

Sam Horn WIN 2

In an inspirational presentation, Ms. Horn delivered the primary message of “Don’t Just Lean In – Step Up to Create the Career You Want, Need and Deserve” in front of the full-room audience. In fact, the first part of that statement Don’t Just Lean In, Step Up happens to be the title of her Huff Post Women article from January 2014. In the article, she begins with reference to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg advising women to “lean in” in her bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead as well as her TED talk “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders” (from 2010).

While she did give numerous examples of stepping up, including one concerning her own son Tom who landed his dream job with NASA, here is a story that was also told in the room which I thought really hit home (which is also a part of the Huff Post article):

One woman entrepreneur had just organized a hugely successful event about how to use golf to leverage business relationships and community service. Her event, held on the rooftop of a Washington DC office building, had attracted the PGA Commissioner, members of Congress, non-profit execs and community leaders.

I told her, “That’s a fantastic story. Would you please share how you planned that and pulled it off with our group?

She shrunk back and said, “Oh, I couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve only been doing this for four months,” she said, and went on to offer several other reasons she didn’t feel “qualified” to share her example.

I told her, “STOP THAT!”

She looked at me, eyes wide open, a little shocked at my intensity.

I told her, “You’ve DONE this. You’re not talking about something you’re ‘going’ to do. You planned and produced a quality event from scratch that drew powerful people. Everyone at that event benefited, and everyone in this room will benefit from hearing how you did it.”

She still hesitated. “Well, I’m not sure.”

I said, “Have you ever thought of it this way? We do not SERVE when we step back.”

That got her attention.

I said, “You’re an athlete, right?”


“You know that when the game’s on the line; there are two kinds of people. Those who say, ‘Give me the ball’ and those who say, ‘Don’t give me the ball.’ You’re a ‘Give me the ball’ kind of person, aren’t you?”

She smiled. “Yes.”

“Then stop taking yourself out of the game.”

She got it. She stood up and stepped up and, in three minutes, told us how she put that event together and what she learned from it. She received a well-deserved standing ovation.

I guess I had to wonder, did most in the room at that moment say they are the “give me the ball” type? And if not, did they decide they would be that person when the moment presented itself?

Interestingly, I had told Sam Horn in a conversation we had after InfoComm about an incident that took place after the breakfast, concerning a young woman who handled press and PR for a major manufacturer at the show. She was in the area of our rAVe InfoComm podcast later that morning (as she had accompanied one of our guests on the show) and I had asked her to come to the microphone and introduce herself as a part of the company and tell us a little about herself. She shook her head no, however with just a bit of friendly cajoling from all of us, she did finally make her way over to speak. And I caught the smile on her face when she was done.

It’s not that I necessarily saw it as a situation where she was taking herself out of the game, it was an opportunity to get into the game where the person she accompanied was the main player in the podcast. It was just after she finished that I thought to myself “she did it” and that it never would have happened if she didn’t grab the moment when it presented itself. That for me, among all of the others in our show, represented a golden moment.

For those that attended the breakfast (as well as the following WIN Council Kickoff meeting), they may just have left the room with their own golden moments. In fact in Part 2 you’ll hear about some of them.

(To be continued in Covering InfoComm 2015 – The Women of InfoComm Network: Part 2, Inspiration).

* Electrosonic’s Sarah Joyce encourages diversity 

Read the full Johanne Belanger article: Leadership: Empowering Women.

Read the full Sam Horn article: Don’t Just Lean in, Step Up.

A bonus: Intrigue – How to Create Interest and Connect with Anyone: Sam Horn at TEDxBethesdaWomen (some of which was also presented at the breakfast).