From the Periphery of the AV Industry

00396_00235-1Most of those who know me, know me as having one of two identities in this industry: Green lady or lamp lady.  I don’t prefer one identity over the other. I love both sides of what I do and am just as comfortable with either one.  Today, I have decided, I will be the lamp lady.

Manufacturing, selling, marketing, recycling projector lamps means, like most parts of the AV industry, we touch a variety of really fantastic verticals — anywhere that uses projection- education, corporate, hospitality, themed entertainment, museums, houses of worship, corporate, government, just to name a few.  I get to mingle with the most interesting people who have super cool jobs. Like my museum buddy (who will read this and tell me it sucks) who gets to play with a life size train, an 8-foot heart,  or a water exhibit that you can manipulate to soak friends and passersby.  However, as I have been reminded, projector lamps are also a consumable, expendable, accessory- whatever side thought, drop down menu item name you want to give it.  It isn’t the meat and potatoes of what is considered AV.  (Many just call it a necessary evil.) Given this fact (and before my 8 years on the outskirts of AV, I spent seven years in medical marketing/product management), I think I have a unique inside/outside viewpoint of the industry, an industry that I have come to sincerely enjoy. So I write this with complete and total respect for my AV brothers and sisters.

From my vantage point I will tell you (some of) what I see:

1)      Lists– Why are lists so popular?  Bragging rights!  But in our industry, every publication, blog, website, has its own list of top 10, 25, 50, 100 AV something. (Ha! I am even making a list- but this one doesn’t rank anything- this is an “in no particular order” list, sorry.)  Lists are EVERYWHERE.  Every month, a new list.

2)      Musicians– this is probably a no-brainer for this industry, but so many AV people are also musicians- creative, talented, tinkerer.  Some of our colleagues may have even started in music, and worked their way into the industry. But musicians abound in this industry- and it’s so much fun!  It’s one of the threads that create the fabric of audiovisual, and is therefore woven into many of the people of the industry. A lovely call back to the roots of AV. It still thrives.

3)      Incest– harsh word, but didn’t know how else to explain the fact that everyone knows everyone because at one point everyone worked with each other at one AV company or another.  Movement from company to company is common, but no one leaves the industry.  One may move from AMX to NEC to Christie, but will not consider a move to another industry.  No one says, “I came from the pharmaceutical industry,” or “I used to work in real estate.”  I don’t know if I will leave either – it’s fun, exciting, dynamic and always challenging. I kind of get it: you specialize in a certain industry, you speak intelligently about all the facets of the industry, you feel comfortable and fine tuned, you are successful. However, in many other industries, sales people consider themselves malleable, able to mold their spiel to any product or service, because they can “sell anything.” But even AV sales people don’t leave.  They just don’t. One day you are a competitor, the next you are a co-worker. That’s also why competition is fierce, and yet easily discarded at 5 o’clock when happy hour begins.

4)      Egos– My goodness there are a lot of egos in our industry.  This may go back to why our industry loves lists and is so competitive.  Seems that every John Doe AV knows exactly what s/he is doing better than anyone else. Doesn’t matter what s/he does- consultant, installation tech, manufacturing, sales, project management…doesn’t matter.  I will tell you- we do have some exceptionally talented men and women so it’s not like egos are unwarranted.  But they are everywhere. Modesty is not a common characteristic of the people in this industry.  But neither is accepting anything less than a perfect AV experience. I have mentioned this before, but AV is not for the “good enough” crowd. So it stands to reason that our perfectionist mentality must boast a well-developed ego. Creating perfect must take the highest level of talent, design, comprehension and skill. Why sell yourself short?

5)      Jeans and tie-dyed t-shirts– at an industry only, not open to the general public, tradeshow? Maybe this is common elsewhere, and it’s just me. Coming from the medical industry NO ONE wore anything less than an ironed button down shirt and nice pants/ skirt to a tradeshow.  Jacket was optional, but more common than not. I was floored when I saw jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts coming at me during my first InfoComm in 2005. Not a bad thing. Actually, I feel it depicts the deep rooted character of the industry really well. It was born of tinkerers and hobbyists, the early adopters and the Mr. Fix It, the musical genius and the never settle for good enough. The handsome guy with the longish gorgeous hair, who sits in front of his stereo, inserts a [name brand] cassette, and finds himself in a perfect wind tunnel of sound, feeling confident that there is little to disturb or rival this bone jarring experience.