How to Stay an AV Geek

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00714_00792As bosses and managers, it is sometimes hard to stay up on on all the latest technology, industry news and best practices that are constantly changing the landscape of what we call AV. We all know how critical this is for our companies to stay relevant and leaders in whatever sector of the market we find ourselves. And, the way and speed information travels given the advent of social media — is certainly something that should be on each one of our radars.

Case in point. Last week, rAVe [Publications]’ Gary Kayye (digitally) broke a story about aCrestron video that had gone largely unnoticed comparing their Digital Media switching technology to that of Extron and AMX. Clearly, they are competitors and one can reasonably assume the video was not an attempt to cast their competition in a favorable light. Well, Extron took notice.  To the point, they responded — something you typically don’t see in any business market. You should weigh-in on both the technical aspects and business practices. Personally, I am impressed with the brilliance of seeing how rAVe brought to light an important and highly controversial topic that we tend to or could easily overlook in our day-to-day lives. Or, should I say we miss?

And, that is my point. The details of what transpired and/or will are not of my concern. What I take away from this is that we all should be paying more attention to what is happening in our industry and how it does and will affect our companies? As a business owner, I know what you are thinking, YEAH RIGHT. We are already juggling enough — running to and from airports, back-to-back-to back meetings, putting out this or that fire and feeling the pains of guilt for missing another school play.

But, what would any of that matter if there was one crucial business transaction and/or smoldering ember that you miss and everything blew up irrevocably? We have all seen government officials, high-powered executives, celebrities and sadly, our children have horribly life-altering moments because of something that took place on Twitter. And, maybe that’s why we stay away. The ostrich with its head in the sand can’t really take accountability for what it didn’t know. Good ol’ plausible deniability!

The problem with that in this day and age is that information travels too fast, too wide AND too “gotcha” for it to be contained. And, as business owners, our very livelihood, reputation and future success depends on our being engaged in what is happening in our sandbox. It’s just our sandbox is completely different than when we spent entire days’ building dirt roads to run our Tonka Trucks on. One missed tweet, one salacious comment can start a storm that could be impossible to rectify. Take Adria Richards for example — both she and another person were fired over an incident at the recent PyCon conference. And, the Internet has been blowing up about ever since.

The reason I started to think of this topic was because I genuinely, like many of us who lead our companies, love the audiovisual industry and the technology behind what we do. We started as engineers, audiophiles, the high school AV guy or WAVE. I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every story I hear about how someone got into the AV industry because they were in a rock band!!

And, while that is the true passion and honor I feel about why I’d never see myself ever being in another industry, it is also our biggest blind spot. Information is moving in new ways that we have to stay up with.

While subscribing to rAVe newsletters visiting their website dedicated to teaching social media, rAVe SMB, is always a great place to start, here are a few key ways I try to stay on top of what’s happening that could impact my bottom line.

1. New Technologies ~ I assign each of my staff a different topic/area of our market to stay current on and report back about trends and new technologies, audio, video, control systems, design and construction, etc. We have a monthly meeting and each team member is responsible to report back what they have found and are noticing. Not only does this help me to stay up with what’s new, but, my entire staff is able to constantly learn about all the different areas of our industry they too don’t have time to keep up with. And, it’s really motivating for my staff to be the expert in each of a given area.

2. Social Media ~ This can’t be said enough. While some argue CEOs shouldn’t be on Twitter, I disagree. Social media is increasingly (and will continue to be) a tool in our toolbox of how we do business. Now, I am not suggesting business leaders need to get out there and engage in sharing their personal life stories or spend hours reading every post. Social media is like a fire hose and it’s incredibly hard to keep up. However, some of the most influential WOMEN (Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Cisco’s Padmasree Warrior) in the tech industry all have Twitter accounts that are very popular where they share company and breaking news. This personalizes people we normally see from afar and it also offers them a way to stay up on what is happening in their world. Even if you never send a tweet, you now have access to search real-time information about what is trending in the industry and more importantly, what is being said about your company and your competition. At the very least, you should assign this task to a team member and receive frequent updates about what they are seeing.

3. Trade Shows ~ Ahh, the trade show. The place where new products and services are launched and company leads are generated. And, they don’t say wear comfortable shoes for nothing! Especially as a business owner, every minute of every day is scheduled down to the wire. There are customers to meet, announcements to make and hands to shake. Well, going back to the why and how we started in the industry, how much time do you spend at a show researching the one or two things that really drive and excite you? Not much as much as you’d like I’m sure. And, why not? Nothing is more inspiring than a leader who is passionate and up-to-date on the vision of where things that matter to them are heading and what is truly innovative in our industry. So, why not make it part of your schedule to visit a few of the key companies you want to see and just be a spectator and newbie again?! Not only will it reinvigorate your passion for the industry, but you could also find new revenue driving opportunities you might not have thought of while running ahead at full speed.

These are just a few things that came to my mind about how I try to stay up with what’s current and can affect me in ways I may not see coming. Do you have other ways and advice for business leaders about how to get involved?