It’s hard to believe that another InfoComm is right around the corner. As I sit down to write this, we’re under thirty days from the start of the first classes. Up here in Maine, where it’s still winter, we are longing for that humid, warm air. For tech managers, InfoComm can be an overwhelming experience. The cliche — so much to do and so little time — certainly fits this occasion. When I have staff attending InfoComm, I tell them to spend more time in training and networking than walking the show floor. Publications like this one do such an amazing job covering the new products that waiting in line to speak to a rep is often not the best use of your time. So, what do you do? Included below is my recommended schedule for any tech manager who is trying to put together their agenda. This schedule can get expensive, but my rationale has always been that your institution is already sending you to InfoComm. If you can pack in six days of learning, you will get more value for less money, than being sent to two or three individual training sessions throughout the year.
There are numerous three-day courses that are extremely valuable. I am recommending “Effectively Managing AV Staff” for several reasons. The first, and most important, is that it is taught by current practitioners. These are people who are well experienced in the role that tech managers play, and in fact, they are playing the role today. Another reason for this recommendation is that their session description includes workshop-style collaboration. This means that you get to meet and solve problems, with your colleagues from around the country, and possibly the world. This is a networking event and training wrapped in one. Another recommendation, meet some people at your table and have dinner with them a couple of these nights. Build and develop those relationships. They will prove to be invaluable. Depending on your AVIXA membership level, these courses are not inexpensive. Likely, they will be the most expensive on your list. Be prepared to spend some time each evening to write down what you will bring back from the course. This will help you prove value when you return to the office.
Tuesday (aka Tour Day)
On Tuesday, I’m recommending you spend the day touring. In the morning take the University of Central Florida tech tour. Get to see a large campus and the technologies they are implementing. Are they doing things that are great? Are you keeping pace? In the afternoon, get on the bus and head to Full Sail University for the esports arena tour. If you have paid any attention to trends in higher ed over the past couple of years, then you know that esports is one of the biggest. Colleges and universities are paying big money to build these arenas. The athletes are recruited and scholarships are awarded. Full Sail University lays claim to the “largest esport arena to date on any college or university campus in the United States.” Even if you don’t foresee your institution getting into this arena (pun intended), then just go for the wow factor.
This is the day we can finally start saving you some money. AVIXA is offering a seminar and workshop package that provides you access to all of the sessions, including manufacturer sessions, during the next three days. But, before you start those, you need to get up early and attend the end user early bird tour. This is an amazing opportunity for you to get an up close look at the floor before it is mobbed a few hours later. You will note in the description that this tour is specifically for the end user, so you will be surrounded by your colleagues.
When the tour is completed, head on over to the case study seminar, Redefining Student Life with AV Technology. Another session led by current higher ed practitioners. I expect that this session will give you a view into an area many of us don’t spend much time in, student life. We spend a lot of time designing classrooms, but as admissions and offerings become more competitive, many schools are working to enhance the student life.
My next recommonation will take you to lunch time, where I recommend another case study session, Using Voice Control for Classroom AV Systems. I recommend this session, not because I have any insight on what will be said, but rather because this has been a hop topic in higher ed threads for a couple of years. Is there actually a future in voice control of a classroom? I don’t know, but this session will certainly leave you with some food for thought. Speaking of food, feel free to grab a bite of lunch at this point. Good luck with the lines.
Next up on my list is 3D and Mixed Reality: Visualization for the AV Design Workflow. I am recommending this for a couple of reasons. First, all of us work with our facilities departments while planning upgrades and updates. They may already be aware of such tools, but maybe this is something we could introduce to them. Second, as we work with faculty in designing spaces, being able to have a visual representation could prove to be very helpful in designing the ideal space. Finally, you may already have expertise on your campus in some of the software, such as SketchUp, that is being shown in this presentation.
Finally, end the day at the Technology Managers Forum. This is an amazing opportunity to network, connect and collaborate with other tech managers. Perhaps, even find other tech managers who have scheduled visits with manufactures the next day, and see if they mind you jumping in on those. This is especially helpful for people from small schools, like myself, who have a hard time getting appointments.
Unfortunately, I am going to ask you get up early again on Thursday. Attend the Playing Nicely on a Corporate Network. While I have heard various versions of the relationship between AV and IT/networking, I have never heard anyone declare an amazing relationship with no problems. Any time you can put in to help work through that relationship is going to pay dividends. Let’s face it: Our equipment is on the network to stay. When the session ends, run on over to Induction Loop, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi Approaches to Assisted Listening. ADA compliance, and just doing the right thing is what is at stake here. It is certainly something we can all learn more about. Now, I think it’s time for you to hit the showfloor. If you have a chance, go ahead and book appointments now for Thursday and Friday. The workshops on Friday are few, so spend some more time on the show floor on that day. If your budget is getting tight at this point, you can also catch a flight out on Friday night and save the cost for a night in the hotel.
While this agenda was written with the tech manager in mind, it could also come in very handy for the integrator who works with educational institutions. A thoughtful integrator would consider sending someone from their organization to each of these sessions. Listening in on what education is thinking, what their struggles have been, and what solutions they have come up with can only benefit you in providing new solutions. Also, you could simply send a link to this article to your education customers who are attending. It would provide a great resource for them.