ISE: Smarter Campus

Thanks to an invitation from InfoComm to speak at its Smarter Campus session, I was able to attend ISE for the first time in 2017. The trip and the show were fantastic. I was excited to be a part of this session, and got to speak with some “AV” industry veterans who are well known members of the community, Paul Zielie and Chuck Espinoza (aka @madsoundguy).

Chuck started the session talking about how we need to prepare for the future of the classroom, while still supporting the current needs of faculty and students. This is a problem rather specific to education, where our faculty are the experts at what they do, and have the right to tell us what they need in a space. This becomes a challenge as we try to share rooms and needs among a very diverse group of people.

I spoke on the topic of the current state of BYOD in higher education. The talk covered many of the topics as last month’s article. I tried to help the group think of the classroom as a less of a linear space. Today’s classroom includes fields, arenas, lakes and many other non-traditional locations. Even if we consider the standard classroom in an academic building, those spaces many not have desks lined up facing all in the same direction. Each of these types of classrooms brings different types of BYOD devices.

Paul Zielie ended the session with a discussion about data and metrics, and how critical they are in helping us understand usages and future expenses and needs. The data can cover issues from button presses that led to a problem, to the number of uses of certain pieces of technology.

During each talk the audience, largely European, asked a few clarifying questions. In between each session there was a breakout opportunity where participants brainstormed ideas they had based on each talk. It was during these times that it became clear how similar the concerns that we in the US deal with, as our counterparts in the rest of the world. We each still had issues with devices that were not digital, and how to provide for those. We all had concerns about wireless connectivity to our systems. Time to do maintenance and upgrade work was also a commonly discussed problem, as all our campuses are being used more and more throughout the entire year.

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I was really interested to see that there was at least one consultant, Peter Coman (from Australia) that joined in the session. What I really appreciated about this person is that he was not trying to sell others his business or services. Rather, he wanted to hear, in person, what technology managers are experiencing and about their biggest challenges. During the various discussions he did offer some of the solutions his company had found, but he did not push them as the answer.

As I reflected on the session it struck me how valuable it is for consultants to listen. We hear all the times how important listening is, but few of us ever really try and practice good listening, which is why this consultant really struck a chord with me. In fact, the only other person that I have seen listen to a customer, and want to learn from them in this way is FSR’s Gina Sansivero. Whether I have seen Gina at her booth during a trade show, or at a conference, or on a visit to my campus, she is never trying to push a solution on her clients. Rather, she spends most of the time getting to know what you are doing, why you are doing it and how you are doing it.

Peter and Gina have it right. Today’s educational landscape is changing very quickly. A classroom built last year, may very well look different from one built today, and one built next year may look very different from that. Only by listening to your customers will you be able to consistently provide them with the appropriate solution. Providing this value to your clients is what will keep them coming back. So, I end this article with some tips on effective listening for consultants and salespeople.

  1. You should speak for less time than your client.
  2. You should never interrupt your client to tell them you know their problem and have a solution.
  3. If you must interrupt your client, it should only be for you to ask a clarifying question.
  4. You should take notes and ask good clarifying questions.
  5. You should be able to describe what your client has described, in their words, and not in terms of technology you sell.