Rental and Staging Predictions for 2012

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Crew CallWell, it’s January, and time once again for me to exhibit the same holiday-induced lack of imagination as every other columnist, and write a predictions column. OK, OK, I’ll do it. I’m as lazy as the next writer. But you’ll have to listen to me whine about it a bit first, because its harder work for me than for most writers.

Now, in the world of columns in general, publications like newspapers or major magazines, this is really pretty easy. Pick out a couple of famous people who are particularly old, particularly ill, or have particularly self-destructive habits, and predict dire things for them. Or just predict that Lindsay Lohan will fail to complete her probation again. This takes about 20 minutes, and you can go back to sipping either eggnog or champagne, depending on when you actually get around to starting that January column.

And, not to belittle the holiday work of any of my compatriots, but in the AV/Video industry, it isn’t much harder. To start with, just predict either side of the perennial truth — that Apple will continue to define the smart phone or tablet market, or that they will have new competition. That way, the columnists can pretend to disagree with each other while essentially all predicting the same thing. And, if you want to stay out of that one, you can always safely predict that Sony will restructure itself again.

But this column is about the rental and staging part of our business, a segment that is just as much about people as it is about electronics or media. So, I actually have to do a little thinking about HOW our clients will use what they, or we, buy. So, without further ado, here are a few of my thoughts about what effects some of the new technologies will have in our business:

The year of the cloud in presentations: For a few years now, we have witnessed the boom in mobile devices and cloud-based services. They have been useful in a lot of ways (Angry Birds, anyone?), but until recently, their presentation capabilities were fairly limited and not entirely compatible with our desktops, so in the presentation arena, while they may do some of the creation using portable devices, we have mostly come back to notebook or desktop computers for presentations. But the latest generation of hardware brings a lot of new capabilities, and coupled with cloud-based services, they will make their biggest mark yet on presentations this year. Tablet and phone devices can combine presentations, messaging, polling, whiteboarding, annotation — all with an easier-to-use interface than laptops, and they are less expensive for corporations to provide their personnel. Cloud-based materials also help organizational control of content and message. So be sure to have iPad video adapters in your jockey boxes. Beginning in 2012, you will see it become the rule rather than the exception for lots of meetings.

Walls of all kinds: The rental industry has another major change in progress. We’re working in a lot of new and smaller venues because of the move to greener buildings and lower energy costs. This trend, combined with cheaper wall-capable flat screens and new types of cubes, spells the video wall really coming into its own as a mainstream rental item rather than being primarily a higher-end staging display.

Presentation interactvity: I just spent half a day with a friend who is webmaster for a small corporation, working out some technical details for some pages on their intranet that use their company-issued smart phones as polling devices during meetings. Having spent a good deal of my career doing logistics and wiring for the old generation of polling systems, I was impressed at its flexibility, speed, ease of setup and results. Larger online meeting sites also seem to be introducing user-configurable polling and graphing using smart phones and tablets, so I think this one will also really begin its day in the sun this year.

Overall: As I’ve been shouting from my soapbox for years, higher product integration, less expensive electronics and rising cost of labor and benefits spell the need to shift business more and more toward knowledge-based billing. The last few years have done a lot to separate the sheep from the goats, the ones that can transform themselves into the rental companies of the future from the ones that won’t. And this year will continue that trend.

So, those are my thoughts, but I have to be sure of being right on at least one prediction.

It’s really too bad about Lindsay Lohan, isn’t it?

rAVe Rental [and Staging] contributor Joel R. Rollins, CTS-R, is General Manager of Everett Hall Associates, Inc. and is well known throughout the professional AV industry for his contributions to industry training and his extensive background in AV rental, staging and installation. Joel can be reached at joelrollins@mac.com