The Power of Names

Names have power. Names matter. Decades of fantasy literature have taught us that.

Kvothe, the kingkiller, gained control of the very air itself when he learned and spoke the name of the wind. In the wizarding world, nobody would dare speak the name of Lord Voldemort.

On Roke Island, the young Sparrowhawk learned the secret names of things from the Master Namer. Later, he publicly called himself by his own name, Ged. Doing so was a powerful statement by him – and the king Labannen – that their power belonged to the rest of the world as well as to themselves.

Names are important. When someone asks “who are you?”, your first answer is not your job, your family connection, your hobbies. It is your name.

Last week, we in the AV industry got a new name by which to conjure as InfoComm International became AVIXA, or the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association. What does this new name mean? How does this change who we are, and what power lies within the new name? This is something about which we’ve all been thinking for the past week and one which I’m sure has been given a great deal of thought from the team at InfoComm. Having lived through big rebranding in my pre-AV life, I’m excited by this change and confident that with the new name will come new possibilities.

Not all of you know this, but my life before AV was in the world of telephony. I worked for NYNEX, later purchased by Bell Atlantic, then rebranded as Verizon. Each change came with a discussion of the new logo and colors (Blue for reliability! Red for innovation! White for some reason I can’t recall!) and an updated mission. I’ll admit to being particularly unsure about the Bell Atlantic to Verizon change; Bell Telephone is a venerable name going back to the idea of what a phone company is and what they do. To give away this piece of history struck me as a poor choice in which we lose something for a new name which sounded terribly generic. Today, Verizon has created a new history for itself, growing beyond the original footprint of the old Bell systems. Perhaps it was a strong choice.

So, what of AVIXA? A few thoughts initially came.

While the words sound generic, you could argue the same about “InfoComm” (which was a sound-alike with a computer game company from the 1980s). InfoComm – information and communication – is almost a better fit for IT professionals than for what it is that we do. Yes, we create systems that transport and display information. Yes, communication is part of the purpose here. It isn’t, however, what we really do. AV professionals create systems with which people interact, which creates one’s perception of a space – be that space a meeting room, a train platform, or a conference all. We create experiences.

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It is in the creation of experiences that we are different than IT professionals; an IT designer creates an infrastructure which modern spaces need to function. We use that infrastructure to create experiences. An immersive videoconference is an experience. A corporate meeting room with a seamless presentation interface is an experience for both presenter and audience. A clearly intelligible announcement in an airport is an experience. A home-theater is an experience.

The other important part of the name – the reason that it is a name by which to conjure – lies in those first letters. AV. Yes, our focus is on experience. On communication. On collaboration. At the end of the day, our contribution lies in the creation of audiovisual systems. It is our area of expertise, it is the set of tools with which we work.

It is who we are.

Names have power. In choosing “AVIXA,” the organization once known as InfoComm renamed us, rebranded us and is in a way remaking us. It’s an acronym, but a word that can be spoken. Names need to be spoken to have power; I’m glad that what they chose was not just a string of letters. That we can say “ah-VICKS-uh” instead of “ay-vee-eye-ex-ay.” It’s important in building the brand. If it can’t be spoken, it feels less like a name.

What’s also important is what it says. It says who we are: We are AV professionals, well-versed in the use of audiovisual tools and techniques. It says what we do: We create experiences. It says that we are an association – a community of like-minded individuals pooling our collective experiences and knowledge. Just as the phone company grew away from their old Bell name, we can grow into a new name better fitting our identity.

Welcome to AVIXA.

It is a name by which to conjure.