The Star Wars Guide to Recruiting New Talent


There is a great new program and movement taking place in the AV Industry called Ignite.  It is a program run by the NSCA to try and create interest and excitement about a future career in the AV industry.  Just based on the involvement of Chuck Wilson, Kelly Perkins, Michael Shinn, and Laurie Englert (who I work with at MIlestone), I know that these folks will be doing some amazing things in the near future.

Given all this and my equal passion to bring new young talent into our industry, I’d like to throw out a quick set of ideas on how we as an industry might better attract this type of talent.

So I give you The Star Wars Guide to Recruiting New Talent.

Get their attention. 

Just like the Leia Hologram springing forth from R2’s Pico Projector equipped dome, you need to get young people’s attention.  You need to set up a conflict or a mystery and let them know the only one who can resolve or solve it is them.  Something like-

“Our industry is in crisis.  Since the introduction of the flat panel TV and Video Teleconferencing we have entered a period of gradual innovation.  We have yet to discover the next big thing that will move us forward. The promise of things like holograms and augmented reality have barely been explored, and it will be a new generation that drives these technologies into the mainstream.  Who will be the first ones to stake their claims and pioneer these fields?”

Cast them as the hero in your story from the start.  This is the opposite of what I have seen with other programs in the past.  Many times the presenter starts with a plethora of “we” stories.  Look at all the cool stuff ‘we’ have done in this industry.  When we start with “we” we’re appealing only to ourselves.  Appeal to them instead.  There have been an abundance of articles published about Millennials in the workplace, so I won’t belabor the point, but Millennials and Generation Z are heroes and artists.  They need to be important, they want to be creative, and they strive to add value.  Appeal to that FIRST.

Provide an “Invitation to Awe” 

Remember when Obi Wan sat down and showed Luke a 200 slide PowerPoint about the history of the Jedi and their accomplishments?  Of course not because it didn’t happen.  What did Obi Wan do?  He handed Luke a lightsaber and let him activate it and wave it around.  He was hooked.

Nancy Duarte calls this an “Invitation to Awe”.  (If you haven’t read her book “Resonate” yet you should).  An Invitation to Awe is a moment when you share something amazing and give your audience a chance to let it sink in, to become hooked.  Jobs used to do it at the iPhone launches all the time.  After describing the conflict, create a “what if” scenario and provide an invitation to awe.  “What if as you watched a film at Pearl Harbor the shadows of the planes swept across the docks and water flew up from the harbor as sirens began to wail, putting you in the same surprised and frantic state of the Navy on that day?”  Then let it simmer.

Stage a Revolution

Luke always wanted to be a pilot to escape farm life, but it was joining the rebellion that really motivated him to actually do it.  Even Anakin joined Palpatine during a coup, he didn’t set out to join the establishment that became the Empire.  Young people want to change things.  They want to be part of a movement.  Give them one.

Going into a school and talking to kids about video teleconferencing or building control systems is too corporate.  They don’t want a career installing the conference room they saw at their dad’s office.  It doesn’t sound exciting.  Think about it.  These young people grow up with a 4″ screen in their pocket and a 10″ version in their backpack.  SnapChat, Periscope, Instagram and FaceTime are all old hat.  That’s the new normal.

We get excited about these things because they represent revenue potential for our businesses.  The small innovations aid in proliferation of the technology but aren’t fundamentally transforming the experience.

Talk instead about how “We need a generation of leaders that will merge the fields of 3D printing, mobile, wearables and entertainment to create fluid experiences that overlap all the senses, that take virtual reality from a phone in a box to images on the lens of your eye, and audio directly to the implanted blue tooth in your ear canal.  We need someone to change the status quo and lead the revolution.”

Let Them Get Their Hands Dirty

Just like there was no PowerPoint about the Jedi, there also was no handbook and certification test that made Luke want to become a Jedi.  He found himself in a swamp on Dagobah, with a strange green mentor helping him explore how his abilities could overcome what he thought were impossibilities.

If you can, hold these events in a strange unknown place.  Meet backstage at a Disney attraction, or in the projection booth of a theater, or the back halls of a concert venue.  Let them experience something new and then let a mentor guide them through what is happening, letting them explore, touch, hear, and feel.  Hands on usually means all in.

Acknowledge Challenges and Call them to Action

There are always obstacles.  Luke needed a ship.  His mentor vanished into thin air.  When he told his dad he didn’t want to be part of the family business, his dad cut off his hand.  Being a Jedi is tough.

Acknowledge that the road is not easy.  That they may have to learn new things, work hard, and fail once or twice.  But end on the promise of success.  Of fulfilling their destiny.  Of saving our industry and bringing balance to the force.

We need bright young minds in AV.  For this reason we need Ignite.  I know the people that are involved.  They are creative.  They are smart.  They are storytellers.  I am excited to see what stories they tell and who they inspire to take the plunge.

Remember that no one ever started a revolution after reading a book report.  May the force be with you.