The Unsung Heroes of the AV Industry

Last month, we talked about some of the “Heroes” that made our craft what it is today. I gave you a few of my nominees, and we had great response on the blog and via email with suggestions for others. Some were obvious entries, others were surprising, but all contributed to the growth of the business we enjoy today.

But all of them are… distant. They’re legends. Larger-than-life. OF COURSE Edison is a hero to our industry, but he’s a hero to many industries.

So, to give credit where credit is due, we are a small business, and many of our “heroes” are people who have influenced our current state more directly — and, often, more personally for each of us. Some of them can’t even be named, as they might (probably do) have a different name for each of us.

So let’s nominate them to our little Hall of Fame by description:

The Skill-Stretching Producer

Admit it — we all have one. This is the guy, or gal, who loves to “push the envelope.” When they call, our immediate unspoken reaction is “What now?” These are the ones who aren’t afraid to dream, and keep us up all night the night before the show figuring out how to achieve what they are asking for. And, even though they may make our hair turn grey early, they push us ahead. And, once the smoke has cleared and the tension is over, we walk away able to handle yet another situation the next time it comes up.

The Considerate Client

I don’t know about the rest of you, but these are the people who have kept me in the business all these years. They are the clients who ask my advice, respect my opinion on how to make the show better, and make sure my crew gets coffee during long setups. It doesn’t take much to get us to give our best effort, and these are the people who get it.

The Great Rep

We are in a hardware and product-intensive business, where technology turns over quickly, so it’s no wonder that each of us has a lot of people calling on us to convince us to buy their product. The bulk of them are just that — salespeople — and I buy from them when they have a good price and I need their product. But a few are the “Great Rep”… the one we think of as a friend to our business and our people, the one who says “Can I help?” instead of just, “press hard, you are making six copies.” I’ve been bailed out in the middle of the night by a few of these reps, and they’re the ones I go out of my way to buy from. You can always tell who these people are, because the crew treats them differently. They don’t just know my purchasing manager or myself — they know my field crew, and what’s more than that, they are the ones we are not opposed to introducing to our clients.

The Competition

I’ll say what I have been saying for many, many years. I have been blessed with great competition. Oh, sure, I complain about them, just like we all do. But, truth to tell, the fact that we have to compete sharpens every knife in the crew’s toolbox. It drives us ahead in both technology and in customer service. Not only that, but we all know it is a small industry, and most of us have friends who work for competing organizations. We kid each other about the wins and losses where we compete for business, but we help each other out when needed, too.

The Mentor

We’re not an industry that most of us planned to be in. We didn’t plan our resumes or education in order to be in the AV industry, and because of the pressure and unpredictability, many of us don’t stay on to make a career of it when we somehow blunder into the business. So, for most of us who DO make it, somewhere along the line there was somebody who brought us into the business, who shared what they knew, who encouraged us and supported us while we learned from our mistakes. This is probably the most important category in our unsung heroes group, and there’s no way we can really thank them — except by our own success, and by letting them see us pay it forward and become a Mentor to somebody else.

I could go on, and talk about the other influential groups, like the industry associations and the unions, but they are another category entirely. Stay tuned for next month, when we’ll discuss “Forming the More Perfect Union.” In the meantime, add to the list on our blog at

rAVe Rental [and Staging] contributor Joel R. Rollins, CTS, 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