Training More Important Than Ever in Bad Economy

By Scott Tiner, CTS

A few weeks ago I was talking with a colleague about this year’s InfoComm show in Orlando.  He was disappointed that he could not attend.  His institution, he told me, had “canceled all unnecessary travel.”  As he was not the person who made this decision, I did not try to convince him that right now training is more necessary then ever.  Recently, I was reminded of this discussion during a presentation I gave at the NERCOMP annual conference.  An attendee asked me how to convince a CIO that travel to InfoComm, or any training for that matter, was a valuable expense considering the current situation. I answered his question, but I think that training is so important that the question deserved a more thorough answer.

This recession is going to affect colleges and universities for several years beyond the official end of the recession.  Our endowments have shrunk so considerably that while we rebuild them, we will still be facing difficult budgetary situations.  This means that Technology Managers will be making decisions on budgets, staffing and equipment with limited financial resources.  The only way to make a good decision is to make an informed one. Professional training, like you can receive by attending InfoComm, can set you on your way to making these informed decisions.

Perhaps you need to find ways to save money in your installs.  On the show floor you will have access to every vendor you can imagine.   You can compare products, support and prices.  It is perfectly reasonable to expect to return from InfoComm with a plan to change to a new manufacturer or model of any product (doc cams, projectors, racks, control systems) and save money.  True, this could be done through web or print advertisements, but there is nothing like having a product in your hand while talking directly with a manufacturer to help you make a good decision.  Also, it is extremely efficient to move from one manufacturer to another and be able to make a decision within a couple of days.  Finally, theft has become a larger issue on campuses over the past few years.  There are dozen of vendors on the floor who provide security solutions for A/V equipment.  Preventing a couple of projectors from being stolen will pay for your trip to InfoComm on its own.

Due to the fact the economic effects of the current crisis will be felt in our budgets for several years, we also need to plan our future installs with both budget and future flexibility in mind.  Perhaps the Super Tuesday session on Technology Trends would be the right session for you to understand what is down the road.  If your school is one of the many who are looking to consolidate staffing and offices, then a merger of AV and IT may be right around the corner.  For you perhaps the AV/IT Integration for Technical Professionals session would provide you some useful information.  Better yet, maybe this session would give you information necessary to come back to your institution and recommend such a merger.  Being seen as a person willing to bring new ideas to the table in order to save money can only benefit your standing in the organization.  Manufacturer training is also available at the conference.  Polycom and Tandberg both are offering training at the show.  Gaining knowledge about video conferencing systems can save money immediately, by developing expertise on the systems, and it provides for future savings by cutting down on expensive travel.

So, how do you now convince your CIO to spend the money to send you to InfoComm?  First, put a budget together.  Obviously, you want to get to Orlando and stay there, for as cheap as possible.  One of the official InfoComm hotels is advertising rooms for as little as $73 per night, and there are four others who are advertising at under $100 per night.  Clearly, staying in a hotel does not need to bust the budget. Second, set up your itinerary for the show and provide it to your superiors along with your budget when making the request.  What courses do you plan to attend?  What direct effect will each course have on the bottom line for your institution?  What vendors do you plan to visit on the show floor?  Again, what is your end result from visiting each vendor?   If you took a cut to your budget this year, identify to your CIO how your trip to InfoComm will help you deal with the budget cuts without a drastic cut in service.  In our case, our projector replacement budget looks like it will be cut.  I intend to find a quality projector model that will provide Bates with the same number of projectors for the lower budget amount. In the end make sure your CIO understands that you will return from this conference ready and able to save more money for your institution than they spent to send you to it.

Recognize that getting professional training allows you to make professional decisions that will help your institution.  Being seen as a professional, instead of the “A/V person” will give you the opportunity to help your institution make wise choices to sustain the equipment now and into the future.  I hope to see you in Orlando!

About Scott Tiner

Scott Tiner, CTS, has worked in the AV/IT field in public K-12, private K-12 and higher education institutions. As a trained educator, he has a deep interest in the use of various types of technology in the classroom. Currently, as the Manager of Digital Media and Event Support at Bates College, Scott designs the technology for learning spaces and works with faculty on innovative ways to use technology in these learning spaces. He also is responsible for the digital video and audio editing support on campus.