What I Learned at AVEC 2019

Earlier this month I had the amazing opportunity to be the master of ceremonies at AVIXA’s AV Executive Conference (AVEC). I’m still not sure why they entrusted a room full of leaders and executives to me, but I’m so happy they did because I had an amazing experience.

Why was it amazing? Well, for one, unlike trade shows, the emphasis of the conference wasn’t on products. Yes, many manufacturers sponsor the event, and many attend as well, but the content is not product-focused at all, and rather focuses on the business strategy side of AV as opposed to the technical execution of projects.

As someone who returned to integration in 2019 as a sales director, it gave me the opportunity to meet or reconnect with many exemplary leaders. It gave me an opportunity to learn new skill sets and share ideas, as well as an opportunity to reflect on my career and those who have shaped it over the years.

I only thought it would be fitting to credit a few individuals here, ones I met at AVEC who taught me new things and those I reconnected with that reminded me of the value they gave me along the way.

Robyn Benincasa

Robyn was a new connection for me and the first keynote speaker of the conference.  She was truly inspiring, (see her story here). Her talk on leadership gave so many great lessons, but there were a couple that stood out. One was to field your best TEAM not your best PLAYERS. I remember the Olympic Dream Teams that took All-Stars from every NBA team and put them on the court vs. other teams in the Olympics. It’s funny how arguably the best players on the planet didn’t always bring home the gold medal. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Miracle on Ice hockey team took players, who weren’t standouts in their own right, beat the best team in the world. As a new leader building a a team, I’m extremely grateful for Robyn’s emphasis on focusing on the right players, not necessarily on the best players.

Steve Durkee

If you don’t know Steve Durkee from Legrand AV, you definitely need to make an effort to get to know him. I loved working for Steve for the four-and-a-half years I was on his team. He is a very personable and approachable leader, and I’ve taken a lot away from his leadership including his focus on integrity and customer relationships. While on stage, I apparently let a Durkee-ism slip when I told the audience to spread out, meet new people and stop “clumping” with those they already knew. It was a subconscious reference to something Steve used to tell us as a team before InfoComm, and that was to avoid “clumping” together in the booth as employees, and instead engage visitors. He playfully called me out on stealing his term at the AVEC cocktail party, so I thought I’d give him his proper due here.

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Sara Abrons

As managing editor and co-owner, Sara is an integral part of rAVe [PUBS] and THE rAVe Agency. I was able to sit with her during the conference and I am always impressed by her insights, acumen and AV knowledge. She would even send me texts with takeaways from the talks and she wrote her own take on AVEC as well. She has helped me develop creatively over the last six-and-a-half years in my time writing for rAVe. Through blogging and podcasting opportunities, I have been able to hone my skills to a dull edge. I credit her friendship and professional relationship with assisting me in developing my voice and increasing my industry profile.

David Labuskes

As the CEO of AVIXA, Dave Labuskes has spearheaded a shift in the industry association over the last few years. If you’ve met him in person, you know how personable he is and — no offense to anyone in a similar role — but you typically wouldn’t expect his level of friendliness and warmth from a C-Level, former IT executive. I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Dave at AVEC, and any time I do, I am encouraged about our industry’s future. We spoke about a few of their initiatives and goals as an association and when we parted, Dave graciously offered his support and advice for anything I may need assistance with in the future. I’m humbled by his offer and may take him up on it.

Of course there were countless more connections and re-connections with additional impact. I can’t reference them all here, but the point is, AVEC is a place to connect and gain value from the others attending.

Robyn Benincasa asked us to raise our hands if we ever felt “lucky” in our careers. I think everyone in the room raised their hand, and she reminded us that luck was where preparation met opportunity. AVEC is another opportunity to connect and share. I hope to be “lucky” enough to be there again next year.