Winding It Up

Well, here we are again. The holidays are upon us, so it is time to pour a glass of, well, whatever a sales rep sent me for the holidays and summon my internal psychic. Each year at this time I write a final column for the year, summing up what I think the year has brought our industry, and making some predictions for the year ahead. Making the predictions for the year is the easy part, as I just channel either my friend Gary Kayye (if I am trying to be imaginative) or Jeanne Dixon (if I am shooting for accuracy). It’s the “summing up” part that is difficult, so I will content myself with just a few observations.

First of all, there are two places where I feel that the rental and staging portion of our industry needs to work on catching up with the rest of the business. And both of them are places where I think “catching up” is important to the future of our industry segment.

We need to embrace the green.

This one is difficult for me to admit, as I live in a small New England town where the excitement (for me) at this time of year is mostly centered around the competition for the town’s Clark W. Griswold Award for holiday lighting. During the next two weeks, my little town (which sits about 35 miles from Manhattan) can be seen from the Empire State Building as a glow on the horizon. Many of the contenders need to use generators or “borrow” electricity from the houses on either side of them and the award is given by the Volunteer Fire Department, probably because they are watching the contenders very closely. It’s a grand tradition, but probably not for long, since ostentatious uses of energy are becoming frowned upon. And scrutiny of other events isn’t far behind. In the installation portion of the business, vendors are now being required to justify systems and equipment choices based on their carbon footprint, and manufacturers are scrambling to make their product lines even more energy efficient. I have already heard from a number of you who have had to do the same for major event rigs and, as a general trend, this one is obvious. Get ready for it. You can start by creating a spreadsheet of energy draws for your inventory. Your clients are going to be asking for this, so surprise them by having it ready.

OK, so that one was obvious. My other point should be equally obvious, but sadly, it often isn’t.

We need to stop selling to ourselves.

The AV industry has always been dominated by “techies,” which is probably how it should be. But every time there is a technological change, we become so impressed by it that we forget that our clients (outside the industry) almost certainly won’t be. I have been railing about it for years, but to no avail. It was once very easy to identify a website or brochure from a rental and staging company — they had to include either a picture of a huge pile of gear in the warehouse or a line-up of trucks and vans outside the building. We fall back on selling to ourselves. Our clients (for the most part) don’t rent “gear” and don’t care how it is delivered. They care about the experience they are buying in an event. To that end, our industry association has renamed itself the “Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association,” or AVIXA. The rest of our industry is catching on. We need to, too.

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So those are my sage observations for the passing year. I will resist my usual urge to predict the death of some famous person who is elderly, infirm and lives dangerously, and confine myself to the business. And now, in keeping with the grand tradition, I offer my predictions for the upcoming year:

Things will heat up in the industry.

Global warming is a fact. Sorry, but it is. And clients (and especially the high-tech clients we all covet) are changing their habits to fight it, regardless of what we regulate or deregulate. Every day, we see company policies issued that are designed to fight the unnecessary use of energy generated by using fossil fuels. And this includes everything from the size of headquarters to the justification of travel. The explosive increase in the use of videoconferencing, webconferencing and now virtual meetings is being accelerated by minimizing both the expenditure of time and the energy use of travel. We need to expect this and adapt — both by creating experiences on-site that justify the cost and carbon and by learning to produce decentralized events. I could go on but I don’t need to. This is fact. Get ready for it.

And, as a salute to Jeanne Dixon and Gary Kayye:

I predict that we will NOT find out what happened at Roswell or who killed Jimmy Hoffa. (To ensure that I am 100 percent correct in my predictions, and not possessing a crystal ball, I needed a gimme here.)

And with a final glass of whatever this is that my insurance agent gave me, I wish you all a happy, safe holiday and a prosperous New Year.