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Commercial Learn From Home Virtual Summit highlights AV industry’s push to recover and thrive

AVNation’s Commercial Learn From Home Summit delivered optimism in a time of uncertainty and crisis

AVNation’s Commercial Learn From Home Virtual Summit, held from April 14 -16, featured nine keynotes and 27 AV courses, many of which offered encouragement, thought leadership, and practical business methods and approaches to staying focused and thriving as the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic continues to rewrite and reshape our personal and professional lives. What emerged over the three-day virtual gathering was not only an openness about where we stand as an industry, but also how much we need each other to stand firm in the belief that this too shall pass. In the meantime, we must keep learning, evolving, and innovating our businesses and our perceptions to be ready for the future.

Rewriting Normal
In the past three months new catchphrases have become the lexicon of pandemic life, including the concept of a “new normal.” We all know when we get to the other side of COVID-19 nothing will really be the same. We have all mourned the cancellation of major industry gatherings, including InfoComm 2020, which, whether we said it out loud or not, we were all hoping will go ahead because it would mean the unexpected dawning of social distancing was over. Dave Labuskes, AVIXA’s CEO, broke the bad news about the June show nearly two weeks ago, but brought out rays of hope during his motivating LFH Summit Morning Keynote on April 16, when in addition to encouraging all of us to embrace the fact that the AV industry will play a major role in re-establishing and re-defining post-pandemic life, he also revealed InfoComm Connected 2020, a virtual iteration of the yearly conference.

“We are an industry of scientists and artists,” Labuskes said during his keynote address. “We’ve grown from slide projectors to Cloud-based artificially intelligent data analytics that drive people together to deliver human connections around the planet. No one is more ready for this than our industry. We were born for this. We’ve been doing this since we gathered as tribes and villages around cooking fires. We are and we will, for generations to come, change the way people experience the world. And know that AVIXA will be here to help expose those boundaries, teach the new lessons, be a catalyst for our industry’s growth, a hub for you as an AV professional.”

After encouraging his LFH Virtual Summit audience to take full advantage of the courses on offer during the three-day event, Labuskes continued: “You are going to hear a lot more about InfoComm Connected 2020 this week. This will be our new and special offering. It will be offered during the same week we intended to have a fully physical offering in Las Vegas.”

Labuskes keynote address — which was followed by an official AVIXA announcement that doubled as a call out to the industry to help shape the event with suggestions, papers and more —  was the first in a series of LFH Virtual Summit morning presentations that sought to uplift, encourage and motivate summit attendees into continual action.

Using his experience in the AV industry as a foundation, Crestron’s CEO Randy Klein took summit attendees through the history of what is arguably one of the most resilient and essential branches of the technology sector.

“For those of you who know me, I’m a salesperson; this is what I do all of my life,” said Klein in answer to how pro-AV integrators can convince the Fortune-50 that AV is an essential service. “It’s a tight line we walk. You don’t promote it. You don’t have to promote it. We know who we are, what we are. It promotes itself in a very positive and productive way. In a way, it is emotionally heartwarming to say.

“Getting emails from somebody saying we help save lives — you don’t promote it,” Klein continued. “It promotes itself; the importance is self-evident. In the long run it is so beneficial to us and to our industry.”

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The final LFH Virtual Summit morning keynote, delivered by QSC’s Executive Vice President Anna Csontos, also took an expansive world- and industry-view as Csontos mapped events that have rocked the AV channel and outlining how those experiences can become the bedrock of moving through and pass hard times.

“In Mandarin, crisis is actually two characters,” Csontos said in her closing remarks, “One is representing danger, and the other is representing opportunity. … We feel the crisis weighing on us, on a personal level, on a societal level, on the business impact level. It is very, very difficult. But at the same time, there is opportunity ahead of us and that is what we need to look forward to.”

Reality’s Practicalities
Labuskes’ event-opening keynote address, full of encouragement and practical guidance, was the siren call for LFH keynotes to follow as they all sought to ground our collective uncertainty in more optimistic directions that require less handwringing and more pro-active problem solving. Bradford Benn’s Tuesday lunchtime keynote, for example, focused on the details of running a successful commercial AV business, including the importance of non-disclosure agreements, documentation, business development and more.

Similarly, NSCA’s Executive Director Chuck Wilson’s address, “Decision Points: Understand Your Critical Next Steps,” got down to the nitty-gritty of showing leadership based in good decision making during this crisis, while AVNation’s Tim Albright lead a star panel (AV Magazine Group Editor Clive Couldwell, avitaas Principal Consultant Brock McGinnis, AVI-SPL Vice President Daniel Rogers, Level 3 President Jeremy Elsesser, and Kraftwerk Director of Sales and Marketing Kevin Murphy) in a lively discussion on the AV industry’s post-pandemic future even as we all cope with the changes and stresses of the current moment.

The principle points of that afternoon session carried on into the evening dinner address, which saw Albright lead SCN Content Director Megan Dutta, Commercial Integrator Editorial Director Johnathan Blackwood, Sound and Communications Editor Dan Ferrisi, and Pro Sound Content Director Clive Young in a deep examination of what the AV’s press could have done different in regards to coverage of COVID-19 and how to move forward with more effective reporting — a necessary moment of reflection that dovetailed with the previous night’s panel discussion, “AV Integrators: Coming Through the Crisis,” which focused on how AV professionals are weathering this economic upheaval while plotting and implementing future-forward recovery plans.

To close AVNation’s Commercial LFH Virtual Summit, AVIXA’s Women’s Council brought together a panel of its members to outline how we all can bolster our social branding during this crisis, but most important, as one panelist noted, how we can lead with kindness and generosity as we all walk this unfurling path together.

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