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AVWeek 636: AVNation Certified

This Is What We Do Sometimes news can pop out like a cheap jumpscare. That’s why we’re bringing you the biggest stories in the commercial side of the AV industry so that you don’t get spooked! Joining us this week is Senior Regional Sales Manager for Shure Cassie Berger and Partner & Founding Principal for Kirkegaard Bren Walker. AVIXA is working with Microsoft to offer Teams Rooms training. This offer is extended to AV professionals and covers how to deploy, configure and manage Microsoft Teams Rooms. The training is free and available through AVIXA’s training catalogue. As if we didn’t need another reason to see why Microsoft is dominating the collaboration space, what does this mean for certification for solutions like Teams? HETMA is headed to Los Angeles for the HETMA Roadshow on November 7th. This is in part with the Times Higher Education Student Success U.S. Summit and will feature a font of knowledge for technology managers in the space. It’s a free event, but limited to the first 500 registrants so act fast. We discuss the different merits of events from the regional level to the big international shows. Tobi Tungl writes for us about why the professional AV industry is a fulfilling career. Half the time, the AV industry is some kind of hidden world that most aren’t even aware of. And those that do get into the industry tend to “fall in” from other places. How do we get people to intentionally pursue a career in AV?
Links to sources: Notes:
  • AVNation studios production equipment provided by Shure and Vaddio.
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Show Notes Transcript: Tim Alright, from AV Magazine, AV professionals can now access free technical training on Microsoft Teams rooms through AVIXA. That’s right. I said an AVIXA training catalog. Training is designed to help professionals learn how to deploy, configure, and manage Microsoft Teams rooms. Training covers a variety of topics, including room design, network readiness, and troubleshooting. Also includes a live walkthrough training of the service portal. Individuals who complete the training and pass a test get this. You get 30 CTS renewal units. Now, for those of you out there who don’t have your CTS or let yours lapse like someone of the three of us, that would be me, you have to get 30 every three years. So by doing this, you get one year completely done. Training offered by AVIXA that can help AV professionals stay up to date on the latest features and best practices for deploying and managing Microsoft Teams Room. Mitchell will put a link to this on this episode’s page. Bren Walker: that it says anything about the rise. I think it says something about the continued dominance of Microsoft in workplaces, right? And it’s one of those things that you have to understand how to do the same way you’ll have to, if you do corporate work, you’ll have to understand how to size a display, right? I mean, to me, it’s going to be core to the work of anybody who does corporate systems. Frankly, in AVIXA news, I thought it’s been more interesting that they’ve been teasing a cert for networking. A CTS that’s focused on networking, I think it’s far more needed in our industry in terms of people having that knowledge. And it’s probably a more complicated lift to getting the networking certification. I’m far more excited about that. But this to me is just, yes, Microsoft’s everywhere. Tim Well, really quickly, and Bren is currently on the board of AVIXA. Cassie was on the leadership search committee of AVIXA, so I’m not asking either of you to talk for AVIXA. The CTS networking one, we had a conversation with AVIXA about two or three weeks ago when they started teasing that, right? And this is not meant to be a little bit snarky, but it is kind of what they said. It is a tease, right? It’s not there yet. It’s not ready yet. I know a number of folks personally who have signed up for the class when it becomes available. Once it becomes available, we’ll have more information for you how to do that. It also has to go through a certain process. It has to go through the process to get it verified and get it certified so it is an internationally accredited standard similar to the CTS, the CTSI, and the CTSD. Cassie, same kind of question. You know, you sure? Does a lot of work in Microsoft Teams rooms, right? You guys have got a lot of both Microsoft microphones in processing in there. Is Bren right? Is this just another example of the further dominance of Microsoft within the UC and the corporate space? Cassie Berger I would certainly agree with what Bren said. And I will preface by saying, Microsoft did a phenomenal job creating a standard and a requirement for users to have certified devices and for these UC rooms to go in as Microsoft Teams-certified rooms. Any of their competitors, any other group trying to accomplish this has been unsuccessful in my opinion and Microsoft figured it out. And they did a very good job of making a requirement for manufacturers to have certified products. And that’s not an easy feat for a manufacturer. We had to jump through hoops to get our products certified. And not to mention when they introduced this, which was what two years ago in the height or when the pandemic was going on. To get in the queue for your product to get certified, there was like a six-month wait time. And maybe if you had the right connections or your product was required for a lot of these applications, you’d get elevated to the top of the list, but that’s a big maybe. So manufacturers introducing products into the marketplace had to think about their launch time based on if they were getting certified. So… Yes, I think it’s a great step for AVIXA to have this training available because it’s a requirement. And so it makes it easier for the products to be used, be sold, and for the user to access this training, having it on the same platform, not to mention they’re getting those RUs which are required to your point, Tim, and you shouldn’t have let those lapse. But I think it’s great, but I think to Brynn’s point, it’s Microsoft doing what Microsoft does, right? And they’ve done a great job and they’re very successful in how they’ve implemented this. So applaud to Microsoft on this one. Tim: So really quickly, something that Cassie just said there, there are other software-based codecs that have less stringent requirements to get their certification. And it has been told to me by other manufacturers, not by Cassie, but by other, you know, her cohorts in the manufacturing side, that you fill out a form and you pay a fee and suddenly you’re certified as opposed to Microsoft’s, which is exactly what Cassie just described. Bren, then the follow-up question to this is, how do you decide when you’re designing a system, what goes into that system? Bren does really fancy, you know, theaters. So there’s not a whole lot of Microsoft going on there, but just generically, how do you decide based on certifications for a certain application? Or does certifications even come into play? Bren: Certifications don’t come into play for us. Now, we, so yes, we do a lot of performing arts, but we do meeting spaces like everyone else. Faculty have to meet, production teams have to meet, and ultimately it comes down to user preference. And our users typically have very strong preferences if they wanna use Zoom or Teams, which is pretty much where the conversation is. Are you using Zoom or using Teams for most of the design work that we do? I would say that Teams adoption in our world is very light. When we talk about our headquarters clients, where we’ve done corporate headquarters that they also have a theater in, or they have media studios or something, we’re more likely to see Teams in that scenario. But for us in the arts world, people love Zoom still. Tim: Okay. All right. Next story comes to us from our friends over at Higher Ed. A.V. The World of Higher Education will gather in Los Angeles on November 7th for the HETMA Roadshow. This is a free event for university presidents, provosts, IT and student service leaders, audio-visual decision makers, and learning space professionals. The event will be held at the Luskin Conference Center on the campus of UCLA. Which will feature a campus tour, an interactive panel discussion with industry leaders, a learning technology, and AV Tabletop Expo networking opportunities, and of course a cocktail hour or cocktail reception, actually is what it says. It won’t be an hour, it’ll be longer than that. Erin Maher-Moran, who is the president of HETMA, she’s also a host of AV Nation’s EDTech show. “The HETMA Roadshow is an excellent opportunity for higher education professionals to come together, learn from each other, and network with industry leaders.” It’s free to go, although it’s the first 500. So again, Mitchell’s gonna be busy this weekend. He’s gonna put links to the registration on this. Cassie, we’ll start with you. You do you know, not that Cassie or sure is sponsoring this specific one, but generally sure is incredibly involved in regional shows around the country and quite frankly around the world. What is the balance between regional shows like this one that gather a specific vertical or specific segment of the end user population coming together against what would be referred to as a national show or an international show? We’re recording this on Friday the 27th. Infocomm India has been happening this week right you would label that as a national show for India and in parts of Asia pack. Obviously June every year we have Infocomm I’m already planning ISE which sounds crazy but I’m already planning ISE. Those would be national shows, bigger ones, international ones. Compare and contrast the benefits of both regional versus national ones. Cassie Berger: Well, so you have the three tiers. You have the Infocoms, the ISEs, the large shows that you have all of your customers at. And you have an opportunity to launch products because we like to launch products typically at ISE since it’s beginning of the calendar year opposed to middle. And then we really introduce the product to the U.S. market at Infocom. It’s already kind of been out there for the last four months. It’s a great opportunity to see all of your customers in one place. It’s incredibly hard to get meetings with all of your customers during that time. But you do your best to schedule them and you essentially have 15 minute segments with each customer and it’s great that you’re in person and able to connect with them and you drill down your message. You don’t have a big presentation. You have a drilled down message. These are the talking points. This is what I want to focus on. Maybe it might be numbers, it might be product, but it’s 15 minutes of quality. On the middle tier level, and I consider these national shows, you have your large integrators who have their national sales meetings, right? So that’s the mid tier. And those are essential in my being able to push and really drive. a new product or one message that I really want to focus on in a presentation format for 45 minutes and 15 of Q&A that I want to tell them about a new product. I want to tell them what sure is doing. I want to really focus on that room of individuals who are stuck listening to me for 45 minutes. Right? So it’s a great opportunity for me to not have a conversation but present. Now on the regional level is the most important, in my opinion. I would take the regional shows over the other two, but the other two are very necessary. But the regional shows is when I get to interface with the end user because my customer is now bringing in their customer. So I don’t just have a conversation with my customer that I presented 45 minute presentation to a month ago and knows my product. I could actually see the person that’s going to be using my product, which I never get that opportunity. The importance of that mid-level one, the national sales meeting, is I know that this sales individual from the integrator is bringing their end user to my booth and they might just skip over two booths down, my competitor, and go on to the next video solution provider. But I already planted the seed with them in the national sales meeting. They’re bringing their end user to me in the regional environment and then they’re skipping over my competitors. So they’re all very important, but that’s my opinion. I think we need all of them to be successful in what we do. Tim: That may have been the best answer I’ve heard on comparing and contrasting all the three. Bren, I have interfaced with you and networked with you at ISE, Infocom. So talk for a second, especially from the designer level, what the benefit is from these different types of shows. And Cassie just actually gave me another level. I didn’t even think about the middle level. All these different types of levels when it comes to the various shows and the various opportunities to get together in person. Bren: Well, I’ll echo what she said about the regional shows. I think for me, for our world, they are the most important. We do a lot of higher education work. Higher education teams are resource-constrained. Sometimes they can make it to InfoComm. Sometimes they have to do it every other year. So if there are regional opportunities for them to put their hands on something and to talk to people, that’s a benefit for us because the more educated our client is, the better design we can produce for them. Because we’re solving a problem for them. So we want them to be fully educated. And I’ll say also that, you know, as we have moved from hardware to software, as this has increased, the challenges that end users have are increasingly software-related. And you’re not going to have those software, in-depth software conversations and an ISE or an InfoComm, not really. And especially if you’re a smaller player. If you’re a two-person IT team at a state university in Washington, the chances that you’re gonna get that person on the showroom floor at Infocomm to answer that specific question about software is kind of narrow and you might even feel intimidated to ask it, right? Whereas at the regional shows, I think it’s more, the contact is more personal, the opportunity to ask questions that dive deeper for your vertical is greater. Tim: Cassie, really quickly, something that Bren said is, when it comes to those in-depth software conversations if that’s what the customer’s looking for, the end customer, right, the specifier, the AV user, how does that change who you send to those regional shows? Because if that’s the expectation, at least for a certain segment, they’re not talking to, you know, somebody like me who I’ll tell you how to turn it on and how to restart it. That’s about it. All I can do. But they want to talk to an engineer. They want to talk to somebody who can help them troubleshoot. Cassie Berger Well, Tim, and I’m in sales. So to echo your point, yeah, if you come to me with a product-specific question, I’m probably not the right person. But I’m more than happy to redirect the question to either the local rep, which we always include in regional shows. So it would be an independent rep firm that is very educated and knows the answers that I don’t even know about our products. On those questions. And then I try to pull in a market development specialist as well. A market development specialist would be more equipped to answer those software-specific questions or anything that’s incredibly technical. They also have an outlook on new products. So they’re able to have a conversation with the customer when the customer asks about certain features. And my market development specialist might know that those features are going to be covered in the next version of a product. And they’re there to kind of lead that end user or integrator in the direction of, we don’t have this now, but let me set you up with an NDA and we can take care of it moving forward. So that’s the mix. It’s a sales manager, it’s an independent rep, and it’s a market development specialist at the regional level. Bren: And I’ll add, Tim, that we track when the regional shows are happening relative to our projects, right? Because if I can send the head of AV for a school of music to a regional show that’s a two hour drive from where they are, then I’m going to get a lot of value from them attending that. And I’m going to let the person who I know they need to speak with know I’ve got this person coming from University of Nebraska. Can you make sure that there’s someone there who can speak to these issues? I hear this issue a lot from my various clients, right? So we try to help the manufacturers by saying, here’s what we’re seeing, and here’s the things that we think you might need to address from various people we know are gonna come to the show. Tim: Well, and Bren, you just actually brought out something else, and this is more a statement, Cassie, you can chime in if you want. That actually levels up the communication and levels up the relationship between the consultant and the manufacturer, right? Because let’s be frank, you know, sometimes some manufacturers don’t think very highly of consultants. And, you know, because, you know, I’m not saying Cassie does, I’m saying that there are others that do. Cassie Berger Right? I honestly, for us, we’re about to launch a roadshow for consultants specifically on our new products and products we’re introducing at ISE. And we realize the value in giving them the most information we have that we can put under NDA because these are the individuals responsible for specifying a lot of our big designs and our bid work. And so the consultant needs to be in the in before the integrators really need to be in the know, right? So the consultant is actually the most important person aside from the actual end user, but they’re the biggest influencer in every single design that we touch. And I will say this, just to go back to the trade shows, the large trade shows like ISE Infocomm, the benefit with those with the personnel that are staffing it, is you get the actual product managers, the actual people who design the products that we’re introducing. You get our executive staff. You get people that don’t get to travel a ton, but know everything about what you’re specifying and selling. And if you really have considerations on design, those big shows are the ones where you can find the people responsible for actually developing the product. So that’s a huge benefit in those big shows. Bren Walker: And to echo what Cassie is saying, there are two manufacturers, sure is one of them, who they keep us so aware and they are so engaged with us in terms of what we’re designing for. Our projects, some of them are gonna open for three or four years. So we need to be talking about things that aren’t in the market yet. And we’re doing some stuff right now with Sure That. I’m really excited about that. I think it’s gonna shake a lot of people up. And it’s happening because of Shure’s willingness to sit with us, hear about the project, hear the timeline, hear what we were trying to accomplish, and for us to actually go and mock up, here’s some potential solutions. We did that in Chicago last week, where we went into a room similar to the room we were designing for, we mocked up some new products, we learned a lot on both sides. It immediately influences our design documentation. It immediately influences my conversation with the client about what they’re buying and why, and why they need to go get an extra 100 grand to make it happen, right? And I’m able to tell them that now for a building that’s not gonna open for two years. So I can understand, you know, integrators, manufacturers, people have different thoughts about consultants. I got news, okay? The way our world is moving in design, you’ll need us more than ever before. Because if we can tell everything about a product in a database, if all the data gives you everything you need to know about implementing that product, AI is going to do that design, not us. And what that’s going to mean is that manufacturers who have a good handle on their data and are able to put their products into an AI driven design are going to win. And the ones who don’t have data that allows their products to be implemented through an AI driven design are gonna find themselves lagging and they will need us even more. Tim: There you go. Final story. This one I’m looking forward to, not because my buddy Tobi wrote it, because I know these two ladies’ backstories, and I want to get into them for a second. So Tobi Tungl, my buddy who is the new chief marketing officer of CTI, he makes the case for ProAV as a quote-unquote fulfilling career. Now, not to give Tobi too much credit, because my job in life is to give him a hard time. It is actually a good case for it. Tungl highlights one advantage of a career in AV is the diversity of paths available. Pro AV, you can work in roles such as system designers, engineers, AI, just for the record, because that’s what Bren just talked about. And also Cassie and I, when she’s in town and we’re both available, that’s one of the conversations that we’ve been having the last year. Installers, content creators, producers, all kinds of stuff, digital signage. It’s also… Constantly innovating which means that there are always new challenges and opportunities for professionals to learn and grow Pro AV professionals have the opportunity to work with the latest technologies and trends and are always in demand Which gives you job security now? Bren and Cassie and Bren will start with you one of the common questions in Infocomm at ISE is how did you get into the industry? Briefly Bren: I’ll make it as brief as I can. I reached out to Larry Kierkegaard, who is the founder of Kierkegaard Associates, an acoustics firm. And I wanted to, I had spent the first part of my career in music, decade, I’d spent a decade working in Silicon Valley coding. And I had a desire to bring together architecture, music and science in what I was doing. And I found Larry, right? Larry helped me see different aspects of what their particular firm did. They’re focused on natural acoustic environments. But here it was, they had these couple of AV people who every now and again, the AV people had to design a PA, right? What I could see coming was that the AV people would soon become the biggest part of the business. Because the idea of having a concert hall that somebody pays $300 million for just for a symphony to do their thing is a dead concept. And every new venue that gets built has to have technology in it. That technology has to work well, right? So for me, it was totally a sideways coming into AV, although AV has been in my whole life. My first job on campus at Harvard was being AV for the Hillel. So I got up every Saturday morning and changed over the AV systems for the different groups that came in to worship. You know, I was a DJ, I worked in recording, you know, I built studios. Like I’ve, all of these things are, all of the things in my life were AV related and I never tied them together to one industry, actually, until really I found Avixa helped me sort of see how it’s all part of one industry because AV is kind of like water, it’s everywhere. And everything that we’re doing has an AV component in business these days. So my story is, but I guess my story might be like a lot of others where, you know, it was like I set out to do this. Tim: Oh, your story is like nobody’s. Your story is like no one’s. Cassie Berger: No. Yeah, no, that’s, that’s no. I would advertise. Tim: Nobody has, nobody else has Prince in their story. I’m just gonna point that out there. You can find Bren at InfoComm and ask for that story. All right, so Bren, why should somebody consider AV as a career path? Bren Walker: That’s a question for me. Yes. One, is stability. No question. There will always be a need for someone who understands how to make people talk to each other, right? And we have a globally connected world, business is done globally, that need will only keep increasing. The other thing is, it is fun, right? It’s fun. It’s fun to, at least from the design perspective, it’s fun to have a conversation with someone about what they want. And then years later, there’s a freaking building. And then that building actually works the way people want it to work. It’s fun to see, to do work for a theater that’s in a community and see that community changed by the fact that they now have great sound and they have great projection. Now they’re doing film screenings and they’re doing all sorts of things for their community they couldn’t do before. The other thing is that I don’t think you have to be particularly inclined in one way or another to be in the field. You don’t have to be a STEM person. You don’t have to be a marketing person. You don’t have to specifically be introverted or extroverted. Whatever your personality profile is, there is a lane for you in AV. And if you’re in AV right now and you feel underpaid, then get a new mentor because you’re probably not pursuing as much as you could possibly be pursuing in your field. It’s a solid middle class income. It really is. Tim: Absolutely. Cassie, why should somebody get into this industry? Cassie Berger: I think Bren nailed it. I mean, it is fun and there is security in it, which Toby touched on in his article. There’s always an opportunity to go somewhere to do something. And there’s always an opportunity to learn, right? And AVIXA in our previous conversation is a great example. So that Microsoft course, I believe, is free to take and you get the 30 RUs and… It’s invaluable. That type of offering is invaluable. And not every industry offers the opportunity to learn like we do. We are gearing these individuals with as much information and power as we can to go into the field and to, to work in AV, but it’s not limited to AV. And I think the thing, um, right now that we really need to focus on is we need to target individuals who can teach us too. Because right now there’s a whole sector of individuals we’re not targeting to join AV. We’re looking at more the people, Brent, to your point, you weren’t in production and sound at your college. There’s a lot of individuals doing the same thing right now. Those are target AV future professionals, right? So how do we communicate to them the AV industry? But there’s this whole group of people in their mom’s basement. Messing with Python and doing code work and programming on their own because Python gives them the ability to learn and construct and actually code things, right, and platforms. How do we target those individuals? Because those individuals are the next wave of who we need in our industry. And that’s how do I communicate to them the importance of AV? How do I communicate to them how much fun it is and how much we need them? Because that is my target market for people coming into our industry right now, is the people who are sitting in front of their laptop all day messing with Python. So that’s like everything we’re talking about today and how fun it is, because it is a blast. How do I reiterate that to those people that are currently not even aware that we exist? Because they have a whole level of expertise that we have intact. Bren Walker: And how do we get them to join us instead of going to work for a bank or Silicon Valley? Cassie Berger: Right, exactly. And I think that’s where maybe the fun aspect comes into it. It’s like, see what we do. Because Bren, you also mentioned, when you specify something, you design a room, you design a theater, whatever it might be. And then two years later, you actually see it come to fruition and you walk in and you say, I did this. This is amazing. It gives me goosebumps right now. I have the same thing when we have local live music or whatever, the first thing I check is a microphone. And when we’re watching TV, when I’m watching TV with my daughters, the first thing I say to them is, that’s my mic. And it’s like the coolest, it’s the coolest thing ever to be like, yeah, that’s my microphone. No big deal. That’s an SM58. Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah, it’s the neatest thing ever. It’s just cool. It’s a cool industry. How do we tell people this?




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