I spoke as part of a seminar today that was called “30 Seconds to Success” for my local Chamber of Commerce. It was focusing on the first 30 seconds of meeting someone- whether it is a business meeting, a networking event, a round table, etc. My section, in particular, was addressing the well known (but not well practiced) “you get out of it what you put into it.” I have to add, my fellow panelists (all from different industries) were fabulous! I wanted to share a few of the points that were covered, as this seems to be a topic of concern for many people. In fact, one of my favorite people in the world, Cory Schaeffer, is speaking about networking and relationship building this month as well. And I am sure she will be spectacular!
These top ten tips may take a little extra time from your day, but I guarantee it is time well spent. I made them concise, but if you need any elaboration, please ask. And I left some out- I figured ten is plenty to start with. But please feel free to add your own suggestions:
1) PRACTICE- like anything, networking and relationship building takes practice, especially for those to whom it does not come naturally. Keep working at it. Keep pushing yourself, the challenge is rewarding.
2) Prepare your self- Take the time to present yourself appropriately, keeping in mind that the old cliché- don't judge a book by its cover- is a nice sentiment and that's probably about all it is. People are (however unfortunate it is) wired to make a judgment within the first 30 seconds (some argue first 10 seconds) of meeting. Dress the part, pay attention to the details, walk with confidence, do not approach aggressively. This applies to both men and women. Appropriate attire/ grooming is a must. As is a firm handshake and eye contact.
3) Prepare your mind- know what type of situation/ event you are walking into. Research that event and the topics, if appropriate, so you can speak intelligently on the subjects of interest to those at the event. Be ready to modify your presentation, approach and questions based upon the audience and venue.
4) Listen- engage others by listening to them. Find out what their needs are. Don't stuff yourself down the other party's throat. Allow the other person to take the floor and you can continue the conversation by mirroring what they have told you ... i.e. : If I understand this correctly, you are saying that xyz isn't working for you right now? You will get TONS of information you can use during the follow-up.
5) Sincerity is visual- (this is my favorite) be sincerely interested in what the other person is saying. Remember that it is apparent to everyone involved when one is not sincere. If you are perceived as "faking it" you have lost the conversation. People shut down. You will not be able to get them back. The veil of boredom will be drawn. Do not disregard communication as insignificant and do not filter through dialogue until you can jump in and grab a sale.
6) Define success and then re-define it- Consider having different goals for each event you attend. For example, if you are attending an InfoComm networking event, your goal may be to walk away having met 3 new consultants for your business. If you are at a chamber event, your goal may be to expand your network (not necessarily for sales) and expand your referral "web." In being flexible with your goals, you must also be flexible in your presentation. Your “elevator speech” can be tweaked based on the audience- and it should be.
7) Minimize small talk- talking about the weather and the traffic and the lack of parking in your town is not helpful to either party. Be efficient and effective (do not act rushed). People will appreciate that you respect their time.
8) Speak clearly- practice your “elevator speech” in front of others, for feedback. You may understand what you do, but can you explain it to others who do not. It is your responsibility to convey your message properly. It is NOT the other person’s responsibility to decipher your message correctly.
9) Spend time following up- this is where you can a) set yourself apart from the crowd of people who just “collect business cards” and b) begin to develop a longer term relationship. Remember the details- or at least write them down – people are flattered when you take the time to remember that they have kids, animals, appointments, etc.
10) Be dedicated to follow-through- if you cannot help each other immediately, that doesn’t mean the connection is a lost cause. Eventually the significance will become evident. Your respective networks may see value in your new connection, which also adds value to you (your referral web).
So my sister and I are twins with very different personalities. I wouldn’t even say that we have two different personalities. It’s probably more like four different types of personalities between the two of us (we are, in fact, Geminis.) We worked as a team one minute -- when we were two, I used to push the kitchen chair over to the sink while my sister climbed on top of the chair to get to the faucet. The next minute chaos would ensue: My mother would run into the kitchen after hearing our screaming -- my sister grabbed the sprayer on the faucet and used it as a water gun in my face. Not nice! How did our mother deal with the multiple personalities? How did she inevitably sew GinaMichelle back together as a team?
Today, I wanted to follow up on my SalesMarketing article from last year -- in fact, it’s been almost exactly a year since I had written the article and I figured that’s enough time to tell if we are moving in a good direction, or if we are completely off track. To refresh your memory (really, I don’t expect you to remember every post I have submitted for the past 12 months) in my GinaMichelle blog post I was discussing my strategy to (in theory) combine my sales and marketing departments as a single entity to facilitate and enhance communication and collaboration. And at that time it was working.
Guess what? It still is… kind of.
So here is what I have learned:
Marketing people are communicators. We told the sales department what we need, what we expect, what we have going on (promos, mailings, ads, shows, etc) and how they can/must help. We even follow up; written cheat sheets, emails, reminders in weekly meetings. We can be kind of annoying perfectionists.
Sales people are, well, sales people. If communicating with Marketing is a diversion from our habits or day to day routine, then we just don’t do it. We don’t intentionally or maliciously decide to not communicate with Marketing. What it means is that we are effective, focused on a single goal -- to close sales. What that also means is that we aren’t the most helpful (or patient) marketing counterparts.
How to fix the “Gemini problem” in the SalesMarketing department? Well, I am still trying to figure this out. But this is what I have so far:
1) Automate AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. If you have a CRM program, use it- properly. CRM programs are invaluable to marketing professionals for reports, analysis and ROI calculations. And sales people are already comfortable using them. As long as campaigns, leads, lists and programs are set up correctly, the CRM system can become a SalesMarketing department’s best friend.
2) Require AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE from sales staff. Figure out the minimum amount of information that you need FROM SALES to analyze success, and request that. Yes, you are being accommodating (without losing the most important information), and that’s a good thing. Sales does have to focus on selling.
3) Discuss the necessity for communication, own it (sales!!!) and follow up (marketing!!!). Meetings are great for this, but meetings can also become unproductive, cumbersome and sessions of incessant whining. Another option we have come up with is a monthly internal email newsletter just for the SalesMarketing department. These newsletters highlight the campaigns for the next month, the required elements of communication from each side, “shout outs” to those SalesMarketing professionals who helped make the month before an exceptional SalesMarketing communication month, and analysis from any campaigns, lists, shows, etc. This is a visual reminder as well as a fun way of rewarding those who are working with the team approach.
I am definitely looking for more ways to support my SalesMarketing approach, and will continue to update you on the challenges and rewards. Right now, there are still many more pros than cons to this approach -- for my company anyway -- and I will continue to work with it. But if you have some advice, I sure would love to hear it!
Most of those who know me, know me as having one of two identities in this industry: Green lady or lamp lady. I don’t prefer one identity over the other. I love both sides of what I do and am just as comfortable with either one. Today, I have decided, I will be the lamp lady.
Manufacturing, selling, marketing, recycling projector lamps means, like most parts of the AV industry, we touch a variety of really fantastic verticals -- anywhere that uses projection- education, corporate, hospitality, themed entertainment, museums, houses of worship, corporate, government, just to name a few. I get to mingle with the most interesting people who have super cool jobs. Like my museum buddy (who will read this and tell me it sucks) who gets to play with a life size train, an 8-foot heart, or a water exhibit that you can manipulate to soak friends and passersby. However, as I have been reminded, projector lamps are also a consumable, expendable, accessory- whatever side thought, drop down menu item name you want to give it. It isn’t the meat and potatoes of what is considered AV. (Many just call it a necessary evil.) Given this fact (and before my 8 years on the outskirts of AV, I spent seven years in medical marketing/product management), I think I have a unique inside/outside viewpoint of the industry, an industry that I have come to sincerely enjoy. So I write this with complete and total respect for my AV brothers and sisters.
From my vantage point I will tell you (some of) what I see:
1) Lists- Why are lists so popular? Bragging rights! But in our industry, every publication, blog, website, has its own list of top 10, 25, 50, 100 AV something. (Ha! I am even making a list- but this one doesn’t rank anything- this is an “in no particular order” list, sorry.) Lists are EVERYWHERE. Every month, a new list.
2) Musicians- this is probably a no-brainer for this industry, but so many AV people are also musicians- creative, talented, tinkerer. Some of our colleagues may have even started in music, and worked their way into the industry. But musicians abound in this industry- and it’s so much fun! It’s one of the threads that create the fabric of audiovisual, and is therefore woven into many of the people of the industry. A lovely call back to the roots of AV. It still thrives.
3) Incest- harsh word, but didn’t know how else to explain the fact that everyone knows everyone because at one point everyone worked with each other at one AV company or another. Movement from company to company is common, but no one leaves the industry. One may move from AMX to NEC to Christie, but will not consider a move to another industry. No one says, “I came from the pharmaceutical industry,” or “I used to work in real estate.” I don’t know if I will leave either - it’s fun, exciting, dynamic and always challenging. I kind of get it: you specialize in a certain industry, you speak intelligently about all the facets of the industry, you feel comfortable and fine tuned, you are successful. However, in many other industries, sales people consider themselves malleable, able to mold their spiel to any product or service, because they can “sell anything.” But even AV sales people don’t leave. They just don’t. One day you are a competitor, the next you are a co-worker. That’s also why competition is fierce, and yet easily discarded at 5 o’clock when happy hour begins.
4) Egos- My goodness there are a lot of egos in our industry. This may go back to why our industry loves lists and is so competitive. Seems that every John Doe AV knows exactly what s/he is doing better than anyone else. Doesn’t matter what s/he does- consultant, installation tech, manufacturing, sales, project management…doesn’t matter. I will tell you- we do have some exceptionally talented men and women so it’s not like egos are unwarranted. But they are everywhere. Modesty is not a common characteristic of the people in this industry. But neither is accepting anything less than a perfect AV experience. I have mentioned this before, but AV is not for the “good enough” crowd. So it stands to reason that our perfectionist mentality must boast a well-developed ego. Creating perfect must take the highest level of talent, design, comprehension and skill. Why sell yourself short?
5) Jeans and tie-dyed t-shirts- at an industry only, not open to the general public, tradeshow? Maybe this is common elsewhere, and it’s just me. Coming from the medical industry NO ONE wore anything less than an ironed button down shirt and nice pants/ skirt to a tradeshow. Jacket was optional, but more common than not. I was floored when I saw jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts coming at me during my first InfoComm in 2005. Not a bad thing. Actually, I feel it depicts the deep rooted character of the industry really well. It was born of tinkerers and hobbyists, the early adopters and the Mr. Fix It, the musical genius and the never settle for good enough. The handsome guy with the longish gorgeous hair, who sits in front of his stereo, inserts a [name brand] cassette, and finds himself in a perfect wind tunnel of sound, feeling confident that there is little to disturb or rival this bone jarring experience.
I have to hire a new sales person. I feel like I am always hiring new sales people. But this is the truth of running a small business -- or any type of business, I suppose. There should always be new recruits coming in. New blood, as they say. I have found that one of the biggest benefits of new sales people, is the effect they have on the existing sales staff. It seems very often that the enthusiasm new sales people bring to a company is infectious. The sales staff that was becoming complacent is suddenly revitalized. There is a re-newing of spirit.
I love this part of the process. New life, new sales, new ideas and new points of view combine with experience, history and success to create a surge of creativity and inroads into new markets and growth in verticals you had previously thought stagnant. WOOOHOOO! It’s like opening day at Citi Field, all full of promise and possibilities. Let’s play ball!
Infectious -- really, that’s what it is. Well at least amongst those who are re-newable. But sometimes hiring a new sales person is a chore. A necessary evil. Have you ever been in a situation where a new sales person comes in, all full of life and ready to take on a new challenge (I am convinced good sales people need a significant change every 2-3 years in order to fight boredom and complacency), and the next thing you know you have your “veteran” sales person in your office every day complaining about the new hire. “S/he doesn’t get it.” “S/he is going to step on my territory.” “S/he talks too much.” “S/he smells funny.” Whatever it is, there is a complaint about it. Grrrrrr. I just want to scream - If you spent half as much time on bringing in sales as you did complaining about the new person, I would be rich! But, I have to restrain myself.
Therein lies my problem. I have to hire a sales person. YAY. And then I have to deal with the backlash. It was always a bittersweet challenge for me. Finding the right fit and making sure that the distraction of “new person integration and energy” is minimal, constructive and valuable. Except this time, I am actually excited about hiring a new sales person. I think I have a really great group and all but one of them are relatively new themselves -- so I hope that the new person excitement that has infected my department for the past few months will continue through the beginning of next year. I am, for the first time in a while, looking forward to this hiring process, to meeting these new prospects and figuring out just which one will continue the creative flow (my sales river) that will prolong my company’s growth.
So here’s to my sales river, and those who are feeding it. (No pun intended, as I sit here in the midst of Hurricane Sandy watching the river flowing down my street and the roof creeks flowing over my gutters) We are in a good place, at a good time, with the confidence that it will persist. Now, who wants to be part of my team?
Quality - the word many companies use to define the value of a product or service. Quality - the necessary stamp of the marketing department. Quality - the long lasting buzz-word. Is it so over-used that it has become a red flag for clients or consumers? If a business touts quality as the value proposition #1 of purchasing a product over a competitive item, is it a turn off? Or has it simply become insignificant and watered down? Is it exploited so often that the word no longer has meaning?
Hey manufacturers, let’s re-define quality. Let’s personify it. For a business owner, a commitment to quality should go beyond the product (and customer support). For those whose business it is to create something, quality is most applicable to “units.” Sure, it’s essential to the quality of the product that it is manufactured to high standards, tolerances, and using the best materials and processes. And I am not saying we should ever compromise the product. However, the newly defined quality should be internally focused, addressing the culture of the company which will ultimately enhance the product. From the way the phones are answered to relations with competitors to the way employees are treated. Commit your business to quality business.
Embedding quality into the company culture begins at the top. It begins with executives upholding high standards of business ethics, running the business with a focus on principles, rather than cut-throat competition and winning at all cost. This may also include (what is commonly referred to as) firing some customers and firing some suppliers. Remember, being dedicated to quality business means holding tight to values at all stages. Business ethics sometimes seems to be the first thing to go in an unstable economy. Why is the perception that ethics has to concede to the bottom line? I argue that ethics will HELP the bottom line.
The new level of professionalism will translate to all employees. Respected employees respect their jobs, respect their clients and are a positive representative of their company. Creating a quality business takes into account all aspects of business by re-defining priorities and weaving a new strand of excellence into everyday business practices. By doing so, the caliber of employees rises, the entire company will experience a renewed sense of pride, the client support is brought to a new level, and the company becomes more personal - trusted, respected and valued. Couple that with a great quality product, and you have quality business. It’s like a great big stamp that isn’t only applied to “units” but to every facet of the business. Quality business results in the best form of marketing - recommendations from customers. Quality business results in success, growth and the opportunity to innovate with confidence.
Let me take a moment to just expand on that: What does innovation have to do with quality business? Quality business means being supported by customer confidence that will allow you to take risks and make changes and create new solutions with a certain level of self-assurance. Without this support, new solutions may be viewed as unreliable.
So maybe it’s time to revise your emphasis on quality product into quality business. It could be the difference between status quo and growth in an environment that is less than stable. Sounds idealistic/ambitious/generic? Perhaps. Would love to hear from those who have tried in the comments below…
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This year my company, RelampIt, celebrates its 5th year in business. SWEET! Let me take a step back, RelampIt began in late 2005 as a department within an R&D company that focused on various optics-related projects. We spun off into an independent business in 2007- 5 years ago. Considering this, we have been relamping for over 7 years- but my lovely company is 5 years old. And he is walking tall, filling a need, and helping the world!!
I feel like a mommy gushing about her baby- seeing RelampIt grow from an infant to a maturing 5 year strong company is a thing of beauty. Sure, we had our challenges. Sure, sometimes I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. But overall (and totally in hindsight, as I probably didn’t feel this way as it was happening) the development of efficiency, professionalism and stability that 5 years of growth necessitated have worked to produce a company that my partners and I can be proud of. RelampIt is a young company, but one which has weathered a truly tough, perfect storm of a crazy economic downturn, increased pricing and profitability pressure from Asian copycats, and a team of young, enthusiastic but not completely veteran partners.
What makes this 5 year milestone even more special is the understanding that, according to the Small Business Administration, about half of all businesses fail within 5 years. We made it! That is certainly something to celebrate! I will continue to promote this significant success; pride in this company, its challenges and growth, will be a part of me wherever my journey may lead. I wouldn’t chose to change any part of this experience and look forward to more milestones and a post about our 10th year in business!
So small business owners, share your milestones. What are you proud of this year? Where have you taken your company?
As a side note: So much of our economy is supported by small business. I encourage each of the rAVe readers to make an effort to support the local small businesses in your respective cities. The strengthening of the US economy depends on it.
One of the things that I am often asked by clients and industry colleagues when talking about my RelampIt business is how we are able to keep our manufacturing in the US -- New York no less, with some of the highest labor rates in the country. Sure, it affects our bottom line and sometimes even affects our ability to compete with certain overseas vendors. My response to these curious colleagues is this: we are able to control our quality better when it is in house, we are able to have a quicker turn around time for our clients, and we are able to support our local economy and keep jobs on Long Island. While the first two reasons seem to be most important to our clients at this time, the last reason is most important to me.
When reviewing our own sustainability policy, one of the items we have to take into account is our social responsibility. What types of evaluations/checklists have we put into place to make sure that we are sourcing from socially-minded suppliers? What standards are we requiring, as a business, to ensure that we are not only environmentally responsible, but also socially responsible? This goes beyond a moral “gut check” for executives, but also rains down to all the employees. Social responsibility must be part of the company culture, just as I have mentioned about environmental responsibility. Those who are not on board are not the team members we need.
When our actions and priorities at RelampIt are reviewed by outsiders, many say that they don’t make sense. They believe it’s got to be impossible to stay competitive manufacturing a consumable like projector lamps when we are so socially- and environmentally-minded. But our priorities were defined when the company was born, and have been steadfast and non-negotiable. And I tell them those priorities are one of the most important values that set us apart from our competitors. Maybe you can’t see it from the outside -- a lamp is a lamp to them -- but when you sit down and evaluate your own supply chain, your own business initiatives, what is important to your company, you will decide to align your company with like-minded partners. That’s when it makes sense. That’s when you have found a mutually beneficial relationship with a company you can grow with for years to come.
On a practical side, one of the more important things I touch on when I present “Making Money in Green AV” with rAVe’s Gary Kayye is the new government requirements for public institutions and facilities to develop a sustainability plan and follow it. This includes a thorough review of suppliers’ and contractors’ manufacturing and business sustainability policies. Those with documented policies will start getting the government jobs. And from there, those requirements will be adopted by schools public and private, by corporations large and small -- by the vertical markets in which we all work.
So I say to all those curious colleagues and doubtful clients: while our price, quality and quick response times are a huge benefit and are big selling points, the biggest value we offer is being a company dedicated to sustainability and social responsibility. It not only affects our clients, but our employees, our town, our state, our country and our future. And we are dedicated to partnering with like-minded companies to support sustainability in our industry, the local economy and our employees’ families.
PS: The picture is just too cute not to post- but it has nothing to do with my celebration. He doesn’t look cold, just confused. Add a comment
I haven’t written in a while, mostly because we have been undergoing a really big and successful internal change that we initiated last year. Our language has changed, our policies have been prioritized, our priorities have been clarified and our team is ready for the next stage in RelampIt growth. We no longer consider ourselves as a start-up. Heck, we’ve been in business over five years. Start-up mode -- out the window. Established corporation mode -- implementation underway! It’s a really exciting new chapter for us that can also be seen from the outside. We have a NEW website; we have gone back to our roots by embracing our old RelampIt name but modernizing the logo; we have new directives for sales and customer service and more cohesive marketing materials, language and ads. Lots of great stuff.
But this isn’t about my RelampIt (although I am super stoked about these changes - can you tell?). It’s actually about a couple of things that really stood out to me when we were re-evaluating some policies in the Sales and Marketing departments. Really, it is about what we DIDN’T have as policies that should definitely be there. There are tons of books, blogs, speakers, etc who talk about the necessity for Sales and Marketing departments in small business (and in large, I am sure) to work together to grow business. And yet, so often Sales and Marketing departments work independently. I am embarrassed to admit it, but 80 percent of the time, mine were too.
My new policy for both my Sales and Marketing departments (simply put) is this: we are the SalesMarketing department. Single word, no spaces, one department. This kinda goes back to my childhood. I am a twin, and my cousin, Nicholas, is only 6 months older than my sister and me. So we were close like siblings. But Nicholas either couldn’t tell us apart or was lazy (not sure which). So he called us “GinaMichelle” and we would both answer. We would even answer when the other wasn’t around. My name was always first - I am 13 minutes older - and I won’t let my “little” sister forget that.
Back to SalesMarketing: Ok, so my Marketing Coordinator is not going to become my new Account Manager, (an aside - my Marketing Coordinator is FABULOUS - no one can steal her. She can be anything she wants to be. But she is MINE.) but this is what I mean by SalesMarketing:
Communication and collaboration are essential and will be/MUST BE consistent.
It is my responsibility to guarantee that this is happening - but my employees have to be on board. They are! In fact, when I told them how much we have been holding ourselves back by living separate lives, they were excited to begin this new chapter of SalesMarketing. Some take-aways from our first informal SalesMarketing meeting:
1) Sales has to give useable feedback to marketing re: leads which marketing has handed off to sales. This feedback has to be specific and will continue beyond our weekly meetings.
2) We have to be able to track and report on key SalesMarketing data - even without a sophisticated back end web analysis program, the elusive “conversion of web traffic” can be evaluated to some extent. This means that if a web lead is converted, Sales has to tell Marketing who, what, when, where and how!
3) Marketing must inform Sales of any language change or adoption that is successful and vice versa. Language consistency within the company is essential for internal team building as well as customer service.
4) Sales will have clear processes for lead follow-up. Marketing will have clear processes for lead hand-off. Both will know all processes involved.
Again, there are tons of books to read, people to listen to, websites to review on this topic. But from a small business standpoint we are able to develop the 4 points above into a great working and fluid model of collaboration and communication - a working model of our first ever SalesMarketing department!
Does anyone else have a SalesMarketing department? Give me your favorite tip! Maybe I will start a small business SalesMarketing checklist! Anyone interested?
My grandmother, Nonna, is 92 years old and one of the strongest and spunkiest people I know. She’s been through a lot; more than most. Despite years of hardships, accidents, death, cancer, etc, she has remained optimistic, faithful and kind. No bitterness remains. In fact, I don’t think it was ever there to begin with.
But this post is not about her personal experiences- although one day I do hope to write more about her incredible life. It is about the world she knows. It is unlike any world that anyone reading this has come to know. As it relates to our industry- she has seen incredible change. And I’d like to highlight some of the technology that has helped to shape her world in the past 92 years.
Coming from a small fishing town on the Adriatic coast in Italy, my grandmother’s home town didn’t have a whole bunch of cars crowding the streets in 1919, they walked, rode bicycles, rowed boats or had a horse and carriage. The baker had a wood fired and coal fired oven (still does, actually) and the tailor sewed with a foot powered (or treadle) sewing machine. When she was young, they had a radio and a trip to the movies was both entertaining and informative. They played cards to pass time and old memories were photographed in black and white. Eventually, after the war, more cars came into town. Then the depression hit.
Nonna came to the US for the first time during the depression/ start of World War 2 (around 1937)- on a crowded, slow moving ship. No 8 hour flight across the Atlantic. She moved to Brooklyn where she became a seamstress and was paid $0.01 per collar that she sewed on a man’s dress shirt. No minimum wage and no union. She saved her money, went to night school to learn English and became a US citizen just to be able to take that same boat back across the Atlantic almost ten years later to marry my grandfather. See, he was in the Italian Navy, fighting in World War 2. So they communicated how? Only through word of mouth and letters. Manual typewriters were available, but she didn’t have any. All letters were hand written. Imagine not hearing word from your fiancé for weeks or months at a time. In 1948, after a horrific accident during her honeymoon and numerous months and several surgeries, she took that same awful boat with my grandfather back to Brooklyn.
Years pass and they move out to Long Island in 1954, when my grandfather finished building what is still their house today. They had 2 children by this time, and their first black and white TV. They also had an AMAZING radio/ record player in an all wood console that looks like a basic dining room buffet, but then opens into a music machine. Eventually, the family grew to 4 children and they put in a second rotary phone. And my grandmother had an electric sewing machine!
In the early 1960’s they bought a color TV, on my great uncle’s recommendation. The kids loved it. The men walked on the moon, people were flying across the Atlantic, and the potato farms on Long Island were being paved over to put in new housing developments. They lived simply, with only the necessities (my grandmother making the children’s’ clothes) and without the biggest and best of the gadgets. If they went on vacation, it was a road trip- and they found their way with a map that they kept folded in the car. There were a couple of cars in the driveway, as the oldest of the kids were driving to and from work. Their high school graduation pictures, proudly hung on the wall, were in color.
By the 70’s, people were talking about computers. Big boxes that were like calculators on steroids. By the end of the 70’s, all the kids were out of the house- married off- and most were living next door in one of the three other houses my grandfather built on the block. Grandchildren began to arrive as did remote controls. They had more toys, more gadgets than anyone else before them, combined. In the ‘80’s my grandfather retired. They began planning trips back to Italy- a quick 8 hour flight this time. Their grandchildren bought computers, and the phones didn’t have the rotary or even a clicking sound anymore. They called it touch tone dialing. In fact, cars started to have phones built into them! And phones lost their cords. You could bring movies home and watch them in a VCR. My grandfather bough himself a portable TV so that he could sit on the back deck and watch the Mets lose on a beautiful summer day. Portable! Can you imagine, everything became portable! The radios got smaller, and people were carrying them around. Records turned into 8 track turned into cassettes. Cassettes could fit into little boxes which attached to your ears so you could have a personal music experience- the walkman. Cassettes turned into CD’s. These times were changing, and they couldn’t keep up.
Fast forward 25 years to today- she still has her rotary phone- although it stays in the basement. It still rings and works. I have a cell phone; I can communicate with people instantly and immediately- heck, I can communicate with my nephew in Massachusetts via Skype, and look at his cute little face as he carries the iPad around the house showing me his toys and explaining to me what the dog did that morning. I have no patience. She has the patience of a saint. She has a few TV’s, a couple of cordless phones. She doesn’t understand caller ID. Alternative energy is a confusing concept- what do you mean we can heat our homes without oil? We offered her an old computer so she could play solitaire on it- she couldn’t get used to working the mouse. Regular cards suite her fine. She is one of the few left from that time before the wars. And she has seen SO much change. 92 years is a long time. I have covered just a fraction of the technology changes she has experienced. Right now, she doesn’t even know half of what’s capable or available to her. She does know that technology in ’40’s saved her life, technology in the ‘50’s helped her raise her children, technology in the ’60’s allowed men to soar, technology in the ‘70’s offered the beginnings of a mobile world, technology of the 80’s saved her life again, and the technology of today is incomprehensible to someone who started with horses and a pump well outside her childhood home. But it’s still saving her life. But the one piece of “technology” that she depends on every night is a small little battery powered am/fm radio from the 1980’s that she puts under her pillow at night. It helps her sleep since my grandfather passed away almost 13 years ago. And that’s made all the difference to her for those 13 years.
I have skipped so much of what’s really developed over the past 92 years. I don’t have the space to write a novel- nor the time. But I’d like to hear about your experiences with technology over your years. What’s your favorite bit of technology so far? Are you an early adopter (so many of us are in the AV world)? Can you remember a specific turning point in your generation that created a technological or fundamental shift in how you lived your life? iPod? iPad? WiFi? Leave your comment below…would love to hear all about it.
I know it has been covered, time and time again. I am not the first to feel this way, I am not alone, and I won’t be the last. As I had mentioned in a previous post, the audiovisual industry has to adopt standards in order to move onto the next phase of industry growth. Standards which will show the rest of the world that we are an educated and united group with specialized training that are worth the expense of our services.
Standards- those oh so elusive ideas that all AV industry members fight daily, from the most seasoned veterans to the newest of newbies. Truthfully, the lack of product or technical standards may be a result of the constant and incredibly quick changing technology. Yes, that’s a good excuse, let’s go with that one- for the purposes of this post, anyway. The standard that I would like to briefly address is actually one that we can control, that hasn’t changed, and will probably not change. The language we use to communicate information about ourselves to those within and outside of the industry. Come on AV people, decide on a common language and use it.
Who are we? Are we audio visual, audiovisual, audio-visual or even audio video? Do we nickname ourselves AV or A/V? The industry is at odds. Media and trade publications seem to like using A/V. Integrators and manufacturers generally use AV. Not one segment of the industry seems to agree if it is two words or one. Where is the consistency? Where is our unity? What is our identity?
Maybe this is my marketing background, but when I first started working in the industry almost 7 years ago, I had my mind set on adopting the standard language of the industry. In all my materials and all my correspondence, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to show that I knew what I was talking about and how to talk about it. So about a month into my quest for the correct spelling of audiovisual, I gave up. Well, ok, not exactly. What I did- after that little projector lamp lit up in my brain- was go to InfoComm.com. If anyone should know, they would know. This is what I found: InfoComm uses audiovisual. When abbreviated, they use AV. So I am thinking- if the industry association has set the standard, why was it never adopted?
Want another example? SBT vs. IBT (Smart Building Technology vs Integrated Building Technology OR Intelligent Building Technology- this one is even more confused). People prefer one over the other, but in essence, they are two different abbreviations for three phrases that mean the same thing. So I talk to InfoComm about this one too- they are on board with supporting SBT. Me too!
I know I promised this one would be brief, so getting back to my point about unity, identity and standards- I think it’s about time the AV industry communicates in a standard language- even apart from our techie language. Choose one and go with it, ladies and gents! We have to maintain the idea that in order to move into the future growth of the industry, we support AV as a service models and ideals. A unified, educated group which designs and delivers not only incredibly necessary technology but a kick-ass user experience!
My recommendation, InfoComm has initiated the language standard, let’s follow their lead. Any other examples of some unclear AV language, let us know below!
Note: Thanks to my #avtweeps for informing me that AV is better for SEO than A/V.
So you are asked to help co-present a keynote at a historically well attended industry event. After you go through the vicious self-esteem sucking spiral of “It’s Just Little Old Me” you start panicking about all the preparation that has to be done. Trying to recall those skills you developed (or were supposed to have developed) during college. You know: time management, critical thinking, research, public speaking, what not to wear.
These are the thoughts racing through my head when I get a message from Gary Kayye that he would like me to help present a KEYNOTE address (approved for Renewal Units by InfoComm) on Green AV. Sure, Green AV is my passion. Some people love ice cream, I LOVE Green AV. I could talk about it all day! To anyone (believe me, I have). So why was this different? Why would an hour and a half be so difficult for me? Well, first, I was on stage- spotlight on me/ us- in front of about a bazillion people (true statement). Second, I was SHARING the stage with one of the most recognized speakers in our industry. He really knows what he is doing- totally comfortable in front of a bazillion people. Wouldn’t you be nervous?
I convinced myself that the only way I would calm my anxiety would be to just dump myself into research and writing. I read an ENTIRE executive order released by the White House- so darn dry. But it renewed my excitement on the subject. The more I dove into Green AV opportunities to speak about, the more enveloped I became in the subject (more so than I already was- I know, it’s crazy, right?). Preparation became my routine. Every day when I got home from work, I would set myself up on the dining room table and write. First, hand written notes on index cards. Then, notes on bigger index cards. Finally, a whole presentation in a word document. Digression: Hand writing notes has always been how I start to organize big projects. I guess that habit began in high school- because my family didn’t have a computer, we had a very pretty, electronic, semi-automatic brother word processor that only allowed you to see one line at a time on the puny screen that it had. I did buy my first Gateway computer for my dorm room when I went away to college. Gateway was awesome back then- complete with Boston Acoustics speakers and sub woofer.
Back to public speaking: With my speaking points all organized and well written, I board a plane to Chicago. 2 hours of reviewing the document, without distraction. Nerves on edge, I realize that I have never seen the slide show Gary created for us. I sent him an outline of my points and he incorporated them into a slide show for the session. Oh, and BTW- I had never met Gary in person before this either. Two more unknowns to add to the list of things to be anxious about.
The morning of the presentation day arrives. Gary and I had reviewed the slides. Check one off the anxiety list. I ordered tea instead of coffee, in case Starbucks caffeine exacerbates my excitement to the point beyond the typical “You speak really fast.” “I am from New York.” “Ahhhh, understood.” Finally, after all the preparation and anxiety, Gary begins speaking- comfortable and informal (further punctuated by his clothing- jeans and a [rAVe] Pubs t-shirt), as if he has known each and every attendee for years. No notes. No reservations. Completely confident. And although I am still nervous, I stop trembling. I stand a little straighter (in my business attire); I keep my notes with me but don’t rely on them to hide behind. And I begin my section. Informal, though shaky. Trying to roll with any hiccups we encounter. Hoping to make eye contact with as many attendees as possible. I play off Gary’s points and he plays off mine. In the end, I think it went quite well. People came up to us afterward to tell us so! Honestly, it was definitely not the horror show I envisioned.
My point and my advice to anyone unsure about presenting to large audiences- go back to basics. Know your subject matter and be confident in this expertise. Relax. Have a conversation with your audience. Slow down to enjoy the view from the stage; your expertise put you there and those people- from the faces in the front row to the blurry ones in the back- all want to hear what you have to say. Above all, make a point to observe a presenter who displays all the characteristics you would like to have when speaking. Ask them for their tricks and secrets; perhaps use them as a mentor of sorts. I will let you use Gary, if you promise to share him…
Choosing tea over coffee can’t hurt either.
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