I recently attended the Integrate Expo in Sydney -- it is Australia’s version of InfoComm, although a lot smaller. There were 87 Exhibitors and over 500 brands, and as the spiel goes, Integrate is “Australia’s largest Audio Visual entertainment information & communication technology event.” The expo also includes many seminars throughout the three days of the show.
This year I took Emma (who is in a sales role) and has taken on a very big AV learning curve; it was her second trade show (the first was a CEDIA show, which here is a lot smaller then Integrate). All the big names were at the expo including Epson, Panasonic, Sharp, Samsung, LG, NEC, plus all the main distributors in Australia and even Extron.
We had seven hours to get through the show with a lot of suppliers to catch up with & new products to find we had a big task ahead of us.
Some of my highlights:
The LG stand had a great display of their monitors with digital signage players; the monitors were very bright with vibrant colours. They were also showing some cool software called Stikus, there was a touch screen monitor with a webcam alongside the two-screen video wall monitors (see picture below). You take your picture using the touch screen and then push it through to the video wall and it has all sorts of animation with it, and then it settles with all the other photos - pretty cool software, but LG does not provide it – I suppose they were just showing off the monitors.
One of the best and largest stands in the show was Hills SVL (see photo below); it was a great stand and they distribute a great deal of products such as Hitachi projectors, interactive boards, Australian Monitor Audio, Hall Research, Wolf Vision, Projection Design and Crestron, just to name a few. We spent about two hours there going through products and chatting to one of the Crestron trainers about issues on recent installs. He gave us an overview of all the Crestron products on the stand, which was good for Emma to see the products in action.
A new discovery for me was the Panasonic ET-YFB100 Digital Interface Box that connects to Panasonic PT-VW431D via Cat 5 cable thus eliminating the need to use extenders and run multiple cables. I think this is a great idea and makes installs much easier, less cabling to run and heaps of inputs via the Digital interface box and it’s compatible with HDBaseT. Apparently will be available in Oz in October so can’t wait to be able to start specifying on jobs.
The Epson stand was also a great stand this year: they were giving secret demonstrations of something that I am not allowed to talk about as it was the first time it has been used – we even had to sign a waiver and they had the area curtained off – so sorry can’t tell you about that one. But they did have the Moverio BT-100 goggles that comes with a media player and you can play movies right in front of you via the glasses – unfortunately it was flat when we got to have a look at it, but our rep brought it out to our office so we could have a play with it and its pretty cool – not sure they will take off here, probably not as good as beer goggles.
Overall there were a lot of monitors and projectors, a few interactive boards with more touch screen monitors and a few interactive projectors. The whole expo looked great with some really good stands. A bit more enthusiasm from the exhibitors would be great instead of walking away when you walk on the stand, very off-putting. Loved it when one the exhibitors asked if we actually put together jobs and went on installs, he thought it was great that we were women and could do that - thanks for noticing.
I also think that Integrate could do better on the social media side; they had a Twitter account with followers but did not Tweet. Their Facebook site was better, but they still did not Tweet after I suggested on there Facebook site that they should. I’m not sure the AV industry in Australia gets Twitter yet – it is such a great source to get information about what it happening. Integrate did send out a survey which was a good thing – which meant I got a chance to voice my social media opinions.
Will definitely be attended next year maybe for longer, and also get in some seminars also – one year I will make it to InfoComm in the States where I’m sure it will blow my mind.Add a comment
When we arrived at the event, the doors were opened and we walked into the room through a fog screen – that made it a grand entrance – then you were in projector heaven. I counted over 21 models on display (not all of those were powered up).
There was the flagship “compact” PT-DZ21K 3-chip DLP WUXGA with an amazing 20,000 lumens -- it is claimed to be the smallest, lightest 20,000 lumen model on the market so far. This 20K projector weighs in at an average weight of 43kg (94.8lbs), I thought the image was amazing, very sharp and vibrant.
I was also impressed with the two PT-DZ110XE 10,600 lumen projectors, which were image-blended and projected onto a large curved screen. After staring at it for a while I could not find fault, great picture – and they assured me it is easy to set up.
Also there were some boardroom models that included lens shift & 10W Speaker (ex-Sanyo models -- now with the Panasonic badge and new model numbers). Some of these projectors connect wirelessly to iPhones and iPads.
I was impressed overall as I’d not had a lot of exposure to (formerly) Sanyo models in the past and I was very tempted to pick up the remote and have a play – could you just imagine me bringing up the menu, stuffing up the show? I wouldn’t have been very popular. I'll have to get my sales rep to bring a couple over so that we can “kick the tyres so to speak,” and then I would be able to see what they are really capable of.
I really enjoyed meeting other people that have similar businesses to mine and comparing how we operate. I also enjoyed speaking to distributors and people from the audio visual departments at some of the universities. It was a great opportunity to chat with the product managers at Panasonic -- made easier over beer and wine. I spent quite a bit of time explaining Twitter and social media tools to one of the Panasonic marketing guys. I really found it amazing how many people in the industry knew very little about social media.
So overall Panasonic put on a very good display of their newly combined models making it clear that they wanted to be a force in business projectors in Australia – let’s hope that they follow through with what they promised.
I had a training day the other week with one of the major audio visual distributors in Australia. Since I have known this company (about 17 years), I have never known them to have a female on staff. This is very common with most of our suppliers, I can only remember having a couple of female reps over the years.
It made me think of my own working life and how I have always been working in male dominated workplaces – from my time in the army to working in the audio visual industry, and it never really bothered me. I always pulled my weight and asked for help if I needed it, I never pushed to do something just because I am a woman.
But it is amazing how you still get people assuming that you may not know what you are talking about because you are a woman – like being put through a phone call from a client who wanted to speak to someone about technical issues to do with a projector. When I take the call they say, oh I wanted to speak to someone technical – I politely tell them that I have worked with projectors for over 17 years and I go on to help them with their issue – and they seem pleasantly surprised that I could help them out. There are too many other examples of this to address in this blog – and it doesn’t bother me, I actually get a kick out of it.
This brings me to a networking breakfast that I attended this week organised by a women’s networking group called “Business Chicks” (chicks is an unfortunate name to be associated with business women - but it seemed to work). This was an event attended by over 400 people, and with approximately 90 percent were women, the guys would have been in their element. The guest speaker was Terri Irwin who runs Australia Zoo that was started by her late husband Steve “Crikey” Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter). If you don’t remember Steve & Terri make sure to check out YouTube for a refresher.
Terri is a great business woman and speaker with an amazing story to tell, she started by stating some facts about the percentages of women in different organisations and the lack of female representation on boards and in government and so on. Then she stated quite simply “whose fault is that.”
I am proud to say that our work place is 66 percent women and our only male definitely knows what it is like to work in a female dominated workplace (we help him to get in touch with his feminine side). So I suppose what I am saying is that as a woman, if you want something bad enough just go out and get it; if you want that raise, put your justification together and ask, for it there is nothing to hold you back. And to the men out there, do not assume that a woman will not know what she is talking about; open your mind and give her a chance.
To quote Terri Irwin, “Men and women are just naturally different,” and we should always remember that and embrace it.
It’s a new year and next month will be 8 years of running an Audio Visual company, can’t believe it has been that long.
What have I learnt…..
· That I don’t know everything about running a business….
· That I have to be patient when dealing with staff and of course clients – smile, smile….
· The best feeling is when a job is finished and everything works how it’s supposed to and the client is ecstatic
· How not to get involved with staff when they try to put one over you – best to say goodbye – oh and yes you can take that six pack from the kitchen
· How to troubleshoot audio visual problems both on the phone and on site – one of the funniest that still cracks me up was talking a client through some issues with her projector image over the phone, her problem was the image was dull and blurry – I had her checking her resolution on the PC to make sure it matched the projector, checking the focus etc etc till in the end I said do you have the lens cap on … oops the client said image great now thanks…
Sometimes it is the simplest things. Another time onsite where we had installed a heap of monitors for a hospital – the client had only just put in the PC and the image was blurry – we simply adjusted the gain on the extender boxes and when the client saw the perfect image he gave me a big bear hug – don’t get one of those everyday – love to see happy clients.
· How to manage finances through bad and good times and to ask for help when you need it.
· Learnt how to deal with suppliers that sometimes would forget that we are their customer.
· The biggest thing I learnt was not to cry in important meetings (oh sorry that was Steve Jobs – just reading his book can’t believe he was such a crier) that is something I learnt to control from my Army days – but sometimes you just have to walk away and get some composure.
As I think about it I have only just scratched the surface about what I have learnt over the last 8 years. I know that one of the REAL biggest things I have learnt is that you need to have a good team working with you. Once you find the right team it is important to look after them and in return they will do the same for you. I have only 2 in my team at the moment (maybe another soon) that have been with me for over 5 years and they have the best work ethic are great I am very proud to be working with them.
Just don’t forget you can never know everything and to keep your mind open you never know what you might learn.
We are very big on training here at Australian Presentation Systems, attending as many training days as possible. One of our newly promoted sales staff Emma has recently completed the online course Infocomm AV Essentials. Emma has been with us for over four years – starting in reception then going on to manage customer service, and now moved into sales.
Here is Emma’s take on the InfoComm – AV Essentials online course:
I have been working with Australian Presentation Systems for over 4.5 years and in August I was promoted to sales from reception.
Before working at Australian Presentation Systems, I had not dealt extensively with AV equipment apart from day-to-day appliances, let alone getting to know the technical lingo behind it all, like learning about Bit Depth of a digital signal, microphones, cables and so much more. Recently I completed the Infocomm AV Essentials course online. I feel more informed, and also quite impressed with myself in some sections where I actually knew the majority of it from when I was working in reception and asking questions. Funnily enough saying that, I also felt moderately overwhelmed at how in-depth the AV industry is.
I found the course to be intense for 90 days to complete whilst working and finding time to do an hour a day when possible. After reading through a module (I found that there was a lot to read, I suggested to InfoComm to add audio) in the chapter there is a quiz section that I really found very helpful to make sure you understand the chapter before completing the exam section. The best way for me to learn is hands-on, so perhaps I should have experimented with the equipment based on the subject at hand and made sure I fully understood how it works. My boss purchased the CTS book (Certified Technology Specialist) which assisted me through the course also which was really helpful to go back a read the chapters at home.
I have found this course to be both challenging and rewarding. I applaud myself when I understand technical terms that I have recently learnt and also when I can inform clients about the products and how they work thanks to InfoComm, and of course, working with two very informed colleagues.
So I am still learning everyday and definitely recommend anyone who wants to learn more about the AV industry or even brush up there AV knowledge to do it.
Thanks Emma for sharing your take on the online course, I remember doing the course many years ago when it first started which was quite slow to do online when we only had dial-up; oh how times have changed. I think the course is great but has to be backed up by actually getting hands on with the equipment and going out on installs and seeing how it is done in the field. All this helps to get that "aha!" moment where you can put all the theory together with the practical. That’s how it works.
Till next time
Written mainly by Emma Rudge
It’s hard to run a business at the best of times let alone an Audio Visual business - last month was quite a busy month. This was made busier as I had my annual week off (which was needed to recharge my batteries) but my great team did a good job looking after my clients and projects.
We are a small Brisbane company and one of our philosophies is that if you’re selling it you need to know how it works. We attend all the training sessions that our suppliers run locally, but more often than not there is no training on some products and the only way you can find out about it is when you sell it. So this month we had an install of 4 monitors for a training centre, we used Samsung monitors with Magic Info Digital Signage running on Samsung embedded PC’s. One of our tech’s spent a couple of days going through the program before going on site, there were a few setup issues to go through with the embedded PC’s but once that was set up all went well - eventually. The program itself is very easy to use our client was creating content in no time and getting great feedback from his management.
So what am I getting at, well it is always hard to keep up with new systems so you tend to sell what you know which may not always be of benefit to the end user. It would be fine if the A/V business had a lot of money to spend on demo units etc. but unfortunately we do not. The suppliers don’t often have models you can test out and in most cases they do not run training sessions, this was the case with the Samsung Magic Info system. Yes we can download the software and practise using it but it is not till you get to use it with the actual PC and monitor that you come up against these problems. In a perfect A/V world when these new products are released they could at least send out some sort of training video to help initially. Our tech found some web forums with people having the same issues in other countries so you wonder whether the manufacturers actually monitor these sites – sadly probably not…. But in saying all that, since we have been through the initial hassles and know the “tricks” with this system we will now be more then eager to sell this product maybe even more than the other digital signage products we provide.
As a business that advocates selling good quality products it is hard to decide on which products you will go with as there are so many that are similar. You need to consider the support the supplier / distributor gives you right down to the Rep keeping you up to date with the latest products & prices (all it requires is a regular email guys – a blog topic for another day – Rep’s). To the technical backup either onsite or via email – even down to what demo videos they can supply so that it can help you to sell their product to the client.
At the beginning I said that it was hard running a business let alone an A/V business who is trying to survive in a competitive environment – I wonder how other companies cope with the new products - we do more than just sell boxes and that I think is sometimes what the supplier forgets??
Last week I attended the Crestron Digital Media Certification - Design course (DMC-D) with 15 others. It was an all day course and the two days after that was the engineering course DMC-E. I would have liked to have stayed for the other two days but could not afford three whole days away from the office. About five others did only the design course.
The day started at 9 am. I received a massive reference guide folder with copies of the PowerPoint presentation and sample system designs plus all the brochures and even a complete glossary. Our instructor was very good, not at all boring or monotone. He made the info interesting and he obviously had great knowledge. Had to laugh about his story of when he went to InfoComm with his Crestron shirt on he was checking out competitors' stands but they wouldn’t talk to him. The next day he wore a plain shirt, visited the stands again and was able to check out all the products and ask them curly questions.
The first half of the course was background about analog signals and then moving onto digital signals and the differences between analog vs. digital. Then they went through HDCP, HDCP Keys and how to use DM tools when identifying problems with HDCP. They also covered EDID including troubleshooting. In the afternoon, we went over cabling and Crestron Digital Media product range and system designs, also going through some interesting jobs that the instructor had designed for both commercial and home. They were amazing jobs that I could only dream about getting in Brisbane – we don’t have as many opportunities as Sydney and Canberra do, but great to know the capabilities of the Digital Media product and how it can work in with other Crestron products.
The exam was a multiple choice test done on our laptops. Each test brings up a different set of questions so it is no use checking out the person sitting beside you. If you got more than 20% wrong you had the chance to redo the test again. The exam gave you feed back after you answered each questions so you knew if you had answered a question wrong.
So that was a very brief overview of the Crestron DMC-D course. I got heaps out of it and learned a lot; it was also interesting to hear about the latest trends in regards to digital technology and the background to HDCP. It also helped to motivate me to specify digital options as opposed to analog (the majority of our commercial installs are still analog). It also gave me some ideas to suggest to my existing clients that have Crestron systems to look at upgrading to a digital system. I like to get to as many training days as possible but unfortunately we don’t get the opportunity very often as they only do them once a year, at least locally anyway. Oh and I forgot the other thing I learned about was RTFM… if you don’t know what it means, I’ll let you know next blog.
Now I am now motivated to get studying the CTS exam guide I recently purchased so I can prepare to do the CTS exam, as if my life is not busy enough as it is...
Oh well. In my next blog, I'll write about the unique personalities of an A/V tech and looking back to the “years 1995 to 1999 “ and how successful some of those AV people have been.
G’day, I’m Jane and this is my first blog for rAVe I'm from Brisbane in Australia and I have worked in A/V for over 16 years, 6 years in staging and rental and 10 years in commercial A/V. I am the owner of Australian Presentation Systems (QLD) we are an audio visual specialist we do anything from your basic boardroom install to full on integrated system.
I am a keen social networker into Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook; I use them to expand my business network and to keep up with my friends and what is going on in the world. I recently had a meeting with my website guy (and friend) who was telling me that I should put the company on Facebook and on twitter.
At the time I had been on twitter as @janetimmins since 2008 and developed a good range of connections, I often thought who would want to follow my company. So I set up @APSQLD with the aim to tweet about new products and maybe A/V related tips. I also set up the Facebook company page, posting photos of jobs that we have done over the years and liking such pages as rAVe publications and InfoComm International. Anyway to cut a long story short, that is how I connected with Gary Kayye and was invited write this blog for the rAVe “blog squad”. From my early days in AV I have know of Gary as an AV guru and have been reading his newsletters for many years. Social media has helped me connect with all sorts of people I would not normally come in contact with at a networking event.
I suppose what I am saying is that if you or your business is not involved in social media then why not? What have you got to lose? There are a lot of opportunities to be had it is just a matter of putting in the time to develop your brand and your companies brand.
Well, I hope your still reading this, as I thought it might be good for you to understand where I've come from and what I do. I intend to blog about my previous and my day to day experiences in my world of AV as it is Down Under. I am attending a Crestron DigitalMedia Certification – Design course next week I will blog and let you know what it was like.