What were AV pros really saying at InfoComm 2024?

What were AV pros really saying at InfoComm 2024?
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In pro AV, it's not a stretch to say there's a lot of marketing and selling happening throughout the industry. So much so, in fact, that it inadvertently drives a number of different ways in how the pro AV community forms, as well as the conversations happening within those circles. With a monumental event like InfoComm, it's natural that brands try to put their best foot forward, and that includes sharing new offerings, or offerings that would otherwise be infeasible to demonstrate. My colleague Leon says it beautifully here, though; AV pros want more than just to be sold to. They want to build trust within the community at all levels, including their experiences, needs, thoughts and feedback, and that serves as the foundation for key conversations I've heard myself. So, let's get into some of the key topics I heard this year.

Closed Ecosystems are Complicating Work

Brands continue to build holistic solutions and products as a part of their portfolio, and the synergy offered can be beneficial. However, as AV pros strive to be cost-conscious for their own sake and that of their end-users, that expanding portfolio can become a burden. Products can come with strings attached (such as licensing terms and support) that relegate them to "unaffordable" status, or otherwise cause frustration when used with out-of-ecosystem products. AV pros sorely desire more flexibility in their experiences, and interoperability becomes a major key selling point for any solutions they recommend.

AV Pros Need Better Service & Support

A common issue echoed by AV pros is also very trust-based: A perceived lack of consistent service and support. When an issue arises with a product, it can become a battle for AV pros to even receive a timely response, let alone the fix desired. By neglecting adequate support infrastructure, brands significantly erode trust, as their products are considered riskier to implement as a result. Conversely, brands who do provide consistent support garner a huge amount of positive sentiment, as a result. In such a relationship-based industry, that positive sentiment extends incredibly far via word-of-mouth.

The Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm 2024 featured a significant amount of discussions around hot topics within AV

AV and IT Workforces are Converging, Fast

There's a lot of new and potential solutions offered with how AV and IT come together, and it becomes more apparent as needs evolve across every vertical. For some, this becomes a challenge: "How do I expand my knowledge to keep up with the industry? How do my recommendations change as new products and services are offered? What AV networking needs exist that we can build solutions for?" While these are ongoing questions, it also opens the door to a much-needed influx of new professionals into the AV workforce from other industries. This particularly is relevant for the tech sector, who have suffered staggering layoffs over the past two years. Additionally, as hardware refreshes increase in frequency, many are looking towards firmware and software updates to increase product longevity.

Skepticism Around AI Remains

The use of AI has been an ever-present topic in technology in recent years, as well as an increasingly popular topic on the InfoComm show floor. Sessions have had it as a discussion point, products feature it, and brands demo that feature as an expanded offering. There are latent, important questions though, and they haven't been adequately answered: Who asked for this, and how has this successfully been implemented? AI and machine learning have a solid place in focused applications, such as automation. However, in broader implementation, other industries paint a much more apprehensive picture. McDonald's has ended its AI implementation, Google is rapidly losing trust with its potentially dangerous AI overviews, and even the FTC's Business Blog warned against over-promising on its potential. Some AV pros on the show floor shared the hesitation, lamenting the amount of focus AI has taken over some of the previously-stated issues.

Scott Josephson, discussing how Google supports AV through escalation processes across departments

A Lack of Honest Dialogue Between Brands and AV Pros is Hurting Trust

Many of the aforementioned issues culminate in this final point: A perceived inability to criticize or give negative feedback, for the implicit fear of destroying relationships within the AV industry. AV pros recounted their experiences, where they were made to feel unwelcome, shut out from conversations, or altogether unsupported as a result of unsatisfactory feedback. In a relationship-based industry, these experiences are amplified between professionals, who then build a greater preference for speaking to their peers for feedback instead of consulting brands.

What's the Takeaway?

Again, coming back to Leon's article, it's about paying attention to wants and needs. That sounds simple, and ideally, it should be. Two universal truths for any product or service are that A. People need different things, and B. Some will be good, some will be bad. What's important is the discussion that happens afterwards; after all, how do we improve if we don't know how we've failed? The more misalignment exists, the more that two sides are talking past one another, missing the opportunities to grow and improve. AV professionals want to be successful, and to do that, they have to use successful products and services. As new professionals join the industry already acclimated to these kinds of honest discussions, it's imperative that we bring the atmosphere of dialogue up to that standard of mutual benefit.

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Go to the profile of Suley Usman
28 days ago

Great points, and well-articulated. I'm sure we all understand why, as a business strategy, ecosystems are occurring among brands, but the practice certainly stifles options for AV pros (and for their clients). I love this sentence in your article, "The more misalignment exists, the more that two sides are talking past one another, missing the opportunities to grow and improve". Let's hope there's near-future progress with this AV business challenge.