I Had A George Clooney Moment at AVAD's VendoComm Launch

The closest I ever came to feeling like George Clooney was when I walked into the Hilton Washington DC North/Gaithersburg earlier this week. I was there to attend AVAD's inaugural VendoComm event, for which I was slated to be the keynote speaker. I've long had the frequent flier status and mild obsession with "loyalty programs" inherent to the plot twists in Up in the Air, but now I had the opportunity to share my philosophy and business perspective with an audience, just like Clooney's character does with his "What's in Your Backpack" motivational speeches. That may be where the similarities end, but I will cling to my Clooney status for as long as possible.

AVAD launched its new VendoComm series of commercial AV events on July 10, and the day's sessions provided a pretty complete picture of install essentials. Sessions on displays, digital signage, audio systems, control, mounts, and surge elimination pretty much ran the gamut of everything you need to plug in to make a system work, with good business tips intermingled throughout. I took a lot of notes, and met some new dealers who are expanding their business in a variety of markets beyond our usual ken, including healthcare, broadcast, IT, and telephony.

It was apparent that all who attended were there to gain understanding beyond their current expertise, and the discussion was great throughout the day. I was throwing business cards like a ninja after every session, adding people to my roster of sources.

A new acronym appeared in my lexicon during Dave Sallander's excellent "Digital Signage Solution Selling" session: WIFM. Translation, "What's in it for me?" The root of all business transactions, this acronym can help anyone tailor a sales presentation for more effective results. Sallander offered a sales checklist to help establish specific "hot buttons" in developing the right digital signage system for a potential customer.

"Ten years ago, it was simple, the sports bar owner just bought more video displays than his competitor down the street," Sallander said. "But now you need to be prepared to talk about reducing inventory write-offs and ROI. You have to talk about value."

Sallander has more than a bit of practical expertise in this area, as his company, Sherlock Systems, is engaged in some seriously huge rollouts. He also works with AVAD on its custom digital signage designs within the distributor's System Design group. Customers who are hesitant to jump into digital signage should definitely consider the wealth of design support they would receive from that group.

Another version of the WIFM concept was established early in the day by Cynthia Menna, senior manager of commercial sales and pro AV for AVAD, who advised attendees to "sell what you're saving the client." Specifically regarding digital signage, she elaborated, integrators would do well to provide examples of how the client would save on printing costs and boost sales by advertising specific goods at certain times of day.

Oh, and throughout the course of the day I saw some great motocross scars and heard some entertaining road stories. Why's that? Because my keynote speech happened to be about MotoGP and AV. Yeah, it turns out that MotoGP is a perfect metaphor for AV integration, and I ran with the angle of calibrating bikes to each race course just like dealers customize technology for each project. Needless to say, it was a good motivational tool to keep my keynote on track. Look out, Clooney. All I need next is a book deal.

The day wrapped up with a product showcase, where SurgeX blew things up (on purpose), and display manufacturers Sharp, LG, Samsung, Optoma, NEC, and SunBrite went interactive. Global Cache, Kramer, and Key Digital connected, controlled, and distributed things. Luxul networked. Harman and QSC sounded off. But best of all, Peerless brought its waterproof Ciil display and showed Caddyshack on repeat for the duration of the event. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in that corner of the exhibit floor. We were so close to Chevy Chase, Maryland, after all. I had to pay him tribute.

Kirsten Nelson is a freelance content producer who translates the expertise and passion of technologists into the vernacular of an audience curious about their creations. Nelson has written about audio and video technology in all its permutations for almost 20 years; she was the editor of SCN for 17 years. Her experience in the commercial AV and acoustics design and integration market has also led her to develop presentation programs and events for AVIXA and SCN, deliver keynote speeches, and moderate and participate in panel discussions. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles—she is a MotoGP super fan.