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Tough Times, Tougher Industry

Tough Times, Tougher Industry

Randal A . Lemke, Ph.D.

As the executive director and CEO of Info- Comm International, I am often asked about the effect of the recession on the commercial audiovisual industry, and most importantly, when will the tough times end for business. Unfortunately, there is no road map to the recession—not for the President, not for Wall Street and not for me. There will be no panacea to the global economic crisis and the trajectory of this economy is hard to predict.

As a former professor, all I can do is present the facts, and ask you to draw your own conclusions. InfoComm devotes some of its resources to market research so the industry and others can better understand trends and the directions the audiovisual industry is moving towards. These reports leave us with findings, but no guarantees.

The InfoComm International 2010 InfoComm Global AV Market Definition and Strategy Study found that despite the economic challenges facing the audiovisual industry in 2009, the industry still sold $68 billion worth of goods and services. Even more encouraging, the study projected a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent for the three-year period between 2009 and 2012. The AV industry is projected to grow into a $91 billion industry by 2012.

There is further evidence of a rebounding industry. Our most recent InfoComm Economic Snapshot, the periodic industry survey InfoComm conducts asking for economic feelings and opinions, finds that respondents are optimistic about the economy in all industry sectors. In fact, the 700 survey respondents were so optimistic that the economy was evaluated to be similar to the survey’s peak in 2008. A majority of respondents felt their company is in better financial condition now than it was six months ago, categorizing business as “good.”

More than 12 percent feel that the overall economy is already on the upswing, and another 38 percent feel the economy is stable and will pick up in 2010. Close to 32 percent feel that while the economy is stable, it will not pick up until 2011 or later.

The strongest demand for AV is being seen in the higher education and government/military sectors, with one-third of respondents involved in these markets and venues reporting an increase in demand. There is also heightened demand in the K-12 education and healthcare markets. Factors that drive AV spending include pent-up demand for new systems, new construction, and the need to increase applications that will compensate for having to maintain service levels with fewer staff. Control systems and conferencing systems are the AV components in the greatest demand.

In October 2009, survey respondents accurately predicted that the AV industry would be improved to this point. Now the industry is predicting a slight improvement in condition six months from now. It is important to note, though, that the recovery is expected to have its ups and downs, rather than a straight upward trajectory.

Any time you get into the business of predicting, it is good to think of wild cards that can make your entire close analysis look shortsighted. To me that wild card for the systems integration part of the industry is the fate of commercial real estate. AV communications is now part of the infrastructure of buildings and that is great when the industry is growing. It can be a different story if commercial real estate takes a plunge similar to residential. So keep your eyes on the amount of work being done by architects, who are experiencing a significant downturn. Also make sure you are in front of customers that are rehabbing existing buildings and need you to modernize their infrastructure.

InfoComm is going to continue with its free Economic Snapshot Surveys. I ask you to reply to our surveys so they capture the most accurate perceptions from the widest range of people possible, and then read the results when released.

Keep in communication with valued partners—former clients, architects, schools, etc. Provide information on the value AV brings to the world of communications, and never stop. Over the years, InfoComm has developed a number of resources that you can use to this end. The latest is a new website,, that educates the public on the value AV brings to people’s lives, how to start a career in AV, and how to partner with AV professionals. Please use this site when communicating with outside groups—it will help bring the AV experience to life.

Randal A. Lemke, Ph.D. is the executive director and CEO of InfoComm International, the trade association representing the commercial audiovisual industry. For more information please visit

In Brief

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