One of the best "tech tips" I can provide is to take a few hours each month and learn something new about our industry. This education can take many forms. For example, one could take a formal class, such as a manufacturer's training session, attend a meeting of one of the many professional associations that support the events market, or simply spend time on the web researching and browsing on various association web sites.
The Big Four
There are a number of associations that affect what we do and how we go about performing our magic on site. In my opinion, the big four associations are InfoComm, SMPTE, VESA and ESTA.
* InfoComm (www.infocomm.org) is the first place where one should invest time and effort in education. Besides the tradeshow every June, InfoComm has the CTS training program that provides a great foundation education in the ways of A/V. InfoComm also offers councils that discuss key issues and provide important guidelines on how the association can work with industry A/V groups. These councils focus on areas such as Rental and Staging, Manufacturing, Installation and much more.
* SMPTE (www.smpte.org) is the place where all video technicians need to spend time and energy. SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) sets the standards for high definition and standard definition television, as well as all digital cinema specifications. Knowing these standards will clearly improve your ability to use these formats in your next production. There are SMPTE chapters in every major region throughout the U.S., and monthly meetings are typically held at manufacturer or dealer sites. It's a great way to interact and network with other engineers and discover new, high tech ways to "skin the cat."
* VESA (www.vesa.org) is the organization that gives us VESA mounts for monitors, VESA standards for resolutions (VGA, XGA, WXGA, etc.) and other standards that we often take for granted. The acronym stands for Video Electronics Standards Associaion. From my perspective, by providing one set of standards for the tech industry to uphold, VESA is the group that keeps the peace (amongst the potential insanity) when it comes to high tech product development. VESA standards make moving from one PC to the next less painful.
* ESTA (www.esta.org) is the organization that (among other important services), sets the rules for placing a two hundred pound projector over the heads of a few thousand concert attendees. If you hang anything from a truss or an air wall track, I would highly recommend that you spend some quality time on the ESTA (Entertainment Services & Technology Association) site. I would also recommend that your lighting, sound and video department heads attend one or more basic rigging courses. Even if you use the "local guys" for rigging, knowing the fundamentals of safe rigging will save you from depending on the "expert" in front of you, and just possibly, prevent some heart-stopping moments up in the trusses.