Building Your AV Support System by Christopher Neto

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As a technology manager you may have contract help assisting you with the daily support schedule and maintenance. Internally you may report up through IT or Site Services, but where do you go when you need assistance? For many in the technology management role you are the last time of support for technical issues. You may also be only in your department so questions about career goals, training or personal development are left to you. What options are available to the AV tech? Here are a couple suggestions.

If your company outsources AV support from an outside company inquire about their training and technical back office support. Chances are they provide technical services to the staffers and may extend that support to you as a "value add." If your contract is with an AV centric staffing company then they may have an internal training program setup for the onsite techs. I have sat in on training classes provided by the contract service providers. Not only was it educational but it provided an opportunity for you to sit with your site support team, work together as a group and demonstrate some of individual strengths within the group. Another benefit of hiring an AV centric company is that they also have resources with resellers, distributors and product manufactures that can assist you and the staff.

Building partnerships with a product manufacturer is probably the most import piece of advice that I can share with you. Some AV manufacturers will also provide training directly to their customers. In instances where your company has standardized on a particular product manufactures have been very responsive in assisting the site support staff in implementing and maintaining the equipment. Not only does this benefit the manufacturer by watching their products perform in a real world situation but they will also have access to unfiltered customer experiences. The smart company takes those issues back to R&D and works out the bugs. For you the customer you now have access to designers, engineers and programmers who want to see you and their product succeed. Further exploring the manufacturer partnership leads to a greater depth of product knowledge and training that the webinars and sales pitches won’t give you.

I personally developed relationships with most of the manufacturers that supplied products to my former employers. Due to the ever-changing vendor carousel and the involvement of procurement departments I couldn’t control the supplier or vendors of our products. As a technical team our responsibility was to find the right product and assist procurement in finding an authorized reseller for the selection process. It was obvious that we needed to be involved with the manufacture in this case in order to keep current with the updates and high-level support. Our interaction with the manufacture provided them with better sense of how their products were being used by the end-users and in some cases they discovered new opportunities that their products could grow. Watching their products take bumps and bruises really became beneficially to the account managers who would then report back to their management for future product updates and development.

Another area where you can find help is online by using social media. By joining LinkedIn, Twitter and Google social networks you now have open access to people across the globe. The advantages go beyond having your resume and profile out on the internet. Joining and participating in LinkedIn AV groups, for example, brings the benefits of hot news items, opinions and real world applications. Chances are someone in the group has had similar experiences with technical issues or may see the same issue but from a different angle. Though you will wade through a lot of posts eventually you may or may not find the specific answer to your question that you’re looking for. If that happens then do not be afraid to post to the groups. By posting the question you have now reached out to thousands, in some cases, and eventually your answer will in the form of a post or via email. But by not posting your question then you’re missing out on the whole advantage of networking group and social media. Seek out groups where the members are posting daily. These groups will tend to be the most responsive to questions and along the way you may make some network connections. Great examples of active AV groups within LinkedIn are the InfoComm Group, the various CTS groups, AV Industry Professionals, ProAV, Professional AV and their sub groups and the AV Technology Magazine groups just to name a few. Search them out and do not discount the niche groups that cater to more specific AV topics such as AVB, telepresence, or control systems.

Industry associations are still the most focused source of expertise out there. Yes, many members are on the social networks but associations are the common group that unites AV professionals. Industry groups like InfoComm were built for technology manager as well as the vendors, manufacturers and consultants. Their industry studies, educational opportunities and their own internal network of groups and councils provide a wealth of information. The Technology Managers Council within InfoComm meets regularly. More importantly, they share information on a daily basis. That information can be anything from product tips, new ideas, training information and survey participation. Associations put a lot of time and development in standards and documentation to help the industry further develop. They can serve as a conduit to the rest AV industry and the resources available to you.

The information is out there whether you have a question about a product or career advice. Use your available resources and along the way you may uncover some other opportunities you didn’t know existed.

Christopher Neto, CTS, is an Audiovisual Consultant with AV Helpdesk Inc., a firm specializing in all aspects of AV Design, Engineering, Project Management, and Programming. He is also an active member of InfoComm and part of its membership committee and various councils. Reach him at cneto@avhelpdesk.com or visit his blog at avshout.com.

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