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We Should Be Innovators

The pace of technological progress is increasing, and it can be difficult to keep up.

New technology is adopted by users in a model generally broken out into five groups: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Innovators are the ones who dive into the new technology immediately, no questions asked. Early adopters are the people who read the first couple of pages of the how-to guide and put the new technology to use. The early majority waits for the early adopters to play with the products, asks them questions, and then uses the product themselves. The late majority is skeptical, and will not use new technology until a large number of people have confirmed its worthiness. Then, lastly, there are laggards who stick to what they are used to and wait until there are no other alternatives but to use the “new” technology.

Where do you land on this technology adoption lifecycle? As AV professionals, we should be innovators and early adopters … and hold each other accountable when we’re part of the late majority or the laggard group. How can we provide the best possible solutions to our clients if we, as the experts, do not use the latest software and hardware to its full potential whenever we can? Let’s look at a few examples before we discuss solutions.

Since the beginning of the pandemic and the mass migration to working from home, tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Cisco Teams, and others have enjoyed the limelight. Yet despite the general availability and popularity of these real-time collaboration tools, our inboxes still fill up with emails we must respond to in between bouts of actual work. Many of these emails could have been communicated more effectively as instant messages, and many of the issues could have been solved easily over a video chat. Synchronous communication—where participants are on the same page at the same time—works better for solving problems than asynchronous platforms like email.

[The Technology Manager's Guide to Conference Rooms]

Communication is the bread and butter of the aforementioned collaboration tools, but we aren’t using them to their full potential. Programs like Microsoft Teams and Slack allow you to host files for discussion in their platforms, so why are we still sending attachments via email?

It’s pretty clear that despite having been on videoconference calls nearly nonstop since March, not everyone has explored the settings of their conferencing hardware and software. Every participant should double-check their audio device at least five minutes before a call using the testing methods available in the settings—anything to avoid the “Can you hear me now?” conversation that seems to dominate the first 10 minutes of every call.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with other settings that can be adjusted to help you make the most of an online meeting. For example, Zoom has an option to use the space bar to temporarily unmute yourself. Zoom also offers a “touch up my appearance” option that applies a soft focus/airbrushed look that makes your skin look flawless. I discovered this feature by accident and, truthfully, I liked it.

Eventually we will be returning to our offices, but I expect that in-person collaboration will look different in the future. Offices will need no-touch hardware solutions like wireless sharing in conference rooms, where participants can connect and display presentation material wirelessly, without plugging a cable into a laptop or smartphone. The funny thing about wireless sharing is that it has been around for years and available through many vendors, but how many of us used it in our own office spaces? Not many.

[Watch as technologist discuss AV in a post-COVID-19 world.]

In recent client meetings, I discovered that many technology managers do not understand how wireless sharing works in Zoom or Teams—something that was easily remedied with a quick demo. I got to wondering, How many AV professionals don’t even know the option is there? When was the last time you shared wirelessly? Do you know how to share wirelessly with any of the products you recommend to your clients?

What’s the solution? You can either read the user guide or manual, use the technology yourself, or simply ask someone how it works. Doing so will allow your business to grow, because you can now talk the talk and walk the walk. The competitive advantage you gain by adopting new technologies will allow you to engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations with your clients about the solutions you can provide.

Times are changing, and so is technology—in both the AV and IT industries. It is time for those of us in pro AV to find our curious spirit again and use technology as much as we can in our daily lives. There will always be someone in your company who knows more than you about a particular technology. Get to know them, engage them in conversation, and learn something new.

Take the time to dig deeper into the technology and discover how tools that we use daily can make us more efficient. Be the technology expert your clients expect you to be.