InfoComm Hosts Salt Lake City Regional Roundtable

Even with its massive U.S. trade show just around the corner, InfoComm continued to reach out to its membership through its Regional Roundtables last week. Following a visit to Denver last Wednesday, the Roundtable team arrived in Salt Lake City for a session hosted at the Listen Technologies headquarters on Thursday, May 21. I joined local AV integrators and manufacturers who were there to learn about the state of the industry in presentations by Duffy Wilbert, InfoComm senior vice president of membership, and Bill Sharer, president of Exxel Management and Marketing.

InfoComm is celebrating its 70th Anniversary this year, and it was with a nod toward the longevity of a trade which has endured approximately 11 recessions (depending on which economist you listen to) that Wilbert began describing a way out of this dark tunnel: "Every time, the industry came out the other side a little bit stronger."

Proof of a "leveling out" has begun to come to light through the "Economic Snapshot" surveys InfoComm conducted last September and again in January 2009. "We see the market as continuing to grow," Wilbert said. "No one thinks technology is just going to stop."

As of January, 44.3% of the survey's nearly 800 respondents perceived the health of their business to be "about the same" as it was six months prior. Other January numbers revealed that 19% of companies had experienced staff reductions, but a whopping 56% said that the lending climate had "no impact" on business. The full January Economic Snapshot report is available online.

Because January seems like a very long time ago at this point, another InfoComm Economic Snapshot survey is currently active, and results will be presented at InfoComm next month. Two big questions this time around were paraphrased by Wilbert as: Is AV now so essential that the negative impact on business will be lessened; and have we given too much away in the past? Readers are encouraged to participate online.

The recession was revealed to be a different kind of wake-up call in Sharer's "How to Manage in Today's Economy" presentation. The 14-15% average annual growth maintained by integrators and consultants in recent years "isn't sustainable, really," Sharer noted. Now that things have slowed somewhat for some companies, this is the time to look at the way you do business. "The question you should be asking is, are you easy to do business with," he said.

Now that banks are recording profits again, and experts are projecting visible signs of recovery for Spring 2010, Sharer emphasized that businesses need to have the strength in their infrastructure and processes to enable them to profit from the future uptick in business. "It might happen so slowly you don't notice at first, so you need to be ready," Sharer said.

In terms of maintaining favorability among clients in the near-term, Sharer said that "responding quickly to minor requests now" will garner good things in the future.

InfoComm will carry its state of the AV industry agenda on to the big show itself, on Tuesday, June 16, at the new "Business Executive Symposium". Duffy and Sharer will join four other presenters and provide tips to help attendees with finance, accounting and control; employee retention; using social media to build business; and how to use project management to enhance profit.

Following the presentations, roundtable discussions, and refreshments offered at Listen Technologies HQ on Thursday, InfoComm had one more event in store for SLC residents: an Architectural Tour of the Utah State Capitol building. The "Integrating Technology in a Historic Structure" lunch and learn featured Spectrum Engineers and Poll Sound, who provided an AV tour of the newly renovated and seismically retrofitted building for several Salt Lake AIA members.

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