Published in May 2009

InfoComm 100
A step in the right direction.
By David McNutt

I have often grumbled over the sources from which our industry receives direction. Some believe that this direction trickles up from the consumer industry. The consumer segment decides on VHS versus BetaMax, and we eventually get professional VHS decks with rack rails. Flat-screen LCDs saturate computer and home markets, and we finally get 60-inch diagonals. However, from the bottom up, the professional quality of consumer gear doesn’t always transfer to the professional quality demanded in our industry.

Sometimes direction trickles down. The touring market gets a great new loudspeaker line; then, after stripping out the hardware and the neodymium magnets, we get an installed version. Similarly, the amplifier that was originally designed for rock ‘n’ roll is later launched to our market with screw terminals so that consultants will spec it into a project. Trickle-down doesn’t really meet our needs, either.

The fact that each of these examples comes from an individual small company has always made this development approach less than efficient. And not just product development but education, skill, best practices and general integration into the larger construction industry in which we operate.

Our industry needs a development approach that estimates market potential, identifies the market need and provides the products or services that are required to meet customer demand. Only when we learn to deliver products and services that are specifically designed for our applications and consumption will we grow to become the influential force we desire.

Two months ago, I met with more than a hundred other industry professionals at the InfoComm 100 event in West Palm Beach FL. InfoComm 100 included individuals from manufacturing, contracting, consulting, designing, touring, renting, representing and using. It was the broadest cross-sectional representation I have ever witnessed in a formal industry gathering. We listened to Rich Karlgaard, Publisher of Forbes Magazine, present an analysis of current and near-future economic conditions for about two hours. Then, over the next 24 hours, the group discussed our collective assumptions about the future of our industry and the broad actions needed to meet various specific industry challenges. This collaborative and insightful meeting attracted some of the best minds in our industry and resulted in numerous powerful insights and directions.

We addressed the threats of other industries, the homogenization of information and audiovisual technology, and the need for our industry to become a trained, licensed force in the construction industry that provides unique products and services that serve the end-user client.

Many of you reading this column know the struggle this has been for the past 20 years, but, I tell you now, there is a groundswell that could very well begin to make a difference.

The search for direction from its members regarding feedback, market research, education, political lobbying and strategic direction is crucial for our industry association to be an effective market force, and this is the perfect time to do so. Our seemingly singular inclusive association must gain the necessary strength and leverage in order to serve our collective business needs. But we, the membership, must help them. We must undertake the responsibility for understanding our markets and feeding information back to manufacturing vendors back to InfoComm. We must commit to continued training of our workforce and broadening of our skills. We must commit to standardizing best practices and following them. We must commit to learning who we are and what we want to be…all of us.

InfoComm 100 is the beginning of a collaborative effort on the part of InfoComm International to organize and influence the industry across all channel partners. I applaud their efforts and ask the rest of us to be innovative in our thinking, in our companies and in developing products and services for our customers. This is a perfect initiative to make things better, and these are perfect times to improve.


A member of Sound & Communicationsí Technical Council, David McNutt has more than 35 years of experience, covering live sound engineering, marketing for well-known manufacturers, audio system design and consultation, and fixed installation contracting. McNutt holds a Masters in Telecommunications and an MBA in Marketing and Strategy. He can be reached at dmcnutt@testa.com.
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