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“It’s Too Loud!”

Are you neurodiverse?

Imagine yourself at a concert. You are standing directly in front of the stage and as close to the stackable subs as you can get. The overhead lighting is shining down on you and rapidly changing colors to play along with the theme of the show. It is a packed house and you are elbow to elbow with fans of all ages. Sounds like a typical fun night, right?

loud concert

Now imagine that the speakers, which you are so close to, are playing a sound, equivalent of 100 nails being dragged across a chalkboard. The lights are as if a strobe light is being shot directly into your eyes, and the crowd is yelling directly at you for 3 hours straight. Not as much fun, is it?

This is what it could possibly be like for someone who is on the Autism spectrum.

Why it matters

According to mayoclinic.org, Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition related to brain development that affects how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication. Overstimulation of the senses is just one of the possible “patterns of behavior” that can be exhibited by someone “on the spectrum.”

So, you might be asking yourself – why are we talking about this, and why have I chosen to write about it? This topic is very special to me because I am the proud father of a 14 year-old daughter who is on the Autism spectrum. Samantha was diagnosed at the age of 3, and I remember at the time my wife said, “I was so afraid to deliver the news to you because of how you would react.” I looked at her rather surprised and replied, “I could not be happier. We now know why Samantha has reacted to certain situations and how we can help her for the rest of her life.” I still feel that same way, 11 years later!

Sam VoorheesSamantha was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. She has been an Honor Roll Student for as long as I can remember, participates in clubs at school, and can recite every winner of Dancing with the Stars simply by you calling out a season! Samantha also has difficulties brushing her own hair, tying her own shoes, participating in athletics, being around loud noises, or being in unfamiliar social situations, such as meeting new people or making direct eye contact with anyone. Due to her motor skills and social needs, playing sports was always something she avoided, until she reached high school this year and became the Team Manager of the High School Volleyball Team! She found a way to GET IN THE GAME. One of the more common sayings you might hear is Samantha saying, “It’s too loud,” as she covers her ears, even as a high school freshman. Loud or sudden noises are “tortuous” to her, which I am still reminding myself of each time we watch the Eagles or Phillies and I let out a scream for a big play – IT’S TOO LOUD! Simply put though, in our house, we do not view any of this as a disability. Samantha has nothing but ABILITIES, and my job as her dad is to help her bring those abilities out so she is comfortable sharing with the world.

DEI and Pro AV

Over the past 30 days, something like Autism, which I have lived around for 11 years, has begun to blend in with my career in Pro AV. I was recently introduced to, and joined, the AVIXA Diversity Council and at the most recent Exertis Almo E4 Experience in Boston, I attended an excellent panel discussion on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion where Neurodiversity was a driving topic for discussion. I was mentally pulled in, so much so that I had to offer my comments and my gratitude at the end to the panel. What I have learned over the past 30 days, specifically, is that the Pro AV industry has begun to educate itself on Neurodiversity and how project designs need to be cognizant of a person’s neurological needs.

Many of us would probably say we are inclusive and take these factors into consideration. It is no different from my friends and family saying they “understand” what Samantha experiences. However, at no fault of theirs, what they say and what they do are two completely different things, and I am sure that goes for a lot of us in our work. noise cancellationFor example, how many times when being asked to design the AV in an office space do you include a “quiet space?” No, I am not talking about a room with candles and beanbags (although that could be a consideration). I am talking about an office that is a dedicated quiet room, with little to no distractions, noise cancelling headphones, different lighting, and away from the bustle of the typical office. Did you ever consider that an employee in that office, who has different neurological needs may hate the idea of sitting in a crowded conference room with 8 other people staring at a large display with a camera pointed right at them? It is truly OK if you never have – that is precisely why I am writing this piece! As evidenced by Samantha and her remarkable grades, memory, and knowledge of things that interest her, those employees with neurological needs could possibly be the rockstars of your team. The ones who think of things that others do not. They just need a space where they are comfortable enough to share them! When I think of Autism and my work with Exertis Almo, a few things come to mind about how they blend together. Audio, video, control, lighting, cable management, and cameras are all product categories that play a role. Those on the spectrum may want easy control of the audio and lighting in a room with simple wall-mounted dials. They may also want cabling and equipment to be clean, hidden, or well organized. Think of how Barco ClickShares have a tidy storage rack to place the ClickShare in, or how BSS from Harman offers wall-mounted controls where you can press a single button to manage your audio, video, or lighting. Something as simple as this goes a long way and are things we currently do now, but for different reasons.

Pro AV expertise in the growing field of neurodiversity

While I could write about Autism forever, I do think I have a word limit on this! I am so encouraged by the recent discussions about Neurodiversity, because for the first 4+ years in my role, I was resigned to thinking of Samantha on my business trips and saying out loud “Wow, she would hate this.” Not hate being around new technology, friends that you work with, or traveling to new places, rather, she would hate having multiple audio companies blasting new loudspeakers while 100-inch video walls are flashing captivating content, all while customers are asking her questions. Fortunately, for me, as her father, Samantha has found her love for helping those younger than her and wants to be a teacher like my wife. She is learning how to prepare lesson plans and even got the opportunity to shadow my wife last week in her classroom and did great! The encouragement that I feel is that more industries and employers are beginning to educate themselves on these common needs and are doing their part to create that “safe space” where employees feel like they can show their best!

To close, I would encourage all of you to get involved, regardless of how much or how little. Maybe consider joining the AVIXA Diversity Council or even do a simple internet search on “how to create a neurodiverse workspace.” Another option might be to simply recommend a space in the office for those who just need to “get away.” It could be something that isn’t thought of, but I think you would be surprised how many employees truly love what they do, they just need to decompress sometimes. You may be surprised at how many “a-ha” moments you have while learning a little more about these common ABILITIES.

Robert Voorhees

About the Author

Robb Voorhees | CTS, CTP, DSCE, CTNS, Dante

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Business Communications Services, and Harman: AKG, AMX, BSS, Crown, DBX, JBL, Soundcraft, Martin Lighting

Blending Education & Entertainment: I Present JBL Fest 2022

“This was the best work trip I’ve ever attended.”  That statement carries a lot of weight when your career requires you to travel to different industry events and you regularly get to see what our country has to offer.  However, that was the exact phrase that an Exertis Almo employee said to me when I asked him what JBL Fest 2019 was like.  For the 2nd consecutive year (not counting 2020/2021 due to the pandemic shutdown), our sales team at Exertis Almo was selected to participate in a sales incentive with the grand prize being a trip for 2 to Las Vegas to attend JBL Fest 2022.  This year, we had five lucky winners (and their spouses) descend onto Las Vegas from Sept 27th-Sept 30th.  Christina Smith, Kenny Razor, Kyle Smith, Cassidy Alley and Doug Schulte all did an incredible job to earn this opportunity, and congrats to all of them!  I took on the role of “Unofficial Tour Guide” to make sure they got the most from the trip and did not miss any of the swag opportunities either.  Allow me to do the same for you as I attempt to paint a picture of what this experience was truly like.

JBL Fest 2022 team backdrop

Leading up to the 27th, I made sure to review the itinerary which included the Harman Tech Forum, Installed Audio Masterclass, Content Creation Master Class with world famous DJ Morgan Page, and multiple concerts and club events each night.  Once landing in Las Vegas, you are greeted in the baggage claim area by multiple people holding JBL Fest signs and helping usher you to the waiting bus in the parking lot to take you to the destination.  Admittedly still jetlagged from the 3-hour time difference and 2:30am wakeup, I was happy it was a short ride to the Virgin Hotel where immediately you hear the bass thumping, see a bright JBL-orange truck and a solid-gold dancer just in the parking lot.  It was tough NOT to hang out in the parking lot with everyone else.  Once checked in you immediately feel thrown into the experience of JBL Fest.  Bright colored signage everywhere and an oversized chair that replicates JBL earbuds are sitting in the lobby.  The short walk from the registration area to the room was well worth it when you open the door to your room and find there is a concert stage directly outside your room  (more on that a little later on 😊 ).  Once I was settled and rested, I decided to head down to the JBL Hospitality Lounge where I was checked in and “tagged” with an orange JBL bracelet that acts as your “tracker” for all the events you attend and it’s your VIP pass.  I am all about branding, so I certainly did not mind wearing a JBL bracelet for a few days.  Once finished with check-in, I was told to go into the lounge and pick up my “welcome gift,” while assuming it was a fidget spinner or pop socket; you know, the usual swag that is handed out.  Instead, I’m given a Herschel/JBL branded backpack that was filled with JBL noise cancelling wireless earbuds, a premium wireless battery pack, a premium wireless phone charger, and a JBL fanny pack (which now sits on my Michael Scott standup at home, haha).  I do not want to give off the impression that I can be bought with premium swag, but this sure was a nice way to welcome guests to the event!

After a brief bit of downtime to explore the hotel, it was time to meet up with the rest of the Exertis Almo team and head to Club JBL for the 1st night of concerts, headlined by pop star Bebe Rexha.  Food, drinks, and sitting feet away from future NFL Hall of Famer, Rob Gronkowski, made this a great first night for everyone — ending with Bebe Rexha singing some of her more radio-popular hits from the past few years.  Waking up on Wednesday, it was time to roll as we had our busiest day ahead.  Starting with the Harman Tech Forum, which featured several panel discussions on the future of the metaverse, where the automotive industry is heading, and learning how athletes and celebrities are using technology to become more accessible to their fans.  Capped off with a Shark Tank-like presentation of innovative ideas, we also heard from President and CEO of Harman International, Michael Mauser.  Afterwards we took a brief hiatus to head to the Maui Jim Gifting Experience.  Essentially, you went outside to a group of tables where they were designed to look like a sunglasses retail store.  You were instructed to try on as many pairs as you wanted and select which you liked best.  They literally hand you a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses for FREE! Just chalk that up to another piece of premium swag that Harman treated to their

guests.  With our new sunglasses in hand, we then headed the Pro Audio Installed Masterclass.  Among the presenters was Saben Shawhan who is the Director of Audio Applications at Harman Pro.  Saben is a personal favorite of mine, and he certainly did not disappoint this time around.  Standing on a mock stage with speakers all around him, Saben went through a brief slide presentation on each series including the CBTs, PRX One, Eon One MK2, and the new SRX900s.  However, the fun part was the actual product demo.  Featuring an eclectic mix of music to highlight the strengths of these different speakers, we went one by one to fully immerse yourself in each.  While all were extremely impressive, I think my chest is still feeling the bass knock on the SRX900s from the heavy techno music that was playing.  Holy cow did that speaker really impress me!

JBL Fest 2022 product launch
JBL Fest 2022 presenter

As if I was not already feeling excited and inspired enough, I was then approached by Whitney Bosch and Frank Joseph from the Harman Marketing team with what I can only describe as quite an honor –having a private 1-on-1 meeting with Michael Mauser himself.  To have Michael touch on our sales growth at Exertis Almo and then ask for my thoughts and feedback on the improving supply chain and how to continue improvement was something I will never forget.  There are certain moments in your career when you might experience an emotional “high” or a “flow state” as I’ll describe later…..and this was certainly one of those times.  Thank you to Whitney and Frank for affording me that opportunity.

After heading back to my room feeling as excited and inspired as ever, I started to hear some “disruption” outside my window to find that the sound check was starting for the night’s musical guests, The Kid Laroi and Doja Cat.  I would like to think that I have a wide-spanning taste in music; there is something about live drums and guitars that just perks the ears regardless of the musical artist.  I wound up standing by my window overlooking the stage for a good 35 minutes just watching and listening.  After being a gracious guest for drinks with the Harman Marketing team and toasting the successful event, we headed to the VIP section outside on the lawn for the evening concert.  First stop was the bar where you receive a blinking glow-in-the-dark JBL cup to enjoy the drinks all evening, and then I found my way to the balcony ledge with a clear view of the stage just in time for Kid Laroi to appear.  While I do not know all his music, the best moment of his set was when he played “Stay” which is easily his biggest hit song and clearly recognizable to everyone in attendance.  I overheard a lot of people saying, “oh this is that song from Tik Tok,” truly a sign of the digital world we live in.  Once Doja Cat came on stage and ran through some of her hits, it was time to end the evening with another day of fun ahead on Thursday. 

JBL Fest 2022 concert

While the final day was a lot more relaxed and mellow, I was ready and waiting for the Content Creation Masterclass featuring DJ Morgan Page.  Morgan conducted a presentation on his “Quick Tips,” which essentially are a guide for how to reduce complexity in whatever you do and as he puts it: “grease the wheels of resistance.”  Every attendee received a box of his quick tips cards, which I am guilty of looking at ever since I returned home.  One point that I raised previously was in regard to experiencing “flow state.”  As Morgan described, a “flow state” is when you find yourself in such a groove with your work that time is flying by, and you are in such enjoyment with what you are doing that you remain in a state of constant flow.  That really resonated with me and as I attempted to describe it here, this trip was my “flow state.”  The final event of the trip was offsite at Hakkassan nightclub featuring world famous DJ Martin Garrtix.  Lights, smoke, loud club music, and plenty of drinks and good conversation to go around. It was the ideal way to end the trip.  Having “foolishly” booked a 3:30am Uber ride the next morning to head home, I knew the wise thing was to end the night and go back to the hotel.

JBL Fest 2022 team outing

As I sit here composing my thoughts and memories from the trip, I just received a message from Christina Smith, Exertis Almo Director of Sales and one of the lucky incentive winners for JBL Fest.  Christina says, “this time last week we were all arriving in Vegas” to which I replied, “and now I sit here writing about it.”  This was easily the best trip of my entire career as it was so methodically planned out by everyone at Harman that it truly was the perfect blend of education and entertainment.

If you would like to learn more about the products, I mentioned above or how Harman continues to come up with new innovation, please contact us today.

Robert Voorhees

 

Robb Voorhees | CTS, CTP, DSCE, CTNS, Dante

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Business Communications Services, and Harman: AKG, AMX, BSS, Crown, DBX, JBL, Soundcraft, Martin Lighting

Portable, Powered, Perfect ANYWHERE AUDIO

Portable, Powered, PERFECT! – the need for ANYWHERE AUDIO

Allow me to paint a picture for you: the weather outside is in the high 80’s, bright sun, not a cloud in the sky and you decide to take full advantage and head to the beach for the day. You pack all the essentials- sunscreen, drinks/food, maybe a book or tablet, and possibly the most important essential- your small Bluetooth speaker! Portable Bluetooth speakers are certainly nothing new. Nowadays they are everywhere and are even used as free swag while attending various conventions or trade shows! However, what is “new” is the current wave of portable and powered loudspeakers that have taken the Pro A/V world by storm and is allowing end-users to have what I call “anywhere audio”. The ability to bring your audio with you regardless of application, space dimensions, or overall needs.

The “portable PA” category continues to grow, and as it does, you are now faced with more options than you have ever had in the past. There is a portable option for just about everyone! The speaker you choose is normally dictated on what you are using it for, as well as the size of the listening area. Over the past 2+ years, there has certainly been a drastic increase in outdoor activities, whether that be fitness classes, educational or corporate presentations, outdoor dining, or outdoor performances. When you have so many unique applications, it becomes imperative to match up the right speaker. We also cannot ignore the current supply/chip shortages affecting the world, as the ability to choose a powered speaker (rather than sourcing a separate amplifier) can also be viewed as a benefit of this category. Let us examine some of these features that determine the difference between a good experience and a poor one.

When discussing loudspeakers as a category, there are a few questions that I will always ask during the conversation. First, I want to know if portability is a desired need. In other words, will this loudspeaker be permanently installed, or will there be times when it needs to be carried from one place to the next, and with ease? Portable loudspeakers can range in size and weight, from approximately 17lbs up to 85lbs (and more) in most cases. While 85lbs is pretty heavy, it is still considered portable and will normally have fixed handles on the speaker cabinet or an optional carrying case to assist in moving. The second question is whether the speaker needs to be passive (it requires an external amplifier and mixer to power and control) or powered (amp and mixer/dsp are built into the speaker).

As we can probably all attest, not everyone is an experienced audio engineer. Having an all-in-one solution, such as a powered/portable loudspeaker, might be extremely attractive for those who are beginners and simply want to turn the speaker on and go. For the sake of this discussion, we will discuss powered options due to their ease of set-up, control, and functionality. Some of the vendors who are players in this category also have Android/Apple apps that can turn your phone or tablet into a control panel. I have seen times where a musician is performing while someone is controlling the mixer of the speaker from an iPad. The simplicity makes this category quite popular, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced sound engineer. Another question we certainly want to ask is HOW the speaker will be used.

As mentioned above, there are numerous applications we have seen over the years, and the ones I mentioned are only a small fraction of the overall segment. For example, if someone intends on simply connecting a phone via Bluetooth to listen to music outdoors, then that indicates there might not be the need to look at the higher end of the price spectrum or the Peak SPL (maximum loudness). However, If the end-user is planning on connecting a wired or wireless microphone for presentations, that opens up several different products to choose from. Most products in the portable PA category offer some type of built-in mixer (some analog, some digital) and they come in all different sizes (2 channel, 5 channel, and so on). Along with this, they will offer additional features, such as feedback suppression, ducking, and vocal special effects. Feedback suppression is a signal processing device which is used to prevent or “suppress” audio feedback, like when a microphone is too close to a speaker and creates a distinct noise. Ducking is a feature you may routinely experience if you are in a club and the DJ begins to talk on the microphone. As the DJ speaks into the microphone, the music gets turned down so everyone can hear them. You are “ducking down” the volume of the audio on one signal so you can hear another audio signal.

While there are several other qualifying questions we can ask, I think the last of the integral questions is finding out the size of the listening area. The Peak SPL ranges from 110db up to 131db, which allows these to be used in a variety of spaces, like small classrooms or large houses of worship. As an example, a coffee shop would likely avoid a large 15” loudspeaker blaring music, but a conference or trade show would need 2-4 of that same speaker for proper audio for presentations. Due to this variation in listening, we can also look at additional factors, like whether a tripod mount can be used or if the speaker can be wall-mounted. A recent project I worked on for a church used 2 portable PA’s, which came with a column array. They loved the idea of mounting the array on the wide and hiding the base in the corner out of sight. The options are certainly plentiful in this category!

Harman Professional Solutions is one of the bigger players in the portable PA space with their JBL line. JBL offers a portable/powered loudspeaker for all of the applications I’ve mentioned here, and they continue to expand on this category each year. In fact, while supply shortages have remained and parts allocations have been tough to come by, JBL has cranked out not 1, not 2, not even 3, but 6 different powered/portable speakers: Eon710, Eon712, Eon715, Eon718s, Eon One Mk2, and the Prx One. Best of all, each of these products is in stock! These are just a sample of the 6 different series that JBL offers in the portable PA market. They have continued to listen to customers and turn out some of the best sounding speakers year after year.

You can now probably consider yourself knowledgeable enough to be dangerous when it comes to this category and the features to look out for. The term “portable” no longer only applies to those tiny speakers we take to the beach, and in the Pro AV realm, our customers can now experience the “Anywhere Audio” that I admire.

The Dawn of a New Day: How Exertis Almo Pro A/V Took Over InfoComm 2022

After 3 long years, InfoComm finally returned as the Pro AV industry descended upon the Las Vegas Convention Center June 8th through the 10th. Having experienced a cancellation in 2020 and a scaled-back version in 2021, you could instantly feel the excitement surrounding the show and the joy of being around colleagues again in-person. Although the temperatures outside routinely reached 110+ degrees, the buzz inside of the Convention Center was far hotter! To add to this excitement, this event marked the official launch of the new Exertis Almo Pro AV, as the two companies have integrated into one. We have traded our Almo blue shirts in exchange for Exertis Almo red, and dare I say, our booth could be seen from one side of the North Hall to the other. Never been to InfoComm before? Allow me to describe why it remains a must-see industry event for Pro AV.

The week started off very quickly with the Exertis Almo-sponsored Opening Reception on Tuesday evening, which was held at the Hard Rock Café. Complete with cigar rolling, giveaways, and our always-famous Bourbon and Bacon tasting, the evening was definitely the kick-off to the entire show! We had multiple vendor sponsors in attendance, including Samsung, Legrand, LG, Sharp NEC, Absen, BrightSign, Yamaha, Epson, and Jabra, along with a bustling crowd of customers so large that wait times grew just to get in! Later in the week, a vendor informed me that he overheard people in the elevator talking about how excited they were to attend, so it sounds like our marketing team knocked it out of the park, as usual!

Exertis Almo marketing and events team at InfoComm 2022
Avocor at InfoComm 2022

Fast-forward to the opening of the trade show floor. The expo ran from the 8th through the 10th, and all 3 days offered the kind of value that you can only find at InfoComm. When walking in for our morning booth tour, you immediately noticed the registration line wrapping around corners, and attendees were excited to be out amongst their colleagues and partners. Remember how I said our booth could be seen from one end to the next? Well, when your logo is bright red and your booth is multiple stories, it definitely stands out! Featuring multiple private meeting spaces as well as several featured vendors and additional meeting tables on the show floor, the Exertis Almo booth had something for everyone. You cannot attend an AV event without featuring a little “A” and a little “V”. To help achieve this, we had displays from Samsung, Sony, Absen, LG, and Avocor, along with various audio solutions

from Yamaha UC, Nureva, Jabra, and others, all present in our booth demoing the latest and greatest in their product lineups. In fact, several other vendors made sure to come by to visit and offer their feedback on the impressive attendance at our booth. What really differentiated us from others was very clear – our team. Quite frankly, the sight of 25+ red shirts was impressive, but once you realize that our team came from throughout the US, Canada, and even Europe, it showed just how powerful the new Exertis Almo will be moving forward.

The crux of any InfoComm has always been the meetings. Getting to sit face-to-face with customers, vendors, rep firms, end users, or even colleagues of past and present offers the most value for any attendee. You cannot normally find all of these folks under one roof, so it’s always imperative to take advantage of everyone’s presence. My meetings certainly fell into this spectrum, and each one provided me the chance to either learn or educate. One minute I was sitting with a customer from the northeast, describing our service offerings to uncover new opportunities, and the next minute I was walking through the West Hall, meeting with the VP of Audio from Harman Professional Solutions and learning about their strategy for the next few years. The ability to have these varying level of discussions will always be beneficial to all attendees.

Not to be outdone, we have to talk about the products and technology. After all, it is a technology showcase, right? Any chance you have to get up close and personal should always be seized, because that is how the real learning is done! You can attend launch calls, webinars, and multiple PowerPoint Zooms, OR you can stand in a demo room while an audio engineer demonstrates why their product outshines the rest, all while cranking the volume to 10. Talk about an “a-ha moment”! Not only were there two halls filled with vendors, but there were also multiple private demo rooms dedicated to some of the best in the audio field. Harman’s space was filled with AMX collaboration tools, installed audio products like ceiling speakers and amplifiers, as well as a small showcase of their latest product introductions. However, the real eye catcher was the large truss at the front of the room, containing the new SRX900 series powered arrays. This new product has been very well-received since its recent launch, so to see it and experience it live was definitely a perk of the week. Other impressive booths I saw were from Legrand, BrightSign, Sharp NEC, and Panasonic. While I wasn’t able to dive too deeply into each, you could tell there was a great deal of planning that went into the designs of each booth, on top of the products being featured.

I love about product discussions at InfoComm happen organically. These aren’t your typical trade-show-level sales pitches where the vendor is trying to close a deal. This is someone who is there to educate you on what their products with a legitimate interest in you receiving value. I experienced this personally with Tom Roberts, Channel Manager from Jabra. Tom spent the week in the Exertis Almo booth, and as crowds started to wind down on Thursday, I approached him to strike up a conversation about their consumer products with which I was familiar. By the time we were done with the 35-minute talk, I had learned more about their line of conferencing cameras, like the Panacast and Panacast 50, than I had previously known. That is where the value lies!

And of course, we can’t forget the parties! The opening reception was only the tip of the iceberg to the Peerless AV–sponsored “Glow Up the Night” party on Wednesday. Held at the Zouk Night Club, the preferred attire was bright colors which matched the venue’s bright lights and glow-sticks, necklaces, and more. Exertis Almo had their own private VIP section, and the night lived up to all expectations amongst the attendees! While I will be the first to admit I am no longer the “late nighter” I used to be, everyone who closed the party down certainly didn’t regret a thing. Everyone had a tremendous time indeed.

If you aren’t already impressed by all that InfoComm has to

LG sponsored at InfoComm 2022

offer, I saved the best for last. As the now-combined Exertis Almo Pro AV, our team took home the rAVe award for Favorite Distributor for a 10th consecutive year…YES, I said 10th! When we say Best in Class, we mean it! For all the work our collective teams do day-in and day-out, this was the icing on the cake.

After traveling to Las Vegas for my 10th time and attending my 3rd InfoComm, this one was the best. The past couple of years were certainly a challenge, but the second you step off the plane and see the InfoComm banner hanging in the airport, you know you are ready for the exciting events to come! I look forward to InfoComm 2023 in Orlando, FL, and hope to see even more first-timers attending the experience!

Taking a Hands-On Approach to Pro AV

The human body has roughly 5 million sensory nerve receptors inside. The receptors help trigger the sensations of heat, cold, pain, and so many others that we have grown accustomed to. Being that I just turned 41 in March, it is quite easy to overlook these sensations outside of the frequent times I would yell “I CAN’T STAND THE COLD WEATHER ANYMORE!” Having just returned from a trip out to California while attending Almo Pro AV’s award-winning E4 Experience, it really dawned on me of the importance that the sense of touch has on all of us. It had been 3 long years since I last had gotten on a plane and roughly 2 ½ years since I last attended an E4 or any other industry events. It is absolutely true that you don’t know what you have ‘til it’s gone and having the Pro AV industry (and the world for that matter) shut down the past couple of years really caused me to miss being on the road and interacting with all of you. With that being said, I found myself immersed in the opportunity to be around the product that we all sell, train, manage, and communicate on the daily. 

Dating back to my days selling the first consumer Plasma TV’s and 500lb console televisions (slight exaggeration!) in retail, I have always had a belief that to be successful in sales, you had to be a customer yourself. How could I honestly and accurately sell products if I didn’t use those products myself? There is something to be said about taking a new audio receiver home, connecting it yourself, and spending hours, days, or weeks adjusting the settings to your preferred listening levels. This practice dates back to the late 1990’s for me and holds true to this very day. I am a visual, hands-on learner. I enjoy the art of “trying to break something,” meaning I like to test the product, possibly disassemble it, and try to understand how and why it functions the way it does. Looking around my office right now, I can count a minimum of 10 products that are available through Almo Pro AV. If I look around my house even further, I see internet, cable TV, security, and even solar services, which I had sold previously in my career. Again, if I don’t use the product, how can I accurately sell it? 

How many times a week do we find ourselves quoting out product specs for a particular item? Half a dozen? 10-12? I’d venture to guess quite a bit. Let’s take a portable loudspeaker as an example. All week long I can be on email, zoom, and phone calls and recite the following to a customer: “Yes, this speaker has a vertical array containing 12 2.5” drivers with copper-capped pole pieces to minimize distortion.  This model contains a 2000-watt fully-bridged amplifier and a 7-channel digital mixer. Each speaker weighs roughly 55lbs and measures 33x19x25” in size.” Ultimately, reciting those specs to a customer is probably going to be good enough to close the deal, especially if it is a speaker the customer has previously used, or maybe they need an upgrade to a more current model, etc.

However, imagine being able to attend an event like E4 Experience, where you walk up to a manufacturers booth, you see this particular loudspeaker on display, and you are ENCOURAGED to be HANDS-ON! The E4 Experience is hardly your 5th grade trip to the Museum. These manufacturers want you to touch the product, examine at your own speed, and ask questions about how to best utilize those products! There is a lot to be said for the ability to do this and immediately earns you a layer of credibility with your customers when you can speak from personal experiences. 

During this most recent E4 Experience, held in sunny Anaheim, CA, I had the opportunity to talk with Cassidy Alley, Account Manager from Almo’s National Business Team. Cassidy is newer to the Almo Family, having just started in the fall of 2021, and this was her first ever E4 Experience. In our show floor discussion, she said, “Being able to attend the E4 tour is a great experience as it provided the opportunity to learn about products through a live demonstration, build relationships with the vendors, and interact with end-users. This opportunity has helped with driving business as relationships and knowledge grew. The E4 tour is an invaluable way for dealers and end users to connect with key players in the industry. Going to an E4 presents an amazing opportunity to really dive deep and have a personalized interaction with the newest in AV technology.” The two things she said that really struck a chord with me were learning about products through live demonstration and also how attending an E4 presented an opportunity to dive deeper. Cassidy, like the rest of us, can only go so far reciting specs from online data sheets. She took the opportunity and ran with it like so many others and I find that extremely commendable. 

For those of you who are familiar with past blogs and articles I have written, you will know that I am a big proponent of seeking out ways to educate ourselves in order to move further in the comfort model. The E4 Experience is an excellent example of this, and it is a way for us to get our hands on the latest and greatest in technology that the Pro AV industry has to offer. As the country continues to open back up to pre-2020 normalcy, it is imperative that we all seek out these opportunities to not only get in front of the manufacturers we all know and love, but also get in front of the products we have been talking about for years and really gain a physical understanding of how the products work, how they tie together to complete a project, and even pick up some tips and tricks on how we can better sell them to our customers through live demos.

I hope to see you all in Chicago on May 3rd at the next E4 Experience, and don’t be afraid to walk up to a booth and get hands-on with everything that Pro AV has to offer in 2022!

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