Bringing Harman-ies Outdoors

As I began putting thoughts down and mapping out my latest piece, it seemed quite obvious and fitting what I should be writing about.  It is the week after Easter, my kids are home from school on spring break, and it just so happens to be the nicest weather we have seen in NJ since September, with temps in the upper 80’s!  Oh, how I missed working with my office windows open!  With all of that in mind, I think back to a topic I recently wrote which discussed “Anywhere Audio”, as I had coined it.  In that piece, I discussed the varying types of portable and powered loudspeakers that seemed to blossom coming out of the pandemic as more people and activities were now outdoors.  So, as I sit here mapping out my latest plan, I thought it was important to expand on that.  The topic of outdoor audio is a lot more “wide encompassing” that even I thought and given that, I made the decision to “phone a friend” to discuss the topic even more.  Allow me to introduce you all to Dave Tewksbury, Product and Applications Sales Support at Harman Pro Solutions.  “Tewks”, as he is widely known around the industry, is not only a phenomenal resource and incredible friend to everyone who knows him, but he is also an accomplished singer and longtime audio enthusiast.  Simply put, I learn something new every time we speak!  So, with that, allow me to highlight our recent discussion around Harman and how they approach the Outdoor Audio Category.

To help set the stage for the conversation (pun intended!), Tewks recalled how he first got started in the world of Audio.  I will be the first to admit that I always assumed he was a singer who specifically chose to work at Harman, but his background is far greater than that.  As Tewks fondly recalled, he caught the “JBL Bug” as a young kid in Cincinnati.  His sister, who was a performer at the time, had taken him to their local music shop called Buddy Rogers.  The salesperson there had mentioned that JBL was one of the best they could get so that is where the discussion started.  Given that this was long before the times of powered loudspeakers, they would also need an amplifier to which the salesperson said “if you are using JBL, you MUST use Crown.  Those go hand in hand!”.  That is how it all started.  Since that day/interaction, Tewks has used nothing but JBL/Crown for all his audio needs which predates his employment at Harman.  That would come later down the road after first working at an integrator who also happened to be a major Crown/JBL partner as well as a local rep that turned out to be a rep for Harman.  The draw to these brands, outside of the name recognition, is that Tewks can emphasize these products have never steered him wrong.  As an avid musician, he has never blown a speaker, replace a driver or other components, and as a musician funds can be limited at times, this history of quality is something he will firmly standby.

As we steered the discussion into the outdoor category, Tewks was generous enough to peel back the curtain just enough to highlight Harman’s philosophies on quality and the thought process that goes into creating speakers that not only sound great but can withstand the harshest of elements outdoors.  When I think of what JBL does in the way of outdoor audio, it is quite impressive and expansive.  We could also spend a lot of time discussing the IP ratings of speakers and why they matter.  A speaker’s IP rating is generally 2 numbers that follow IP and each of those 2 numbers means something.  The first number is what they call intrusion protection such as dust, debris etc.  The second number is the moisture protection.  Simply put, on a scale of 1-6, the higher the number the better the protection would be.  So, if a loudspeaker was IP66, theoretically it would be totally protected against dust/debris and protected against strong jets of water such as on a cruise ship deck.

Because of these factors, I broke this category up into segments to help guide us:

JBL control 28-1Category 1: The Hybrid Indoor/Outdoor Speaker. A good example of this would be the Control 28-1.  This is a surface mount speaker with 8” driver and as the name implies, can be used both indoors and outdoors.  When using outdoors, I highly recommend using under a roof/awning and making sure it is not exposed to harsher elements such as salt water or freezing temps.  This speaker comes with an IP44 rating which means it offers average protection against water being splashed or objects like nails, etc that are unable to penetrate the grille.

JBL awc-129 bkCategory 2: All Weather. A good example of this would be the AWC129.  As the name implies AW=All Weather.  Highly weather resistant and perfect for outdoor applications such as sports stadiums or outdoor bars/cabins.  The AWC line comes with an IP56 rating, which means it is protected against small dust particles and strong jets of water and can be used in direct exposure.

eon one compact Category 3: Powered and Portable. This category houses some of JBL’s best selling speakers such as the Eon One Compact, PRX One, Eon 700 series and the brand new PRX900 Series.  While I do not recommend leaving these out in harsh environments or even getting splashed with water, they are regularly used for outdoor events, outdoor dining, fitness classes and more.  They also have optional transport cases and rugged cabinets to help prolong their lifespan.

Category 4: Performance Audio. This group may or may not be as obvious to everyone, but next time you are at an outdoor concert this summer, look on the stage and up in the rafters and you will see what I mean.  Whether it is the ever-popular VTX A Series or the newer SRX900 Series which happens to also be powered, JBL excels in this space.  VTX for example, carries an IP rating of IP55 and come with rugged enclosures with a Duraflex finish to make sure they last and perform well throughout a tour.  The SRX900, as mentioned previously is a newer, powered solution for performance use-cases.  This series comes with a similar IP54 rating, which places it right up in the ranks with the VTX and has a 16-guage perforated steel grille for added durability.  Needless to say, both models were meant for the outdoors!

Category 5: Landscape. One of JBL’s best-selling series is their Control 80 Series of landscape speakers.  These “mushroom” style speakers are green in color, so they help blend in with gardens or other landscapes as needed.  Highly weather resistant that also offer a 360-degree coverage for audio! This series comes with an ip-56 rating, so you know you will be getting long-term use of these.  JBL has recently expanded this category to include in-ground subwoofers and the new ground-stake speakers.  Combined with the Control 80 Series, they have an entire solution for landscape needs which are perfect for residential, hospitality, bar/restaurant and so many more!  Tewks highlighted how he uses 4 of the Control 85’s in his own backyard and says, “you don’t need to have ears on your kneecaps for these to sound good”.  Meaning, they perfected the ability to get highs, mids, and lows up to your listening levels through a down firing speaker.  It’s really incredible!

As we discussed through these, Tewks emphasized how Harman listens to their customers.  A void in this category for many years were speakers that could be used in dessert climates such as Arizona, so with that, Harman rolled out a green and a brown colorway in their ground stakes so more customers could utilize.  Another point of emphasis was how they always strive to be ahead of the trends/needs of their customers.  I referenced the recent surge we saw in outdoor audio needs from 2020 to now, and Tewks reminded me that it takes 4, 5, or even 6 years to fully develop a new product so with that in mind it was clear that Harman placed an emphasis on this category well before the need even was present.

While I could talk about speakers with Tewks for hours on end, I think our discussion painted a good picture of where this idea of “outdoor audio” is headed.  While I chose to mainly emphasize speakers here, let us not forget what else could be needed.  If not using a powered loudspeaker we certainly need amplifiers, mixers, and the obvious microphone to go along with it.  However, I come from the belief that none of those will matter if you don’t have the proper speakers.  You have 4 main components to any audio system as I just highlighted and if one is sub-par or incorrect for the desired use and atmosphere, the whole system will fail.

Next time you are involved in any project requiring outdoor audio, I caution to do your homework and ask the right questions to determine what is needed.  Hopefully you understand IP ratings a little bit more now and can decipher which type of outdoor speaker could be used for a given project.  JBL and Harman is certainly a great place to start!

Enjoy this blog?
Let Rob know over on LinkedIn …and/or connect with #ExertisAlmo on our LinkedIn company page.

Robert Voorhees
About the Author

Rob 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

Using Social Media to Grow Your Brand


Way back in 1999, while working in consumer electronics retail, I caught the competition bug with my coworkers. It started out innocently enough – making sure I was always on time for my shift, stayed slightly later to help unload a truck, made sure my sales were always at the top, etc. I became addicted to wanting to be better, and part of that addiction was understanding that even at the age of 18, I was creating “my brand.” To me, my brand was wanting to be the most professional, helpful, accountable, and dependable employee they had. Throughout the past 24 years, my brand has not changed much. I still have a desire to be the best and put full effort into what I am doing. However, I have adapted to the times and find myself on social media more than most. Yes, I will admit that when used in a certain manner, social media can be toxic. It is the reason I worry more about my kids and what they are exposed to every day. As we get further into the social media realm, the term “influencer” can creep further and further into the negative spectrum where nobody will want to be called one. On the flipside of that argument, when used properly, I think social media is one of the single most useful tools that we as professionals can utilize. Let me explain why that is as I give you my Top 5 Best Practices for LinkedIn and social media as a whole.

Practice #1: Keep your information current and complete

One of the easiest ways in which I use LinkedIn is to view it as a resume. I want my most current information to be shared, including work history, profile picture, contact information, and references, such as recommendations and contributions from past work. Sure, this helps in the event you are looking for work, but I utilize this to attract prospective new connections who might have a need that I can help support. I have a firm belief that connecting with someone on LinkedIn is all about a mutual and beneficial partnership between the two. What can you do for me, and what can I do for you? It is because of this that I think it is necessary to not mislead. Having a current photo of yourself along with a current background tends to help guide the new partnership because both parties know who they are communicating with. I can promise you, having experienced an acquisition in the past year alone, it is because of LinkedIn that I was able to identify new team members and start building those new relationships!

Practice #2: Consistency is Key

Social media of any form is very similar to how I teach my daughters how to do something. Back when we got a new basketball hoop for the front of our house, it was painful to see both of them struggle and get discouraged. In those moments, you channel your inner Kobe Bryant and you just keep doing it. Shot after shot after shot, even when it ricochets off the rim and you have to sprint down the street to get the ball! Social media is no different. If you post content once and then wait 6 months to post again, you are starting from scratch. You might as well not have posted that initial piece because I can promise you, your network has already forgotten. This was a particular lesson I have learned recently. While attending JBL Fest in September 2022, I was encouraged to chronicle my days and give my connections a close-up glance to what I was experiencing at the event. I then repeated the same practice a month later while attending the CI Total Tech Summit in Orlando. Even after having done this for two events, I did not realize the impact until I had multiple people mention to me, saying, “I loved following you along during those trips.” Consistency is key to building your brand, no matter what it might be. The more new content you post, the better – although, I suggest that you schedule it. Posting content 10 times a day, every day, might not be as beneficial as posting 1-2 times per week each week. It is all about what you are sharing and who you are trying to reach.

Practice #3: Have fun with it

Another quick story for you – it was mid-year 2020 and we all know what was happening. The phones were not ringing as much since there were many uncertainties in the world. I was left sitting at my desk one morning and I leaned back in my chair and thought, “What can I do today to pivot?” What I meant by this is, what can I do to change from the norm during these uncertainties to try to help my brand as a Business Development Manager. Looking around my home office, I saw different pieces of Pro AV equipment that I had collected over the years, and it dawned on me – “I’ll make a product video for LinkedIn.” I will be the first to tell you, the first take I did was atrocious. I was awkward, stumbling over my words and felt too scripted. By take #97, I was still not enjoying it at all and thought it was a mistake to even attempt this. It was at this moment that I thought of my daughter Samantha and how at a young age she wanted to be a YouTube star. She would record herself just for fun and say, “Hey everyone, its Samantha,” in a perky and friendly manner. So, to try something new, I ripped up the script I had and pressed record. “Hey everyone, it’s Rob Voorhees here, and happy Friday.” Being my genuine self and just letting loose was the ingredient I was missing. The audience knows when you are not being authentic, TRUST ME! If you are a non-technical person, like myself, do not post content that is overly technical and spouting off specs about a certain product. Talk to the audience as you would your family and friends and be genuine and have fun. It will reflect in the views you receive!

Practice #4: Get out of your comfort zone

The Comfort Zone Model is something I preach daily. The old saying goes, “If it doesn’t scare you, you are not dreaming big enough.” I believe that wholeheartedly. I am not saying Social media is scary, but I am saying that I appreciate how it might be uncomfortable for many people. I never truly utilized LinkedIn specifically until 2017. I looked at my network of connections, which was in the low hundreds, and it dawned on me that I essentially had no network. I had nobody to turn to with business needs or support and especially as I got older, I wanted to know that I had this army of connections behind me. Think about these two scenarios:

  1. You are job searching. Would you rather send your CURRENT LinkedIn profile to 20,000 connections looking for a new job, or send it to 120, most of which are coworkers at your current job?
  2. Your company has a new product hitting the market. Would you rather send the product sizzle reel to 20,000 industry executives or 100 friends/family members who do not work in your line of business?

That is why I use LinkedIn the way I do. Videos, podcasts, blogs, etc. are all part of getting out of my comfort zone and reach more people. The further out of your comfort zone that you get, the easier and more fun this all becomes!

Practice #5: Remember your brand

Let us not forget what we are even discussing here. YOUR BRAND and how to build it. As a Business Development Manager for Exertis Almo, I view my brand as Exertis Almo and the professional AV product lines I am tasked with managing. Because of this, you will always recognize my shared content by the Exertis Almo polo shirt I am wearing or the topics I am discussing. Staying “on brand” is part of the practice that many people lose sight of. It is great that you are going outside your comfort zone and doing your first video podcast, but oops, you forgot to wear a company shirt or bring a demo product with you to show off. How will the audience remember who you are and what you were promoting? It may seem trivial and even a little vain, but how you look can be almost as important as what you are talking about. Your appearance speaks volumes for your brand in my opinion. Even if we look at Facebook as another type of social media. I am a member of my township’s Facebook group. We share events, emergencies etc. to the community. I cannot tell you how often we will have people trying to promote their new businesses on the page and their profile picture is something obscene. You are promoting your brand, to a new community, is THAT really how you want to get your name out there? Next time you go to share content, little tendencies like sitting up straight, ironing your clothes etc. is what could push you over the top to reach the audience you desire.

My goal with writing this was to encourage at least one new reader to jump into social media. Being an influencer does not mean you are sitting in a restaurant snapping 1,000 pictures of your dinner plate. 🥗 To me, it means you are providing thought-provoking content to help educate others. That is what this is all about: helping others! LinkedIn helps me every time I get a profile view, thumbs up on content I share, or new connection. All of those can lead to a new sale or new client for my brand and it is that excitement that keeps me coming back to its daily. In closing, I challenge each of you to find what social media platform works best for you and HAVE FUN!

Enjoy this blog?
Let Rob know over on LinkedIn …and/or connect with #ExertisAlmo on our LinkedIn company page.

Robert Voorhees
About the Author

Rob 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

Streaming into the Future: How bandwidth needs have expanded for Houses of Worship

Let us rewind the clock to early 2019. I was in a discussion with a customer who asked me what the top verticals were in regards to bandwidth needs. I had received this very common question countless times, so I answered in the same manner: hospitality, bar & restaurant, education, etc. As we happily fast-forward through 2020 and 2021, I would now place House of Worship amongst the top 3. The reason is quite simple — as the Hospitality and Bar/Restaurant markets clearly battled the ripple effects from the pandemic, it was Houses of Worship who I believe felt a similar impact that few were prepared for. Houses of Worship rely on the some of the same factors as those other verticals do, but the impact can be overlooked if you are not able to predict the future. To survive, these places of worship must keep their doors open for the community and be able to spread their message to the congregation. Shutter those doors due to a global pandemic, and the message risks getting lost.

It was quite fitting that in February 2020, less than 30 days from the time that the state of NJ shut down, I found myself attending a project walk-through at Groveville United Methodist Church in Groveville, NJ. The purpose of this visit was to update the audio/visual and to use this new technology to attract new members in the future. One by one, the integrator and I ran through qualifying questions to better identify the needs they had as we assembled the perfect bill of materials. I asked the church’s technical director if he planned on streaming services or events, to which he immediately said, “We prefer to have folks here in person.” Having understandably not been able to predict what the future held, I certainly do not blame him or others for replying in that manner. As we fast-forwarded to April 2020, I remember a phone call with another integrator who seemed exasperated on the call as he explained, “I have this very small, rural church in Illinois, and they desperately need to be able to stream their services to reach their members at home.” This was the moment it became the clearest – Houses of Worship had a dire need to reach members near and far and to achieve that, Bandwidth was the top requirement.

Streaming used to be a “cool to have” rather than a “have to have” need in this space. Most would probably associate streaming to the Mega Churches that we see on TV or in major cities. However, much like how the Pro AV industry and the push to use AVoIP, HoW have grown to accept that streaming simply cannot be overlooked. The question becomes, “Where do we even begin?” I say, start at bandwidth! There are two types of bandwidth in play here: the bandwidth that you are streaming at and the bandwidth that the stream is being watched at. Let us address these in two separate ways. Bandwidth is provided with two numbers – a download speed and an upload speed. When I refer to something as a 100×10 that means 100mb download and 10mb upload. When we are discussing streaming needs, we pay closer attention to the “UP” number specifically, because you are uploading the stream of the video and sharing this content to a larger audience. A general rule of thumb is that you have no less than a stable 5mb (megabits) upload speed to successfully stream. Given how most high speed cable internet providers start at 10mb upload speeds nowadays, this should not be too difficult to achieve. With that being said, any internet customer needs to understand that just because you are paying for a 100×10 cable package, does not mean you are receiving consistent 100×10 speeds. Those numbers are simply the “maximum advertised speeds” that the provider promotes, but when you factor in things like network traffic, time of day, and other extenuating circumstances (think about the number of people working from home and homeschooling in 2020 as an example), the speeds you receive in real time will almost normally be less. It is because of this that I never would recommend the bare minimum. For typical streaming needs, I would be comfortable recommending a 300×20 package or higher. This should ensure that you never run into issues when you can least afford to! Thinking back to the small, rural church I mentioned earlier, they were relying on a local DSL connection, which only had upload speeds of 1.5mb, hence their dire need to improve.

The second type of bandwidth we need to be cognizant of is the bandwidth at which the video is being watched. Obviously, it is an impossible task to attempt to determine the bandwidths of everyone who is watching, so you might want to offer the stream in different forms: HD, 4K, etc. A good HD stream would fall under the 5mb recommendation I just made, whereas 4k would cause that to rise, but again, say 10-15mb most high speed cable options will suffice nowadays in regard to the content streaming. While talking about the content streaming, we cannot overlook other factors such as the overall number of devices on the customer’s network. Thinking about your own home as an easy example. You probably have cell phones, smart TVs, thermostats, alarm systems, tablets, PC’s and more all tied to your home network. If you now apply that same thought to HOW you may have some similarities such as cell phones, PC’s etc. but now you might also have streaming cameras, audio components, assistive listening devices and more to consider. It is because of this that many HOW will look to a Dedicated Internet Access (aka Fiber) because it is as the name implies. You are receiving a dedicated service for your building that is backed by an SLA (service level agreement) therefore; you are receiving the speeds you are paying for. It might be wiser to look at a 50×50 DIA service instead of that 300×20-cable service, based on what your needs are and what your network looks like. Sure there is an increase in cost with DIA, but the peace of mind you will receive each time you attempt to stream a service is worth it in most cases. Wouldn’t you agree?

Bandwidth within HOW is not a “one size fits all” model. I have already mentioned high-speed cable, DIA, and DSL as examples of what is out there. You also have wireless and satellite services, which in the right situation, could still be viable sources. What do you do when you are a small/rural church with no cable or fiber internet available within 100 miles? You possibly turn to a satellite internet service, which is available, nationwide and while not as adequate as a 10mb upload speed, can still offer 4mb, which for a small church should do the trick. The key is- options are available to nearly everyone! For houses of worship and integrators alike, there are more bandwidth options than ever before to help make streaming into the future a PRESENT reality.

Want to know more about streaming for Houses of Worship?
Check out Patrick Booth’s “Behind the Panel” blog on Cameras for the HOW market: HERE

Exertis Almo’s AV Business Communication Services create opportunities for more margin and recurring revenue for our reseller and integrator partners. Including internet and mobility solutions, our Business Communications Services are tailored to the individual needs of each property. By staying ahead of industry trends, our highly skilled team creates a new monthly revenue stream at no cost to you.

Learn more about Exertis Almo’s Business Communication Services: HERE

Enjoy this blog?
Let Rob know over on LinkedIn …and/or connect with #TeamExertisAlmo on our LinkedIn company page.

Robert Voorhees
About the Author

Rob 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

“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, 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

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