Now That’s a Campfire

Our efforts to bring together AV professionals and the markets that would benefit from their expertise begins to bear fruit.

Brad Grimes presenting at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors' Sports Venue Design & Build Forum | AVIXA Brad Grimes presenting at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors' Sports Venue Design & Build Forum

So, this happened: I was at an event for sports teams, venue executives, and designers — the kind of event I go to often to tell audiences of non-AV people about the business value of audiovisual solutions — and I bump into Mark Gillis, CTS, Principal at The Sextant Group. It was a cocktail party for the Association of Luxury Suite Directors’ Sports Venue Design & Build Forum, and I was in full “Nice to meet you, I’m here representing the commercial AV industry, let me tell you what our members do” mode and I bump into Mark, whom I’ve known a while and who knows more about AV design than I ever will. Not someone who needs my “Nice to meet you, this is the AV industry” spiel.

As AVIXA has spent nearly three years going where your prospective customers meet to promote awareness of the AV industry, I’ve occasionally run into a member here or there: AV manufacturers on an airport trade show floor, a solution provider at a hotel conference, consultants at an event for college planning and design. But the ALSD event was different. The AV industry’s presence was more pronounced.

It was great catching up with Mark over hors d'oeuvres, and there he was again later in the week, in the audience of a session I was moderating with sports executives who were using technology to optimize revenue. That workshop, in particular, included not only representatives from sports teams and venues, but also AV consultants, integrators, and manufacturers. The Forum was held in conjunction with the group’s annual ALSD Conference, a gathering of about 1,400 in Chicago that included tours of Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, and the United Center. Peerless AV was in the house, as well as ESCO Communications, Baker AV, L-Acoustics, DAS Audio, Belden, Contemporary Research, and Akustiks, an audio consultancy based in one of my old haunts, Norwalk, Connecticut.

AVIXA Chief Executive Officer Dave Labuskes, CTS, often tells a story about a campfire, back in the day, drawing together the AV industry to promote and sell what was new technology some 80 years ago, when AVIXA started out. The campfire continues to roar, to the tune of $231 billion in global revenues last year, according to AVIXA’s Industry Outlook and Trend Analysis (IOTA) research report. These days, when Dave talks about the campfire, it’s to invite many more people to feel its warmth—sports venue operators, transportation executives, retail and hospitality designers, higher education facility managers, and more. Anyone who could be creating better experiences for their customers and users by implementing audiovisual solutions. Now that’s a campfire.

AVIXA’s market intelligence team sees a healthy 5.5 percent annual growth in AV sales to sports venues over the next five years. Yes, the giant video boards and pervasive digital signage represent one prevalent component. But it has been my experience, meeting and talking to executives in the field, that this market is especially attuned to new ways of using AV technology to support all their goals. For instance, fans are far from the only customers at sport venues. Not surprisingly, teams work hard to apply technology to sponsors’ needs, too, like at SunTrust Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves. In a webinar held by AVIXA and ALSD, Sara Arnold, Manager of Partner Services for the Braves, told listeners about a coordinated, AV-enabled content program for Coors Light that extended from the in-stadium signage to touch-enabled kiosks outside the gates in the venue’s Battery district. “We wanted to figure out how we could use all the AV on property to work together,” she said. (Find the recorded version of the webinar “Using AV to Active Your Sponsors” at

The bar is high for AV in sports venues. AVIXA’s Market Opportunity and Analysis Report (MOAR), which includes forecasts and survey data from not only venue operators, but also from fans themselves, indicates integration is key to success. Wrote analysts, “Fans disappointed by even one AV component are likely to be very dissatisfied with their experience overall.” This level of coordination and integration requires the right gathering of end users, solution providers, and integrators to be successful.

And this charette-building spans industries. The week after I was at the ALSD Conference, I was back in Chicago for the America Association of Airport Executives’ (AAAE) Airport Innovation Forum. Again, I was joined by a diverse group to talk about future transportation hubs and the role AV technology will play in them.

Scour headlines and you’ll perceive a trend that airports are dedicated to creating spaces and experiences that engage passengers. From The Wall Street Journal: “New Airport Terminals Where Killing Time Has its Perks.” And from Bloomberg: “Airports Open Up to Terminal Tourists Who Just Want to Hang Out.” There are luxury brands that report selling more goods in airports than at stores, and that has creative people reimagining the airport experience.

At the Innovation Forum, Katie McCoy of Charlotte Douglas International Airport described a new concourse with a compelling AV experience. Called “Interconnected,” the installation was commissioned by the airport as a work of art and designed to change dynamically based on a variety of data inputs. “We really wanted to focus on passenger experience,” McCoy said. “As you're approaching Concourse A from the terminal roadway, you can see the artwork through the glass.”

And McCoy explained to Innovation Forum attendees that the audiovisual experience supports positive business outcomes. “Happier passengers spend more money,” she said. “We have been doing passenger satisfaction surveys for 10 years, and we are seeing some increases in our net promoter score. Because we are a 70-percent connecting airport, passengers can choose whether or not to travel through CLT. We want to create an experience so that they choose our city.”

The installation was one of several solutions designed for Charlotte Douglas’ new concourse by AV integrator Cenero. And all involved insisted it came together because the team was representative and well-coordinated. Cenero’s Frank Milesky put it this way when he described the process to Airport Innovation Forum Attendees: “We're as much of a trade in that building as the folks putting up the drywall or the ceilings. It's really critical — if you're trying to do something like this that is immersive — to have us involved early. You really have to bring in stakeholders from different parts of the enterprise very early on to be successful.”

On the one hand, it’s tempting to think that this goes without saying. On the other, we have to ask, which customers are going to see AV providers as stakeholders without a fundamental understanding of the role AV can play? Thus, the campfire, and AVIXA’s commitment to drawing more and more people to it — AV professionals, experience designers, content creators, end users, sports venue operators, and airport executives, to name a few. Will you join us? Anytime you want to lend your voice and meet people working in markets you may want to serve, we’d love to see you there. Where will AVIXA be next? Check at



Brad Grimes

Brad Grimes is Editor at Large for AVIXA and the former editor of Pro AV magazine. He has been writing about technology for more than 25 years.