Wallace Johnson, CTS®, is the Vice-President of Business Development at MertzCrew and the elected Chair of AVIXA’s Live Events Council. He recently talked to us about this new role and his AV career to date.
What is the Live Events Council?
It is a body of industry people who come together with ideas for how they can support AVIXA's initiatives and improve the live events industry. Its purpose is to serve as an advisory group to IAVIXA's strategic plan, advance the interest and capabilities of live events professionals, facilitate the exchange of industry knowledge, expand professional networking opportunities and encourage continuing education.
What is distinct about this segment of the industry?
What sets it apart from other areas is we don’t get to do it again; everything happens live. Compared to the installation environment and other parts of the industry, we only get one shot to do it. We practice, rehearse and set up beforehand, but once it’s show time it's show time. There is extreme pressure in our jobs.
How long have you been involved with this council?
This last year was my first year being involved with the council and attending the meetings, but I've been involved with AVIXA's Professional Education and Training Committee (PETC) representing the live events group for five years.
What do you hope to achieve as chair?
I definitely want to make changes. I want to bring more awareness to the live event industry. It's a tight-knit group like a fraternity, but I think it’s important to expand the reach to a new generation of employees. With AVIXA’s support, I'd like to work toward developing a career path for bringing new people into this segment of the industry and look at how we can provide better training and development of certification for it. I also think it is very important to engage other parts of the industry such as broadcast, entertainment, and houses of worship where we’re all working in a live event environment but in our own different ways, as there are a lot of practical things that we do the same.
What does your job as chair involve?
My job as chair involves leading the charge to help start and implement initiatives that better the live event industry. Actively reaching out to those who are part of or want to be involved with the Live Events Council and want to be involved with making these things happen.
What are some of the qualifications that make you suited for this role?
I’ve been in this industry for a long time and I’m extremely passionate about it. I’ve worked closely with AVIXA and the core of what they do, which is providing education for the industry. I've worked in large organizations and now I'm working in a small business organization. I have worked in various roles on the sales and operations side at all levels and I have a good understanding on a broad scale of what the current industry needs are at different levels. I'm well networked and I have a passion to improve our resources to maintain the industry and bring more standards to the industry.
Tell us a little about your day job and what you love about it?
I am VP of Business Development at MertzCrew, which is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, based out of Orlando, Florida. I work with frontline and executive-level clients with our software solutions and services that help with the management and execution of events. What I love about what I do is I get to look at the various aspects of how companies do business and provide a solution that helps them improve on their process. The results of what live event companies do may be the same, but how you get to the result evolves. I like being part of the evolution process.
What has been your career path and experience in the AV industry?
I started in the industry at the age of 9. My dad was in charge of AV at the church, and they had just finished a large renovation. Houses of worship are normally very volunteer-driven environments. My dad put me on camera, gave me a headset and taught me how to pan, zoom and tilt; I started doing that on a weekly basis. After high school I starting working in an AV department at American University, and then I worked in the hospitality part of the industry with Swank Audio Visuals. After that, I moved to Florida and joined AVI-SPL, working still in the hospitality industry; I was promoted to a regional level of overseeing multiple properties and then to a national and then global level, overseeing operations for the company. After the company was sold to Freeman Audio Visual in October 2014, I was briefly with them in a general manager role before moving to the audiovisual production company DCE Productions as President. I recently joined MertzCrew, which is a shift over to the software side of the industry.
What has been your involvement with AVIXA?
I’ve had my CTS certification since 2007. I've been involved with AVIXA since 2008 through AVI-SPL. In 2011 I started to serve on PETC and I have done that for several years now.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The live events segment of the industry is very much about on-the-job training (OJT). You have to learn how to adjust to the atmosphere you work in, how to mesh with people, work with teams, and so on. That’s why we need to improve education by having more standards and best practices in place to teach newcomers and even seasoned veterans who are constantly going to be working in different environments and with different teams. The value in having more education is to provide the most sound and practical ways to do this job.
I’m excited to be chair of the Live Events Council. It was something on my bucket list that I was hoping to do at some point in my career. I’m extremely passionate about trying to help shape this industry and create awareness of its needs and capabilities, and to create a path for future people who want to be a part of this industry.