July 8, 2020 by Ana María Restrepo

Creativity and Technology: Keywords for the Reinvention of Colombian AV Companies

When we least expected it, the global, regional, and local outlooks shifted as the world experiences a health crisis. Plans and expectations of multiple business sectors have been disrupted. In Colombia, for example, we expected the tourism industry to have one of its best years ever. Even the Colombian President Iván Duque himself stated that “in terms of income, tourism will be Colombia’s new oil …,” a statement supported by the excellent growth figures that the industry achieved. And those of us in the integrated audiovisual experiences industry know that a good season for tourism positively impacts AV service companies with conferences and meetings, content producers, and event and show organizers.

However, with the appearance of the first cases of COVID-19 and the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus, the perspective of all these sectors changed completely. The news of the cancellation of events and their million-dollar losses, the closing of trade, and the start of mandatory confinement showed a new reality.

Some of the first and most affected were event producers and planners, rental companies, artists, venues, hotels, convention centers, theaters, restaurants, amusement parks, and countless other businesses that see this pandemic as an unprecedented crisis.

At the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA®), since mid-March, we have been conducting weekly surveys to measure the impact of the pandemic on our industry, seeking to support companies and give their employees a space to break the sense of loneliness and to communicate what is happening in our industry and how we adapt to the current situation.

In Colombia, companies are reinventing themselves. They’re changing their operations and seeking new solutions and innovative approaches to combat the situation and stay afloat.

How to Survive in Times of Crisis

The most dangerous thing in times of crisis is doing nothing; however, every measure taken by companies, every decision by each manager, new ideas, creativity and power to change the course, will outline the future of each organization.

We know the event industry got hit really hard and companies have taken huge losses. Therefore, a proactive plan is needed to innovate on all fronts – commercial, productive, and administrative – to enhance the talents and lines of business that can respond perfectly to the new needs that have grown in the market since the situation began, as explained by Marcela Burgos, Strategy and New Businesses Director at Integra Producción y Logística, a corporate event production company.

That’s why a company such as this one has bet on creative ideas and developed a new business division by the concept of Virtual 360º Events, in which they set up virtual work meetings and conventions. This service integrates digital tools and platforms, content, design, and set building to be engaging and attractive. The event can be a hybrid, or multiple conferences streamed, with post-event follow up, with memory-type communication pieces and data analysis of the attendees’ interaction and their interest in the topics.

“It is clear that this crisis must lead to a stronger, more unified industry with solutions that involve everyone. We think this is positive, as jobs and provider services are maintained, it will pay off as a viable option for the short and medium term,” says Burgos.

Radical Decisions in Unconventional Times

The other great challenge in this crisis is protecting the jobs and the workers’ income. Rental companies, show organizers, and event producers were the first to stop their operations due to the cancellation of all contracted events; sometimes even after selling 100% of the tickets. And although the government announced reliefs and economic benefits for these companies, many of them had to cut their staff, cancel contracts, and modify their activities to find an income during this time.

An event production company in Colombia, Iluminación Jaime Dussan, faced the situation differently and looked for other options to stay on its feet.

“It is a very difficult situation for the industry. In our field there is no possibility of working online, everything is manual and onsite. Producing from home is simply impossible so we had to re-invent ourselves” explains Jaime Dussan, Founder and Manager of the company.

During the first weeks of the crisis, the company proposed a model of hospital tent for containing the disease, in which they used many of their own resources for event production. After that, they developed a disinfection booth project that unfortunately wasn’t approved by the government. However, they kept focusing their resources on creating and selling several protection items such as hand sanitizing gel, facemasks, disposable suits, and face shields. “It has not been simple to re-invent ourselves, but we have to do something, we can’t sit and wait for government aid, because none of that has reached us,” states Dussan.

By leveraging existing infrastructure, machinery, workshops, materials, transportation, and other resources, it’s possible to create new opportunities and temporary business models to keep the money flowing and remain active.

Technology, Our Best Ally

Through these weeks of mandatory confinement, we have witnessed the creativity in the use of available technologies that companies have applied in Colombia to provide new experiences, job opportunities, and a relief from the stress in which many live because of the situation. Every day it is more common to hear about virtual concerts, movie screenings on buildings facades, virtual classes, and webinars with experts and professionals.

“Many companies, like ours, have a lot of equipment just “sitting still,” not producing any profit. We had to go further. Our job has always been to advise the clients through their event so they have everything they need and it is successful, and in a way, that is still what they’re asking from us”, says Víctor Matamala, Business Unit Manager for Colombia at RLA Event Technologies, an AV integration company focused on solutions for events, with regional presence in Latin America.

To best help its clients keep their meeting and event schedule in the virtual world, RLA Event Technologies quickly adapted their tech resources to create an AV/IT solutions portfolio offering a series of service packages for product launches, trade shows and virtual meetings, and seminars and online conferences, among others.

These services have been well received by clients in Colombia, Chile, and Peru. These clients have held meetings, conferences – and even sessions with the shareholders – all of them in a virtual environment with optimal quality in the transmission of audio and video, with many digital tools available so the communication and interaction experience is first class.

“We use technology to make everything happen, from sending a message to providing the tools that our clients need so that their audiences can have a different experience,” explains Matamala.

These three examples, among many others, show us the spirit that Colombian AV companies have. They are willing to work and explore new paths in these tough times with innovation and entrepreneurship.

Read Part 2 of AVIXA Latin America New Realities: Innovation – Your Home Office to Your Shopping Experience.

About Ana María Restrepo

Ana María joined AVIXA Latin America in 2015 and is currently the Regional Manager responsible for the Andean Region and South of Central America. Enthusiastic, she has a solid university education in communication and extensive experience as editor of many tech-specialized media. You can email her at amrestrepo@avixa.org.