August 14, 2019 by Kirsten Nelson

You know that feeling in an action movie, or a really good caper, when the team is being assembled? When a multitude of personalities and talents are coming together to create a cohesive whole. Each character brings a signature skill that matches their distinct persona, and at first it seems like, no way, these people can’t work together. But then, a mutual respect held for each other team member’s specific craft suddenly creates this amazing collective power to save the world. Or rob a bank. Depending on the movie.

That’s the feeling that was happening at the AV/IT Summit last week at Citi Field in Queens, New York. Not only were the presenters and panelists a unique assemblage of brilliant talents, but the highly-engaged attendees represented the best AV designers, integrators, technology managers, manufacturers, vendors, architects and content creators. It was the complete project ecosystem in one room, and everyone was getting along famously, seeing how we all need to work together to make the most beautiful experiential projects.

There are of course many industry gatherings throughout the year, and the ecosystem convenes in other ways, but this felt like a moment to take in. A few years ago, when I had the privilege of launching the inaugural version of this event with esteemed SCN Editor Megan Dutta (full disclosure, I was the editor of SCN for 16 years, and was editor at large for the publication at the time), it seemed like people weren’t ready to hear from tech-savvy creative services agencies yet. The perception, voiced by audience members, was that these other factions were stealing from the AV budget.

Bryan Meszaros at AV/IT Summit
Bryan Meszaros gives the keynote at AV/IT Summit
Photo Credit: Katie Makal/Future plc.

But now the first part of the movie has happened, and everyone is seeing how the various experiential agencies are actually great partners to have in the world. As the AV/IT Summit keynote speaker, Bryan Meszaros of OpenEye Global, said, “My designs, my experiences, are only as good as the technology that’s behind the scenes.” He was talking specifically about how his firm is looking to partner with AV integration firms who can help to see a project vision through to fruition.

Meszaros’ talk was interesting too because he cited several informal surveys he’d conducted via Twitter, seeking answers on who should handle content management, and who should dictate display placement in digital signage applications. His findings revealed a new understanding that was developing among technology integrators and creative services providers. It’s not offensive when one party wants to take the lead on specific elements of design or implementation, it’s powerful. If each individual character can bring their strength and allow the others to do their thing, heroic things happen.

The other panels throughout the day also brought boss-level invigoration to the current and future collaborations that are going to be necessary as the AV industry evolves. Kay Sargent, Senior Principal with HOK, boldly emphasized how she was bringing AV experts into design discussions as early as possible. And Julian Phillips, EVP of Whitlock, reciprocated by saying that AV integrators need to move past the one-off technology sale “and become much more lifecycle profit focused.” He added that “it takes risk, and an element of courage.” That sounds like an adventure movie.

Later there was another panel, also moderated by Dutta, where experience designers from ESI Design and Float4 combined forces with Angelique Burke from McCann systems to talk about feelings. Yes, seriously, they were talking about the emotions that we seek to evoke with our projects. Float4 Co-Founder Alexandre Simionescu summed up experiential project design thusly: “We ask, ‘What do we want people to remember?’ Until that is decided, we don’t talk about technology.”

Sounds just like the question asked by the screenwriter, producer, director, cinematographer, actors, sound designers, and everyone else who makes a movie happen. What’s the feeling we want people to remember when they leave the theater? How can we create that together?

About Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for more than 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for the TIDE Conference and Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm. For three years, she also created conversations around emerging media and experiential design at InfoComm's Center Stage. Prior to that, Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years.

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