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What To Expect From Audio Visual Suppliers

The most talented and experienced audio visual suppliers are better known as integrators, because their job is to integrate new technology into an existing framework. Proper integration takes a great deal more finesse and precision, which is why it’s not enough to just find an A/V supplier. It takes an A/V integrator to make it all work. But what are the notable traits in a talented integrator, and how can a business go about recognizing them?

The Integrator Advantage

For most companies, the prospect of adding A/V technology is a daunting one. Most businesses rarely have A/V experts on board, and when there is an exception, it’s usually in the form of one person who serves as a kind of generalist. Even major, multinational corporations often have underdeveloped A/V crews, instead leaning on their IT people to select, install and configure A/V technology. While that can work for modest additions, it’s unwise to rely on anyone other than a reputable A/V integrator when scaling up. Put another way, it’s unwise for a company to adopt A/V solutions without an expert on hand to show what those solutions look like. The “solution” part is what separates a supplier from an integrator. Integrators respond to a client’s particular, occasionally unique, needs. This approach is better understood as a four-part process:

1. Needs assessment – From the very beginning, the value of an A/V integrator reveals itself. Before any equipment is selected, before any survey is done at all, the integrator will meet with the client’s representatives. During this meeting, both sides will work together to not only determine how to meet the client’s needs, but what those needs even are in the first place. This seems like a simple step, but a lot of companies have trouble articulating where it can improve, and how A/V technology can make that happen.

What companies do know is that A/V technology can fill in a lot of roles, and that they have a vague idea of where A/V can help their operations. A/V integrators bring the big picture insight to fill in the fine details.

2. Equipment selection – From here on, the integrator takes the lead, though the client obviously has plenty of input during the process. It is essential, for example, that the integrator choose technology that is user-friendly for employees and technical personnel.

This may seem like a simple step, but it’s perhaps the most important, especially in that an integrator is involved. The great enemy of A/V installations is interoperability, and it’s easy for someone who knows a lot about A/V (but not enough) to set up a beautiful system whose components do not work together properly. An experienced integrator knows exactly how to avoid any interoperability issues, and that means the system works from day one, the exact way it is supposed to.

Plenty of research has shown that in the workplace, if employees have trouble understanding and using a new piece of technology right away, they aren’t likely to utilize it in the long run. Because this can lead to some punishing flops, it is crucial that A/V solutions work without fail, and do so the instant they are switched on. An integrator can guarantee that.

3. System configuration – Although modern A/V technology is intuitive and plays nice out of the box, proper configuration is still a must. This, fortunately, is a cinch for experienced integrators, who can provide an optimal starting point for a new system.

Proper configuration means consulting with the client, determining who is going to use the technology and in what capacity they will do so. This usually involves a lot of back and forth between the company’s IT personnel, to ensure the equipment is set up for the company’s network. Also, because IT personnel are usually responsible for at least some of the system’s function (eventually), an AV integrator will ensure that the IT crew has a total grasp of the system’s controls.

Further, A/V integrators can train company personnel, at any level of technical proficiency, on the system’s function. This training can be done one on one, or in small groups, allowing everyone to get hands on experience with the equipment before they are expected to use it as a part of their job. Such training also allows employees to get used to the technology and see its merits in action.

4. Post-installation support – The equipment is set up and everyone is making extensive use of it, but the job still isn’t done. As technology does, even the best products and best installation practices won’t prevent the occasional technical failure. If equipment selection and installation is managed properly by an integrator, those failures will be less frequent and less severe, but it’s still something to plan for.

Reputable integrators are more than willing, happy even, to provide the kind of ongoing support that defends against painful technical faults and outages. That includes both reactionary maintenance and preventative maintenance, so not only is the system protected against the rough stuff, but it is constantly checked to ensure it is operating optimally.

And that optimal performance priority extends to client personnel, too. It’s not enough to keep the system in good working order, people have to be utilizing it as intended, and frequently enough to provide a return on the client’s investment. Integrators can identify and analyze any pressure points that may be reducing system use, and make a tweak here or a tweak there to unlock the technology’s top potential.

Only the Best

It should be obvious by now that this is not the kind of job that accepts half measures. There are a lot of moving parts and they all have to snap together just right to solve the client’s problems. So, it’s clear that a reputable integrator is needed to steer this process, but what does a reputable integrator look like? It looks something like this:

1. A strong communicator – Strong communication abilities are a bare minimum, but they are critical. A/V is not an easy field to distill into simple conversation, and clients often have trouble relaying exactly what they want from the technology. Much like a relationship between a doctor and their patient, an integrator has to accurately interpret what the client wants and help steer them into a solution that they will find useful.

And, obviously, the better the communicator, the better the trainer. If an integrator needs to do some involved training, then they will need to have someone on staff with the requisite people skills.

2. A sense of commitment – If an integrator appears to be rushing through the project or hasn’t expressed a desire to support the technology past installation, look out. The best integrators are those that understand the challenging nature of A/V technology, so they also understand the natural difficulties that pop up when maintaining A/V over the long haul.

Reputable integrators got to where they are because they don’t abandon their clients after the equipment is sold and installed. They have risen to the top of the field because they are committed to keeping the client satisfied with their A/V decisions.

3. Proof of knowledge – But people skills and want-to will only get an integrator so far. Eventually, they have to roll up the sleeves and tackle the technical stuff.

For a client, there are a couple shorthand methods to determine when an integrator knows their stuff. One is to check its certification status through Infocomm. Infocomm is the leading certification organization in the A/V field, and integrators that staff Infocomm-certified people are dedicated to their role in the industry.

Also, nothing beats a visit to the integrator’s facilities. This is something that reputable integrators encourage, because they can demonstrate A/V technology in action and show how it can be applied to the client’s needs.

Audio visual integrators, not suppliers, make A/V technology a possibility for companies of any size or mission. But no compromises here – choose your integrator carefully, and the results will be well worth it.