Celebrating 60 years! The industry has undergone a revolution.

Editor’s Note: InfoComm International celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, while Sound & Communications is “just” 60 years old (this month!). InfoComm’s Executive Director/CEO gives us a short bit of history in recognition of our milestone.

Looking back at the last 60 years of the audiovisual industry can be compared to viewing a vintage black and white film. You feel drawn in due to the novelty, but are transported immediately to a different time and place that feels unfamiliar and preserved in amber.

In 1955, InfoComm International was known as the National Audio-Visual Association. The organization had acquired that moniker only five years earlier, due to mergers of several other AV associations, and it would hold that name for more than 40 years. NAVA hosted its 1955 convention in Chicago, the 11th edition of this trade show. The event, which was celebrated as a great success, attracted 2500 attendees and featured 170 exhibitors.

Even 60 years ago, our organization was committed to providing industry education alongside our trade show. In 1955, there were classes titled “How to Make Slides on the Spot” and “Making Your Own Flannel-Aids.”

Compare that to today. InfoComm 2015 will host close to 38,000 attendees, and nearly 1000 exhibitors. “De-Mystifying Voice Over IP in Collaboration Environments” and “Deploying USB, HDMI and DisplayPort Bus Powered Solutions in AV System Design” are two of several hundred education sessions being offered. These are topics that weren’t even dreamed of 60 years ago, though I’d like to think our industry pioneers would be wowed by today’s education and exhibits, and pleased with the role they played in getting us to this point. And, of course, InfoComm now hosts 11 shows around the world, instead of one.

However, much more than the trade show has changed over the past 60 years. The industry has transformed. Within a year of Sound & Communications going into production, the first videotape recorder was released. It cost $100,000 and was the size of two washing machines.

Which brings me to an important point that’s relevant for today’s times. When discussing your business, do you limit your discussion to the technology and product lines? Because if you do, you’re in danger of selling today’s equivalent of that $100,000 video recorder, a product that has no place in the industry’s future. Focus on the value you bring to customers: your knowledge of their business, your familiarity with the human factors of communication, your capabilities surrounding space and content. These attributes are going to be what’s most relevant in the near future. Other professions can move data from point A to point B, but few can rival our abilities once you add people, who are analog, into the digital equation.
The industry has undergone a revolution. Sixty years ago, we had dealers selling boxes. Since the 2000s, we’ve had systems integrators who specialize in the difficult task of getting products to work together in harmony on a network. Now we are seeing the rise of the experience economy. The question we must ask ourselves today is, “How can we aid our customers in delivering meetings that foster great decision making, classes that inform, worship services that inspire and live events that amaze the audience?”
If you want to learn more about exceptional experiences, please visit InfoComm’s new website,, devoted exclusively to this topic. You can even download presentations and videos to help you talk about these issues with clients.
Speaking of exceptional, how can I share my thoughts on the past 60 years without sharing my feelings about Sound & Communications? As a magazine, it’s all business, chronicling the issues of the day, featuring the great installations, predicting what’s next. Its recent refresh in look takes that great content and moves it to the present day so its appearance is as great as its insights. I’ve been pleased to be able to contribute when time permits, and play a bit part of this publication’s legacy. Of course, InfoComm’s involvement with Sound & Communications predates my arrival, and we have enjoyed sharing our big moments together. Both InfoComm and Sound & Communications value industry heritage, and it’s been great having their support for the Adele DeBerri Pioneers of AV Award. Both enterprises champion the industry, and are hungry to promote its betterment and continuation. It’s a wonderful association, one we hope to continue.
Finally, I want to thank some of the people who make Sound & Communications the publication it is. Vinny Testa is all heart, and a tour-de-force that allows the publication to continue in all economies. It is his contagious love of the publication and the industry that has allowed this publication to thrive. He has a super-dedicated team behind him. David Silverman is an editor’s editor. He’s a real newsman and woe to the person who tries to pass off recycled news to him. But it is that critical eye that keeps the publication going and ultimately helps the industry. Finally, there’s John Carr, who is so dedicated that I have seen him show up at our press conference in Amsterdam, immediately after covering the NAMM show in Anaheim.
Of course there are many others who work on the publication who deserve praise, so whether you’re on the staff or an industry contributor, job well done. To another 60 years, and beyond!

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