Jon Sidwick on the changing face of AV amid Covid-19

Jon Sidwick left Maverick this month after 23 years with the distributor. Before he departed, he caught up with Tim Kridel on how Covid-19 was changing the AV industry.

TK: Will companies in AV and other industries, and government agencies, decide to continue and expand their remote workstyles because of their positive experiences during the coronavirus? 

JS: The crisis has changed work culture forever. We have been talking about the shift to remote working and the benefits for a few years however until now it was rarely high on an organisation's agenda. The current situation has forced the issue and proved that it can be done and done effectively.
People will create a culture of more remote working, where flexibility will be an option in roles. This will need great process agreement and deployment of the right technology, however it will have tangible organisational benefits from team retention to cost reduction on real estate.
TK: With the cancellation of shows such as InfoComm, are you rethinking your trade show participation? For example, some vendors and integrators are considering doing (or doing more of) their own road shows, hosting their own mini trade shows at their headquarters city or doing online/virtual trade shows. Others see COVID-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime disruption that won’t affect their participation as exhibitors and/or attendees. 

JS: I think all events will have to be reimagined following Covid-19, people are going to question the necessity of long-distance travel to attend events that may not promise quality meetings. As the world re-opens there will be an absolute need for more local, focused events – especially in the short term. 
Looking forward I still believe industries need to have an event which is seen as the place to be, at a given time. A major event that defines the business area and becomes integral in forming partnerships is important for advancing the industry. We are social animals and want to meet and be part of a larger group. However, this has to mean looking at every aspect of this type of event and ensuring it is 100% aligned to the new normal requirements. 

I truly believe InfoComm has done an exemplary job over the last few years with expanded events, record training, end user attendance growing and focus on new talent and students being involved.
TK: NAB and MWC are two examples of major cancelled shows in other industries, such as telecom. How might cancelled and postponed shows in other industries create opportunities for AV firms? For example, if some of those companies decide to do their own road shows, that could benefit rental and staging providers. Those road shows also will need venues, so maybe another beneficiary is vendors and integrators serving the hospitality market, such as hotels with large meeting areas, which may need additional, permanently installed AV gear.
JS: Anyone focused on virtual event delivery will do well in the short term. Then as we see restrictions being lifted there will be an immediate demand to connect industries to customers with local shows where AV will of course play a major part. However a higher number of smaller trade shows will quickly become too time consuming. Therefore I believe that industries will eventually re-centre around the major trade shows. 
TK: What have vendors, integrators and distributors learned from Covid-19 about the strengths and weaknesses of their supply chains, inventory levels, etc.? What kinds of changes will they make as a result? And for AV firms in Europe, did the Brexit uncertainty turn out to be a positive in the sense that before Covid-19, they already had to scrutinise their supply chains, where they stored products, etc.?

JS: Every business will be looking at their model, the crisis will have exposed areas which need to be developed but also areas of incredible strength.
To me the crisis has shown how incredibly agile and entrepreneurial the AV channel is with new business models being deployed. As an industry we have had to support the virtualisation of everything; from training to events and developing creative ways to install products safely through lockdown.
Supply chains have been stretched but on the whole not broken. We do have some shortages, but there has been for one product for which we have seen a five-fold increase in sales in a month! Brexit was some help here with more UK based stock but on the whole our capacity means we always try to have good supply.
Moving forward it’s essential we support the channel with availability. That means having adequate stock and good visibility so we are working very hard to ensure those goals are met and exceeded.

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