Interview: Sarah Joyce, AVIXA

Paul Milligan speaks with AVIXA’s new chief global officer, Sarah Joyce, on what she can bring to the role and the positive aspects of having someone from EMEA in a major position within the US-based trade association.

When asked about what motivates her in the AV industry Sarah Joyce’s answer is maybe not the one you’d expect. “I’m very passionate about the industry, I’ve been in it for 20 years, and in that time I have really been able to hone down what really interests me, and that is people. What really interests me is developing people working in the industry, building a community. We are at such an exciting time of growth in the industry, with so many companies converging.  For me, to even know the role would be an opportunity, I’m still pinching myself that I could be doing it.”

Joyce was announced in April as Terry Friesenborg’s replacement as chief global officer when he retires at the end of this year. A hugely popular figure in the AV industry, she acknowledges Friesenborg’s are big shoes to fill, “the blessing is doing it this way we have six months of working together, so I can extract absolutely everything out of
him that’s possible to do in that time.”

Not that Joyce doesn’t have the experience or standing to fill Friesenborg’s shoes, far from it. She has been a well-known and respected figure in the UK AV world for two decades, working for several systems integrators since the 1990s, including her last role as VP EMEA of Electrosonic. Crucially Joyce also has prior knowledge and experience of working with AVIXA, “I served on the InfoComm board for a couple of years (2014-2015) and that gave me the visibility not only of the association, which I’ve had as a volunteer when I was involved in committees and groups, but it gave me an insight into AVIXA as a company. It excites me what it has been doing to grow membership, particularly internationally.”

As chief global officer, Joyce will oversee AVIXA’s activities outside North America, including certification delivery, standards adoption and trade shows. Joyce will also sit on the boards of Integrated Systems Events, InfoCommAsia and TecnoMultimedia InfoComm. She will run teams across Asia Pacific, Latin America, and EMEA, and be a part of the 10 trade shows internationally AVIXA has an involvement in.

So what does Joyce feel she can bring to the role? “I think I bring a wealth of experience from integrators, dealing with manufacturers, distributors, and global clients. So that gives me a greater breadth of understanding within the industry. I’ve been part of InfoComm as a volunteer, but being a volunteer and being on the board is very, very different than leading an international team within a business. When I’ve run companies it’s been about making sure the service we provide to customers is exceptional, it sounds cliched and a bit corny but how do we differentiate ourselves otherwise? I know I bring a passion and energy and an enthusiasm for the industry and experience across a number of vertical markets, which are highly relevant to the ones that we operate in.”

For an association that has faced some criticism for being too US-centric, could having someone based in EMEA help change that perception? “I’m very experienced dealing with different cultures. The great thing is I’m European-based, I think for the association to have somebody in this role, based out of Europe is great, every meeting I’ve been in so far all the members have said its fantastic, that’s not taking anything away from Terry, but it’s making a statement.”

One of Joyce’s job responsibilities is to promote standards adoption, but again how can she make sure that AVIXA standards have a more global outlook rather than being too
US-focused? “Since CTS has been ANSI and ISO accredited the standards have to be global and international and they’re checked and referenced. The huge value of the member community we have is that we get feedback very, very quickly if there’s an issue. The standards are global, they are run globally, and they are now translated into more international languages than ever before.”

Joyce is keen to highlight the AVIXA standards committee features European, Asian and Latin American representation, “so every committee now has an international
focus. We are aware of the criticism, there were issues in the past and those have all
been picked up.”

So what is Joyce’s remit in regards to the trade shows? “We want to grow attendance,
especially a greater number of end users coming to the shows. There is a benefit
for exhibitors in having a strong end user community, for the exhibitors to engage with.
There is also a strength is helping the end user community realise there is an AV industry that they are part of, and the value of that.  Some of the services we can provide to help support end users are things like the market research we do, which gives them information about not only the vertical markets they operate in, but also economic information about the regions as well. The industry is moving so quickly, the pace of change is so great, how do you help businesses make decisions? Where they invest? What other markets can they go into? How do we help them work internationally? All of those many member services are provided across the world.”

The shows run in association with AVIXA are clearly performing well financially, but
Joyce feels the success is equally measurable in creating a global community of like minded people who want to learn. “The shows are great for seeing new products, but it’s also about the education sessions, it’s to be able to get involved in groups, to be able to host those groups and have a community that comes together at 11 global locations.”

One particular group that is dear to Joyce’s heart is the AVIXA’s Women’s Council, as she helped hold the first meeting at ISE 2015. “I went to the breakfast at InfoComm 2019 and we had between 350 and 400 women there, which is phenomenal. That is all
member driven. There are now 40 user councils worldwide, last year it was 17. If you
think of every single council, and all of the work that’s being done in these communities
that operate worldwide it’s magical.”

The issue of diversity is one that has been talked a lot in 2019, and there is no doubt the appointment of a woman to such a senior position in the industry’s only trade
association is an overwhelmingly positive move, but more needs to be done says Joyce. “There’s still not enough women in the industry, there’s not enough women that come to the shows. We need to encourage more young women into STEM subjects, how do we support schools and universities to help them see there is a career they can build out of a passion for programming for example?”

How does she see the ISE show evolving once it moves to Barcelona in 2021? “The
exhibitors that have visited the site were very, very excited about the location, the size of the site, there’s a Metro right underneath that comes into the city centre, and it’s about 25 minutes from the airport. Barcelona is a very beautiful city, all those things that make people go to Amsterdam are there too. It gives Mike Blackman (ISE MD) a chance to think, which I know he’s already starting to do. It’s a fantastic creative opportunity to think what else could we provide now we have the space we haven’t had before?”

Finally is the move to a role at AVIXA a good one for her personally? “I couldn’t be happier. It’s amazing what happens when you tell someone that you’re going to be in the US and let’s meet for lunch and then you find out that you’re being interviewed for the job of a lifetime.” There will be many, especially in EMEA, who wish her well in her new role.