The Coronavirus continues to make headlines all over the world. Not surprisingly, most countries have responsibly implemented social distancing rules, from confinement recommendations to more severe restrictions such as complete lockdown. So how does this affect our AV sector?
Not an easy question. I debated how to address this, and even whether to write this post or not… On the one hand, how much more bad news can we handle? On the other hand, we must t support each other, whether with advice, suggestions, or even long-distance encouragement, so we can overcome this situation.
(Full disclosure: I am sort of a “sky is falling”/Chicken Little-kind of person, so bear with me here…As I like to tell people, my glass is never half-full or half-empty. My glass is dirty.)
Eventually, what really pushed me to write this was a recent post in a Facebook group called AV Install Nightmares. For those of you who are not aware of this group, “(t)his is a place where AV industry professionals can share their installation nightmares. Post pics, tell stories, but let's keep it clean and friendly! This group is not intended to bash any individual or company, so please don't include names in your descriptions. Let's just have fun!” Bottom line, it’s quite entertaining. I have joined the group a few months ago and besides some very funny stories and pictures, I was amazed about how the members really connect. We are talking over 70,000 members, from all over the world, not only sharing their funny stories, but also providing some guidance whenever necessary.
Anyway, one of the members, Julian Marcanta, initiated this very interesting discussion about the impact of the Coronavirus in the AV industry:
How affected is this business by this pandemic? I am not talking about an event side of the business but more regular AV service/install work.
I live and work in Stockholm and so far it seems to run along fairly smoothly but you can see some potential uncertainty in the near future. How are you all doing?
It’s a very interesting topic, and the post received quite a few comments, from all over the world – US, Canada, Italy, Ecuador, Sweden, Australia, Philippines, Denmark…. While some professionals can work remotely, most AV professionals are hands-on, and their job involves business and residential installations, events, schools & universities, medical centers, etc. Most events – whether entertainment (show business) or tradeshows – have been cancelled for the next few months. Schools and universities are not taking risks, and have either shut down, or moved their classes to online platforms. Offices are asking as many employees to work from home.
Going back to the beginning of the post, how is this virus impacting AV professionals?
An installer in Italy mentioned that their whole sector is shut down until April 3rd, at least. Not surprising, given how dire the situation in Italy is. The whole country is pretty much quarantined and isolated. In other countries, the situation is not so black-and-white, at least not yet. In the US, some projects have been cancelled, while others are taking advantage of the situation to work on pre-opening and construction installations. Of course, different states in the US have different guidelines, and some installers have not seen a major impact yet on their project schedules. Others are involved with projects to help those working from home navigate remote systems, not to mention setting up conferencing platforms.
Several professionals mentioned they are seeing delays in the delivery of equipment, which is understandable given the chaos and confusion with international travel.
Interesting enough, a couple of installers mentioned the option of working only when the facilities are completely empty – literally get a key and work on the project when there is no one around. One response pointed out that many restaurants/bars are expanding their AV systems to include drivethru-like systems, avoiding gathering customers in a closed space.
Another installer indicated the dilemma vis-à-vis medical installations. Clearly, with the high risk of contagion, the ability to serve patients and their loved ones remotely through AV installations have immense value to all, avoiding further spread of the disease. However, it is probably the worst time for any installer to be around a medical facility, where the number of Coronavirus patient will dramatically rise in the next few weeks. Going back to the AV Install Nightmares Facebook page, that can take nightmare to a whole new level… (However, if you have any interesting stories, or projects, to tell us, please do so! We could all use some inspiration.)
From the HDBaseT Alliance’s point of view, as a not-for-profit organization, this situation does not affect us as much as it affects businesses and professionals around the world. But we do care about our members, installers and integrators, and we are doing our best to support each and every one as much as possible. We see the Alliance as an organization that is here to help the industry, whether in good times or difficult ones like now. We are always open to answer any questions, provide any support, or help as much as we can. (Feel free to contact me any time, with questions, suggestions, advices etc.).
As such, we have decided to put as much focus as possible on education for the next couple of months and ramp up our program. First, we are focusing on webinars, as it provides us with the opportunity to present a range of topics that we believe will be of interest to you. We have contacted several of our members who are willing to contribute to this program. The idea is to leverage our large community of members to create the most productive virtual experiences and collaterals to benefit installers and integrators around the world. We will also be updating our collaterals and online courses and provide you with an opportunity to take advantage of this ‘down’ time to catch up on the latest subjects in the sector. This is an ongoing process, but you can check out our previous webinars here.
We will also be hosting a web-panel of installers and integrators to discuss their latest projects and how they are coping with the uncertainties in the market. If you are interested in participating in such a panel, please contact me here.
So maybe the sky is falling, but the truth is, the ceiling can’t hold us. Just like an HDBaseT link, the human race is resilient, and we shall not only survive but make the most out of our isolation time to become not only better professionals but better people.