23.03.20

The power of podcasts and webinars

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Many AV professionals are turning to podcasts and webinars to further their education and skills during time at home. Photo: Song_about_summer / Shutterstock.com

Just a few weeks ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the life we are living today. Many of us have never experienced something affecting us on such a large scale; with the exception of war time, nothing has ever had such a big impact on the world. Over the last couple of weeks, situations have developed and changed at such a dramatic pace that many of us are taking each day as it comes.

In times like these, it’s more important now than ever that communities come together to help each other through the uncertainty. HiddenWires editor, Amy Wallington looks at how the AV community is doing just that.

Making good use of your time
With many integrators and AV professionals experiencing postponements of jobs or cancellations and countless numbers of us are now having to self-isolate or work from home, organisations are beginning to release their training and education content for free to their members, regardless of what level membership they have. 

As well as making it free and more accessible, organisations are also releasing content more frequently and it seems this is the new trend while many of us are stuck at home. It is often the case that integrators struggle to find time to fit training and education into their busy schedules but now is the perfect time to do as much as possible so that they are armed with several new skill sets when normality resumes. 

Power of the podcast
Podcasting is a great way to release content. Already a big trend, many AV companies are recognising this as a useful platform that give integrators an opportunity to listen to the latest issues in the industry, hear panel discussions or learn about the latest innovations while spending time at home.

CEDIA is one of the organisations that have recognised the hard times we find ourselves in by producing more content and making it accessible to all members, regardless of the type of membership. 

Ed Wenck, the content director at CEDIA explained how the organisation is using the power of podcasts as one of its methods of outreach: “We are doubling the output since it’s a really effective way to reach the entire industry. Our podcasts now drop every Tuesday and Friday at 8am EDT.”

He continued: “The intention is to split the content between the emerging trends and learning-based material we usually post and mix in content specific to the current pandemic: business advice, economic news, safety concerns, remote working tips, and so on.”

CEDIA’s podcasts provide integrators and other AV professionals with a wealth of varied information with a host of different guests giving their expertise in particular areas. Wenck said: “We’re scouring our resources for more voices and experts from industry sources and academia. Our team includes individuals with backgrounds in the CEDIA channel – my co-host Walt Zerbe has been doing this for decades, both on the manufacturer and install sides – and folks with news and broadcasting backgrounds which includes myself and others on the marketing team.

“Working with subject matter experts, we feel we’re really well equipped to provide updates on very recent developments regarding the Covid-19 outbreak and attendant economic conditions, as well as keeping abreast of what’s happening in the general arena of residential technology,” he added. “Of course, that focus may shift as the news warrants.”

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Podcasts are a great way to consume content on a regular basis. Photo: panuwat phimpha / Shutterstock.com

Another great podcast for the residential AV community is the Integrated Home Podcast, produced by the home integration community for the home integration community. Leading the ongoing series is Wildwood PR’s co-owner, Jeff Hayward who recognised the mental benefits podcasts can have. He commented: “Listening to podcasts is a great way for integrators to stay connected with their community at this extraordinary time of social distancing and self-isolation. It’s also an opportunity for the audience to try and keep a sense of normality in these trying times.”

Released on the first Wednesday of every month, with the exception of a special Covid-19 episode being released next week, the Integrated Home Podcast focuses on topical issues. “We have episodes covering technology and business issues which are all available for free, including our latest show recorded at ISE and an in-depth look at a real integrated home project with great insights from the developer and Living Home Tech.”

He continued: “Listeners will receive plenty of advice on how to run an integration business, with tips on recruitment, working with interior designers and architects, service and maintenance agreements amongst other things, as well as technical and design experts talking about home cinema, lighting, control systems and the challenges of basement conversions. There’s a real mix of content with viewpoints from companies, large and small.”

It’s fair to say, during these uncertain times, AV podcasts and probably podcasts in general will see a rise in downloads. Hayward has already experienced this with the Integrated Home Podcast: “Downloads are up 20% since the crisis started, and our online communities on LinkedIn (The Integrated Home Podcast) and Instagram (@integratedhomepod) are growing fast too.”

Similarly, Wenck has also reported a 30% increase year-over-year on unique downloads compared the first three months of 2019. 

As well as being a good source of content, podcasts can have a great impact on mental well-being during these socially distant times. “I’m a big believer in the intimate and comforting nature of radio,” Wenck admitted. 

“Radio and audio-only podcasts are consumed in a manner that connects the listener with the host in a unique way. Hosts can become almost something of a friend to the listener. A trusted, credible voice can be a comfort in a time of turmoil – I have some unfortunate experience in this regard as I was a broadcaster during and after 9/11 and have been in the face of many severe weather outbreaks in the Midwest US.”

In addition to it giving a form of human interaction and connection, it is also important to listen to podcasts as it is a source of information. Wenck explained: “Through CEDIA’s podcasts, we supply honest information, expert assessments, and relevant news which is all critical for our members in this time of uncertainty. Simply put, they’re a help. Moreover, if a technician or a business owner suddenly finds themselves with unplanned downtime, they can be yet another learning tool. And some of this information can serve as a respite to the overwhelming bad news that we have been experiencing.”

All podcasts can be accessed via any podcasting platform for free. Alternatively, the CEDIA podcast can be found here, and the Integrated Home Podcast can be accessed here

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Many podcasts will also be recorded from home. Photo: antoniadiaz / Shutterstock.com 

Webinar bandwagon
Another way to push content out in these difficult times is through webinars. Just in the last week, I have seen so many companies – manufacturers, distributors, and other organisations – jumping on the webinar bandwagon to produce educational, informative and engaging content with integrators. 

Invision UK is just one distributor recognising the opportunity to produce more training webinars for its dealers. The current schedule includes webinars from Trinnov, Pulse-Eight and Domotz. You can find all the information and full schedule here

Aside from the usual companies producing this content, integrators themselves are also coming together to help each other. The Smart Homee Facebook Group was formed over a year ago by Inspire AV’s director, Benjamin Davies for the AV community to share ideas, collaborate, ask questions, and for help and advice. Right now, it is being used more than ever as a platform to keep in touch with the home AV community by providing support and guidance, focus and communication with peers through this time of crisis.

As the founder and leader of the group, Davies is working hard to help the group. “I think all I can do from the group’s perspective is support and provide direction for business owners and employees, focusing their businesses on the things they might have put off or neglected,” he said. “Aside to this, we, and it is very much a ‘we’, are trying to provide some light relief to the social isolation that will inevitably happen.”

Again, webinars are being hosted on this platform to inform and educate dealers and the wider AV community, but as Davies explained, they are not all just ordinary webinars: “We are opening the digital doors to our ‘webinar pub’ on 27 March to talk industry, strategies and have a bit of a giggle. Smart Homee is also providing a single location for all distributors and manufacturers to add their webinars to our events calendar so the group can find all the content available.

“The group can then access everything you would usually find from our favourite distributors, such as home cinema tips, networking, HDBaseT introductions, and much more. The list will be endless, and the content will coming think and fast.”

As well as content from the AV industry, Davies will also be looking for content from outside of the industry that will help with business through this difficult time. He added: “Webinars on social media and how to manage your cash flow will be available in the next week which I think are hugely important in these uncertain times.”

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Companies from across the AV industry are jumping on the webinar bandwagon. Photo: This Is Me / Shutterstock.com 

Actively engaging with over 3.4 thousand members, the group encourages its motto – ‘good vibes only’ – and aims to help as many people as possible. The Smart Homee Group can be accessed here

AVIXA and CEDIA also announced last week that it will be making webinar content and other resources available to all its members, regardless of their membership level. Wenck noted: “Kudos to AVIXA for doing this and we are following suit. We know with this disruption, people might have time to take professional development opportunities, and we understand the economic pressures among our members. We are making our online education (e-courses, short lessons, whitepapers) all free right now for all CEDIA members. 

“As well as this, and maybe more importantly, we are planning to offer two ‘live’ education experiences each week, whether that is a webinar, panel, new technology lesson, or even a CEDIA Talk. We are scheduling it all and will be announcing in the very near future.”

Virtual connectivity
In these hard times, it is important to stay connected while being at home, and technology is a very important lifeline to a lot of people during the coronavirus outbreak. “The ability to stay connected virtually with people we cannot physically touch right now is incredibly important,” Wenck agreed.

“Additionally, I really think we are going to see communities spring up across the globe of individuals supporting one another via these networks. Obviously, the inverse is also possible, but crises brings out the best as well as the worst in people, and I’m an optimist,” he concluded.