I shared this joke earlier today on Twitter, during an #AVinTheAM online chat:
“An Architect, an IT Director, and an AV Professional walk into a bar…
[The AV Professional could be a consultant, integrator, or manufacturer]
The Architect orders a Vodka Sour, the IT Director orders a Rum and Coke,
The AV Professional says they need to standardize their user experiences,
orders three Long Island Ice Teas, and then asks, ‘who’s paying for these?'”
I hope I don’t offend any architects or IT people with my humor, the joke is really on the AV professional. He or she may think they are making both the Architect and the IT Director happy, by incorporating both their drink ideas into the triple order of Long Islands. There are many roads this joke could lead us, but today, we will talk about knowing your audience when meeting about an AV project.
In practice, meetings with architecture firms, IT departments, music ministry leaders, fitness instructors, technical directors, general contractors, or higher education universities, have some similarities, but each group has their own priorities and lingo.
Dropping lofty buzzwords like “user experience” and “agile workspaces” may not be as effective as using the words that they use; ask about their typical meetings, or classes, rehearsals, services. You are basically asking them about the current user experience, but in their words. Ask them what meeting spaces are the most popular, and why.
Discuss any trends you are seeing in flexible work or education environments. Ask them if they have any divide/combine spaces, but instead, use the term “airwalls”. How often do these rooms get combined or separated? How do the systems work when combined or separated? And how well do they work for the typical room usage?
If you discussing a church, house of worship, or auditorium, say “sound board” when asking them about the FOH (Front of House) mixing position. See what I did there?
If a client or work contact uses an acronym you don’t recognize, don’t be afraid to ask them what it means, to them. Don’t assume they know your acronyms either. You might say OMP meaning Operations & Maintenance Plan, and they may instead hear:
Office Managing Partner
Occupational Maternity Pay
Open Market Purchase
And if you audience includes Millennials, they may think, for a second, that you meant
One Moment Please
because that is how OMP is used in SMS messaging and other text chat platforms! So don’t be afraid to spell out your acronyms and ask them about theirs. Some companies have so many acronyms that they develop a glossary page for them. Ask for a copy!
The other thing to ask about early on is timeline. Architects and consultants will use acronyms like SD, DD, and CD to describe the Schematic Design, Design Development, and Construction Document phases of their drawing sets. Owners and end-users are more concerned with the commissioning and occupancy. Each has its own deadline.
What if you are going to a meeting with an architect, owner’s rep, IT department head, furniture vendor, plus various engineers from other trades? Who are the others in the room? How do you know your audience if you have never met any of them?
Do your homework. Start with the meeting planner, and then the other people invited, looking up each one on LinkedIn or Google. Look at their current job descriptions, but also at their work history, where they went to school; what did they study? Read their most recent posts, and ask yourself, what drives them? Whenever possible, ask your coworkers if they have ever worked with the other people invited to the meeting.
When the meeting starts, try to quietly jot down the names of any “special guests” you may not have anticipated, and then look them up on LinkedIn or Google afterwards. Ask for business cards for anyone who has one, especially any electrical engineers. You need to keep your coordination within proper channels, by communicating through the client, the architect or project manager, but you can address them by name in your correspondence, “Following up on the question raised by XYZ…”
Circling back to the joke I made about the architect, IT director, and the AV professional: all are highly technical people, but with different strengths. The IT Director may be able to talk at length about bandwidth, IP addresses, firewalls, and cyber-security, while the architect may be more concerned with determining the electrical and backing needs, and the BTU load of the AV racks, so they can coordinate with their HVAC and MEP engineers. Furniture vendors need to know what holes to provide in the tables for microphones and table boxes. They all love dimensions! Coordinate using AutoCAD or Revit, or markup PDFs using Bluebeam or similar.
By determining your audience in advance (or during a meeting, or sometimes after) you can tailor your communique and deliverable to each, making each one happy. You might also find yourself being a bridge between different people involved in a project. By speaking their own dialects, you can connect them like the boroughs of Manhattan.
And maybe Long Island :)
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