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  • Writer's pictureLerize Weatherhead

Sustaining the growth of Audio-Visual Integration in South Africa

Technology touches almost every aspect of today’s world. It has changed the way we live our daily lives, the way we conduct business, and the way we communicate.

However, many people are unaware that audio-visual integration (AVI) plays a major role in modern communication too, from the smallest meeting rooms and corporate boardrooms to the largest auditoriums. All these rely heavily on AV technologies to enable effective and efficient communications.

Companies install AV in boardrooms to enable meetings with business partners, colleagues, suppliers and customers around the world. However, commercial AV is a complex process, and not easy to get right. For example, the pattern from the audio and microphone needs to be balanced to prevent interruption in the sound quality for the individuals who are taking part. 

However, a well-executed audio and visual installation has the potential to change how efficient a business is in its operations.

Speaking at the Cape Town International Film Festival last year, chairperson of the Independent Producers Organisation, Rehad Desai said the last decade has seen significant growth in the AV sector in South Africa, which has doubled in rand value from R3.5 billion in 2008, to R7 billion in 2018.

And this is despite the fact that although technology shrinks the world and extends our reach in terms of communication, people have always valued face-to-face communication more. However, AVI has been raising the bar, and ensuring that communication is made more effective and suited for the needs of different users.

In addition, as with any market that is highly specialised, more skilled and diversified integrators are needed to manage the demand. South Africa has seen a sharp growth in the number of AV integrators due to growing demand in the region, and the AV industry has been identified by the South African government as one of the key drivers of job creation within the creative industries of the country.

The problem is that AV is typically categorised under the IT umbrella and is not being embraced as an industry on its own meaning AV technicians need to position themselves appropriately and fight for their place in the market.

Like any other industry, there are battles to be fought and won in AVI. Sharing some of his experiences in the industry, MD of Corporate AV Integration, Stefan Mayer explained that getting your foot into the industry might be difficult, but the real challenge is staying inside and remaining relevant.

“Maintaining market share is an ongoing concern, and the trick is to continually prove your worth. It is also a cause for concern that many people still neither recognise nor appreciate the benefit of good audio-visual systems. Even with more AV technicians joining the industry, a large percentage of them are failing to keep their businesses afloat as they are unable to afford the equipment due to various reasons, including budget cuts, loss of clients, among others,” Mayer explained.

As AVI is a fast-paced industry, equipment obsolescence is a concern, as hardware is generally outdated within a three to five year period. In addition, too many integrators do not fully understand the benefits and savings AV can offer their businesses. One example would be huge costs, both in time and money, that are eliminated by removing physical travel from the equation. 

Businesses also need to be cautious about trying to save money by lowering the quality of their services, as this will cause more harm to their businesses in the long run.

According to Mayer, keeping up with current industry trends is one way to stay ahead. He says South African AVI businesses are now focusing on providing simpler services. “A few years ago enterprises were spending a lot of money on large boardrooms for their executives, but are now investing in multiple smaller spaces as the need for more ad hoc meetings arises. The same applies to tele and video conferencing. More efficient and affordable video conferencing systems can be deployed in multiple rooms instead of just in one large meeting room.”

There is still a lot for South Africans to do in terms of embracing AVI as a sector on its own and aligning their businesses to suit current industry trends. This, however, is largely dependent on AVI corporates’ ability to position the profession efficiently and to ensure that it is cultivated and sustained through continuous improvements and refinements. This would not only benefit clients but would greatly benefit AVI business owners as well, he concludes.


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