Dispelling misconceptions of working in corporate AV

Violet Naegele

Customer Service Manager Violet Shares Her Story 

When I was in school for AV, the prevailing story was that “ending up” in corporate AV was the worst possible thing that could happen to you. The gist was that working in a corporate setting demonstrated that you weren’t enjoyable to work with, you weren’t talented enough, and you wasted your tuition dollars not doing “more.” 

Again and again, we were inundated with rhetoric that corporate AV wasn’t good. 

Reasons included:

  • It isn’t “exciting” 
  • There isn’t a lot of room for innovation (or at least there wasn’t pre-March 2020!)
  • It most likely isn’t earning you massive paychecks 
  • It is in no means something to brag about 

These couldn’t be further from the truth! 

Audio engineering started this whole journey for me. 

I went to school for Audio Engineering, because I was always extremely enthralled with music. While I did dabble in instruments as a kid, I never felt that I needed to perform. 

As passionate as I was about music itself, I was equally passionate about everything surrounding the music: marketing, A&R, packaging, production. This ultimately led me to pursue an education in audio. My original goal was to be a music producer, which would allow me to be creative and participate in music artistically without having to do the things that I didn’t like about the creative process. 

At school, it became abundantly clear that music production wasn’t the direction I wanted to take, mainly because touring and live events were way more thrilling! It seemed to be where the money was, and I enjoyed spending time with my peers on this path more than those that were making a path for themselves in studio recording. 

While my university had a reputation for pumping out high concentrations of incredibly successful alumni, it was clear the university had a hyper specific idea of success. 

A different idea of success

While it was something I only began to admit to myself recently, the jobs I was trained to do did not match up with my personal concepts of “success.” 

Like most businesses, titles and paychecks were the main factors in what was considered success. These successful jobs were in live music and touring. Yet, the teachers and industry leaders were also quick to tell us that we would inevitably have no life in these jobs. We had to sit through several hours of lectures on “how to not have your career kill your marriage” and “decide which funerals and weddings are most important to you now, so you don’t lose your job because you have too many major life events going on.” Within the touring sector, it’s feast or famine, and you’d always have to be hustling for your next gig. 

After taking all of the mandatory classes to crunch the numbers on obtaining that success and being “realistic” about what your life would look like post-grad, I said “no, thank you.” 

I decided to finish my degree, enjoy my university experience, and quietly go into a different direction after graduation.  

That led me into corporate AV, the dreaded “career killer.”

Just because it isn’t flashy doesn’t mean it’s not important. 

The biggest misconception is that corporate AV isn’t a worthwhile or fulfilling option for someone who has experience and education in overall audio production. That can’t be further from the truth. In my role, I work with nonprofits on mission-critical events like fundraisers, and it’s absolutely wonderful to be in a room with passionate people, doing their best to make a difference in their communities. 

While corporate-style AV might not be the “sexiest” career path, it’s a core need for so many facets of life and business, and frankly, life would be a lot harder without these kinds of services. I’m proud of what I do. 

The work life balance is also a major bonus. I sleep in my own bed at night, with my pets, have a diverse and thriving social life, go on mundane adventures with my friends, and celebrate birthdays and holidays with the people I love. 

Change is needed: Encouraging diversity and communication in AV programs. 

As a woman in the AV industry, I also wanted to go into work and feel safe, heard, and be trusted by those around me. This is often not the case in the male-dominated industry. Often technicians can be pushy and talk down to women. As a women-owned business, Live Oak AV has been a great fit. Jennifer and her team have created a trusting and supportive environment for everyone who works there. 

In most situations, diversity only makes things better. I would love it if there were more kinds of people in the industry. While there is a rise in interest and growth in the industry in general right now, look around at all the AET degrees/ vocational school options popping up, and the workforce is slowly diversifying. 

However, academic institutions are not pushing corporate AV as a career path/ option; the main pushes are in sound design for games and touring. If we don’t hype up corporate AV to be “innovative,” the next waves of people won’t see it that way either. 

Have we not learned anything from the Covid-19 pandemic? While everything else stopped, corporate AV needed to shift, big time, and it did! Our concepts and ideas of meetings are fundamentally different now. You get out what you put in. Weddings, memorials, meetings, and fundraising events aren’t going anywhere, and at the moment, academic audio programs fail to see that aspect. 

Communication is a key to success in AV

Additionally, soft skills like communication and customer service need to be taught in our AV programs. Customer service is a skill and is very teachable. If the audio programs can teach me how to purchase equipment for the purpose of rental and profit, they can absolutely teach me communication skills. 

AV is the technical (or hard skill) aspect of communicating. The soft skills of customer service that we love using and cultivating each and every day at Live Oak AV with our wonderful clients should be taught in audio programs as well.  

Being the change you want to see in the world is easier than you think, and you don’t need glitz and glam to enact that change. 

Knowing your worth goes far. You decide what life you want with a career in AV. A flashy life of touring doesn’t need to be for everyone. Corporate AV is a fulfilling, fun and innovative (hello hybrid events) career if you work for the right company.  

AV schooling programs and AV companies should take some lessons from Live Oak AV in how to treat their employees and their clients to create thriving environments. I am confident that together, we can shake up the AV industry’s misconceptions AND create meaningful moments for our clients at the same time. 

So maybe corporate AV doesn’t need all the glitz and glam; maybe it just needs the commitment to making AV uncomplicated, again and again. 

Connect with Violet on LinkedIn. 

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