Future Trends And Industry Diversity At ISE London

ISE London kicked off a two-day program on Wednesday, June 23, at Evolution London in Battersea Park. Mainstage sessions ranged from a case study on the Brit Awards by Diagon, to a keynote from futurist Amelia Kallman on technology trends that will shape the industry in the future. Among the exhibitors were Barco, Digital Projection, Shure, and Panasonic Business.

The AV industry has had a mixed time during the Covid era, on the one hand, most conferences and live events were cancelled in both Britain and the US, but on the other hand home users have been heavily investing in AV equipment for both business and entertainment purposes. Judging by new products and marketing campaigns in the industry, there is an expectation that the future of the workplace will be very different when the pandemic is over.

Shure's booth at ISE London 2021

According to Jessica Cooper, business development manager at Igloo Vision, there will be more office space to accommodate immersive audio-visual experiences, either in Igloo’s cubes and domes or in other spaces using the Igloo software. The company, which was launched at Glastonbury Festival 13 years ago aimed at providing immersive experiences within large-scale events, now has a product category for immersive work spaces. One of the assumptions being made about the future of work is that there will be more space for gathering in the office because fewer individual work desks will be needed has daily attendance will be a thing of the past. Cooper suggested that because staff members can participate in corporate training, product launches, and announcements remotely, companies will have to upgrade the work environment to tempt them back into the office for those and other events. Andrew Dowsett, territory manager for Barco, reinforced this view in his presentation on the future of visualization.

A slide from Barco's presentation shows an office designed around a videowall.

He said, “We think offices will become more of a destination, not just a space to work but somewhere you go to collaborate and be together. Spaces will be built around a videowall where workers can watch projects happening in real time or display each aspect of a collaboration from the cloud without the need for USB sticks [or different formats].” He also suggested that visualization technology has progressed so far that the biggest leap forward won’t be better resolution or brighter screens, but in connectivity and accessibility.

More offices can now become what he termed memorable experience centers for clients, with videowalls in the lobby showing branded content and immersive training sessions in bespoke education centers.  

For live entertainment professionals, the good news from ISE London 2021 is that there will be an increased demand for creative and technical skills. The bad news, according to the panel on Positive Action to Champion Diversity and Inclusion, is that recruitment of ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups is still hugely problematic.

Kevin McLoughlin, director of the AV User Group and a member of AVIXA’s diversity council, moderated the panel and presented a survey that found that people whose names suggested a minority background had to submit 60% more resumes before getting an interview than those with British-sounding names. Here are some suggestions for combating unfair hiring practices from the other two panellists, Janice Turner, diversity officer at BECTU, the union for creative and technical workers in the media and entertainment industries, and Iffat Chaudhry, bid manager for Involve Visual Collaboration.

  1. Look at where your company advertises jobs. In Britain, too many jobs are advertised in industry newspaper The Stage, where people from different backgrounds may not look. There are many electricians, carpenters, fashion design, photography professionals and others who could bring their talents to the industry but they don’t hear about jobs.
  2. Create partnerships or host open days to actively recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds. Since many touring workers are recruited because they are known to the company through a network of friends of friends, expand the pool of professionals to call upon. It makes good business sense to begin doing this now, because many live entertainment workers have left the industry due to the pandemic and it's possible there will be labor shortages. Turner produces an annual event where 100 recruitment executives from large entertainment companies Including the BBC and Sky meet professionals from underrepresented backgrounds in a series of one-to-one meetings. In 2019, more than 1,000 potential candidates chosen from underrepresented background were able to talk to hiring managers and drop off portfolios and resumes. In the US, companies can host virtual open houses for college seniors or partner with employment agencies that cater specifically to minorities.
  3. Make your hiring policies very specific. Many companies have policies that include a requirement to hire a certain percentage of minorities, but if those are lumped together research has shown that slots are often filled by women, rather than a mix of minority candidates.
  4. Apply the same hiring policy to apprenticeships, freelancer contracts, and casual workers because they often have the inside track on company jobs.
  5. Create a system where decision makers do not see the candidate’s name on a resume to guard against unconscious prejudice.

Once a company has leveled the playing field on hiring, it is important to put systems in place to keep those workers. Create complaint procedures so that anyone can report racism in the workplace, not just the victim, and encourage a culture where everyone will participate in creating a welcoming environment.