In early June, I spent a week in the heavily air-conditioned halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, working as a reporter and event social media specialist for rAVe [Publications] during InfoComm 2016.
Immersing myself in the world of professional AV was so valuable. And it’s always cool to see the new tech that the rest of the world won’t know about for three to five years. Have you seen a 4K screen the size of a motor home? I have.
I also got to see what hasn’t changed since my first InfoComm in 2014. At the time, I was a senior in college and had a lot of learning to do about the working world. I’ve changed a lot since my first show, but men in the AV industry have not improved their treatment of women.
Here’s what I took away from the show this year:
- Walk with a purpose. InfoComm was my third professional AV trade show, so it was familiar territory. But it’s not my native industry; advertising is. And the AV scene changes quickly. The best advice to us reporters covering the event was to walk with a purpose and look like you know what you’re doing. Within a few hours, we were coherently spitting out terms like 4K, HDBaseT, switcher and scaler, projection mapping and laser phosphor projector. This is the same lesson I learned during my first year of agency life. I might have been green, but I knew if I could make the first few weeks work, I could go from looking like I knew what I was doing to actually knowing what I was doing.
- Make instant relationships. Reporters had to convince InfoComm exhibitors to be in a series of product videos for an online library. Some exhibitors were nonnative English speakers and some were camera-shy, so it took some convincing. The best thing we could do in those situations was to approach them on common ground — aka emotional intelligence, people! It’s the same thing I tell students interviewing to be our Mtern: Your ability to build relationships is just as important as hard skills, perhaps even more important. If you aren’t sure where to start, try “Hi.”
- Demand change where it’s needed. There’s no denying the lack of women in advertising, and the same goes for AV. And at InfoComm, the AV industry’s heavily male skew is overt. Two years ago, an exhibitor might have still hired “booth babes.” Thankfully, I didn’t see any booty shorts this year, but there were “hostesses” and “brand ambassadors.” Funny, I didn’t see any male brand ambassadors. OK, you say, that’s just the exhibitors — surely it wasn’t as bad for you as a member of the press? In fact, there were stares, there were uncomfortable comments, and there were men taking photos of me (not with me) and other female rAVe reporters. When we were handing out free T-shirts, men would ask if our faces were on it, or they would live-stream and narrate visiting the “hot rAVe girls.” Sexualizing women’s bodies diminishes our professional contributions and is not OK.
rAVe is in a special position, though, as the only all-digital publication covering the AV industry, and it’s highly valued for the coverage it provides. What really makes rAVe unique is that, year after year, it brings women and young people into an aging industry. Gary Kayye, the founder of rAVe, is known for being a strong supporter of women in the industry, and will publicly call out companies that use “booth babes” or scantily clad women in ads.
Hey, advertisers. That’s us. Enough scantily clad women. The ANA and #WomenNotObjects have recognized how ridiculous it is. We’re in a position to help other industries with their own issues with sexism. Let’s do something about it.
After all, it’s more fun to walk with a purpose when you aren’t getting catcalled.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.