POV: The Next Convergence

The convergence of IT and AV is old news. It's been happening for some time now and everybody knows it. But there is another significant convergence taking
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POV: The Next Convergence

May 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Robert Befus

The convergence of IT and AV is old news. It's been happening for some time now and everybody knows it. But there is another significant convergence taking place that I don't hear being talked about much. It is the convergence of presentation media and communication technology.

There was a time when a 35mm slide was something very different from a telephone call. And not so long ago, a letter on stationery was very different from a video on tape.

Today, a PowerPoint visual or Flash animation can be included in an Internet phone call using a webconferencing solution that includes voice over IP (VoIP), and an email can sport a little Flash video just as easily as it can convey the written text of its ancient printed predecessor.

It is, of course, no secret that the lines between once very unique types of media have been blurring for many years. Is it PowerPoint? Is it Flash? Is it a digital video file or video stream? Is it a live presentation? More often than not, the answer is “yes” to all of the above, as content is repurposed and re-ported in many different ways.

More important than the convergence of media types, however, is that today the lines between presentation media itself and communication technology are disappearing faster than dial-up. Today the poster children for this convergence are probably the video-enabled mobile phone and some of the newer Smartphones. Is it a phone? Is it a computer? Is it a television? Again, the answer could be “yes” to all. But this convergence really goes much farther than simply delivering media to ever more portable wireless communication devices.

The media-comtech convergence involves a whole new communication/presentation paradigm. The melding of online collaboration tools and Flash-based webconferencing solutions with IM, VoIP, and voice messaging is creating an “always on” rich media presentation and communication environment that will change the way many of us collaborate, communicate, and present in the years to come. Best of all, these tools will be available not only to large corporations, they will be available to anyone with a computer and a fast Internet connection at very affordable prices.

One of the big challenges that comes when lines blur into new paradigms is the concurrent blurring of corporate and organizational roles. “Whose job is it now?” is a question we are constantly being forced to ask. During the IT-AV convergence, this role confusion was exemplified by the question, “Is an LCD projector a piece of AV equipment, or is it a network device like a printer?” The media-comtech convergence has perhaps created even greater role ambiguity as the traditional job descriptions of graphics technician, media designer, communications consultant, software developer, and IT professional continue to morph and overlap.

One group that is opening up creative dialogue and exploration of this rapidly evolving phenomenon is the Presentations Council of the ICIA.

Established in 2001, the ICIA Presentations Council is a fast-growing group of presentation media developers and communication specialists who have come together to connect to each other, learn from one another, and share with each other.

WHO ARE PRESENTATION MEDIA PROFESSIONALS?

Presentation media professionals have job titles like “presentation graphics specialist,” “presentation designer,” and “communication consultant.” They can be found developing presentation-related material for marketing, sales, training, or executive communications. Through effective and elegant designs, they empower managers at all levels to tell their stories with clarity and impact. At the highest levels, presentation professionals help craft and implement the communication strategies that move organizations forward. Perhaps most often, they can be found working as a part of cross-functional teams on strategic communication projects.

Because of the blending of media types and ever-changing delivery formats, presentation media professionals require a tool kit overflowing with constantly changing knowledge and skill sets. Knowledge of design, typography, composition, image processing, video editing, audio processing, HTML editing, and presentation layout just get you started in this field. Then throw in a little Flash, video streaming, event capture, database creation, and enough IT experience to keep it all going wirelessly, and you have the short list of what's required of today's presentation media professional.

Over the past few years, the ICIA Presentations Council has expanded its offerings to members and the industry through monthly webinar programs on pertinent topics and high-quality educational offerings at the ICIA's annual InfoComm conference. This year at InfoComm (June 4-10), the Presentations Council will offer a full-day Super Tuesday session entitled “Visual Communication Tools, Tactics, and Technologies for Presentation Media Professionals.” The session will explore creative ideas, innovative applications of new technology, and communication strategies to help presentation pros stay ahead of the curve.

People who are allergic to change do not last long in the audiovisual arena. But even the leading edge of early adopters and presentation technology addicts needs a place to gather for community and professional support. For many of us caught up in the convergence of presentation media and communication technology, the ICIA Presentations Council is just that place.

Robert Befusis CEO of Presentation Strategies Inc. and serves as chair of ICIA's Presentations Council.

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