Audio Visual Spotlight: Shawn Tobin
My name is Shawn Tobin and I live in Boston (but I don’t say wicked). I went to school in North Carolina (but I don’t say y’all), and now I create and sell marketing programs in this crazy A/V industry. I’ve been doing this for 8 years but it feels like 3, and you might know me from Commercial Integrator, CE Pro, TechDecisions, and more recently the Total Tech Summit. I’m tweetable @swtobin. I don’t have a TikTok but I hear it’s wicked popular, y’all.
Q: What is something in life that you are passionate about?
A: Is it really nerdy if my honest answer is marketing? So, my degree is in corporate communications, but I was always drawn to marketing as a kid. Maybe blame the hype around Super Bowl commercials?
In a world oversaturated with marketing messages, you need to be creative, unique, and really understand the target audience in order to be successful. The creativity surrounding modern marketing is really what continues to keep me passionate today. I get to sit and strategize with hundreds of very different people in the industry – so the learning never really stops. Outside of work, you can probably find me on the golf course (in the woods or rough, most likely) or on a Cape Cod beach.
Q: What is something unique about the audio visual industry that not many people know?
A: Probably that it exists. We all take technology for granted and can’t imagine living without it, but the term “integrator” is still relatively unknown at the consumer level.
Q: What’s the best advice about the audio visual industry you have ever received? (or about life in general).
A: “You’ll go to a tradeshow. Someone will explain the inner workings of a new black box. 96% will go over your head. Don’t get discouraged.” – Mark Twain, I think.
As someone who lives by the mantra “if it doesn’t work, restart it, then kick it,” I wasn’t sure I’d ever understand tech-speak. I came to realize that it doesn’t have to be a barrier to entry into this awesome industry (at least in this job!). Keep learning and ask a lot of questions. I’ll still never be able to tell you the difference between HDBaseT and SDVoE.
Q: What would you recommend as the best strategy for someone who wants to follow the same career path as you?
A: As if this was intentional?! I’m not even sure how I got here, but I can try to answer.
First, listen more than you talk. Pay attention and learn as much as you can about the people and companies you work with. #2 – Find something that you’re passionate about (ugh, clichés). If you don’t genuinely believe that your platform will benefit the customer, it just becomes a job. #3 – in marketing, don’t get emotionally tied to what you’ve done in the past. When I started selling advertising for CE Pro and Commercial Integrator 8 years ago, the options were pretty limited. If you told me 8 years ago that content marketing, lead nurturing, retargeted social media and contextual video would be relevant to my career in 2020, I would’ve thought you were speaking another language. And, 2 years from now, it’ll probably look very different than it does today. Always be thinking about new ways that people consume content and don’t hesitate to try something outside-the-box.
Q: How would you describe the relationship between A/V and IT?
A: Outside of the obvious convergence that our editors write about every 39 minutes, in my world it centers around the importance of having your message be contextually relevant. In 2020, a one-size-fits-all message will undoubtedly minimize the impact it’ll have. Being able to cater content to an IT department versus an A/V department (versus a designer, or architect, or consultant, etc.) is the ultimate variable of success in marketing.
Q: What do you see as the future of A/V?
A: I can’t envision the future of A/V not being bright. Previous barriers to entry are being eroded away and A/V is no longer just for the super-wealthy and tech-savvy. Younger generations are growing up with an expectation of touchscreens and smart-everything, and companies know that tech (or a lack thereof) now plays a major role in recruiting and retaining talent. I’ve always considered myself lucky to have found the A/V industry, purely by accident, right as technology is moving from ‘added luxury’ to ‘utterly necessary’ in both homes and businesses. This is only the beginning.
Q: When did you first learn of the A/V industry and how did you get involved?
A: Like almost everyone else in the industry, I really just fell into it. I was working in marketing and a friend of a friend asked if I wanted to try sales. Since salespeople are the worst, I initially said no before reconsidering. Fast forward 8 years and I’m still here and loving every minute. What I didn’t expect was to meet so many incredible people in the industry. Tradeshows are like reunions and I’ve made lifelong friends across the country. To any young people who might stumble across this article – give A/V a shot. You won’t regret it.
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