I was webcasting today on a national conference in Vancouver with a tremendously talented crew of A/V professionals and broadcast folks. That in itself is really nothing new or surprising; I’m quite fortunate that I get to work with seasoned pros more often than not. What was different today was a series of conversations I had with the other technicians and the event producer.
The sordid truth is that many A/V technicians are quite young and often inexperienced because of the long hours and obligatory road work that often takes you away from friends and family. Your social life suffers. Not many relationships survive constant 8 week work trips on the road and a continuous series of 12 – 16 hour days. It takes a special kind of person to not only survive but to THRIVE in this sort of environment. Many new hires don’t last very long.
The folks I had the opportunity to work with today used language that I recognized: “I’ve ‘only’ been a director for 6 years…”, “when I first started with the company pulling cables 13 years ago…”, “back when I started, we were using porta-pack recorders and wet-cell motorcycle batteries to power them… we had the ORIGINAL acid wash jeans!”
I’m not going to lie – I LOVE talking shop; more so with folks that have been in “the game” as long (or longer) than I have. The rare opportunity to spend meaningful time with kindred spirits makes all the silliness of long hours worthwhile. I wax romantically about the Road Dog lifestyle but the truth is I love it. I have an overnight bag always packed and waiting and my passport is always up to date as are my travel inoculations.
Today I spent time with people JUST LIKE ME.
So what did we talk about?
Trust. The producer told me she loves “Grey Power”. She always likes to have some seasoned professionals with some grey hair on her crews – some folks that have “been there, done that”. People whose reaction when things start to go sideways is “don’t worry… I’ve got it…”
I’ve always quipped that I want a “half million dollar cockpit” on any transoceanic flights – if the combined salary of everyone on the flight deck is less than $500k, I don’t figure they have enough experience if all of a sudden all the engines decide to go take a nap at the same time.
There is a casual confidence that comes from having been in a similar situation before and knowing what has to be done. And the wisdom to see a trainwreck coming down the tracks and being able to stop it before the client catches wind.
I remember when I was first starting out in my new career as a budding young videographer. As I mention in my own post I Get By With A Little Help… I had a mentor whom I worked alongside and studied under. I asked a lot of questions, made a few suggestions and frankly worked my butt off to prove myself. That work ethic paid dividends as I was granted keys to the shop, the ability to use gear on my own shoots and eventually entrusted with the company van. When someone places that level of trust in you, you don’t let them down.
The people I choose to do business with today are all people I trust. People I will put my reputation on the line to refer to my friends and clients.
The producer and I had a conversation about when she was working as an editor. Young interns from a college level program would come in and critique her edit style – “I wouldn’t do it that way…”
I laughed. And I asked her “so… when the station manager came and asked if you’d give them your seal of approval, what did you say?”
I’m sure you can imagine that none of the know-it-alls ever got asked to submit a resume for employment.
The lesson here?
Build allegiances. Make other people want to work with you and proud to refer you.
And if you are starting out or branching out, KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.
The “Great Democratization of Video” has been happening for a LOT of years now. Yes, prices for hardware and software have dropped SIGNIFICANTLY. But does that make you an expert?
I’ve got 14 years of sitting in front of a control surface with nearly as many buttons, switches, knobs and flashing lights as a jumbo jet. I know what they all do. I also have the uncanny sense to ask the question that preempts the bad decision that is about to make all of us look really bad to our viewers. I’m cool under pressure. And I get results.
I was introduced as THE Webcast Guy to some very influential people today. The person referring me understands that I won’t let them down because they have put their reputation on the line for me.
Frankly, all I’ve done for over a dozen years is build brand ambassadors for my services. I emailed an executive VP of a national labour organization today to ask for some advice. These are my friends. I have spent a long time nurturing those relationships and I bring that wealth to the table at every single gig.
So ask yourself honestly…
What do you bring to the table?
More than “what camera should I buy?” or “how did they do this effect?”, the question you SHOULD be asking yourself is:
How do I make myself more valuable to potential clients and brand ambassadors?
Develop those friendships. Have those conversations. Build that trust.
A wise farmer doesn’t plant seeds when he is hungry. He plans them well in advance of when he needs the crops.
Go plant some seeds and be nice to us Old Folks… we might just be the ones to pull your butt out of the fire some day.