Expertise, Meet Personality

When I integrated audiovisual systems, I believe that my personality was my most valuable asset. In fairness, I was a studio mix engineer designing installed venue systems, so my expertise outside of the studio was yet to be proven. The quality of my ears and my success in the studio opened the doors, but I believe that my personality actually won the clients. As the years went on, I never let my expertise eclipse my personality.


Back in my record production days, we all knew the mixing desks that sounded technically accurate, and those that sounded more “musical”. Musical was an endearing term for a desk that colored the audio through distortion, noise, phase, dynamic limitations and other technically negative elements. What started as inaccuracies actually worked to create wonderful and amazing character. They had that “hit” sound. The desks that were more precise always seemed to sound too sterile or “vanilla”.

Or consider that there is no single best automobile, (though all the good ones come from Germany). There are only cars that best match the personality and needs of those who drive them. Some may handle better, some may favor reliability over features, some may haul more people, others may haul more lumber.

The point is, personality is what separates one system over another. Any good AV designer can create a system that checks all the boxes with reliability and quality. But personality is what the client remembers when they are deciding between a handful of qualified contenders.

Perhaps our personality isn’t in system design at all. It might be in the way we listen to our clients. It might be through not criticizing ignorant ideas that the client suggests. It could be the way we answer the phone, the wrapping on our Sprinter vans, or how we show up on time (not late, and certainly not early). Still, it could be in our designs themselves.


Personality is what the client remembers when they are deciding between a handful of qualified contenders


My design personality was to deliver powerful, yet focused and pleasing PA systems. At a time when digital amplification was new, efficient, and powerful, it was also noisy up top. We would use digital amps for their high-power, fast capabilities on low frequency drivers. Then use transformer-based amplifiers for high frequency drivers for the smoother, hiss-free sound. This was a small example of personality. The system wasn’t better on paper. In fact, it seemed more cumbersome. But when they would run their mix through it there would be an increased level of satisfaction. The fact that we paid that much attention to detail was always appreciated, which differentiated us from the other vendors. The fact that we mentioned this little detail in our proposal planted a seed that we cared about the little things. It left the client thinking, “Who knows how many other details they are catching that the other companies are not?”


Sure, all clients award on budget to varying degrees. Many large, and government projects leave little or no room for vendor preference. But the vast majority of competitive bidding environments still have human beings who have more comfort with or prefer a certain vendor over another, which will play into their recommendation or decision.


I admit I had early tendencies to take my design personality too far. Or there were times where a client had a true desire for a “vanilla” system. Or they didn’t care about my distaste for a popular smiley-face EQ curve and how I thought it would work against their goals. I had to learn to let go of my personalities and preferences when the client had strong preferences of their own. Those are the times we, as AV professionals, have to decide if we are the right fit for the project. The better the fit, the better the chance of success.

Our personality should be our strength. It should be strong but not overbearing. The moment our technical expertise is overshadowed by our personal preferences, we have lost our advantage.

So let’s work to balance terrific expertise with our unique design and business personality to give our clients the best possible projects.



Jetbuilt Founder

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