Choosing An A/V System For Your Center
by SimGHOSTS Board member, Matt Charnetski
Whether you are starting a new center, dissatisfied with your current system, or just need to consider your path for an update; choosing an A/V system can be quite a process. The process can be long and arduous. Typically these systems have a lot of cost associated with them, you’ll likely interact with the system every day, and there is the potential for this system to affect downstream data, grades, quality assurance, and a myriad of other points within your system. Moreover, you’re likely to be the first line of support for this system. Whether directly or in conjunction with your IT department, which can add an entirely other level of complexity to anything you want and need to do.
As a simulation specialist or tech, you may not make the decision in a vacuum, but you need a voice in this conversation. Your perspective is key in helping make the right decision. For your day to day work and for your center as a whole.
As you get ready to head down this path, these are the things I would be thinking about:
1. Don’t get emotional
A/V systems, interestingly enough, can often elicit an emotional response. People love their systems, hate their systems, dream about their systems, and fantasize about their destruction. Before you start lining up demos, think about how you’re feeling about the process. Are you dreading sitting through demos? Does the idea of spending potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars make you ill? Are you so desperate to get rid of your system that you’ll take the first system you meet? Be aware of your biases before you get started and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache in the long run.
2. Consider your needs first
What do you actually need from your A/V system? What kind of support can you provide in house? Do you need to record your encounters? Save them for 10 years? What elements of your accreditation system may be met by your A/V system? When you make a list of very specific needs for your program, you can determine where you might be willing to make sacrifices if need be. This also gives you a chance to truly compare apples to oranges between different systems. Knowing what features are crucial for you will help you separate out bells and whistles and really get your needs covered.
3. Separate yourself from “what we’ve always done”
It’s easy to fall in to the trap of comparing any system you have to the way your system has taught you to behave. A lot of computer systems only seem easy to use because we’ve grown so accustomed to using them. Make a conscious effort to separate your thoughts about the process you work through and consider more the end product that you are looking for. There will be a point to compare processes, but first consider your needs first (see above).
4. Consider your wants and needs for the next 5 years
A/V systems aren’t cheap. And you definitely don’t want to be saddled with a system that only meets your most modest needs or, worse, a system that you are unhappy with for the foreseeable future. Do your best to consider a 5 year plan on things that you may want to do or produce. In doing so, you may find that there are other essential items you need your next system to have. Add these to your list and consider how much importance you want to place on each of them.
5. Look at everything
Seriously, everything. There is no room for company allegiance in this process, at least not early in this process. Cast the net wide, look at every system out there. Even systems that you may have looked at in the past. Then, ask around. Find people that use them and get their thoughts and feelings. Gather as much data as you can. And, don’t hold back! If your questions aren’t being answered, ask them again. You’re trying to make a big decision here, you need answers to every question you have.
6. Make your five-minute pitch
The last thing that I would recommend is, once you’ve arrived at a system or two that you’re interested in. Make a five-minute quick talk that you can give if you’re given an impromptu opportunity to speak to what you recommend. Write it down, practice it, and be ready and armed with it whenever you may have the chance to pitch your recommendation.
What else do you consider when you look at a whole center system?