A look at the evolving role of the next generation of show technicians
When you look at the current generation of show technicians, they are a very different breed. Twenty years ago, we dealt with things such as slide projectors, overhead projectors, composite video, canned air, and white gloves. Technology was always a component, but it was a simpler time in some ways.
A technician in the past could fit into a more generic category of video, audio and lighting, and today we see that roles have shifted to technical specialties such as video projectionist, LED tech, FOH A1, and Spyder/E2 graphics operator. While the core fundamentals of delivering shows remains the same, technology has gone into hyper speed. The technician of today is now challenged to stay current with the sheer volume of new technology available that can come into the production of an event. The technician’s role has evolved into a new paradigm, and embracing current technology and skills has become critical in order to be successful.
Technology advancements have opened new doors for event production, to the point where the sky is practically the limit when it comes to the creative possibilities. The basics have not changed, such as rigging and power, but nearly every other technology has changed or evolved into something new to learn. We have gone from an analog to a digital world, computer technology has taken over how we approach shows, and things like video-conferencing, Skype, Google Hangout, and Facebook Live simply didn’t exist twenty, or even ten years ago in some cases. There have been so many new innovations in the last two decades that technicians on show site must become experts in computers, WIFI, internet, connectivity, networks, cloud technology, and asset management, just to name a few.
More importantly, a technician working in 2017 needs to embrace change, or risks becoming a dinosaur. The new generation of technicians starting out in their careers have been raised in this era of booming technology, and are entering the field with a new excitement level. They are used to rapidly changing technology, learning new things comes easy to them, and they are quick to adapt. Older technicians can sometimes be reluctant to change, and altering methods that have worked in the past. In the end, whether a millennial, Generation Xer, or baby boomer, a technician simply cannot be intimidated by new technology to be successful over the long term. A technician doesn’t have to know what every widget does, but a core skillset and a great attitude towards learning new ways of doing things is critical. Fearing new technology and processes will quickly make a technician obsolete in today’s world.
A technician is also so much more than just a person that runs equipment. They must be professional at all times, excellent communicators for different types of personalities, work well in a team setting, and above all, provide great customer service. The technician of today can know everything about technology but if they provide a poor customer experience and make a bad impression on the client, all that technical knowledge becomes meaningless. These skills are even more important today, as shows have become more complex and involve a greater degree of teamwork, planning, rehearsing, and overall client interaction. These days a technician should understand emotional intelligence to work well with different personalities and team in order to build successful interpersonal relationships.
So, with all these new technologies and skills required to be successful, how does a technician today stay up-to-date? It’s difficult to be all things to all people, but a technician needs to invest the time in training. A firm that employs technicians must either invest in training their technical team, or risk falling behind in being able to deliver on the latest innovations. Even an industry veteran that has worked on countless successful complex events needs to stay up to date for the future. Systems and processes that work effectively today may not be the standard tomorrow. A technician that is trained on a regular basis will feel more prepared in the field, and is likely to embrace new technologies and accept changes over the long run.
Mentoring is another valuable way to gain knowledge and insight. The youngest generation of technicians coming out of school desiring to work in the field absolutely need mentors from the more experienced pros on the ins and outs of working in a live show environment. It can also work both ways. For example, a younger tech that may be less intimidated by new technology can help to infuse new energy into an older, more set in his/her ways technician and impart knowledge about the latest tricks of the trade.
The demands of the show technician in today’s world have increased exponentially. They must be technical experts across multiple platforms, consistently stay up to date on rapidly changing technologies, all while remaining professional, communicative, organized, and client-centric. Technicians that have been working for a long time have experienced a transition of the role into one that requires adaptability and knowledge of a much wider range of new technology. It can be a challenge to work outside of a comfort zone, but in this age, the ability to embrace change and have a willingness to develop new skills has become paramount to success in the long term. The expectation of the “Technician 2.0” is the new norm.