On the sixth floor of New York's famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, behind a door covered top-to-bottom in thick, gray carpet, is a 3,000 square foot L-shaped space. Unlike the rest of the plush hotel, this room is a cluttered mess of wires, microphone stands, and coffin-sized boxes emblazoned with "PSAV"--Presentation Services Audio Visual.
Past the piles of equipment and towers of amplifiers is a single step leading to a sound room. From the room, which is no larger than a small walk-in closet, is a view of the Waldorf's main ballroom. Across the rich red carpet and scores of round tables is a stage. But unlike most stages, this one bears the footprints of nearly every U.S president, world leader and business mogul since the beginning of the 20th century.
"Last year we hosted the G7 conference," says Mike Madho, the site director for PSAV, a division of Audio Visual Service Corporation (AVSC) in Long Beach, California. When The Bank of America and Fleet needed to announce their merger, they did so at the Waldorf, under the guidance of Madho and his crew of 29, who knew about the merger before Wall Street. "One time when Clinton was giving a talk, I was stuck holding James Taylor's guitar. I hated that," Madho recalls.
While the Waldorf has a disproportionate number of dignitaries giving watershed speeches, hotels throughout the world host events everyday that require advanced equipment and skilled professionals. Although hotels can do their own A/V--and many do--the higher end ones typically outsource their A/V needs to specialty firms, like AVSC.
"No individual hotel can invest in the requisite technology, or train people to implement that technology," says Digby Davies, the CEO of AVSC. "The outsourcing model will continue."
The meeting and event market for A/V is $1.8 billion, estimates the 46-year-old Davies. With contracts at over 600 hotels worldwide, 500 of which are in the U.S., AVSC commands roughly a third of the market. And it's only going to get better, predicts Davies. "In 10 years I think we can reach a billion in sales, sure. The organic growth will hopefully get us there, but there is also acquisition potential."
Though the A/V market is one small piece of the greater $62 billion motion picture and video industry, it is indicative of the future. Because of advanced technologies there are more avenues to sell products. "In the A/V industry there used to be only 35mm projectors. Now there are data monitors, networked computers and high-definition televisions," Davies says.
"The prognosis is good," says Davies of his industry. With technology pushing the envelope even farther, and increasing the opportunities, the motion picture/video industry comes in at number 10 on Inc.com's list of the top 10 industries to start and grow a business in the coming decade.