The Other Social Networking for TV Pros

We’re taking a brief detour from technical audio topics to examine something that could be key to a sustained career in the modern television industry. Social media is everywhere these days. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other Internet social networks dominate technology and financial news while their data gathering tentacles reach deeper into our lives.

Media organizations and television professionals are required to maintain an online presence in order to stay competitive and may be considered out of business if they can’t be found online. We connect with friends through Facebook, grow our business network through LinkedIn and share insight through Twitter.

Even with all of this activity we may actually be ignoring the social networks that can have the most impact on our business. These networks have not-so-catchy names like the Audio Engineering Society, the Society of Broadcast Engineers, and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Along with similar organizations, they provide a global support system that serves the technical and craft sides of the industry.

What makes them critical to the business is that these professional networks are present in physical form all over the world. They are present in standards and practices that drive the creation and distribution of media that eventually crosses over into the world of the consumer. They also manifest themselves in the form of conferences, workshops, conventions, and local chapters, giving members and associates opportunities for education, involvement, and personal connection.

The fact that these groups provide a forum to actually meet in person is a significant and often overlooked benefit, because the face-to-face, real-world connections made through these groups can be life- and career-changing.

My first encounter with AES was at an annual national convention. At the time I was unaware of what happens behind the scenes at these events or that AES is a global standards body. Workshops, papers, tutorials, seminars and meetings of standards working groups are going on while attendees cruise the exhibit floor looking at equipment. The standards groups are particularly interesting because they hammer out the technical details of audio standards that show up in our cellphones, automobiles, and the tools we use for audio production.

An “Acoustic Measurement Workshop” hosted by the AES Atlanta Section. Panelists from left are: Charlie Hughes, Ivan Beaver, Tom Danley, Wayne Lee, Doug Jones While AES is primarily concerned with audio, SMPTE is focused on television and cinema engineering. Like AES, SMPTE has meetings and seminars along with an annual conference in Hollywood where some of the sessions can be quite complex.

Current standards work from these organizations include specifications for audio-over-IP, metadata, file formats and wrappers, synchronization, equipment interfaces and facility infrastructure. Participation in standards working groups is open to anyone with an interest (SMPTE also charges a participation fee) and gives members the satisfaction of being involved in work with a lasting impact.

SBE was created for the continuing education and certification of broadcast engineers and does not publish standards or have working groups. It does, however, have a calendar constantly busy with training sessions and meetings at both the national and local levels.

While the large events held by these organizations are important, the local level is where the majority of engagement and personal connection takes place. Most large cities or regions have local chapters that hold regular meetings, which also happen to be excellent forums for education and for meeting other professionals whose path you might not otherwise cross.

Subject matter for local meetings is typically decided on by the local section officers who look to their members for guidance, which means that even new members can help shape the section. Since local sections are able to tap into the national and global resources of their organization, it’s possible to encounter professionals from all over the world at the meeting happening in your town.

Meetings held by local sections can be quite varied and include workshops, demos, tours and even field trips. The local professional organizations in my city regularly hold co-sponsored events when topics of interest overlap, which gives the members of the different organizations the opportunity to meet and collaborate. Attending a local meeting to hear about a new tool or technology can often result in connections that last a lifetime, deeper involvement in the organization, enduring friendships or the realization of an undiscovered passion.

While building our online presence is important, building our face-to-face professional social network can provide more immediate and also enduring benefits.

In this column we’ve looked at only three of the professional organizations that support the television and media industries, but there are many others, enough that every television professional should be able to find one that fits them. Every organization meeting or workshop provides the opportunity for education and to meet other professionals who may help solve a problem or pave the way for an improvement in the way we work.

Don’t let these opportunities pass you by. I encourage you to check out your local professional organizations to find out which one best suit you. Then step away from your computer and attend a meeting or two. Listen, learn and talk to people. I think you’ll be glad you went. And don’t be surprised if, as a curious byproduct of your professional social network, you one day find yourself writing a magazine column. Stranger things have happened.

I want to thank Dave Moulton for spearheading this column for the last 15 years. Dave did a remarkable job writing “Inside Audio” while covering an array of audio-centric topics. I was a regular reader and have many of his columns saved in my reference library.

I didn’t thank him properly when I took over this space, partly out of surprise that I was writing it and partly from the effort to get that first column whipped into shape and turned in. So this is a much delayed thank you to Dave for keeping us all informed, entertained and on the “Inside Audio” track for so many years. Thanks Dave!

Jay Yeary is an active member of the AES and SMPTE organizations and has participated in many SBE events. He can often be found in workshops and training sessions at local meetings and national conferences. He can be reached through TV Technology magazine or via Twitter @TVTechJay.