Uniting under the banner of AUDIOVERSITY, NEXO and Yamaha Professional Audio have been proactive in developing and maintaining their education and training offerings amid the COVID-19 crisis. Considered the industry’s largest free training resource, unlike most manufacturer-led incentives, AUDIOVERSITY is accredited by the AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) programme, providing attendees the skills and knowledge of universal professional audio products and systems that engineers and technicians are likely to find on the job – something which the organisers describe as ‘agnostic training’.
AUDIOVERSITY Head of Training, Nicholas Poitrenaud has been involved in curating NEXO’s education programme since 2015. He and NEXO Director of Engineering Support Division, François Deffarges, sat down with TPi over Microsoft Teams to share their philosophy of disseminating information and know-how to the next generation of live events professionals.
“François and I, along with the NEXO Engineering Support Team, organise AUDIOVERSITY’s training and educational content, sharing the workload to make the training as effective as possible for attendees across the globe,” commented Poitrenaud, who last appeared in TPi in November 2020, as he dusted off his roadie uniform to embark on a unique broadcast project which saw Lebanese jazz trumpeter and pianist Ibrahim Maalouf deliver an innovative live performance, with NEXO sound systems providing an immersive soundfield.
NEXO’s Engineering Support Department was created six years ago to support the network of the audio community in the broader sense – from distributors and dealers to sound engineers, technicians and consultants, among others. As a former sound engineer, Deffarges, along with Poitrenaud, who still operates as a sound engineer, utilised their collective in-the-field expertise and experience operating in universities across France to create a pragmatic training programme.
“AUDIOVERSITY is built on our strong experience as teachers. I believe that you cannot teach if you don’t have experience operating in the field as well as the academic structure of education – it is a symbiotic relationship,” Deffarges theorised. “Plenty of the skills we impart to the attendees are applicable to operating on site.”
‘INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF PROFESSIONALS’
When COVID-19 enforced the ban on mass gatherings in mid-March last year, NEXO reacted swiftly by rolling out a series of webinars, held on Zoom over the course of two weeks, which were subsequently broadcast across the firm’s social channels. “We had 50 sessions in total with 5,000 attendees, which were rebroadcast in the US and Asia on Facebook live,” Deffarges remarked. “Initially, it was a difficult transition for us to shift our processes from on-site education to the online realm. However, it was a worthy pursuit in the long term.”
Like many manufacturers, NEXO ramped up its online training during the height of the pandemic. Poitrenaud cited the ease and preparation of “elite-level” education institutes and universities, which immediately acclimatised to online teaching, as a benchmark for AUDIOVERSITY which, at that stage, was in its digital infancy. “It is a different experience to connect with attendees through a screen as opposed to the human connection,” he commented. “We counteract this by interacting with them, ensuring their camera is on and engaging in Q&As. It is an increased workload for us as tutors, however, the rewards are tenfold.”
By June last year, the team came to the sudden realisation that the sector was experiencing information overload. Having masterminded the shift to digital, Poitrenaud now faced the initiative’s greatest challenge. “People were fed up with manufacturer webinars. We saw the attendance drop significantly, because the webinar market for the industry was so saturated at that time,” he conceded, explaining that the team’s next challenge was to step up the format and run intimate and casual online sessions at the turn of the year, accredited by the AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) programme, and run by Yamaha.
“It’s a new challenge to network and educate the sector in limited numbers,” Deffarges stated. “I believe that audio and video interaction cannot replace physical interaction, however, this is the closest thing to networking and inspiring the next generation of professionals at this difficult time.”
AUDIOVERSITY’s online training sessions allow professionals, installers and students to learn about general acoustic principles and access specific pro audio system training, covering everything from system design and deployment through to system installation. “Attendees range from experienced professionals to those making their first steps in the industry; they are wholly dependent on locale and their requirements. We’re even thinking of increasing it to meet demand.”
Modules include An Introduction to NS-1, Fundamentals of Acoustics, Directive Subs and Design, System Measurement and Tuning, System Control and Monitoring, as well as several classes on application-specific topics that attendees can learn or brush up at no cost without being brand-specific.
Courses are approved by AVIXA as an RU provider, so Renewal Units are earned for successfully completing the seminars. “The AVIXA CTS diploma accreditation is not only establishing itself in the United States but as a reference worldwide, it is steadily becoming the only universal diploma in the AV industry,” Deffarges noted. “The general philosophy of NEXO training is what I call ‘agnostic training’ and what AVIXA describes as a non-manufacturer training, which allows attendees to get double the number of points while learning a range of skills applicable to a number of audio systems – not just NEXO.”
According to Deffarges, the AVIXA accreditation has made the AUDIOVERSITY process a much more professional and sophisticated affair. “Sessions are scheduled in advance, there’s a six-month rolling agenda, with three to four sessions per month, featuring mandatory online assessments,” he added. “While the AVIXA experience requires more legwork on our behalf, it is a hugely rewarding venture.”
Educational establishments using the programme include LIR Academy, CNSMDP, INA, IAD and Belmont University, among others. “Yamaha, as a global company, is highly involved in education through an enormous network of music schools and institutes. Historically, the company has provided training at a very high level. It is our responsibility that NEXO and Yamaha share the transmission of data for those striving for a career in the industry,” Deffarges commented. “We have unified our training under the same brand, with former ETC (Education Training Certification) programmes, which allows us to cover a broad range of topics within the audio spectrum.”
AUDIOVERSITY is open to all, with the only sign-up requirement being a description of attendees’ background. “This is vitally important in countries where the access to free education is not always granted,” Deffarges remarked. “The uptake and our pre-existing relationships with several elite educational institutions across the globe allow us to not only loan our kit, but provide our expertise – sharing the dos and don’ts of touring with the next generation of professionals.”
The returns for NEXO are clear: increasing the visibility of the brand and connecting with end users. “This is the closest thing we can offer to real-world experience right now. While the COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating effect on the industry, it is also providing us with time to become a better skilled and more prepared workforce,” Deffarges concluded.
“While these sessions do not compensate for in-person meetings, they help us connect, inspire and educate the live events workforce. We realise this is going to be a benefit post-pandemic, so we’ll adopt the things we’ve learned over the past year to communicate and educate digitally as well as in-person, when it is safe to do so.”
AUDIOVERSITY online sessions are available to view on the website links below, with sessions scheduled up until June as part of a six-month rolling programme.
This article originally appeared in issue #259 of TPi, which you can read here.