International Men's Day: Acknowledging the contribution of men within AV

18 November 2022 // 8 mins read

International Men's Day is a day to celebrate the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. 

In honour of International Men’s Day, we spoke to four inspiring men within AV to share how they have positively impacted the industry. Within the below article, you can learn more about how they became involved within the AV industry, their proudest achievement and any tips for others wanting to enter the industry. 

As a company, we are advocates for equality and are proud to continually strive to ensure we do our part in helping break the bias in our workplace and industry.  After speaking to five inspiring women earlier on in the year, we felt it was necessary to continue the conversation in celebrating the success of individuals within AV. 

We would like to say a huge thank you to Jack Laidlaw, Mike Blackman, Chris Liebrand, and Ross Pedgrift for taking the time to share their stories.

Jack Laidlaw

HE Cross-College Coordinator at Middlesbrough College

I’ve been creating audiovisual art since I was a very young. Early years involved lots of audio recording (I used to record music using a double tape deck by ‘bouncing’ between channels). I studied photography and media studies at A level, for which I created short films/music videos, and I was a professional recording musician at a young age prior to completing my undergraduate degree in music technology. I then became a member of the teaching staff on the music technology degree programme.  

A few years into my teaching career I identified a need for a mechanism to encourage people to join the audiovisual sector due to anecdotal evidence from friends and colleagues who were running AV companies and finding it very difficult to recruit. I then developed the first BSc Audiovisual Technology degree programme in the UK, which was validated by the Open University and delivered at Middlesbrough College. The reaction from the AV industry was overwhelmingly positive, however, we struggled to recruit students to the course. 

In January 2019 I started a project to create an Audiovisual Technician apprenticeship standard, I completed the project in September 2022! I have also developed and validated an Open University Foundation Degree in Audiovisual Technology which we use to train apprentices: it’s part-time and delivered entirely online which means that apprentices can study remotely. The process of developing the original degree programme then moving to the apprenticeship model took over five years, and is undoubtedly my biggest achievement in education. As for other achievements, I have to say I’m very proud of recording two sessions for John Peel at Maida Vale studios when I was a teenager. 

For those interested in getting in to AV now I’d say follow your passions, don’t narrow your focus too early, and become an AV apprentice as soon as you can! 

Mike Blackman

Managing Director of ISE

I got started in the industry by chance. It wasn’t a childhood desire or dream. I had been organising IT and Technology Shows in in Europe for some time and was approached by a Head Hunter between Christmas and New Year 2002/3. He explained that 3 US based associations, InfoComm (now AVIXA) CEDIA & NSCA wanted to launch an AV systems integration event in Europe. His words were, “ Mike, this show is made for you”. Having looked at the concept as well as the existing US Shows I agreed that this would interest me. 3 months later we had formed the company and started the acquisition of exhibitors for the first event to be held in Geneva in February 2004. Obviously, history shows it was a good decision.

I think that my proudest AV moment has been to deliver a full show in 2022 after a 2 year hiatus due to the pandemic. Covid played a devastating role for all in the exhibition industry. It was tough on all of us and to make a successful comeback, after what I felt was the most difficult time in my entire career, was a  tremendous achievement. 

The entire ISE Team were really proud of what we had achieved in delivering a successful ISE 22 in size, number of exhibitors and attendance.

My tip for anyone who wants to start in this industry is make sure that you enjoy what you are doing. We are in an industry that is forever growing and evolving. It touches more and more of what we do in our every day lives, wether at work or home. I enjoy reading and keeping abreast of all developments in the market and recommend it to everyone as part of the job. If you are not interested in tech maybe its not the right career path. 

Chris Liebrand

Managing Director at Runtech

After travelling the world, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do next, I was 23 and needed to start a career. My Father, who is in AV, recommended an AV Integrator, so I reached out to them and was hired as a storeman. Soon after this I started helping with AV service calls and at the time, four highly skilled engineers at the firm took me under their wing and taught me so much from an early age, and that’s where my love for the AV industry started.

In 1996, I started working as an AV Technician, and was lucky enough to work on some great projects including the first videowall for Coca Cola in Piccadilly Circus. This was followed by co-running Motav Ltd which included developing and training the entire team and processes and securing and implementing AV projects for various blue chip organisations in the UK and EMEA. A number of years later I founded my own AV company called F1AV which I am happy to say was very successful. This was definitely one of my proudest achievements. 

My most memorable projects included working for Apple Retail and Apple Corporate for a five year period, implementing over 50 Zoom Rooms for Sophos across the UK, EMEA, Asia and the USA, and installing AV in M&M World Store and Stella McCartney in London. I was especially proud to have worked with Apple and Sophos. After a successful ten years, F1AV was acquired. A number of years later, I am now the Managing Director of Runtech.

If you’re thinking of joining the AV industry, my biggest tip would be to start your career in a technical job role, as this will provide you with a strong technical based foundation. No matter what type of role you hope to be in years later down the line, having a technical understanding is important for any role. I believe having an AV technical foundation, is the key to success.

Ross Pedgrift

UK & International Sales Manager at Clevertouch

Since a young age, I have always had an interest in how things work and problem solving. I used to set up my Dad’s new computer / audio / visual products that he used to buy for our house. He knew I’d be unboxing them and working it all out for him as soon as I could get my hands on them. Even now, if something doesn’t work, I see it as a challenge to fix it. I actually got my break in the industry by sending my CV into specific companies that I liked the look and feel of – shows the importance of having a nice website! I learned so much from that job which has set me up really well for the position that I am in now.

There are quite a few to pick from, but I am very proud of the fact that in the 3.5 years I have been with Clevertouch Technologies, we have experienced year on year growth of our ‘ClevertouchLive’ Digital Signage products. To add to that, I have also won projects working with some of the UK’s biggest employers in various verticals – who doesn’t like winning and delivering nice deployments, eh!

Advice? Be inquisitive, have a desire to understand things about technology and if someone is showing you something that you don’t quite grasp, don’t be afraid to say you need to be shown again and ask questions!

I would also say, aim to be the most knowledgeable person in the room for your subject / expertise. If you are pitching, prepare, prepare, prepare and exceed the expectations of your audience.

We are privileged to work in such a brilliant industry that is fundamental to everyday life in every sense. If you choose this career path, embrace it, get stuck in – you won’t regret it!


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