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Meet your AV integrator: Anna Valley

Anna Valley’s integration director Nick Shaw discusses some of the changes and trends he’s seeing in the AV industry today, plus his top tips on getting it right

Company: Anna Valley

Name: Nick Shaw

Title: Integration director

Location: London (Feltham)

Target market: Corporate, DOOH, retail, sports and entertainment venues

Services offered: Full AV integration – technical planning, installation, service and support

Hi Nick, tell us about the business.

Anna Valley has been providing AV across various sectors for over 25 years. We started supplying screens to broadcast clients, then expanded into event AV rentals and finally established the integration department in 2015. Our team has
over 10 years’ experience and can provide an in-house cradle-to-grave service.

What is your geographic reach?

We’re a local company and only have offices in the UK, but we’ve completed installations in Europe, the Middle East and America. For international projects we normally work with local partners.

How is business?

Very good! We’ve had a 400 per cent increase in business over the last year and the team is steadily growing to keep up with the workload. In the last two years we’ve gone from being a small, unrecognised player in the local integration market to being one of the leading contenders.

What trends are you seeing in the market?

Five years ago, corporate clients were fitting out meeting rooms with high-end tech and spending a lot of money on bespoke VC equipment, but the trend is now towards simplification. Users want to be able to come in, open their laptops, connect to a screen and webcam and start working immediately. The technology that delivers this ease of use has become quite cheap and meeting room budgets have dropped.

LED screens have become much more affordable and, subsequently, are increasing in popularity. Clients looking for big impact screens in the past would often have to settle for large format displays and video walls because LED screens were prohibitively expensive. Now the same budget that you’d have spent on an LFD display five years ago will buy you a high definition LED video wall.

What’s hot in AV right now?

LED is the hottest display technology at the moment and everyone is trying to cash in on it. Anna Valley was one of the first UK companies to invest in LED technology back when only specialist manufacturers supplied them, but now just about every technology brand has an LED product in their portfolio.

Samsung is a popular brand right now – partly because you can build an entire suite of AV, IT and security systems using only products from their group of brands. People also trust their products – they’ve turned their reputation around from being a provider of cheap products to now being recognised as a premium brand.

Any personal product favourites?

We’ve been burned by products that promise a lot but don’t deliver when they get on site. Sometimes the less interesting products that operate in the background are undervalued. Peerless-AV provides mounts and brackets – both off-the-shelf and customised products – and without their support (literally!) we wouldn’t be able to create some of the more ambitious displays for clients looking for the wow factor.

What are the biggest obstacles/frustrations you’re seeing in the industry?

There’s often a disconnect between what clients want to achieve and the budget that’s been allocated towards AV solutions. Our clients are under pressure to justify what they spend and prove that an investment in AV will provide a return – either in increased productivity or revenue – so they need to ensure they’re getting maximum value for minimum cost. Finding the right balance between budget and the return it offers can be tricky but sometimes spending more up front actually saves money over time – in reduced maintenance, increased technology, life-span etc.

Has the attitude towards professional and high-quality AV changed for businesses in recent years?

People are definitely spending more on, and expect more from, AV solutions in most walks of life. In the same way that DOOH (digital-out-of-home) providers have moved from static posters and scroller displays to digital displays because they can generate more revenue from increased impressions and content, so corporates have moved from flipcharts and telephones to big screens and video conferencing because they improve efficiency and increase profits. AV has proved its ability to provide a return on investment.

Why should end users go through an integrator rather than simply buy and install themselves?

There are four main reasons why end users should use integrators:

Because of the skillset and knowledge that an integrator adds to the equation. We spend all day, every day working with AV technology, putting solutions together and collaborating with technology providers.

Most equipment manufacturers won’t transact directly with end users – their route to market is normally via distributors or integration partners.

Integrators don’t only help you design and install AV systems but also provide support and aftersales service to keep your system running. 

Even if end users are capable of installing, maintaining and supporting their own AV – they would have to recruit and manage the staff and deal with numerous providers to source and maintain the equipment. It’s more convenient to deal with one integrator to take care of everything on your behalf while you focus on your core business.

What are the most common mistakes from businesses when it comes to AV?

The most common mistake businesses make is thinking that their AV success is based on their knowledge about the technology available when actually it’s based on their unique understanding of their company’s needs. AV integrators and technology suppliers can teach you everything about the tech and help you choose solutions that deliver the functionality you need – but only you can put together the brief that describes your perfect solution. No matter how big or small your organisation, or your level of AV knowledge, if you focus on what you’re trying to achieve then you’re on your way to conceptualising, designing and integrating the right AV solution for your company.

Finally, how important is it for a business – of any kind – to have/use good quality AV?

Massively. Cheap isn’t best. Buying cheap products might mean you save money upfront but you’ll end up paying more to keep that solution operational. And the quality of AV has to extend beyond just the quality of actual product to include service and support from the provider. As an integrator we are product agnostic – if a client is looking for a specific brand then we will provide what they ask for – but if the customer doesn’t have a preference then we leverage our relationships with manufacturers that provide good products, a good range and support at a competitive price.