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Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
An AV and integration-focused podcast broadcast live weekly
Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
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Home Automation Unplugged Episode #238: An Industry Q&A with Alesia Hendley

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Alesia Hendley, Multimedia Journalist and Content Creator shares all about her move to personal branding and her journey as an industry influencer.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Alesia Hendley. Recorded live on Friday, March 3rd, 2023, at 11:30 pm. EST.

About Alesia Hendley

Alesia is an AV professional that found her passion at a young age as a sound engineer with her Father’s church. 

In the early stages of the church’s foundation they couldn’t afford musicians. By utilizing different audiovisual technologies she and her Father found creative ways to go higher both musically and spiritually, taking the congregation with them. 

Now you can find her operating/installing audiovisual systems or executing creative ventures. As a young professional she’s finding ways to bring AV, creatives, and creative visions together in the effort to leave her mark by making an impact, and not just an impression.

Interview Recap

  • Alesia’s upbringing and how she started her trajectory working sound boards at her father’s church
  • Her move to personal branding and her journey as an industry influencer
  • Why Pro AV industry is not well known and what the industry could be doing to recruit new talent

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #237 An Industry Q&A with Will Gilbert and Greg Michelier


Ron:  Alesia, how are you?

Alesia: I'm good. How are you doing, Ron? Thanks for having me.

Ron:  Alesia, we made it happen.

Alesia: We did, we did.

Ron:  Where there's a will, there's a way. And clearly you're a saint because you and I tried to do this before a couple of weeks ago. And something in the innerwebs, in my computer, or your computer, they just weren't having it.

Alesia: Those bugs, some bugs in there. It's all good.

Ron:  They were bugs. You've used this software before StreamYard. Is this, is this software that you've done on your own shows or you've been a guest on shows using this software?

Alesia: Yeah, absolutely. StreamYard is what we would use to shoot Dante Quick Shots. If anybody's seen Dante Quick Shots when I was at Audinate, the foundation was built on this platform. We actually won an award for Dante Quick Shots with AV Nation. So shout out to my guys forever an Autinator and even though I'm no longer at that company, but shout out to Frank, Luke and Bernie and StreamYard for helping us make things like this possible.

Ron:  That's awesome. And you did make that announcement, and you made a reference to it. You made an announcement on LinkedIn. And I saw it blow up and your social channels are blowing up. People are going, oh my goodness. Alesia, where are you going? So what can you tell us? Where are you going? Or when are you going to make the announcement?

Alesia: The announcement will come here in a few short weeks. So keep your eye open for that. I guess if I have to give a hint, I'll say it's a partner to Audinate.

Ron:  Ah. I didn't know I'd be getting a hint here live on air.

Alesia: There you go, a little hint.

Ron:  My sleuths out there are out there like figuring out, all right, let me find the Audinate partner list and find out who that might be.

Alesia: It's quite a few, so it's pretty broad, but you might, people might be able to take a guess.

Ron:  Where are you coming to us from Alesia? Where do you call home base?

Alesia: So home base for me is technically Largo, Florida. On beach side of the Tampa world kind of Bay Area. So love it here. Been here almost three years come April.

Ron:  Largo. So you're south of Miami.

Alesia: No, I'm northwest of Miami, actually. So I'm in the bay. To get to Miami, it's about four hours. It's not, I mean. It's kind of like Texas, all those major cities.

Ron:  I was thinking Key Largo.

Alesia: But I mean, aren't you in Florida too?

Ron:  I am. I'm admitting my geographic ignorance here. So you were in Largo. Is that different from Key Largo?

Alesia: I believe so. I have never heard a Key Largo. So technically, I'm in between Clearwater and Tampa.

Ron:  Oh, okay. All right. Different side of the coast.

Alesia: 00:05:37.680 Yeah, yeah.

Ron:  Down south, east of Miami, the keys, and the first key is Key Largo.

Alesia: Yeah, well, I'm not there.

Ron:  You're not there?

Alesia: No.

Ron:  Awesome. Awesome. All right, well, some of our listers are going to know who you are, Alesia. They're going to know they're going to have followed you. They're going to have watched your videos and your content. And some of them may not know. So why don't you just tell us a little bit about yourself kind of at a high level? How might people know of you and maybe some of your background?

Alesia: Yeah, at a high level, most people know me from the content that I'm putting out, right? Whether it's my column in Commercial Integrator or the videos that I create with you know the Infocomm show and the E4 regional shows with Exertis Almo. Or just general AV selfies, right? Most people know me from that type of content creation that I've been doing in the industry for years. But long story short, I've been professionally in the industry officially for ten years now. I made my ten year mark this year. So I'm excited about that. It started working at my father's church, running the board at a very young age. And it growing into a full production from there, right? It started with audio. The next thing we were looking at projectors, and then we were having to get mics for the bands and all of this thing, right? It was just this full blown production by the time I was about 16, 17. Shortly after that, we moved from my hometown, up in the Connecticut area, we moved down to Houston. Somebody mentioned school to me. I was trying to get into a church, and I was like, what? There's school for audio? And at that time, there was only R institute or Full Sail. And then I found this little gym right in my backyard in Houston called Media Tech institute. It's a certification program, so I went there and got certified. After that, I was shortly after basically an audio engineer that didn't have any more artists to record, right? Everybody was like, all right, we got to find out how to make a real living here. People were having children you know. We were getting older. It just wasn't making sense. And that's how I found pro AV 'cause I got on Craigslist, typed in audio engineering. I got a gig basically with the rental house in Houston. And I quickly found out like, okay, my idea of going on tour was not realistic because I don't like load ins and loadouts. I didn't even like driving around Houston from place to place. There was no way I was going to do like a worldwide tour, right? So I tried to figure out what was next. That got me an in-house position in a multi purpose facility where I was doing a lot of different things every day under the AV umbrella, whether that was setting up our digital signage, directing football games, running front of house audio, doing lighting for a nutcracker, setting up a banquet. It was all these different things. It was just one big facility where we had the latest and greatest technology. So then I realized I hit a pay cap and I was never going to be my boss in like the next ten, 15 years. So I was like, what's next? And that's kind of how I found Infocomm and the AV tweeps and started going to events. Putting myself out there, marrying that with content creation, and it's grown into this snowball effect that it is today.

Ron:  That's amazing. Going back to the beginning, your introduction to all of this, tell me about running the boards at your dad's church, like this young girl out there, you know, pushing the dials and getting everything designed and installed or was there a team around you or what was that like?

Alesia: No, the team was me and my dad. He was a sound guy before he took over as pastor. And we had to make it work because when we first started, we didn't have any musicians like. We didn't have too many singers either. So like it was the craziest thing I was kind of like a DJ because I would spin up all the cues that I needed. If you ever been to a real Pentecostal church you know, they're hooping and hollering, right? That's my dad. So I had like this cue mixer. I would cue in on my sounds to kind of riff with them. It was pretty amazing what we could do just the two of us together in the software that we had at the time. And our church continued to grow from that. It was fun because other churches would come visit our church. And say, oh man, your daughter and you. You have done some cool stuff with limited, how are you making those organ sounds with no organ player? So it led into kind of consulting at a young age. I think that's where my love for building strategy and kind of helping people direct their own strategies and making them successful came from. Because that's what we would do. People would come into our church, see what we were doing, and they wanted to know how they can do it, then it grew into training volunteers you know. It just became a full blown production. And I fell in love with it. So we started with nothing, and it grew into something really fascinating.

Ron:  The school that you went to in Houston, did you know what you wanted to do with that certification that you come out of? And I'm curious, I'm unaware. What was that certification and how does it play out in the landscape of, say, Infocomm certifications or other types of certifications in the audio or video landscape?

Alesia: I mean, technically, if you look at it from the pro AV perspective, you could say that it's totally separate, right? Because it's not a CTS. But it helped me build my foundation. So the certification was in audio and engineering, but the school was a studio, right? So it taught us a lot about music. You had to find bands to record. I knew that I always wanted to be in live sound, though, because that's the feel you get from church. It's live sound. You're creating that experience. There's nothing better to me than being behind the board. And everybody's into that experience and you get goosebumps. Like, yeah, I'm driving this thing, right? That was what was fueling me. But with school, it was more about learning those technical aspects. I think that's why that young man, when I was trying to get my first job in Houston was like, have you gone to school? Because I couldn't talk the technical talk. But I could feel it. I can hear it. I could feel it. That was my board, that's it. So going to school really helped me be able to build the foundation of my technical perspective for audio. That's how it just grew over time. So shout out to that guy. I can't even remember his name, but you know it was important because as I grew into AV, that was my foundation to continue building my career because it was like I had the experience, and then I had some type of certification to back me up. I think our industry is built on certifications, even though it comes to and or with jobs sometimes, right? And or experience or degree. That's what I was having trouble with early on. It was like I had the experience, but I didn't have the degree. So I was like, how can I start navigating this? So I started putting myself out there. But you know the certification for audio engineering, in my opinion, is more than enough to get a start in the AV industry, whether it's resi or pro, honestly. It gives you that starting point.

Ron:  Our industry, both on the pro side and the residential side, I believe, is having challenges or has had challenges maybe since the beginning of bringing in new talent. You're an example of new talent, right? And you fell in love with music and audio and engineering at the church. And you found your way, what are you doing? I'm curious, if anything, or what do you think our industry should be doing to be pulling in more young talent to expose them to this world that let's argue most people don't know exists?

Alesia: Yeah. In high schools, right? If we're looking at it from a high school level, we need to get in with those media programs, Most media programs are where the AV lovers live, because they're doing some form of production. They're probably doing some kind of camera work. They just don't know that they can do that outside of a broadcast studio. If we're looking at it on a higher level, we can start looking at certifications, places like Full Sail University, other areas. I think there's one that's called SEA that's actually up in Georgia, not too far from where I'm at in Florida. They have an audio engineering program. We need to start digging into these little holes and pockets and finding people where they are that are basically having these discussions about audio and video. They just don't know that the world of AV exists because that's what happened to me. I finished my certification program and the job board at my school was for all studio work. It's like, oh, go get in and become an intern here and run a coffee. So I'm like, I'm not here to run coffees. You know, don't get me wrong. I just knew I was it was going to take me a long time to be that head studio engineer, right? Because that guy's not going anywhere. He's been locked in for ages. So when I got on Craigslist and typed an audio engineer, you start seeing all of these kind of AV jobs, whether it's a rental company or news stations, you start getting to see a broader scope of what you can do with the certification in audio or video. Then that's how you stumble into the AV industry, like most of us have done. If we kind of reverse engineer that and go to those places that have little pockets of AV in them and let people know, hey, you can come get a job here. It might not be the passion, right? You might want to be the next puff daddy or whatever the case is. You might want to go and have your own film company. But in AV, you can get a job that funds that dream. That's really my message when I'm putting content out to people that don't know this industry exists. That's really the goal.

Ron:  Do you have do you have the observation that the trade associations should be doing this? Or is it the business owners that are listening to you and I talk here should be doing this?

Alesia: I think it's a collective, right? We could always point the fingers at the association. So you guys are the ones with the trainings. We could always do that. But it's a collective effort. We're a community for a reason. You want new talent? Go out and find them. Don't rely on the association all the time. I think it's a good balance beam that needs to be put in place of what's taking place in our industry. I know we do rely heavily on our associations for a lot of things educations and things like that. But we also have a responsibility to go out and actively seek new talent ourselves as well.

Ron:  Amen. And you just I mean, you said something profound. You said you went to the job board at the school and there was not one audio/video company there. But yet, you know, that would have been...

Alesia: This was in the heart of Houston, Texas. There was not one.

Ron:  That's insane. So here you have students learning audio and video and lighting. And not one of the companies that would want those recruits actually soliciting or partnering or collaborating with that school.

Alesia: Exactly.

Ron:  I'm wondering if that isn't still the case today across these tech schools.

Alesia: It definitely is. Because we were up in Georgia for an event. And I found a group of very diverse people. I was like, okay, there's all kinds of like. It was very diverse. I'm like, where are y'all from? How did you get to this event? How did you learn about it? And it was because they went to SEA institute. And their teacher told them, hey, you can get some additional credit if you come and learn and take these Dante certifications. But they had no idea that the industry even existed. They had no idea and they were like, oh, this is great. So I spent most of my time with them talking about all these different opportunities that are over here because most of them were in that program because they were music producers, or they were involved in photography and film. And I was like, well, hey, guess what? While you're hustling and working towards your job, look at these companies that are showcasing today. All of them have some part in that, come get a job. You know, settle in, make you know make your parents proud, get some healthcare. You can have a decent job here. And focus on your dream on the side. I think people just don't know it exists.

Ron:  They don't know. I think we all, you and me and everyone listening or watching has a responsibility to expand.

Alesia: Exactly.

Ron:  The awareness of our profession. I think what makes our profession as exciting today as it did 23 years ago when I joined, which was there'll be more technology in our lives tomorrow than there is today. This stuff is not going away. We're just at the beginning of the beginning.

Alesia: Yep. And it keeps evolving. And that's the exciting part of the industry. There's always new technology. It keeps us on our toes. There's always something new to learn. The level of creativity that comes with designing and installing this type of technology to be useful in so many different verticals always keeps me inspired.

Ron:  Somewhere along your career path, you went to Access Networks.

Alesia: Yeah.

Ron:  And you met a mutual friend of ours, Hagai.

Alesia: Shout out to Hagai.

Ron:  What's up Hagai? All right, so tell us about what was your what was your role like there and tell us about that experience and about the mentorship you received from Hagai?

Alesia: Oh, man. I can't speak enough about Hagai and him taking me under his wing. How I landed at Access Networks is pretty crazy because at the time I was still an end user, I had, I think I was named 40 under 40 that year. There was just a lot going on. That was kind of like my breakout year in my opinion. It was like people were starting to get to know who I was, and I felt like I wasn't stumbling through things anyway. I felt like I was becoming a little bit more strategic. And I told you I had hit a cap. I was never going to be my boss, so that's when I started getting out, figuring what else I can do. And people were always telling me I would be good at sales. I was like, well, I guess so. I've been selling myself this whole time. Let's see what can happen. So when CEDIA was in Dallas one year, I think this might have been like 2016, maybe. I was still an end user, but it was in my backyard. So I took time off of work. I got in my car, I drove up there, and I drove there to meet Hagai. Don't get me wrong. There were some other people that I was trying to you know network with and everything. But I drove there to meet Hagai. That was the first time we had actually met in person because we were just friends on Twitter. So you know we get to chopping it up and we stay connected. About four or 5 years later, I ended up working at his company. So it was amazing. And it was a plus for me because when the network went down at our location, as an end user, we didn't know what to do, right? We had to call the school's IT team to come out. And we were talking different languages. So I was like, man, all my gear lives on the network. I need to learn networking, or I'm going to be out of a job. So Access Networks seem like the best place for me to be. Not only to grow professionally, but to continue to build my technical jobs as well, because Access Networks designed the greatest network systems for AV to live on, even though it wasn't in pro AV. It was the foundation of building my networking chops. Learning from that team, being a part of that team was one of the best times of my life. I was actually talking to Hagai because I won a company trip when I worked there. And it ended up being on my birthday. My birthday is next week. So it was like all of these photos popping up of Hagai and two other coworkers. We were all on the top of a mountain in Colombia, on horses.

Ron:  That sounds amazing.

Alesia: It was an amazing trip. I will never forget that team. I will never forget everything that we built together. The mentorship that I received from Hagai and other members of that team is just incredible, incredible.

Ron:  Well, just speaking about that word mentorship and you see Hagai as a mentor and for the people that are listening and watching, what should they think about in terms of their role or responsibility of mentoring others? Mentoring those around them?

Alesia: Always remember why you started and always remember that what you have to add is valuable. He's super like entrepreneur. He's just built everything from scratch. When I saw that in him, it was like, okay, I can do this too. So it was kind of like putting together all these things that he's that he's done because where I'm from, I don't know any people who have done anything remotely close to what Hagai's done. So it's like, I need to know this man. I need to know how he's building. But from reverse, right? There's times where I inspire him too. I push him too. And I think people look at mentorship as, oh, I know this and this person needs to know this, right? It's not like there's a gap like maybe I know more than you, so you need to listen. But it's really a two way street. It's a relationship of building each other up. Because we all learn from each other. I think that's why that relationship is just so good. We continue to inspire each other and that's really what mentorship is about, inspiring each other, but also teaching each other things that we don't know.

Ron:  I saw on social media and anyone that wants to go find you, I want to say maybe I saw this on LinkedIn. Hagai's new company's, platform is a platform 5.

Alesia: Yeah, absolutely.

Ron:  He's building and renovating properties and his newest building has a training component and he invited you and you ended up speaking. Can you tell us what was that all about?

Alesia: Yeah, yeah. That space is extremely special. If you don't know Hagai, anything he touches is gold. It might not look at it as first. That was an old auto shop. That building was an old auto shop. And when he turned it into, it's just like, ah, this vision is remarkable. But I believe the training space and the now community center, which is the code name for it right now. It grew from a place of when a lot of crazy things were happening in the world in general. On a personal level, Hagai and I were having conversations on how we can create change. And remove some of these barriers and I said, well, hey, you want to create real change? We have to actively do something and not just keep talking about it because that's what our industry loves to do. We love talking about diversity. Let's keep talking about it, raising awareness. All right, but when do we actually create change? How do we do that? And Hagai from our conversations, he picked that up and he put his money where his mouth was. Now there's going to be a space where children and young adults don't have those opportunities. Now they'll be able to come into that space and know about AV early, right? That's how you create real change. That's how you remove barriers. You provide opportunity and Hagai is doing that on so many different levels. So I was able to go up there and give my speech about you know what the space meant to me and what it means to Hagai and what it's going to mean to that community in eastern Pennsylvania and I'm excited about it. So people are going to know more and more as that space continues to grow.

Ron:  That's awesome. We'll put a link to a guy's Platform 5 company. We'll put a link on the social channels and down in the show notes for sure. I want to pivot to personal branding. You're a master of personal branding. So how are you known on social media? What's your handle?

Alesia: @thesmoothfactor.

Ron:  The smooth factor. And so is that all social channels?

Alesia: All social channels. Pretty much. Except Facebook. I haven't been on Facebook in a while.

Ron:  Yeah. Facebook kicked me off. I got hacked in June of last summer. And it was not fun. It was unpleasant, and I'm admitting I personally haven't been back since June of last summer.

Alesia: Yeah, as soon as my parents joined Facebook, I was out.

Ron:  You're out. There is an ageism thing about Facebook, right?

Alesia: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's cool you know. I understand the value of it. It's a choice for me. Maybe I'll get back there one day, but I'm good.

Ron:  Where do you spend your time on social media?

Alesia: LinkedIn. Yeah. LinkedIn and Twitter. And Instagram. Those are my top three.

Ron:  Those are your top three. So talk to us about personal brand, how you think about it and how you've learned to up your game and maybe we start at the core with the why. Why work on your personal brand?

Alesia: For me personally, the why was growing my career. Like I said, I was constantly going up for jobs and I would lose them because for one, a guy was going for that role. And for two, I didn't have a degree. I said, well, okay. If I'm constantly in your face at events, if I'm constantly in your face on social, if I'm constantly just me across the board, I'll start having to introduce myself less. And that means I have a greater opportunity to land a role and continue to grow my career. So that was my initial goal, was to keep climbing this corporate ladder. Now that I've built it to what it is today, it is still to climb, right? I've still got a lot of climbing to do. I'm not done yet, but now it's also to bring other people with me. I'm at the point where I'm on the ladder now, I could put a couple more people in my back or you know tie some shirts up and throw them down. Like, come on, let's do this thing, right? So I've built my platform so now where it's time to just amplify other voices and help you know diverse this space or add diversity to the space. So that's my two purposes; Keep growing and bringing other people with me and finding unique ways to tell stories about our industry. So other people can find out about it and join. So when you're building a personal brand, I think your why has to be extremely clear. You have to know why you're doing this and it can't be for money just to be honest, it never works out. If you start with the passion, then everything else comes. So you have to figure out what you're most passionate about, and then build the brand from there.

Ron:  So anyone listening, there's a diversity of people listening, there's owners, there's managers, there's programmers, technicians, project managers, moms, dads, you know, husbands, wives. So who should be doing this on social media? And where do you start?

Alesia: In my opinion, I think everybody. Even if you're a stay at home mom, I think there is an aspect to having a personal brand that could change your life and also your children's lives. It creates opportunity. But from our perspective, in this industry, if you want to grow in the space, become known, have your voice heard. It's so important for you to have a personal brand. Especially on LinkedIn. In my opinion, if you're in pro AV or resi, you should be on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the number one platform to do business, right? That's what the one place we all know. Okay, we're not here for politics. We're not here for your moment of rant. We're all here to do business. And I think that's why LinkedIn is so powerful. It's also the less noise. Most people only use LinkedIn if they are looking for a job, which is backwards. If you use it towards full potential, you will receive the full potential of what that platform has to offer. Secondly, I think Twitter, Twitter is still extremely powerful. I know it's going through this weird transition right now.

Ron:  Little funky right now.

Alesia: Yeah, it's funky. It's funky, but the community of AV people that are there, I think it's still necessary to be there unless it's completely like deteriorating your mental health. I think it's the good to be there.

Ron:  I agree, and I use Twitter personally for my hobby. So I have some hobbies and I follow people that are within those hobbies. But the algorithm stuff that and I wanted to back Elon, everyone was beating him up. I'm like, let's give the man the benefit of the doubt. He's like a genius. Modern day genius. Like he'll figure it out. But I'm not going to lie. When I go to my Twitter right now, and I've been actively on Twitter for the last two or three years. Just this morning. I saw I've heard this. I've read posts. I listened to a lot of podcasts and I've heard people complaining about Twitter and what I'm about to describe my experience has been is what I've been hearing people complaining about. I've had a rampant amount of violent videos showing up in my Twitter feed. Like I just this morning, there were some people beating up a homeless man, and I'm like, that is like the furthest thing that I want to see in my newsfeed, and I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I'm not saying it's not a real problem. But it's something's weird and broken. And like I keep unfollow. Like, let me get as far away from anybody, commenting, liking, or consuming this content. But that's, I mean, are you seeing any of that weirdness on Twitter?

Alesia: Yeah, yeah. There's a lot of weirdness going on. And that's why I said, like, mentally, right? Honestly, over the last few years, I realized my career growth and my personal growth are very much aligned. Having that kind of stuff feeding into you daily, even though you're not intentionally looking for it, it takes a toll. So that's what I was saying. If it's affecting your mental, then yes, don't deal with it, right? But yeah, I've started muting a lot of stuff too, unfollowing, like I said, Twitter is in a weird weird place right now. And I don't know if it's going to get better or worse, but I'm willing to stick around for it because that's kind of my first touch point with AV tweeps, was Twitter. So I've been on there for over 14 years now, so I'm trying to stick with it. I don't want to completely abandon it, but it is getting a little crazy over there.

Ron:  All right, I'll stay on Twitter for one more moment here. I have an opinion on this, but I want to know yours first.

Alesia: Yeah.

Ron:  Do you think businesses and I think it could be argued it's different. Pro AV generally, that's a B2B sale, right? So that's businesses trying to solicit new business. Then on the residential integration side, you could argue that's a little more B2C.

Alesia: Correct

Ron:  Do you think that Twitter has a role in those businesses marketing?

Alesia: Absolutely.

Ron:  In what way? And by the way, we might agree to disagree. But that's okay. So tell me what you're thinking.

Alesia: If we're talking B2C, the consumers are on Twitter, right? You know, people who are looking for smart homes are there, right? They're going and actively searching this information if they're really into that particular market. I think there is space for it. Is it a huge space? Maybe not necessarily. But there are conversations happening there. So if you're involved with smart home technology in any kind of way, you might as well be a part of the conversation you might as well engage. So that's my perspective on it. For B2B, I think it's a win because the people who are purchasing are there having personal conversations and businesses aren't. So if you're a business and you're engaging in those conversations, you automatically stand out. You're automatically building trust. You're automatically starting to build relationships and that is a plus. Yes, it's a long game, but I still think it's extremely valuable. It's just depending on which long game you want to play. You can't do it on every platform. You might not be able to do it every day. And it comes down to being strategic, where do you think you're going to get the most bang for your book. But I think Twitter is still a valuable place, but it takes time. If you haven't been there, it takes time. But building that trust and engaging with those people is a good way to start building.

Ron:  Yeah, I agree with everything you said. But I do agree that the businesses in our industry are evaluating, they need to evaluate, what are they trying to get out of a marketing strategy?

Alesia: Exactly.

Ron:  And within that, then what are the tactics they're going to employ? And where does Twitter fit into that? I would say of the social channels LinkedIn should probably be close to the top, if not the top. Residential, maybe Instagram.

Alesia: But most businesses, most businesses, right? When they say, oh, we need to start doing social work. It's like, okay, why? Most of them are just doing social for the sake of doing it, just to say I'm on it, right? But that's backwards. That's a waste of time. That's not the way to go about it. So they really have to sit back and assess the why. Then once you know the why, you could pick out which platform is best. And then you can start building that out to where it's not just posting for the sake of posting. That doesn't work.

Ron:  All right, well, let's dive into and we'll stay for a moment on personal brand that will then we'll pivot to business. But on LinkedIn, what are the types of content that you find yourself producing and you find good engagement and or what are the types of content that you like to engage with as it relates to people and kind of letting the world know who you are and what you stand for.

Alesia: What type of engagement, what type of content, video.

Ron:  Okay, let's go. Well, most people are scared of video.

Alesia: You don't have to be you know face forward on a video, right? There's so many different ways you can do video. It just has to be creative.

Ron:  Okay, give us some examples.

Alesia: Examples. Okay. Are we talking about business or are we talking about personal branding?

Ron:  Personal branding.

Alesia: Personal branding. If you are not willing to be the person on the camera, then show behind the scenes shots. That's how I started, right? All right. Well, these people don't know me. Let me not show my face yet. But you guys know this amazing audio console, don't you? Yeah, it's the latest and greatest. You love it. That's what started it, right? People didn't know me, but they knew the gear, so I started talking about the gear I was using. Then the camera slowly turned around, right? Because as an end user, I was used to being behind the camera. I'm the one capturing. I'm the one creating an experience. So it was a slow transition for me to get on camera. If you don't like being on camera, do something behind the scenes. If you work in a warehouse, show me what gear showed up.

Ron:  Help me and help our audience get comfortable with being on camera. Do they need hair and makeup to be on camera?

Alesia: No. To be on camera?

Ron:  By the way, I didn't have any hair or makeup today before we went live.

Alesia: Same! To be on camera, you need to smile. Honestly, that's the first thing. Just be a friendly face. Don't overthink it, don't over it. That's why people don't start, right? They're like, oh, my lighting doesn't look as good as Ron's. My lighting doesn't look as good as Ron's right now. So what? That doesn't mean you can't start, right? You have to just do it, right? Start what a smile, figure out what you want to talk about, and just start, just do it. It's going to be very uncomfortable, but that's how I've grown to this point is by getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It's like just jumping off the cliff. You got to do it.

Ron:  That's my mantra, Alesia. That is being comfortable with being uncomfortable. And as soon as I find myself, and I tell my team this as well, I tell my son this. I tell the kids I mentor this. As soon as you find yourself feeling really good and comfortable, you know you need to go change something.

Alesia: Yeah, you got to get on to the next thing.

Ron:  Cause you're not growing if you feel comfortable.

Alesia: Right. So once you get once you get okay with being uncomfortable, that's when the strokes of genius actually start happening. And it doesn't always have to be this big, beautiful packaged thing all the time. As long as you're adding value. That's why I said, start and know exactly what you want to talk about, right? Have three pillars. Three pillars of things that are in your Wheelhouse of what you want to talk about and add value to a conversation about?

Ron:  What are your three pillars?

Alesia: My three pillars are networking, events, and technology.

Ron:  And so how do you think about that framework? Everything you produce is in one of those buckets?

Alesia: Yep, is in one of those buckets.

Ron:  That's interesting. And what frequency should someone and we're staying on LinkedIn for a moment. We're staying on personal branding, is there a right quantity of pieces of content to produce?

Alesia: I don't, I'm not sure about right quantity, but for me, like the frequency that has been showing true from consistent is at least three posts a week. I started with one post a week, then I grew to two post a week, then three posts a week. Some people post twice a day on LinkedIn, right? That didn't work for me. I don't know the algorithm just didn't like it. You have to figure out what works for you, but I think you should be on LinkedIn at least three times a week.

Ron:  I was talking, I'm in a marketing mastermind with some other marketing agency owners. And they were educating me, I'll give you the very short version. So we're hiring for an SEO consultant here at One Firefly. We want someone to evaluate everything we're doing. Tell us what we're doing right. Tell us what we're doing wrong. And so I'm going to leverage LinkedIn and the world out there to seek people that want to participate in our RFP for that role. And so I was going to my masterminds and I said, so I'm going to post the thing, and I want you guys and gals to share it. They're like, Ron, Ron, that's so LinkedIn yesterday. That's not how you get. I'm like, oh boy, how do I get the engagement? They said, people, you want us to comment on your post. And so if anyone goes and finds my LinkedIn today, you'll find that I'm old school, so I shared Kendall from my team's post. But all of the people that I want to get into their networks, they kindly went into my video or actually into my post and they started commenting.

Alesia: Yeah, exactly.

Ron:  So have you found that to be the case of getting expanded reach on your content is the engagement, the commenting game?

Alesia: Yeah, absolutely. Because I'm not this big influencer, right? I'm technically considered a micro influencer. But that is the name of the game as a micro influencer. I might not have the max amount of followers. But my engagement is there. And that is the key to it. It doesn't matter how many followers you have. You want people to be engaging with you. That is how you expand the reach on a platform like LinkedIn. So when I started doing LinkedIn about three years ago, I was commenting and posting, commenting, and posting, engaging, and then posting like, you can't just post. Nobody's going to see it. You have to do both actively. They go hand in hand.

Ron:  So what's your advice? Anyone that is wanting to increase maybe the impressions of their brand, their person, their content, is it that they need to be going into LinkedIn and making you know one or two comments or engagements for everything they post or is it 5? Is it ten? Is there any right number or way to think about this from your opinion or just your experiences?

Alesia: From my experiences, what I did is always look for the AV tweeps. And we're in AV, right? So go to LinkedIn in the search, type in hashtag AV tweeps. Check that post out, right? And don't just leave comments with emojis, right? You have to leave comments that add value that are adding to the conversation. Saying I love this is not good enough. Why do you love it? Engage with that person like, don't just comment because you're trying to get more reach. You really have to engage. So engage with posts that pull out your heartstrings, engage with a post with some technology that you've been using and add your opinion into the comment section, engage with people that are at an event that you have maybe not have been to, but want to go to, right? You were just at BLC, weren't you?

Ron:  No, no, I had two members of my team that were there, Jessica and Tori.

Alesia: Right. I'd never been, right? But I knew a couple of people who were there. I'm liking their posts. I'm like, man, that's great. Congratulations on your award. I've never been to BLC before, but I hear it's amazing. Please let me know how it was. Have conversation. Don't just comment to comment. That doesn't work. You really have to drive a discussion.

Ron:  Now, pivot that to business. So businesses, AV tweeps, the business is out there in our channels. Resi and commercial, how should they be leveraging LinkedIn?

Alesia: Same way, posts on your company page, but every company has partners, whether it's a reseller, an integrator, a manufacturer partner, leverage each other's network, comment, engage, say, oh, we're so happy that this new product released, you can also get it here, have questions about this product? Our experts can handle that, right? You actively need to engage. It's not just about posting. That is like what's gotten me to this point, is the level of engagement, driving conversations, and also being willing to learn from people saying, oh, when did this come out? How do you like it so far? I might want to use this in the future, right? It's all about discussion, engagement, and building relationships.

Ron:  Do you believe that architects designers, builders, developers, consultants, executives at Fortune 500, the people that matter to the integrator for future lead gen or projects? Do you believe they're on LinkedIn?

Alesia: Yes. And even if they're not active, they're lurking. That platform is so valuable. They are there. They are there and don't just use it as a sales tool. Everybody started doing this about three years ago. In-mailing people with just spam, spam, spam, that was a new thing. That's why some people left LinkedIn. They're like, oh, I get too much sales spam. Like if you're going to reach out in a direct message, do a little research, right? Don't send the same cold sale email to everybody. Do a little research, find something that stands out to you, say, oh, I saw that you were at this event last week. My team was there as well. Hate we didn't get to meet. Maybe we can schedule a meeting. Don't do this spammy type stuff because they get that all day. But are they there? Yes.

Ron:  Awesome. Mindful of time. Let's pivot to Instagram. What's the role of Instagram in your personal brand? And so I'm going to ask a predecessor question. Do you think that a business Instagram page should be different than your personal brand? Your Instagram page? Should you be posting as a person on behalf of your company or should there be separation of church and state?

Alesia: It depends on your role, right? If I'm a business, then I'm going to be posting about my business, right? But as a personal brand, Instagram is the space where you can find out a little bit about my personal life. And what I do at work, right? That's the place to leverage both things outside of work and work. Now, the hard part is finding that balance. That's the hard part. And that's something that I've struggled with Instagram, especially all the changes they've had over the last year with meta buying them and reels coming out and stories and yeah, stories and transitioning from just a photo place and now all video right, they've had all these changes. So I've personally struggled with Instagram, but it's that one platform where it is a bit of personal and business, right? LinkedIn is all business most of the time. Twitter is mostly the AV tweet community business events. But Instagram is where you're going to see me and my partner. You might see my dogs. You might see me at Infocomm. And then you're going to see my dinner, right? That's the place to kind of do that. But if you're a business and it has to be solely about the business. If you are looking to grow your personal brand and you work for a business, there is a way to marry that, but there is a very fine line there.

Ron:  I agree. So my strategy, personal strategy, is my personal Ron Callis Instagram. Is it's me, my family, my hobbies, my projects, my dog, a lot of pictures of my son, that's what goes on my personal Instagram. Little to no One Firefly content. I mean, it'd be very rare, maybe if I'm standing on stage for some event, and I think it's particularly good picture of me standing up on stage, then I'm like, all right, I'll post it over there. But it's not because I'm soliciting business from it. It's just like, hey, there's my job and on occasion stand on stage and I think it's a good picture. So there you go, it's on my Instagram. But my One Firefly Instagram, that's my worky work. That's where, and that's actually managed in-house. I'm an administrator on that. On occasion, post stories or post reels or posts make organic posts on the feed. But that's being managed by our corporate marketing team against a social calendar and a strategy of what type of content we want to put up there. But that's how I manage it to answer. So my fine line is I said, I'm not good at doing the fine line.

Alesia: You either walk the tightrope or you don't. And I mean, you made the choice so that that's what it is now. But people know One Firefly because of you, right? I knew you before we even met. I knew you before I technically knew what One Firefly was. So it is a fine line, but hey, you made the better choice. You said, this is One Firefly and you could drive people to that from other platforms. Maybe not necessarily Instagram, which is cool. But you know you have other platforms that you utilize where you're walking that line, like LinkedIn.

Ron:  Exactly. LinkedIn, it's Ron, the person that's all about work and industry and growth.

Alesia: It's a balance. It's a balance.

Ron:  It is. In terms of Instagram, I have an observation that most integration firms resi or pro, underutilize the platform and often misuse the platform in terms of not engaging with architects, designers, builders, developers, and important stakeholders in terms of the engagement side, as the brand, I see them often not doing that. I see them often not if you look at Instagram as a platform that has the potential to increase the exposure of your brand you could do that by effective smart use of hashtags and hashtag strategies that would affect your orbit or put you into the orbit of communities that you'd want to be aware of your brand. And I don't see that happening often.

Alesia: But it's because AV doesn't do social well. Like, as a whole, right? There's a group of us that do it. And then as an industry overall, though most of the people in this space don't do social well. When it comes to Instagram, it's very much video driven now. Most of our industry doesn't do video well. They haven't grasped the full concept when it comes to ROI, why they need to invest in it and play a long game when it comes to social and creating content. Half of the industry still doesn't get it. And that's why people aren't leveraging it.

Ron:  Does that change Alesia? What's gonna have to happen for that to change? Or does it ever change?

Alesia: It will change over time as new blood infuses into our industry. That's just all it is. Because right now, I hate to say this, but it's still this phrase. This is the way we've always done it. This is the way we always done it. Because the people that are in the space have been doing it for 30 years, they've been running their companies and they're going to pass it down to their kids and that is the model. We've always done it this way. Why change it? I don't know. We just came back from a crisis, everything stopped. Why don't we try something different? If you can't answer that question and then I know you're not ready, that's companies that I just won't work with.

Ron:  I want to close at least for our chat today, I know we both have hard stops in about 7 minutes.

Alesia: Yeah, yeah, we're good.

Ron:  What has you most excited about the year ahead?

Alesia: What has me most excited about the year ahead? Infocomm.

Ron:  And maybe the announcement you're going to make in ten days?

Alesia: Yep, the announcement that's coming in ten days. These regional events getting back out and just hanging out with people, doing a little dancing, seeing some technology, and just having engaging conversations. I work from home. So getting out and actively having a couple of drinks with people I love and hanging out, that's what keeps my spirits lifted in this industry because it's challenging you know. It's challenging. Some days I'm like, I want to quit all of this crap screw it you know.

Ron:  Screw it.

Alesia: But you know, so I'm excited to get back on the road. Next week we'll be in Dallas for the E4 Exertis Almo show. Absolutely excited about that. Big announcement coming in ten days. So this is the first time I have a little break in between jobs, right? I usually leave one and start the next one. I actually have some breathing room.

Ron:  What are you doing during your hiatus here? What are you doing to relax?

Alesia: I went to the beach this week.

Ron:  I mean, other than joining this podcast, which is clearly the highlight of the week.

Alesia: I'm hanging out with you. Did a couple of podcasts recordings this week, which is stuff that I love, right? I love engaging. I love talking. I love learning from people and just having genuine good conversation. And then next week, again, we'll be in Dallas. My birthday is on Monday, after the show, I'm going to drive down and see my parents and my nephew you know. So I'm going to get a little rest. It's going to be nice just to do no work after the 8th. Because I'm not going to lie. I have been working. You know, juggling all the other things that I do. But come the 8th, it's all family time. I'm going to get some rest and regroup and get focused on what's next.

Ron:  We bring our best selves to the game when we allow ourselves some downtime.

Alesia: I've just now started learning that. I'm all about the grind. I'm all about the hustle. And I find myself struggling with that now that I've grown into, you know, everything that it is today. Like me as a person. I have always had this survivor mentality. You got to hustle. You got to get it. If you don't, you don't eat. If you don't, you don't got no. And now I'm kind of like in this weird phase where it's like, ah, and I start panicking, and then I realize I'm panicking for no reason you know.

Ron:  Yeah.

Alesia: But yeah, so I'm happy to have a little bit of breathing room while these next few days. But I'm also excited about what's next.

Ron:  Congrats about taking that transition smartly and giving yourself some breathing room. I know that's good for your family and it's good for your mental health. It's going to empower you to bring that much more of your a game when you restart your next adventure.

Alesia: Thanks, Ron. Thanks. I appreciate that.

Ron:  I look forward to hanging out with you in a couple of months. It'll be June Infocomm, right?

Alesia: Yep. It's going to be a good one. I'm happy to be back in Florida. It's going to be good.

Ron:  Yeah, that's going to be down the street from you. It's going to be in O town.

Alesia: Yep, yep. So it's backyard. Biggest event of the year in my playbook anyways, outside of the regional shows I do with Exertis Almo, but it's the one big one that we're always focused on right after it ends. At the end of June, me and my team are always planning for that show again, right? It's just the heavy hitter that we're going in too hard every time.

Ron:  And for clarity, for my clarity and our audience, you're going there as a content creator and that hat you wear, or is it you're going there on behalf of maybe some entity that you might be a part of?

Alesia: Both.

Ron:  Both. Look at that. See, folks, I tried to get a little bit more of the goods out of her. She's not letting it loose.

Alesia: Not just yet.

Ron:  Not yet, not yet. All right. Well, I appreciate you. We're gonna sign off for now. Anyone that wants to follow you. Maybe give all the handles. How can people follow you on the socials?

Alesia: Yeah. @thesmoothfactor, you can just go to Google, type in @thesmoothfactor, pick your platform of choice. My website is And of course, while on LinkedIn, it's my government name, Alesia Hendley.

Ron:  The government name.

Alesia: My government name, it's funny because people walk up to me and say, oh, The Smooth Factor. But I mean, that's something that I'm the only one, you're not going to find another Smooth Factor.

Ron:  Yeah, no, you're the only one. You're the only one. Alesia, appreciate you for joining me. I think this was, we moved the numbers around. This was show 238. Appreciate you joining us.

Alesia: Thanks, Ron.


Alesia is an AV professional that found her passion at a young age as a sound engineer with her Father’s church. 

In the early stages of the church’s foundation they couldn’t afford musicians. By utilizing different audiovisual technologies she and her Father found creative ways to go higher both musically and spiritually, taking the congregation with them. 

Now you can find her operating/installing audiovisual systems or executing creative ventures. As a young professional she’s finding ways to bring AV, creatives, and creative visions together in the effort to leave her mark by making an impact, and not just an impression.

Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing in the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview: