“The marketing for this business is person-to-person referral … referrals from homeowners and trade partners, from architects, interior designers — that’s exactly the target of this program.”
That’s a quote from George Ide on the CEDIA Outreach Instructor program, which enables trained members to teach courses on a variety of topics specific to the home technology field. Ide, the Vice President of Marketing and Technology with Atlanta’s Digital Interiors
, has been training members of other trades for over a decade.
“I’ve taught a lot of courses — a lot of system surveys, wiring of systems … the one that everybody seems to like the most is ‘Disguise and Hide — Designing for Technology.’ ‘Technology for Outdoor Spaces’ is big, lately, too,” notes Ide.
For David Devanna (who’s with iTEC Consultants
based in New Jersey) teaching the course that focuses on sound isolation is a fave: “My background is in architecture. Many years ago, I had a friend who was a drummer. One of my first challenges: soundproofing his basement.” How It Works
A CEDIA member who’s interested in becoming a CEDIA Outreach Instructor (COI) is required to take a day-long “Train the Trainer” class. That class unlocks all the COI courseware for the instructor — once the initial session is passed and paid for, access to all the materials CEDIA has developed for the program is free.
There’s homework ahead of the “Train the Trainer” class, including a PowerPoint presentation that COIs are expected to know cold — an instructor is evaluated on their presentation of that PowerPoint by their peers. That evaluation determines whether or not a trainer-to-be is ready to teach.
Once a trainer’s been cleared for takeoff, he or she may offer face-to-face training at no charge to the members of the other trades CEDIA experts work with. “We’ve hosted at our office — twice — the quarterly meetings of the Georgia chapter of the AIBD. They love it,” says Ide.
“I have people come up to me after a session and say, ‘Wow, you really speak the language.’"
“We’ve also been invited to train them at their quarterly meetings three or four times outside of our headquarters,” he adds.
For Devanna, his background in architecture is especially handy. “I have people come up to me after a session and say, ‘Wow, you really speak the language.’ I’ll do a lunch-and-learn and I’ll see all the heads in the room nodding.”
Continuing education credits are available for attendees through several professional associations. Ide notes that he sees the biggest demand for these courses from architects, followed closely by interior designers. “They’re not as motivated for CEUs as architects,” Ide says.
For Carol Cornish, Operations Coordinator at Dallas Sight and Sound
, interior designers make up the majority of attendees for these courses. In fact, her firm sits on the local ASID board and helps with tech support for their meetings, providing mics, PA systems, video screens, and the like. Cornish (who doesn’t teach the courses herself but handles logistics), says that her firm has covered the entire range of courses — Dallas Sight and Sound offers one CEDIA presentation a month. “We have three members of the firm who rotate instructional duties,” she says. The Courses
The coursework — developed by CEDIA with input from the COIs — currently includes the following topics:
- Controlling and isolating Sound with Design and Construction
- Dedicated Theater Design
- Disguise and Hide — Designing for Technology
- Lighting Control Illuminated
- Proper Planning for Residential Electronic Systems
- Shade and Window Treatments Overview — Motorize, Integrate and Automate
- Technology for Outdoor Spaces
- Understanding Today’s Home Technology and Infrastructure Options
- Using Technology Systems to Help Homeowners Live a Greener Life
You can find all the current courses here
, but you’ll note that each has an expiration date — that’s because the CEDIA team is constantly updating and revising the training sessions to reflect the rapid advances in technology, especially the tech that impacts the modern home.
"The only future-proof wire is conduit.”
From a 30,000-foot view, the courses are incredibly effective — that’s evidenced by the kinds of questions the trainers get at the end of the session: According to Ide, they’re mostly product-specific. “They want more details on, say, a mirror TV — what happens when it breaks? Are there temperature issues? Humidity? That sort of thing,” he says.
Another concern? Adaptability, or what some have referred to as “future-proofing.” “I kind of say it jokingly,” says Ide, “but I tell people: The only future-proof wire is conduit.”
“You know, the issue of adaptability could be a presentation in itself,” he ponders. Marketing and Beyond
David Devanna is quick to note that the COI program is all about the long game when it comes to his market’s awareness of iTEC and what his firm does. “On occasion, you get a referral right after class, but it’s more about them remembering you six months later: ‘Oh, you’re the guy who did the training!’ It’s all about the touchpoints.”
A big portion of that ongoing marketing effort involves changing the headspace of the architects he meets. “The hard part is getting them comfortable enough to get you into that circle of the design phase. It used to be ‘I’ll let the builder or the electrician figure it out. My client’s not all that interested.’
“And my response is: ‘How do you know that? Did you ask them?’ Once you’ve educated both the architect and the client about what we do, then they’re willing to talk early on.”
Cornish agrees: “It can be up to a year before we get jobs from these guys. But we’re always in the back of their minds — they remember us when they get a client who wants this kind of thing.”
Devanna sends out regular email blasts to the architects he’s connected with: “It’s only sent to 200 addresses, but they are quality contacts.”
George Ide handles things in a more analog manner.
“At the end of the class, I tell ‘em we’re uniquely qualified to handle everything I’ve just shown them,” he laughs.