Late last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to talk with CEDIA president Utz Baldwin about the cancellation of Spring EXPO and the importance of the EL Forum. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:
ON THE REASON FOR ADDING ANOTHER EVENT
CEDIA EXPO is the industry show, its growing, and the manufacturers that are prospering within our industry want to grow and want more space. The fall show is the one event that everyone goes to to really set the tone for the year in terms of research, finding products, learning, and networking. We want that to continue, and we dont want it to turn into something that is overwhelming and doesnt give our members the value that it has for all of these years. So, several years ago, leadership started looking at other opportunities for manufacturers and electronic systems contractors to go to competing shows and other regional events for their CEDIA education, and we wanted to engage CEDIA manufacturer members with ESCs. CEDIA Regionals had shown to be successful with some exhibit space — the tabletops. The one year that we did that we had success and positive feedback. Unfortunately, back then we didnt stay the course.
ON THE TIMING OF NEW IDEAS
I think that it is CEDIA leaderships responsibility to obviously move the industry forward and make the choices that we believe are in the best interest of the association members. Sometimes that means taking members outside of their comfort area. Like it or not, unless every CEDIA member and manufacturer is in the room during a board meeting they dont quite receive all of the information, and its difficult to disseminate that information. So we have faced some challenges in growing or incubating this new idea. Along with that, its fair to say that sometimes leadership moves you outside that comfort level a little too soon and thats what we came to realize. But if you look at those comfort zones, we did it with the Rising Bar and there was some push back, but it is proving to be very successful. We have more certified professionals, more full member companies, people are moving from provisional to full membership, so it worked.
ON THE SUCCESS OF THE EL FORUM CONCEPT
I want to make it clear that were not canceling anything to do with our mission, motive, and direction. A few years ago we decided to put together something that was very innovative, which was this Electronic Lifestyles Forum, which was to build this gap between the build channel and the ESC. And, the San Francisco event proved to be very successful and our industry partners told us they wanted more so we listened them and they also gave us feedback that they wanted to see some of the solutions. They wanted the touch and feel. We also wanted to increase some of our regional education offerings for our members and get our manufacturers and members engaged to make sure that if there was a waiting list at EXPO or if manufacturers wanted to grow their booth space and do something different to get in front of the channel they could do so. All of the elements were in place, and they all made perfect sense.
ON THE FUTURE OF SPRING EXPO
I truly believe that ultimately there will be a product that is Spring EXPO. The fall show cant support the industrys needs and remain what it is. We dont want it to turn into a four-day, multi-million-square-foot show. I dont think anyone would get the value from it.
ON THE DECISION TO RE-FOCUS ON THE EL FORUM
After listening to both manufacturer and ESC members and discussing it with the board we simply made the decision to not move this thing along so fast. Were going to pull back on the reins a little bit and not force the idea of a second show on our members, manufacturers, the public, and the press. Were going to let this thing incubate like it should. We heard, we listened, and now we think we have the formula. We are going to take it back to its core, which is the outreach component. We believe that there is the best opportunity for growth in what I like to call the living technologies. These are technologies that are cross industry and are general innovations in a home, and we are definitely the trendsetters. We want to build Electronic Lifestyles and partner with the NAHB, AIA, ASID and steer this thing to be something that is more than just display devices and touch panels. It should be about how the home of the future will look and feel, and how people will live in it, and how technology will affect all of those things. Theres a huge potential for growth.
ON WHAT THE EL FORUM EXHIBIT WILL CONTAIN
This Forum will now contain what Ive dubbed as a technology pavilion. Its an architectural setting where manufacturers who want to show products and solutions to the design and build community. Its not like the Home of Electronic Lifestyles or the Dome. This is more of a fluid, open plan to give attendees an opportunity to touch and feel the things that matter to them, while also learning and going through education and meeting other electronic systems contractors, architects, and designers. But we are also going to keep the concept of delivering our education to our members on a regional basis. This event is built for outreach, but we will be offering regional education here just like Regionals, and those members will also be able to engage with manufacturers that participate in the pavilion.