Samantha Ventura knows that a videoconference isn’t the ideal way to interact with students looking to become CEDIA Outreach Instructors (COI), but disruptions like global pandemics demand adjustments. Ventura — CEDIA’s vice president of education and training — has just been through the new COI Training Course (an update to what had been formerly known as the “Train the Trainer” sessions) with a dozen participants. The COI hopefuls hail from across the U.S. for this class, from Arizona to Portsmouth, NH, and their motives are similar: networking with architects, builders, and designers, building credibility as local tech subject matter experts, and, most importantly, getting the word out about just what CEDIA-member firms do when it comes to providing the experience of the friction-less connected home.
Still, that Zoom-style meetup did the trick, given the circumstances. “While there is never a true replacement for in-person, engaged learning, the virtual experience came pretty darn close,” says Ventura.
Why the Update?
“The original coursework for the Train the Trainer class was fantastic,” says Ventura. “But, as with all curriculum, it must evolve to meet the needs of a changing group of learners.” To that end, Ventura and her team first created a “hybrid” version of the class, so that a portion of the work could be taken online, which meant a smaller in-person time investment for the students.
There was also a critical aspect of the program that needed to be addressed; namely, reducing the fear of public speaking. As Ventura notes during the in-person coursework, only one-in-100 people feel completely comfortable speaking in front of a large group. “I added more learning experiences that would allow for a person to begin to feel more at ease speaking and presenting in general,” she says. There are tips on relating to the various types of learners: visual, auditory, note-takers, and hands-on, kinesthetic students; and there are keys to understanding how adults learn in ways that differ from children.
The Cohort as Support Group
Of course, what’s most important after a COI completes the coursework is follow-through. Instructors who book regular brunch-and-learns for designers, builders, and architects are the ones who find the greatest success, and seed the ground for future leads. That’s why Ventura stresses to the group attending together — the “cohort,” as she calls them — need to support and hold one another accountable to that end.
“Accountability itself is huge, and not just for this class,” she says. “When you have others looking to you to complete something or support them with something, there is a true sense of camaraderie and a ‘we can do it!’ attitude. Sometimes when working on something by yourself, it becomes a bit easier for self-doubt to slip in, especially when it comes to speaking in front of a group or getting outside your comfort zone in general.” That inherent pressure ensures that a COI keeps after booking those sessions with specifiers.
Additionally, the new coursework has been tailored to meet the needs of different learners across the globe. “Right now, the hybrid version (half online and half in-person) is being delivered in the U.S. and Australia,” Ventura explains. “In the U.K., this class is still offered as an in-person experience, as it works for that particular area quite well.”
The success stories that CEDIA Outreach Instructors tell are a testament to the program’s longevity. Luis Cortes (Echo Workshop, Houston, TX) raves about the program. “It’s opened up our ability to engage with new designers and architects in showing them that we are a knowledgeable partner within our industry.”
“Not only do we get leads from our COI work, we get better ones — clients who appreciate our abilities and are a pleasure to work with,” adds Owen Maddock (Cinemaworks, U.K.).
And, according to Ventura, the ultimate benefits of the COI initiative go well beyond potential lead-generation. “This program supports relationship-building that strengthens your business, but it also strengthens your own awareness and ability to connect with people in all aspects of your life. This is what makes this program — and this class — so special.”
Upcoming COI Training Courses: https://cedia.net/events/event-detail-page/2020/08/06/default-calendar/cedia-outreach-instructor-training