Memberships Rewards CEDIA Reacts to Tough Economy with Free Member BenefitsKaren Sussman ⋅ May 28, 2008 Todays uncertain economy has caused concern for many residential electronic systems contractors (RESCs). In response, CEDIA is now offering its members a series of free training courses and forums to help offset the cost of the associations membership requirements. In addition to assisting CEDIA-certified members with free CEU credit opportunities, the association also has designed comprehensive marketing communications and legislative advocacy programs that round out a menu of free benefits to help its members ride the wave of shaky market conditions. Survival Webinars One of CEDIAs popular new programs is its free members-only Survival of the Fittest webinar and discussion series. Moderated by Keith Cottrell of Kinetic Systems Consulting, this 10-month program offers 0.5 CEUs per monthly session after real-time conversations on the operational, market, and strategic issues that can impact RESCs in a questionable economic environment. Aurora Technology Inc.s president, Chris Taylor, has enjoyed the opportunity to remotely brainstorm from his location in Omaha with other RESCs via Survival of the Fittest. There have been a few different ways that others are doing things [and] some little tricks that help open your eyes to other possibilities, he said. Boston-based Environmental Technology Centers general manager David Shulman has found the same benefit. Its a good way to get a reference against other regions and other integrators and hopefully pick up a few good ideas, he said. Upcoming topics include The Ultimate Customer Experience, Performing Metrics, and PR and Marketing. And at this years EXPO, a special Survival of the Fittest members-only forum will be offered at no cost. According to Cathy Lane, CEDIA director of membership development, this live forum will address the state of the industry and offer some new ideas to integrate into existing business practices. New EXPO Benefits Also new to members at EXPO this year will be free CEDIA University core courses and forums, providing more than 25 CEUs, valued at more than $1,200. All of the Electronic System Business 100 Level (introductory) courses are being offered free of charge to CEDIA members, along with four courses from the Electronic Systems Technician College. These four courses include Cable and Connector Properties, Introduction to Codes and Standards, Jobsite and Electrical Safety, and Math for Installers. The first-ever Michael Heiss/Rich Green EXPO Pre-Game and Post-Game course will be another free member benefit at EXPO to help make sure everyone covers the bases at the convention. The pre-game will give our members a heads-up on what to be looking for on the tradeshow floor and [get] their predictions on whats hot, Lane said. The post-game will be a recap to see if their predictions were correct and what surprised them. A new sales and marketing forum with no cost to members at EXPO, has been developed specifically to help CEDIA members overcome some of the new challenges they are faced with in trying to do things a little bit differently. For five years we have thrived with minimal advertising, referrals have kept us busy and growing, said Cyndi Berg, operations manager of Simplistic Audio Video. Now we are finding it necessary to put our efforts into finding efficient ways of marketing to our target audience. Marketing and PR HelpSupporting members looking to either initiate or enhance existing marketing programs is CEDIAs Guerilla Marketing and Public Relations kit, introduced last September. Designed as a one-stop shop resource for the marketing novice, the tools included in the kit can help members piecemeal a marketing campaign with minimal effort. Most of our members are smaller companies, and many of them wear different hats, so this is one tool they dont have to be taught how to do. Its all right there in front of them, said Jamie Antcliff, director of marketing and public relations for CEDIA. Comprising the kit is an overview of key marketing terms and tactics, letters for members to introduce their company to local architects, builders and interior designers, tips on how to generate publicity with the local media, sample press releases, ideas for identifying media targets for each story, branding and promotion strategies, effective client communication tools, and tips for marketing their certification locally. The CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles Finder Service is free to the organizations RESC CEDIA Certified members, as well. This online service averages more than 600 hits per day, linking members with their next potential client and/or industry partner. Tracking Legislation One of CEDIAs most important free benefits, Grassroots Legislative Network and Governmental Affairs, is sometimes hard for its members to truly appreciate because it is intangible, according to Darren Reamon, CEDIAs public policy manager. Were the voice of the residential electronics industry through the legislative process at the local level, state level, and the federal level, he said. Reamon explained that their main objective is to track and monitor any legislation that could potentially impact any RESC. Much of their efforts have been at the state level regarding licensing issues and how legislation is drafted. For example, CEDIA mobilized its members in Wisconsin to work together to influence lawmakers to change a bill that would have provided an exemption for 50 voltsnot high enough for RESCsto 100 volts, something much more acceptable. In the last year, CEDIA has tracked more than 600 bills in 49 states. The success of the Grassroots Legislative Network and Governmental Affairs is dependent on member involvement. When CEDIA distributes legislative alerts, member feedback is critical to understanding how potential legislation can affect RESCs. CEDIA, in turn, shares this feedback with legislators, committee members and bill sponsors to ensure the language does not hurt the residential electronics systems industry. Hands-on Learning Learning Labs is another new free benefit to CEDIA members at this years EXPO. Lane explained that, for years, the only true hands on technician training CEDIA offered was the three-day Boot Camp class in Indianapolis. Starting this September at EXPO, however, several popular courses will be linked to special onsite Learning Labs. Participants will be able to actually experience cable termination and testing, as well as audio and video calibration, Lane said. These activities will be in addition to the core material and will earn students additional CEUs. The ideas for many of CEDIAs new initiatives come directly from its members and board of directors. When a company joins CEDIA, one of their member benefits is their personal CEDIA Member Concierge. These association staff members gain unique insight into the day-to-day needs and challenges of the industry. Our Member Concierges are constantly communicating with our members, Lane said. They keep a pulse on whats important to our members so that we can better serve them. Karen Sussman is a freelance writer in Carmel, Indiana.