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The Latest Trends in Training

Training is as important now than it ever has been, with the always-changing technology landscape and the improved business climate in the custom integration channel. What new educational offerings and facilities are being offered by CEDIA, industry buying groups, distributors, reps, and manufacturers as they race to train the growing industry?

In his blog post last month, Residential Systems’ John Sciacca reflected on the five technologies that had changed the custom integration the most, giving the nod to “the internet/networking” at number one. While Sciacca’s main point was about the influence of streaming entertainment content, there is another trickle-down effect that the internet has produced. It’s enabled manufacturers to eschew in-person product and technical training, in favor of webinars and curated video training sessions.

Yet, the industry has not evolved completely away from face-to-face education. Buying groups, rep/distributor organizations, and CEDIA have been filling the in-person product and training void, with innovative workshops and classes that are taught in creative ways to better educate a changing audience.

Todd Smart, an EOS trainer, leads an HTSA workshop in Chicago last month.

“Previously, trainings featuring multiple vendors were rare. But now we’re focusing on multi-vendor trainings for more comprehensive and efficient courses,” said PowerHouse Alliance executive director, Dennis Holzer. “We consider which products are compatible in some of the most common installations and pair up brands; and, our manufacturers are more willing to partner up because it greatly increases the dealer turnout, and the probability of the dealers using their products. Both the dealers and the manufacturers receive value from this change in training, where dealers can get maximum exposure in a minimal amount of time. And, on the other side, manufacturers have more opportunities to get in front of dealers who might not have sought out their training if it were simply offered by itself. Efficiency is a key consideration for training because it does take valuable field time away from dealers, but the benefit of continued education makes it a priority.”

For buying group HTSA, the quality of training offerings has changed the dynamic of the group. Nowhere is this more the case than through its Maverick Technical Institute (MTI) training, particularly for entry-level techs.

“HTSA, in conjunction with Maverick, offers a weeklong, intensive master class where these folks learn everything from which are the best tools, to safe ladder skills, to the best attachment techniques, to in-home conduct, and more,” explained Jon Robbins, HTSA executive director. “Not only does this make the techs better installers, but by teaching them proper techniques, we are reducing jobsite injuries, reducing Workmen’s Compensation claims, and giving the techs a sense of confidence and achievement.”

But it doesn’t stop there with HTSA. Just last month, the group added to its “multi-layered approach” to our educational efforts with a day-and-a-half Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) workshop to help entrepreneur/owners with business, strategy, marketing, and other training tailored to their needs.

“This popular business management optimization program helps our members and their teams better manage their business for success in an entrepreneurial enterprise,” Robbins said. “More than 3,000 companies use the EOS system globally and tens of thousands of companies use various EOS tools.

In addition to these business sessions, HTSA also has created training targeted at specific category opportunities. The best example of this is its Sell More Audio Masterclass, which taught HTSA members custom-created techniques to increase the attachment rate of high-performance audio/video products and solutions to their residential installation projects.

The Azione Unlimited buying group does its fair share of webinars and other online initiatives, with technical training in networking, network security, and voice recognition being the highest in demand. On the management training side are items like best business practices, salesmanship training, and developing financial wherewithal. Azione Unlimited has embraced each of these categories eagerly, according to executive director Richard Glikes.

“Our Middle Managers Meeting in Chicago [held in May] hosted 50 dealers and six vendor companies in a whirlwind conference,” Glikes said. “This agenda featured roundtable and open discussions, six vendor presentations, and an opportunity to network and learn from each other.”

Azione dealer members have asked for sales training with a focus on the psychology of selling high-end clients who never see the products until after they are installed. “We’re planning to announce an event to fulfill this need, which will be facilitated by two world-class trainers,” Glikes said.

At CEDIA’s annual convention there is usually an educational option for everyone, from hands-on courses to workshops and short individual training sessions. In San Diego in September, CEDIA will present 150 sessions, which is significantly up from last year.

“From a technical perspective, IP and networking continues to be the most in-demand series of courses, and it has been for quite a few years,” said Dave Pedigo, CEDIA’s VP of emerging technology. “We have a very robust set of hands-on trainings, which always prove to be incredibly well received, like last year’s sold-out rack-building course. We try to stay nimble in providing sessions on a wide variety of topics: from ATSC 3.0, to HDMI 2.1, to Quickbooks, we have courses to help every CEDIA professional take the next step for their business.”

A newer course that has been very popular, according to Pedigo, is “The Design Thinking and Client Discovery Workshop,” put on by Rich Green and Peter Aylett. This half-day workshop is based on the Stanford University’s Design Thinking model, developed by David Kelly and the company IDEO.

The most sought-after individual technical classes are the emerging trends classes. Both Michael Heiss’ “New Technologies Update” and Rich Green’s “Silicon Valley: an Inside Scoop” are always at capacity, and receive high ratings from attendees, Pedigo said.

And CEDIA is working with its instructors to learn how to facilitate “learning” versus “just lecturing.” The association is looking to get its instructors to use more prompting and probing questions, to lead students toward a more discovery-based methodology of understanding.

“This means that for those instructors who have completed our CEDIA Accredited Facilitator program, the course should be less PowerPoint and more discussion based,” Pedigo said. “This is advantageous for the students as retention rates for this information are much better. However, with the amount of content and offerings that we have, this is a multi-year approach and will take time to transition all of our courses to be taught in this fashion.

“It is also a paradigm shift for many learners who are used to the traditional teaching methods. Thus, we are very careful who we have teach facilitated courses to ensure that our students are getting the best instruction possible.”

Jeremy J. Glowacki is editorial director of Residential Systems.