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Q&A: CEDIA’s CEO Looks Ahead

by Jeremy J. Glowacki   Utz Baldwin. There’s no doubt that with changes in personal communication and increased access to information that the role of the trade association and trade show must evolve. CEDIA is reflecting these changes in several new educational initiatives and i

There’s no doubt that with changes in personal communication and increased access to information that the role of the trade association and trade show must evolve. CEDIA is reflecting these changes in several new educational initiatives and in the way it communicates with attendees at its annual trade show, CEDIA EXPO. With that event taking place two weeks from now in Indianapolis, Residential Systems editorial director Jeremy Glowacki asked CEDIA CEO Utz Baldwin to discuss the value of attending EXPO this year and to explain what else CEDIA is doing to stay relevant in these changing times.

Utz Baldwin.

What do you think remains the key value to attending and/or exhibiting at CEDIA EXPO?
Without question, CEDIA EXPO is THE residential systems industry event. A fundamental purpose of the association is to promote commerce, and EXPO is the vehicle for that. Manufacturers plan for EXPO well in advance to showcase new technologies and meet with their dealers to strengthen relationships. CEDIA urges attendees to plan ahead as well. Use the show as part of your strategic planning for the future of your business. Seek out the trends, and new opportunities to differentiate your company from the competition. Meet with your vendors to plan for collective growth, business development, and profitability. Take advantage of the manufacturer product training, for increased profitability and customer service, while utilizing CEDIA education for emerging trends education, and the fundamentals every industry professional needs.

In what ways is CEDIA reflecting the changes in personal communication and increased access to information this year at EXPO?
CEDIA is working with Core-Apps – the official CEDIA vendor – to present CEDIA EXPO 2011 attendees and exhibitors with the exciting new mobile application “Follow Me.” This application is designed to enhance the tradeshow experience and provide valuable show information on every smart phone. The Follow Me application offers several unique features, such as an interactive show schedule, floor maps with directions to booths, session schedules with the ability to rate the session, event schedules, social media interaction, and the ability to download e-brochures from the exhibitors, eliminating the need to carry around large bags filled with literature.

CEDIA has also worked to integrate all the show news onto the EXPO in the News Page on the CEDIA EXPO website. CEDIA has combined both traditional and new media news sources to help attendees stay organized and productive.
Tim Costello.

CEDIA’s keynote speaker Tim Costello will address about the new opportunities available to ESCs and manufacturers in what he calls our “new normal” economy. What is CEDIA, as a trade association, doing to better serve its membership in terms of education and advocacy during this confusing time?

Tim is right on the money when referring to the new normal. “Change” is business as usual today. Innovation is not slowing down and the number of connected devices in the home is increasing exponentially. Solutions our industry provided were once accomplished integrating hardware. The introduction of Internet Protocol has drastically changed the landscape of integrated systems. Today integrated systems are becoming application and software driven. This has accelerated the advancement of features, connectivity, and interoperability at a feverish pace. Couple this with the number of emerging technologies entering the residential space (energy management, home healthcare, smart appliances, telepresence), [means that] industry professionals require “just-in-time” education on technologies as they emerge. That is a challenging task, and to accomplish it, CEDIA is rewriting the rules. Our education goals are part of a larger plan to reinvent how an association should function in today’s world, and soon industry professionals will have immediate access to the answers they seek, when, where, and how they want it. The association is committed to providing relevant, timely information about the trends that WILL affect the industry.

Advocacy is yet another primary function of any association. CEDIA is THE voice for the industry in front of lawmakers, home builders, architects, designers, realtors, and consumers. Outreach to builders, architects, designers, and other real estate professional is becoming more viral. We are shifting our resources from working with these industries at a national level to a grassroots effort. The success of the CEDIA Registered Outreach Instructor program is proof of that. The ROI program empowers members to increase business development in their markets by providing them with the credentials and the tools necessary to deliver continuing education courses to design and building professionals. CEDIA ROI companies that were surveyed (those who taught at least one class in a year) reported an average of $120,000 additional annual revenue as a direct result of the program. You don’t need an accounting degree to calculate the return on investment. The ROI program is just like any other benefit CEDIA creates… it’s only valuable if you apply them.

Consumer adoption of technologies has driven tremendous growth in the number of suppliers and service providers targeting consumers (ADT, Apple, mass merchants, etc). Although their messages are positive about the solutions technology provides, they fail to educate consumers about interoperability, or the levels of service provided by our industry. Educating those who seek technology solutions is increasingly more important today. As an association with finite resources, mainstream consumer campaigns are unrealistic. However, CEDIA IS becoming recognized by mainstream media as a resource for information. This is beginning to pay off for our members. DIY Network’s new series Hollywood HiTech features CEDIA member installers and manufacturers, and the first episode drove consumers to our website and subsequently the CEDIA finder service, connecting consumers with CEDIA members.

What are CEDIA’s biggest challenges going forward and how are you hoping to address them?
You have undoubtedly heard me say our industry is at a crossroads, and indicators continue to support the importance for our industry to reorganize. Technology will proliferate further into the home (energy, health, entertainment, IP, security, smart building materials) and the adoption of these technologies will increase the demand for a workforce to install them. We are already witnessing vertical industries entering our once relatively “exclusive” channel to capitalize on the explosive growth. Even national service providers (ADT, Comcast) have their eyes on the golden ring. The increasing number of influencers will cause greater confusion, while the increase in technology solutions will create more entry points into the industry. Who will own technology in the home? CEDIA is working to ensure that the most experienced and capable industry (ours) is recognized as the owner of the network. This is not just the association’s challenge. Each stakeholder in our industry must recognize that unless we change and diversify out of our roots in entertainment, other industries will diversify beyond their core competencies and encroach ours. Fragmentation will not serve our industry well. There is one thing you can do to help right now. Join CEDIA. The strength of any association comes down to tax dollars and votes. More members provide greater influence among lawmakers, manufacturers, media, industry partners, and consumers. As the 1965 VISTA campaign slogan stated… “if you are not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

I’m sure you have you’ll have your hands full at EXPO, but what one or two things are you, personally, looking forward to experiencing during the show?
It’s not so much what I see, but what I hear. The industry is changing, and I am most interested in how industry professionals are responding. I am curious to seek out the trends. Not just new technologies, but how the manufacturers position themselves as business partners. Don’t get me wrong of course…I am a gear head just like the other 20,000-plus, so I’m sure you will find me wearing oversized sunglasses watching the Incredibles for the 473rd time. And if you do, grab me and tell me what your company is doing radically different today to stand above all others in your market.

What do you think CEDIA EXPO’s return to Indianapolis will mean for the association and show attendees?
The expansion of the convention center will provide for a great show floor experience that will be much easier to navigate. You can also expect to see many first-time exhibitors and new solutions. But most importantly our industry needs to build on optimism. I believe CEDIA EXPO will once again reveal the enthusiasm and unparalleled innovative nature of the residential electronics systems industry. I am sure we could all use that type of a recharge. The familiarity with the city will undoubtedly bring a good vibe to the show. CEDIA EXPO has always garnered a great social atmosphere and there will be plenty of places around the convention center for that. CEDIA and Indianapolis are celebrating the return of EXPO with an After-Hours Party on Thursday September 8 at the Pan Am Plaza. All CEDIA EXPO attendees are invited to join us for food, drinks, and live music. So whether it’s St. Elmos for a famous shrimp cocktail, or Steak ’n Shake in the wee hours… I will see you in Indianapolis!