An Inside Look at CEDIA

In a typical year, September is the big CEDIA month for most of us. This was the first time that my direct contact with our industry's primary trade association stretched even further into the month of October. This year, with the annual EXPO craziness over, I finally had a chance to take advantage of my new proximity to CEDIA's Indianapolis headquarters and go for a visit.
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In a typical year, September is the big CEDIA month for most of us. This was the first time that my direct contact with our industry's primary trade association stretched even further into the month of October. This year, with the annual EXPO craziness over, I finally had a chance to take advantage of my new proximity to CEDIA's Indianapolis headquarters and go for a visit.

Thanks to a generous invitation from executive director Don Gilpin, I attended my first CEDIA staff meeting, which gave me a taste of all of the work that the association's full-time staff does on a daily basis. Needless to say, they're a busy bunch who take their work extremely seriously.

With EXPO's successful completion, the staff's attention turned toward future association plans, covering everything from the industry's next appearance on Designing Spaces ("Designing the Best Home Theater," featuring former CEDIA president Ray Lepper), to the latest registration update for the association's new Spring EXPO in Dallas. It was fascinating to learn, for instance, details on CEDIA's Latin America initiatives (headed by Branden Camp) and industry outreach initiatives to trade groups such as the NAHB, AIA, and ASID, led by Dave Chick. I was already well aware of the excellent work that Darren Reaman told us about regarding his government relations and public policy initiatives, and my theory that professional development director Margaret Sheehan is the hardest working woman in the industry, was proven correct when I learned of the initiatives that she was tracking.

Did I learn any secrets or uncover any unexpected editorial leads? Secrets, not really, but story leads, absolutely. One area of interest that I did receive more insight into was the progress report for the Spring EXPO. During the meeting I learned that although the exhibit list was by no means huge by CEDIA standards, there were some really positive developments regarding attendee registration. For instance a local ADI distributor had decided to hold its meeting at Spring EXPO, bringing with it 300 attendees. Gilpin later explained to me that CEDIA was making a concerted effort to invite ADI-type installers and other security-centric installers who may be newer entrants into the AV installation world. This approach, I think, will be what makes Spring EXPO relevant to exhibitors and enable it to compete with other events in the market. I realize there will be political pressure (CEDIA points, etc.) from CEDIA to force the hands of exhibitors to participate in Spring EXPO, but to really make it work, it has to draw fresh, new attendees to the show floor. CEDIA can do that with the proper partnerships, recruiting techniques, and quality education offerings.

Speaking education, I also had the unique opportunity to not only attend a couple hours of a terrific project management class led by DI Partners' Todd Adams at CEDIA HQ, but also had dinner with Mike Creeden, a Chicago-area dealer who recently volunteered to completely update CEDIA's University classes and instructor pool.

Adams' class was my first one outside of CEDIA EXPO. Granted, I could not stay long, but I was impressed with the overview of what would guide the next four days and liked Todd's easy-going and knowledgeable approach to the subject matter. He has really taken his vast experience and turned it into a tried and true methodology for running a custom installation business.

Creeden too, was impressive. I learned first-hand from him during CEDIA EXPO that he was place in charge of guiding the class content of CEDIA University. He mentioned that he would be in Indianapolis this month meeting with other education volunteers about new instructors and course subject matter. The idea was that now that CEDIA University's structure was firmly established, it was time to take a closer look at which classes were really working and which were not.

It is still early in that process, but I was very excited to talk to such an energetic and intelligent individual taking on such a daunting effort (and a volunteer, mind you). If you don't know Creeden personally, I believe that he is one of this industry's hidden gems.

This past week provided me with great insight into how CEDIA finds young and passionate full-time staff to run the day-to-day business of the association, while also depending on the insight and knowledge of consultant, manufacturer, and integrator volunteers who want to help the industry to grow, evolve, and flourish.

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