Industry Q&A: On Becoming a CEDIA Outreach Instructor

Ed Wenck | Nov 12, 2019


The COI program enables CEDIA members to deliver educational presentations on home technology to their local design and build industry partners, helping develop vital new business relationships.

How would you describe your company’s previous relationship with architects and interior designers? 

Stephen Gibson, Acoustic Pixel:  Before joining the COI program, our relationship with architects and interior designers was limited to the time when we are on site together. There was often a degree of friction, as we seemed to have conflicting priorities. Of course, we always managed to get the job done, but it didn’t feel like we were always on the same team! I think the AV and technology elements of a project were being overlooked by the design team because they didn’t understand what was possible. Unfortunately, that creates uncomfortable conversations with designs requiring change to accommodate the client’s technology requirements. 

Richard Padun, Integrated Logic: We have worked closely with architects and designers for a number of years to create homes that not only meet the needs of today, but for years to come. Our relationship begins from the initial outset to firstly understand their design vision and user requirements, from which we then work with them to integrate the correct infrastructure with customized solutions for the chosen smart home systems. We act as trusted advisors every step of the way, even offering support after the install. 
Bill O’Connor, Dallas Sight and Sound, Inc.: Dallas Sight and Sound has always had good relationships with interior designers and architects. Given the level of homes we work in (luxury and estate), they understand how important it is for us to be involved from the earliest stages and have used us as a resource for both design-only and design-and-build projects.

Nick Caripis, BNC Technology: I think you always resonate with certain people, so we have always had decent relationships with this audience.

Why is educating architects and interior designers important for your business? 

Gibson: For us, it is crucial. It does three things:
  1. It helps us position Acoustic Pixel as experts, 
  2. It introduces us to a steady stream of potential new projects, and 
  3. The knowledge that we provide in the CPD (Continuing Professional Development program) helps the architect and interior designer to include technology in their schemes.

This means that we have less conflict on site, and the client gets the best solution. We are aiming to deliver at least one CPD a month and then keep the architects and interior designers up to date with relevant information at regular intervals. Consequently, the relationship is strengthened, more projects feature technology, and the client gets the best possible service.

Padun:  Architects are very influential in the design of residential developments, and as the popularity for smart home technology is on the rise, it is important that they have a thorough understanding of the systems available, but more importantly, how to integrate them properly.

The learning never stops; the technology is constantly changing, and so it is very important that we maintain the relationships with architects. 
O’Connor: As home technology has become an increasingly important aspect of home life, it is critical that we convey to specifiers how technology has to be planned from the earliest stages of design to properly integrate the systems unobtrusively into the project, and account for critical factors such as space, ventilation, and power requirements. When technology is planned from an early stage, we can reduce or eliminate surprises (“You want to put a speaker WHERE?”) for the design team, as well as the other trades, like framers, electricians, and mechanical.

Caripis: I believe it is a long-term education process, and it is an investment for our industry. If we all plant seeds and water and feed them the correct food, we will all reap the reward. We don’t operate in isolation and need to add value to their business, so that we can all benefit from a fruitful industry.

How many times have you delivered a CEDIA CPD to an architect or interior design practice? 

Padun: Since delivering our first CPD in June, we have delivered two CEDIA seminars and have another three booked in before the end of the year.  
O’Connor: I would estimate I have taught 60 to 70 classes — many in architects’ and interior designers’ offices. We hold a monthly class in our office, and we do some at association meetings or education events, with as many as one hundred attendees.  

Caripis: We deliver roughly four to six CPDs a year.

What is the feedback you receive when the course is delivered? 

Walter: The feedback from delivering the CPD seminars highlighted how relevant the content was in meeting the demand for future-ready homes and confirmed the value of investing in smart home technology for their own projects.

O’Connor: From comments on the evaluation sheets: “Knowledgeable speaker, answered questions, added input,” “Always well done,” “Great presentation,” “Bill is a great presenter, thank you!”And there is almost always a comment to the effect of, “I have a client who will be interested in this…”

How useful is the course in helping you build relationships with architects and interior designers?

Padun: Following the seminars, we have received a number of inquiries asking for advice and recommendations for best practices in integrating the systems. They perceive us as trusted advisers who are readily available to answer any product related or technical questions. These are important first steps to build the foundations for a strong working relationship. 
O’Connor: It is very useful. It helps us build relationships with the critical specifiers, gives us exposure to them by offering something they need (both knowledge, which they are hungry for, and CEU credits), and, most importantly, establishes us as the experts in the market. It also helps us to be confident that products are properly specified and that they understand the requirements when specifying tech.

Caripis: It’s a good start. You don’t connect well with everyone, but I do feel that it’s a good opportunity to meet industry related people, spread our industry offering, and then you partner with the ones you resonate with.

Have these connections led to any business for your company? If yes, what type of projects are you now working on?

Padun: As the specification process isn’t immediate, and the fact that we have only started delivering CPDs in June, they haven’t generated any business to date. However, we are currently in discussions for a number of residential projects that are in the planning stages in the local Surrey area. 
O’Connor: The exposure we have received has led to a number of jobs. These range from small systems ( in the fifty-thousand-dollar range) to million-dollar-plus projects and have increased the scope of some projects by educating specifiers on the latest trends, products, and benefits to their clients.

Caripis: Our biggest work has come from these workshops. It’s a long-term process but once an architect loves you and what you do, it becomes a fantastic relationship as you see eye to eye.

After a class, what are your next steps to further develop the relationship?

O’Connor: I always follow up with an email to each attendee. Then I will often follow up at least with the principals in the firm, with a phone call to see if they have any questions and ask them what they would like to know more about. This exposure also makes it easier for me to approach them at industry events, as it is not a “cold call.”
Caripis: It’s like farming — slowly take care of the soil, plant the seeds, and water them, and one day, you will reap the benefit. Our longest relationship took three years of planting and watering, but now gives us the most work.