The Importance of Business Xchange: A Recap of San Antonio

Bill Skaer
Mar 23, 2018

I'd like to give my perspective on the importance of the annual CEDIA Business Xchange. But first, I think I need to give you a bit of background.

I have been to almost every Management Conference and Business Xchange that CEDIA has offered. I have taken little gems away from every one of them.

Last year was my first time to attend as a manufacturer. In May of 2016 I was lucky enough to have been able to be a part of the purchase of Audio Design Associates. I had been a dealer and a fan of ADA’s amazing audio equipment since 1988. I had been on the integrator side of our industry for 35 year. I was lucky enough to have had a good business — and a competent business partner who was in a place where he could purchase my half of the company that we had started together. I felt it was time to spread my wings and do something different — after all, 35 years is a long time.

I have been a big supporter of CEDIA from two sides; as a member, and a volunteer. I was fortunate enough to have been at the CEDIA formation meeting — I get to call myself a founding member. Over the years, I have been a facilitator sometimes and an attendee, with no other responsibilities other times.

Now that I have given you a little of my own history, let me tell you why I felt the need to speak about the CEDIA Business Xchange.

A Recap of Last Year's Xchange

I arrived in San Antonio on Tuesday afternoon. It was an easy drive from Dallas. This year I had the pleasure of riding to and from the event with Chris Pruet from GoVision. On the drive down, we spent a lot of time talking about the business and its history.

Being a seasoned veteran of these events, I had certain expectations of how things would go. The prior year in San Diego was fun. The energy was good; I learned some terrific things.

But the 2017 edition was even better.

Upon arrival, I ran into Frank White (in the center of the photo at right), one of my longest-term friends. (Notice I didn’t say "oldest"). Frank had arrived early, along with a much newer friend, Patrick Hartman. These guys were holding court in the hotel bar — business as usual. They were going over the events and planning all that was ahead for us over the next few days. Frank White is kind of a big deal — he is often called on to be the ring master of our industry events and is perfectly suited for the job.

More old friends began to show up as the night went on, and even after hours had passed, I had hardly moved more than 50 feet from where I first entered the room.

As the bar began to fill up with the people that were arriving early, it was clear that lots of these folks knew each other very well. It was great to just catch up.

Sign up for the next CEDIA Business Xchange (May 16-18, Phoenix) HERE.

On Wednesday, we had a pretty light schedule as others continued to arrive. The CEDIA Tech Council meeting began just after lunch. Dave Pedigo, CEDIA’s Vice President of Emerging Technologies, was afraid that there wouldn’t be many attendees who would be interested in their work. As it turned out the large conference room was filled with both new and familiar faces.

I have to say, if you get brilliant minds like Michael Heiss, Peter Aylett, Julie Jacobson, Dave Pedigo, and Gordon van Zuiden in one room at the same time, there will be a pretty amazing exchange of information. These people live this technology every day and they never disappoint. I think, based on the attendance, Dave can rest easy that this industry is still hungry for the incredible content that the Technology Council produces.

On Wednesday evening, we all gathered on buses for a short ride to the San Antonio Riverwalk. We boarded boats and got to take a tour of the waterways in the middle of downtown San Antonio. We learned about the city while the boats were taking us to dinner. It was a very pleasant evening with a comfortable amount of time to get to know each other a little more personally.

Down to Business

By Thursday morning everyone had gotten the chance to get acquainted and now we were ready to get to work.

CEDIA has a new campaign called “I AM CEDIA”. It is designed to let the world know what it is that CEDIA folks do. First we got the live version of the campaign: Buddy Hughes told us how he'd built his business. He shared not only his successes but his failures as well. Buddy’s story fit into the program perfectly. The presentation that followed Buddy was all about practical advice on sales force development.

After lunch, we got to where the place where the real magic happens, The Idea Xchange, which broke us up into smaller groups. The room was set up with signs that had specific topics that we had chosen by our votes after the opening session. Industry peers facilitated each of the various topic groups. One of the best things for me was that we were free to move to a different topic area once we felt like we had a handle on the information that we needed from each group. The free-flowing format allowed us to gather the information that we wanted from each group.

The occasional Wellness Breaks — including quick back massages — weren't half bad either.

Sign up for the next CEDIA Business Xchange (May 16-18, Phoenix) HERE.

By the end of the day the entire group was wound up. So, it seemed like a good time for a BBQ Sauce instant-recipe-creation contest. I had never heard of an event like this, but if you've ever seen shows such as "Chopped" or "Iron Chef," you've got the general idea. As is turned out, this event with its crazy rules and teams of people that had just met each other turned out to be a blast. I have always known our industry was full of creative people but this activity let that over-the-top inventiveness really shine. In fact, the team that won the event even created a Twitter account for their sauce.

On Friday morning, we got to hear from a CEDIA member that I had not had the pleasure of knowing before this event. Amanda Wildman (top photo) gave her “I AM CEDIA” talk and I was very impressed. Amanda’s presentation dovetailed into the next speaker who spoke about moving beyond referrals to lead generation. Once again there was a lot of great information presented. I came back to my office and immediately started working on a number of things that I learned. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks?

The conference wrapped up with a nice outing to a local Top Golf location to close the event.

I know that's a fairly long "play-by-play," but I wanted to give you a sense of the mix of fun and information that we experienced. These are the type of events we can expect from CEDIA going forward.

I am always telling people about the sense of community that the people feel after getting involved with CEDIA. I know from talking to friends in other industries that they don’t get that from their line of work. Ours is a special business, full of great people who love to share what they know with other.

Finally, I wanted to say how impressed I was with the women that volunteered their time. Jamie Briesemeister, Amanda Wildman, and Venessa Zitzmann are just a few of the future rock stars of our industry. The rest of the task force rocked too but I wanted to recognize the women that just killed it. Volunteers are special people.

Bill Skaer is North American Sales Manager for Audio Design Associates (ADA). An electronic systems industry veteran since 1979, Bill is a dedicated CEDIA volunteer and past board member, a recipient of CEDIA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and a CEDIA Fellow.

Sign up for the next CEDIA Business Xchange (May 16-18, Phoenix) HERE.



CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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