The New CEDIA Outreach Instructor Training Course

Ed Wenck | May 21, 2020

Samantha Ventura knows that a videoconference isn’t the ideal way to interact with students looking to become CEDIA Outreach Instructors (COI), but disruptions like global pandemics demand adjustments. Ventura – CEDIA’s vice-president of education and training – has just been through the new COI Training Course (an update to what had been formerly known as the “Train the Trainer” sessions) with a dozen participants. The COI hopefuls hail from across the U.S. for this class, from Arizona to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and their motives are similar: networking with architects, builders, and designers, building credibility as local tech subject matter experts, and, most importantly, getting the word out about just what CEDIA-member firms do when it comes to providing the experience of the friction-less connected home.

Still, that Zoom-style meetup did the trick, given the circumstances. “While there is never a true replacement for in-person, engaged learning, the virtual experience came pretty darn close,” says Ventura.
Why the Update?

“The original coursework for the Train the Trainer class was fantastic,” says Ventura. “But, as with all curriculum, it must evolve to meet the needs of a changing group of learners.” To that end, Ventura and her team first created a “hybrid” version of the class, so that a portion of the work could be taken online, which meant a smaller in-person time investment for the students.

“Accountability itself is huge, and not just for this class." -- Samantha Ventura, CEDIA vice-president of education and training

There was also a critical aspect of the program that needed to be addressed; namely, reducing the fear of public speaking. As Ventura notes during the in-person coursework, only one in 100 people feel completely comfortable speaking in front of a large group. “I added more learning experiences that would allow for a person to begin to feel more at ease speaking and presenting in general,” she says. There are tips on relating to the various types of learners: visual, auditory, note-takers, and hands-on, kinesthetic students; and there are keys to understanding how adults learn in ways that differ from children.

The Cohort as Support Group

Of course, what’s most important after a COI completes the coursework is follow-through. Instructors who book regular brunch-and-learns for designers, builders, and architects are the ones who find the greatest success, and seed the ground for future leads. That’s why Ventura stresses to the group attending together – the “cohort,” as she calls them – need to support and hold one another accountable to that end.
“Accountability itself is huge, and not just for this class,” she says. “When you have others looking to you to complete something or support them with something, there is a true sense of camaraderie and a ‘we can do it!’ attitude. Sometimes working on something by yourself, it becomes a bit easier for self-doubt to slip in, especially when it comes to speaking in front of a group or getting outside your comfort zone in general.” That inherent pressure ensures that a COI keeps after booking those sessions with specifiers.
Additionally, the new coursework has been tailored to meet the needs of different learners across the globe. “Right now, the hybrid version (half online and half in-person) is being delivered in the U.S. and Australia,” Ventura explains. “In the UK, this class is still offered as an in-person experience, as it works for that particular area quite well.”
The success stories that CEDIA Outreach Instructors tell are a testament to the program’s longevity. Luis Cortes (Echo Workshop, Houston, Texas) raves about the program. “It’s opened up our ability to engage with new designers and architects in showing them that we are a knowledgeable partner within our industry.” “Not only do we get leads from our COI work, we get better ones -- clients who appreciate our abilities and are a pleasure to work with,” adds Owen Maddock (Cinemaworks, UK).
And, according to Ventura, the ultimate benefits of the COI initiative go well beyond potential lead-generation. “This program supports relationship-building that strengthens your business, but it also strengthens your own awareness and ability to connect with people in all aspects of your life. This is what makes this program -- and this class -- so special.”
Find more info here.

Register for the next COI Training Course here.

What COI Training Course attendees say:
The COI class was an incredible experience! While it would have been great to meet all of these wonderful integrators in person, the education Samantha provided virtually was absolutely perfect! She efficiently and thoroughly explained the importance of HOW to teach anything, especially in regard to topics that might be challenging to a particular audience that may not be familiar with technology that we work with every day. I highly recommend other integration firms sign up for this class immediately!
Kristopher Quaale
Integrated Lifestyles
I found the CEDIA virtual COI class to be very informative and collaborative.  Samantha led the class so well and I was impressed at how prepared everyone was for this class.  The collaboration worked and it was interesting that several people said it was surprisingly more difficult to present virtually than live.  We have had several virtual follow up meetings since the initial class and there is no doubt that we are excited to move forward to represent CEDIA and our industry. 
Jeff Rodgers
One-Touch Auntomation
CEDIA showed its commitment to its members by offering the COI certification program online at a time when in-person training was not possible. Outreach efforts to the design build community will no doubt be an invaluable part of our business. Through CEDIA and the COI program, we will raise the level of professionalism in our own organization, and contribute to the industry as a whole.
John Estep
Lex Home Tech

Structured outreach to architects, designers and builders is the next logical step for us to grow our business.  Our advantage as CEDIA members is to benefit from all of the experience of those who have gone before us. CEDIA has provided me an opportunity to tap into that experience pool through the CEDIA Outreach Instructor (COI) certification.  I attended the first online COI class during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 crisis. I expect to use the information from this class to start raising our own profile amongst the designers and builders in our own community.

David Ebaugh
CyberNet Solutions