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Interview: CEDIA Region 1 Chair, Robert Hallam

On the eve of the CEDIA Business Forum and AGM (5 and 6 October, Barcelo Walton Hall and Hotel, Warwickshire), IE Residential catches up with CEDIA Region 1 Chair Robert Hallam for an overview of the industry and current CEDIA initiatives.

On the eve of the CEDIA Business Forum and AGM (5 and 6 October, Barcelo Walton Hall and Hotel, Warwickshire), IE Residential catches up with CEDIA Region 1 Chair Robert Hallam for an overview of the industry and current CEDIA initiatives.

How have you read the economic downturn and its impact on CEDIA and the residential CI industry?

The significant changes that have occurred globally over the past 24 months have had a dramatic impact on businesses operating in every market sector. The fall out from the collapse of most of the world’s property markets has required some nimble footwork from CEDIA member companies, especially those working in the new-build market.

These shock-waves have been felt across many established markets, from New York, to Moscow, to Malaga, London and my own marketplace, Dublin.

Since CEDIA is no longer a regional trade association, but a global industry body with members spread across all continents we have been able to monitor the impact on our members’ businesses and work as an industry association to support them through these tough times.

Global economies are far from out of the woods yet, as every commentator will tell you. Although along with many of our members we’re looking forward to the future with greater optimism than 12 months ago, the need for that industry association support is clearly still very much required.

CEDIA is focused, therefore, on establishing value for its members through leadership and the ability to influence the development of the marketplace for its members’ goods and services.

What does that CEDIA support involve?

The CEDIA Board and Executive staff are engaged in a number of activities and initiatives that will help to create greater visibility for CEDIA and its members. Ultimately, these will deliver greater recognition for its members’ skill-sets and communicate the value they bring to every project.

The annual CEDIA Expo event, renamed The CEDIA Home Technology Event, is a case in point. It has transitioned to become a unique event that educates and demonstrates not only for installers, but also raises awareness and educates architects, specifiers, interior designers, real estate agents and electrical contractors.

While some of these categories sit comfortably with members, the electrical contractor sector can sometimes cause some discomfort for members. However, we have a simple strategy dictated by a requirement to influence this sector in a positive way. Providing an understanding of our industry will enable this audience to engage in a more positive way with CEDIA member companies. While it can be argued that we may create competition, managing that competition is far preferable to lacking any ability to influence the industry in a positive manner.

In an effort to further develop and grow the event, we’ve partnered with Upper Street Events, a major trade show organiser which runs the Gadget Show and other related exhibitions.

We believe that this move will enable us to improve the event and extend its reach to build visibility for members’ products and services as well as free up valuable resources within the office to allow the CEDIA professional staff to concentrate on increasing member benefits and the visibility of CEDIA to the relevant markets.

What other developments can you report?

We are actively engaged in a think tank initiative with the Intellect Group, with representative members from Intel, IBM, Sky, BT, Motorola, Sony and others, to provide direction and input, which will shape the development of goods and services for the ‘Connected Home’. This is a very exciting development, and one which we believe will put CEDIA at the forefront of these significant players in our industry.

In keeping with the need to adapt to a new and challenging environment, CEDIA is pursuing a strategy to better integrate the operations of all three CEDIA offices/regions. This is an exciting and challenging initiative. To become a truly Global Industry Trade Association, it is essential that we create a recognised brand with a set of values built into the brand that can be exploited by members in every part of the world.

What about education?

As partners in ISE with InfoComm, all potential opportunities are being explored to provide training and member value in every country. Education continues to be a cornerstone of CEDIA’s activities and a number of partner activities are taking place to develop education content that can be recognised by established education bodies and that can add weight to new and existing training courses.

I must stress here that CEDIA education is not limited to CEDIA members but educates the industry as a whole. With word of mouth one of the most valuable marketing tools our members have, access to training and skills for the whole industry is essential. With this is mind, CEDIA recently provided training for the Geek Squad, the installation arm of Best-Buy. Best-Buy’s move into the UK retail market demonstrates the rapidly changing nature of the industry, and while CEDIA’s involvement in training their installers may appear to be supporting direct competition, Best-Buy’s strategy of providing installation of its hardware in a quality manner, provides the potential to grow the market and drive knowledge and demand for installation solutions to a higher level than they can provide. This demand has the potential to drive business for CEDIA members. Being representative of the market enables CEDIA to influence these developments in a more positive manner than if we had no involvement at all.

What can we expect from the AGM?

The CEDIA Board will have some changes in personnel in October, due to the departure of certain Board members. The AGM remains the best opportunity for members to get an update on CEDIA activities, network, attend cutting-edge education and see some new products from suppliers and manufacturers. If a member has an interest in getting involved in a committee position or a Board position, CEDIA always needs new perspectives and ideas, and this is the place to make your voice heard, as many from the industry are doing at this year’s event.

Many delegates have also taken advantage of some great training and education opportunities at the event as well, covering 3D, the iPad and marketing your business – it’s been a packed and very worthwhile programme for all dealers.