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Interview: Gary Lewis, CEDIA

CEDIA chairman Gary Lewis talks to IE about the challenges of representing Region 1 and how the association is developing.

Gary Lewis, director of Cobham-based Future Systems AV, took up the post of CEDIA chairman, representing Region 1 (the UK, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and India) towards the end of 2011. He shares his thoughts on the outlook for the association, the future direction of residential custom installation and the forthcoming CEDIA Awards Gala Dinner. What do you believe are CEDIA’s main objectives – and can you put them in order of importance?Under my two-year chairmanship, CEDIA has three main objectives, all of which share equal importance. We want to grow membership across the region. The initial target is to have 500 members by the end of 2012, which would be a continuation of our record membership growth last year in the region. 

We are committed to carrying out more research into the market. This will help us better understand the opportunities and threats as well as giving us a clearer insight into market trends. 

Thirdly, we will raise awareness of CEDIA’s profile, and the profile of its members to consumers. What do you think have been the main changes within the custom install world in recent years that have a bearing on what CEDIA does or how it does it?We have to be flexible to adapt to changes within the industry. With profit margins eroding, our members have to look for alternative forms of revenue, such as adding in service and maintenance contracts. 

We have seen a change in the origin of our membership with a number of new members joining from the networking and security industries rather than the traditional AV industries. A recent survey of our members has highlighted the increase in service and maintenance contract business. 

The Electronic Systems Contractor (ESC) of 2016 report, initiated by the CEDIA Technology Advisory Group, provided some interesting insights into the CI market over the next four years. For instance, the market for the CEDIA dealer will expand significantly, thanks to an increase in product sophistication and power, combined with reducing price-points. Products hitting the market in 2016 will be four times faster and consume only 25% of the power compared to those manufactured today, and networking and IP will be pervasive in most products. Mobile devices are predicted to be the primary interface for electronics in a customer’s home. 

The report also found that distributed audio will continue to be a significant part of systems integration in the home, so there will be an emerging opportunity for dealers to discuss, design and sell better quality systems to their customers. And finally, CEDIA members will face growing customer demand for a one-stop shop contractor capable of handling all electrical and electronic work on their home. Why have you decided not to hold the Home Technology Event this year?The Home Technology Event has proved an important platform for the industry to present new products to their customers and for installers to discover new solutions for their businesses. However, it has been heavily subsidised by CEDIA for the past few years. At the same time, many companies were struggling to commit dedicated marketing spend in the exhibition sector within this mature area of the market.

With our partnership with ISE providing an increasingly attractive Europe-wide solution more suited to CEDIA’s regional responsibilities, the CEDIA Board took the decision that the monies and resources we invest in the event could be better utilised in other areas. Are you looking at any alternative events to fill the gap left by the HTE?We certainly are. 

We have already increased our profile at ISE and used it more effectively as an education platform this year. The result was a quadrupling of delegates attending CEDIA training. 

From a networking platform perspective, CEDIA is hosting 12 Connect with CEDIA events (eight in the UK and four in mainland Europe); the first two events we have hosted attracted strong attendance. We will also be expanding our Business and Technology Forum, held in the Autumn, to a two-day event with an enhanced education offering, keynote speakers and the opportunity for trade suppliers to showcase products to the industry. How are you encouraging more companies from countries that are less well represented within the organisation to join CEDIA?The CEDIA Board includes members not just from the UK but also from Spain, France, Ireland and Italy. By having a truly international Board in Region 1 we are growing awareness and profile of the association and the industry throughout our Region. 

We are running more and more international education courses and events in different countries, which is helping to grow membership too. The CEDIA Awards is also attracting entries from across the Region – over 10 countries submitted entries this year.

We now have four countries (outside of the UK) which have more than 20 members. Are you looking to develop CEDIA’s outreach programme further?Absolutely. Architects, interior designers, electricians and specifiers are key to our members’ businesses. We are working hard to educate these people on the benefits integrated technology can bring to their client, the consumer, and the importance of appointing a professional custom installer in the early stages of a project. Our Outreach Programme is allowing us to communicate these messages and explain the process of technology integration through CPD training. What new developments can we expect on the education front this year?We are working on modularising the educational offering. This will result in a transition from our traditional presentation-style courses into a combination of webinars, online education and hands-on training (where appropriate) which will continue to be supplemented by the presentations. 

Our education programme will become more accessible to people as well as giving them the extra convenience, where possible, to access our courses at a time that is suited to them. We are also going through an alignment process with the other CEDIA offices worldwide which will give us greater access to a wealth of course materials and resources to develop courses and bring in subject matter experts as teachers. 

We are also continuing our work to get CEDIA education recognised at college and university level as well as integrating some relevant third-party education, from organisations such as CISCO, into our current offering. Final question: At the CEDIA Awards last year, Trevor Eve made a very entertaining host, not least because, as your client, he subjected you to some good-natured teasing about the work you’d done for him and the prices you’d charged. How are you going to top that this year?  That’s for me to surprise everyone with on the night!

It is a challenge every year to find a new exciting venue and meet high expectations but I am very proud of this event and the installations our members submit, of which have record numbers this year. Hampton Court Palace is an amazing venue and I am looking forward to a fantastic evening, with, I hope, a lot fewer jokes at my own personal expense!