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Interview – Wendy Griffiths of CEDIA on The Home Technology Event 2010

CEDIA Region 1 recently announced that the UK CEDIA Expo would next year be transformed into the Home Technology Event 2010. We spoke to CEDIA Region 1 executive director Wendy Griffiths about the thinking underlying this decision, and what else visitors to next year's show can expect.

CEDIA Region 1 recently announced that the UK CEDIA Expo would next year be transformed into the Home Technology Event 2010. We spoke to CEDIA Region 1 executive director Wendy Griffiths about the thinking underlying this decision, and what else visitors to next year’s show can expect.

Q: What is the background to the re-branding of CEDIA Expo as the CEDIA Home Technology event?

A: In August we announced that the annual CEDIA Expo training and product showcase event would return to ExCeL London in 2010 (15-17 June for the exhibition; training 14-17 June).

This decision was reached following extensive consultation with the industry. We talked with more than 100 companies and individuals from across the industry who had either attended the 2009 CEDIA Expo or supported the event in previous years.

Exhibitors and visitors were invited to tell us where and how the Expo experience could be improved whilst those members who registered but did not visit were asked to contribute their feedback and ideas to the debate. Before the Expo, we also appointed an independent company to conduct detailed telephone interviews on our behalf with both exhibitors and visitors. A clear majority of those canvassed were in favour of ExCeL London as the location for 2010.

However, this engagement with the industry made it clear to us that the future success of the CEDIA Expo, and the custom installation sector, was about much more than simply its location. Feedback showed conclusively that the event must evolve if we are to build on the success of 2009 and for the show to stay fresh, relevant and as valuable as possible to the industry.

To this end, we have re-christened next year’s show the CEDIA Home Technology Event 2010.

Q: So, what will the re-brand help you to do?

A: Well, one of the big challenges that we face is communicating the meaning and relevance of CEDIA Expo to those people who haven’t got a clue what CEDIA, and custom installation, is all about.
This is particularly significant in our efforts to attract professional bodies outside of, but related to, the industry, such as interior designers, architects and so on. Re-branding the event to broaden its appeal to new design professional audiences is an obvious way for the show to move forward.

We also have new entrants coming into the market and existing CI companies who we recognise may not be CEDIA members or feel part of CEDIA, and, as a result, may be discouraged from attending the event. The re-branding removes that perceived barrier, and makes the show easier for those companies to buy into.

Custom installation is much broader than it used to be. There is increasing convergence between the AV and IP worlds; gaming is now a common requirement in many smart home installations; security and HVAC control are increasingly important considerations; and, in the future, we can see electronic home systems expanding to embrace other services, for example energy and water metering. Fundamentally, our show and our industry is about electronic technology in all its variety and how it’s used and integrated in the home.

So, we believe that this new name and brand identity will help us broaden the appeal of the custom installation industry and make the event much more open and transparent to new audiences.

Q: To what extent is CEDIA directly or indirectly seeking to appeal to end-users with this move?

A: CEDIA is committed to ensuring that the event remains representative of the industry and, as such, provides the key platform in the calendar for education and doing business. We believe that it is our responsibility as the trade association to create the environment that helps the industry achieve both of these objectives.

That said, it is also important that we raise visibility of the industry and its profile directly and indirectly to consumer audiences. This will have a direct impact on the prosperity of our members’ businesses.

One of the strengths of the CEDIA Expo is that it provides a platform for us to talk about the industry indirectly to end-users through consumer media. In the past, we have entertained visits from mainstream broadcasters and journalists, representing the BBC, Sky, GMTV, Channel 4, alongside a host of consumer magazines, national newspapers and blogs. The re-branding will help us boost this visibility even more and create interest and enthusiasm for the work and talents of our members.

At a direct level we are considering other initiatives that we think could bring extra value to the event. One of these options is a special VIP evening. Here we could work with major Docklands and City-based institutions and banks to attract interested, high net-worth consumers to the event. We are exploring these avenues, but will consult carefully with the industry before any final decisions are taken.

Ultimately, we are committed to the show remaining a trade event, so that we can build on the legacy strengths of the CEDIA Expo and not dilute them.

Q: What other changes can we expect?

A: Of course, the re-brand is just one element in the improvement process.

The CEDIA Home Technology Event will be located in a newly expanded area at ExCeL London, which is seeing a £160 million investment to bring new space and new facilities to the venue. This area opens in spring 2010.

We are also moving ahead with other plans at the same time, which build on the success of 2009. Two of the most popular initiatives this year were the Show Floor Theatre and the ‘Designing Interiors With Technology’ conference.

With the Show Floor Theatre we recognised the need to provide core educational elements to our members outside of a formal classroom setting. These sessions gave crucial updates on technology and the market, free of charge as a valuable asset to our industry. Expect to see an equally compelling programme at the CEDIA Home Technology Event 2010.

The ‘Designing Interiors With Technology’ conference proved to be one of the most successful aspects of CEDIA Expo 2009. With more than 110 designers attending the event, it enabled us to reinforce the knowledge base of our members and the tangible benefits that can flow from closer partnership between interior designers and CEDIA member companies. We are re-running this conference at the Decorex event for interior designers taking place in September, and will look to offer an enhanced programme again at the CEDIA Home Technology Event 2010 next June.

On top of these developments, we already have outline plans in place for a half-day seminar programme tailored to electrical contractors. Supported by the leading title in the sector, Professional Electrician magazine, and the industry body NICEIC, the ‘Wired for Technology’ conference will provide an important introduction to our industry for contractors. This conference will take place at the Home Technology Event 2010 on the morning of Thursday 17 June.

We are also looking at dedicated conference style events for architects and building services consultants in an effort to support CEDIA’s efforts in establishing the CEDIA brand as a quality mark for the industry – this is a core goal for CEDIA and one that will ensure a greater proportion of project work is secured by a CEDIA member company.

Discussions are currently taking place with the key industry associations, RIBA, CIAT (Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists) and CIBSE (Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers) and we hope to be able to make announcements in the not too distant future. These plans coincide with our outreach strategy, which will see a new Eco CPD course launched at the end of this year, and continuing progress with the Designing Integrated Future-Ready Homes CPD, which has now been seen by more than 3,000 architects.

So, as you can see the CEDIA Home Technology Event 2010 will be packed with excellent, high quality content. We are working hard to ensure that our industry event adapts to the changing market conditions. And, rest assured, that we will continue to add new initiatives in the months ahead which ultimately will enable the show to be more successful and reach a wider audience. In doing so, we will keep engaging with the industry and seeking its views on the direction we take. Only through this dialogue and co-operation, can we move the custom installation sector forward and set firm foundations for the future prosperity of us all.