Integrators across the Northeast have been waiting to see each other — and their key suppliers — face to face for nearly two years. Well, the wait is officially over as New England rep firm Strateres held its first-ever Dealer Development Expo, attracting 175 integrators from across the region for two days of training. The event was held at the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa in Groton, Conn., and drew dealers up from New York and down from as far as Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
“Everyone has been hibernating for two years due to COVID,” says Peter Dyroff, principal of Strateres, a leading New England-area manufacturers’ rep. “We wanted to have a regional event that everyone could feel comfortable attending and get some training. Most integrators haven’t had any new training in 2 years because they haven’t been traveling, not to mention the vendors haven’t been traveling either. Training is not the same via Zoom. We are very training-centric. That has always been one of our key differentiators.”
The event has two days of jam-packed training from 11 vendors: Lutron, Sony, Josh.ai, Kaleidescape, Leon, Legrand AV, Monitor Audio, Coastal Source, RePure, Salamander Designs and Séura. Each manufacturer held multiple 45-minute training sessions across both days in five concurrent sessions. Topics covered included intelligent lighting, home theater, voice control, outdoor audio, lighting design, indoor air quality, water quality management, connecting with designers, and more. The sessions had limited capacities due to maintain social distancing, and a ballroom adjacent to the training rooms had table-top exhibits from each supplier. (CE Pro will have more details on several sessions focused on wellness in the coming weeks.)
Outside the Marriott, Coastal Source had its traveling demo van, and Strateres had its own Coastal Source demo van set up. There was also an outdoor theater featuring Coastal Source audio where the evening cocktail receptions were held.
“We have never done this before,” says Dyroff. “We have only held Sony line shows in the past. Many dealers think training is a hassle and a waste of time, so most of them are under-trained. In some cases they devalue training because its hasn’t been quality training. Too many times they have attended manufacturers training that was done by someone who was just reading off a Powerpoint that that person didn’t even create. The dealer walks out thinking, ‘I just wasted 4 hours of my day on that.’”
That is why the event is so focused on providing quality training. “I only want to do things in the best way possible. I want to set the bar high,” remarks Dyroff. “We need to give dealers a reason to be able to step away from their business for one or two days and reconnect with the vendors. Every integrator is super busy but the world will not fall apart for one day.”
To that end, Strateres recently hired Jeff Rogers as its education and training manager. Rogers, who spent years at URC, Savant and Tweeter, put together the slate of sessions for the Dealer Development Expo. Dyroff has also engaged with Bruce Clark of Kaleidolight as the “Lighting Sherpa” for Strateres. Clark works with integrators to help train them to learn lighting design skills.