I can’t remember the last time I stood on a soapbox imploring readers to join an organization, whether a buying group or trade association or some CE Pro club. But here I go breaking that streak and recommending highly that dealers, manufacturers and other constituents in the home-technology business join CEDIA, the trade association for integrators.
I have just returned from CEDIA Business Xchange, a three-day conference that revolves around … business … and interpersonal exchanges.
It’s an intimate affair. About 120 people attended, of which maybe 70 were dealers. The rest were manufacturers, reps and observers like myself. It was only CEDIA’s second Business Xchange, but it followed years of CEDIA Management Conferences, which garnered mixed reviews.
In fact, the first Xchange last year was only so-so, judging by anecdotal reviews. It didn’t seem that many attendees from 2015 returned in 2016. When event emcee Frank White asked for a show-of-hands from the first-timers, most hands shot up. My informal exit polls from this year, however, indicated a big chunk of dealers planned to return in 2017, not least because the event is being held in one of the coolest places on earth, Austin, Texas.
The 2016 Business Xchange featured a mix of professional speakers, interactive groups and team-building in a fun kind of way that involved Frisbees, giant slingshots, souvenir shopping and more. (Congratulations to Mitch Klein’s Beach Olympics team for winning the gold medal in an event sponsored by Mitch’s employer, the Z-Wave Alliance. #Rigged.)
One evening we enjoyed an outdoor barbecue, followed by a theater under the stars – an Adele concert projected by an 18,000-lumen Barco Apollo on a 9×16-foot Stewart Grayhawk screen.
Check out the Work & Play at CEDIA Business Xchange
Although I have little patience for book-hawking business speakers and their gimmicks (“Finding Your Brown Shorts”), CEDIA delivered some good speakers with practical advice for interviewing, hiring and keeping good employees.
My favorite presenter was a labor lawyer who had no gimmicks, no canned speeches, just some good legal tips delivered in an often hilarious way. She was available during the Idea Xchange to address individual questions and provide more words of wisdom, like how much you should expect to pay an attorney to vet your employee handbook. (Ask for a flat rate and expect to pay $2,000 to $3,000 for this deceptively critical legal document).
Virtually all of the 2016 Business Xchange was devoted to the issue of human resources, which I felt limited the appeal, especially for smaller dealers. Then again, the event can only be so big, so a self-limiting, highly focused agenda makes good sense.
Is $999 too Steep?
The price of admission to the Xchange might seem high. Members pay $999 and non-members pay $1,499, which includes the $500 cost of a CEDIA membership. Add airfare and hotel, plus the opportunity cost of three days away from work, and the expense can be hard to stomach. But let’s say you spent one hour learning about labor law and then 10 minutes of alone time with the attorney. Add about $700 worth of free food, drink and entertainment, and there’s your payback.
CEDIA loses money on the Business Xchange. The event truly is a service to the industry. I didn’t meet a single dealer or event sponsor that didn’t savor the experience, leaving San Diego with solid take-aways from the sessions, sound ideas from group-sharing, new friends, new vendors, new customers and a renewed enthusiasm for business.
But this is just one event, enjoyed by just a handful of CEDIA members. Throughout the year, our trade association provides exceptional education to everyone through its online member portal and in-person events. Members can continue their intimate networking through small-group discussions online.
CEDIA’s government-affairs operation, led by Darren Reaman, works overtime to ensure that local and regional regulations don’t cripple your organization. More times than you could possibly know, Darren’s group has saved dealers from strong electrical contracting and security organizations that want your low-voltage business.
CEDIA has a few goofy initiatives – do we really need a tradeshow in China? – but it’s our trade association and membership is cheap. Why not join today?
View all the Business Xchange photos on CE Pro's Facebook page.