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Tabitha O’Connor looks ahead to Virtual CEDIA 2020 and Beyond

As we gear up for Virtual CEDIA 2020, CEDIA’s CEO discusses the challenges and opportunities ahead for residential AV

Virtual CEDIA 2020 is another accommodation being made within the events and association world. September 15 – 17 residential AV dealers will be able to connect with some of their favorite brands, find out what is new and what is next.

AVNation: Like so many organizations and associations working in AV, CEDIA has had to go virtual with this year’s event because of the pandemic. How difficult was that decision to make as a team? And, how did CEDIA and Emerald Expositions settle on a virtual event?

Tabitha O’Connor: The global pandemic has thrown numerous challenges at the CEDIA and Emerald teams, but with challenges come opportunities.

The virtual platform will provide members, learners, and industry stakeholders access to knowledge and connections wherever they are – be it on a tablet during a break from the jobsite or on the couch in their pajamas. Though different, the experience will still be enriching and provide tons of takeaways and value. The CEDIA Education lineup this year is exceptional.

AVNation: What was your membership’s reaction to the decision?

O’Connor: CEDIA members have been understanding. They’re constantly dealing with the effects of the global pandemic, too, whether it be business-related challenges or major lifestyle adjustments. I think when you step back and look at all the ingredients and resources needed to deliver a world-class event and educational opportunities – remember, CEDIA Expo is a global gathering – our membership seems to get the need to go virtual. Our members are resilient and so are we as an organization. We’re excited about what the virtual edition of CEDIA Expo and CEDIA Education offerings will bring to our members and all parties involved in the industry.

AVNation: At the height of the pandemic earlier this spring, CEDIA unveiled CEDIASTRONG, a set of new services and tools to help CEDIA members get through this difficult period. Can you tell me a little about what went into creating that platform and how the membership has been utilizing it since its launch?

O’Connor: CEDIASTRONG is not only a unifying phrase for our industry to come together around, but it is also a toolkit of resources that our members have been able to tap into amid all the question marks. Once lockdowns began everywhere, the CEDIA team sprung into action to gather the most meaningful resources and present them in practical and helpful ways.

We tapped our own expertise, as well as that of integrators, and partners dealing with similar uncertainties. The end result was a wealth of information and guidance on “what’s next and what now” for anyone who could use it – including opening up our world-class educational resources at no charge to learners throughout the world during the early part of lock downs. We felt it was the right thing to do for anyone with a thirst for industry knowledge and the desire to build skills while the realities of living in COVID times weighed on us all.

The CEDIA Podcast, which has focused heavily on pandemic-related topics when necessary, has seen record interest. We’ve continued to serve as a go-to source for anything from government resource information to business advice to technology trends that have sprung because more people are staying home. In other words, CEDIASTRONG has served to highlight the great services CEDIA provides in both pandemic and non-pandemic times.

AVNation: We are all learning on the job on how to make exceptional virtual events that retain some of the excitement of in-person events. What will set virtual CEDIA 2020 apart from other industry shows that debuted in the virtual space earlier this year?

O’Connor: The main things that will set virtual CEDIA Expo apart from other industry-focused events is the global reach and accessibility, the scope of industry involvement, and the focus on familiarity. The best example I can give is our virtual education offerings. There are more than 80 courses being offered throughout September 15 and 16 and after they take place, attendees that purchased all-access education passes will be able to view the courses on-demand for the rest of the year. This opens up CEDIA Education to audiences that may have not been able to travel to the show before and they’re not limited by their particular time zone. Also key to the global accessibility piece is the availability of 10 Spanish language classes.

AVNation: What are you hoping to achieve during the virtual CEDIA 2020 that might not have been envisioned for an in-person event?

O’Connor: We’re hoping to cast a much wider geographic net to those that may have not been able to make the journey to Denver this year. It’s a worthy investment to be at CEDIA Expo in-person – nothing can truly replicate the experience – but the ability for attendees anywhere with an internet connection to get to join in the networking, new product perusing, and education opportunities will bring the show directly to a massive audience. While the virtual show will be different CEDIA will still produce a lot of the same hallmark programs that are enjoyed by all attendees such as CEDIA Talks and the Opening Keynote, and the virtual CEDIA Booth will still be the place to connect with fellow members and CEDIA Staff. I don’t doubt that some virtual attendees will like what they experience and join us in person in the future.

AVNation: What should attendees expect from a virtual CEDIA 2020? What are some unique features that they will see and experience?

O’Connor: The key features of CEDIA Expo – opportunities to learn in-depth about innovative products, build connections with fellow members of the industry, and learn from some of the best minds and biggest names – will still be there, just in a virtual platform. The virtual Expo Hall will open the door to top brands, giving attendees concentrated access to products and breakthroughs and you won’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home, work site, or office to see.

A significant number of brands, technologies, and top instructors will walk attendees through products and learning opportunities. The unique aspect of the virtual event is also what makes the in-person version of CEDIA Expo such a draw – industry and industry partner buy-in. So many great brands representing so many sectors of home technology integration will come together and really avail themselves to all who attend. The scope of participation is exciting.

AVNation: Will CEDIA and Emerald incorporate a virtual component to the in-person CEDIA 2021 event? If so, how so?

O’Connor: Right now, we’re all focused on delivering the best experience we can for 2020. Going forward, virtual elements of future shows will certainly be a topic of great interest. We love the global accessibility that a virtual event brings – especially from an education and training standpoint – and the 2020 virtual edition of CEDIA Expo will give us valuable insight into how we can deliver a virtual experience that provides great value and takeaways for attendees.

AVNation: Stepping back from talk of the show for a moment and besides CEDIASTRONG, what is CEDIA’s strategy for itself and its members for coming out on the other side of this global crisis?

O’Connor: CEDIA continues to finish strong with our current three-year strategic plan that wraps at the end of the year. We’ve made major strides on fronts like education, workforce development, outreach, and standard setting initiatives, and our next strategic targets will also be heavily steeped in some of the same principles.

At the heart of everything we do, is the focus on service to our membership and the industry we all serve. As I said earlier: challenges are just hidden opportunities and I think that also rings true for our long term strategic goals. The need to deliver education and training at the highest levels possible, set standards for an entire industry, raise awareness of the wonderful work our members do day-in-day-out, and develop the pipeline of the next generation of integrators never stop evolving. As we look toward the future, we know that service – from members who have boots on the ground to our organization tapping into our own and our member’s expertise to push the industry forward – is at the very heart of our mission.

 

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