Looking For a New Way to Network? Teach!
In the over 10 years since Josh Christian has been teaching architects and interior designers the basics of low-voltage technology, he’s learned some critical lessons:
First, say “drapery,” never “drapes.” Second, make sure you have something touchy-feely on hand, like acoustically transparent fabric samples. Third, and most importantly, watch your tongue when referring to the profession of your students.
“Never ever call them decorators!,” said Christian. “That’s a slap in the face to interior designers. They’ll hate you for that.”
As vice president of marketing for DSI Entertainment Systems, a custom retailer based in West Hollywood, Calif., Christian’s primary responsibility is to bring in new customers, and he’s one of a growing number of installer pros nationwide who’ve discovered that offering educational seminars can be a huge draw. Some develop classes on their own, others rely on particularly charismatic manufacturer reps to be their public voice, but over 100 CEDIA members have gone even further in training themselves to become their market’s professorial resource, enrolling in an eight-hour course (costing CEDIA members $250) called the “Registered Outreach Instructor” program (or “ROI” for short, an antonym that doubles as a synonym for the profits they’re hoping to reap from such an investment of time and creativity).
Christian was recently named CEDIA’s Registered Outreach Instructor of the year, both for his experience networking with Los Angeles-area builders, architects and designers and his ability to pull off engaging “lunch and learns” or “dinner learns” for these important industry partners.
“It’s important to offer free food,” said Christian, who sometimes teaches seminars in DSI’s 14,000-square-foot luxury apartment showroom and other times will travel to the conference rooms of local architectural or design firms. “In L.A., it’s hard to get people to drive out for a seminar because of the traffic and just their overall busy-ness. I make sure to keep my presentations around an hour long.”