In-depth: CEDIA CEO Tabatha O’Connor talks future plans

posted on Friday, 23rd February 2018 by Geny Caloisi

CEDIA  Trade show  ISE 2018 

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Tabatha O’Connor, CEDIA’s newly appointed Global President and CEO, granted Inside CI an exclusive interview during ISE 2018. She had been the acting CEO since May last year and she confessed to having enjoyed it greatly. This year, when it came to take the position permanently, she felt it was a natural progression.

Originally from Indianapolis, O’Connor has been with CEDIA for the past 15 years, and has worked in most departments within the organisation, from volunteer development to HR and finances.

Asking about her new job, O’Connor comments, “Although this is the first time that a woman carries the title of President and CEO, it’s not the first time that CEDIA has a woman at the helm. Billilynne Keller was the executive director of CEDIA and received a Lifetime Achievement Award when she retired in 2005. The organisation has evolved since and I am excited about our new plans.”

In December 2016 CEDIA decided to have a global alignment under one umbrella. The next big move was to sell its ownership of the CEDIA Show to Emerald Expositions, the largest B2B tradeshow operator in the US. “Now that we know the expo is in good hands, we can sit back and see what we can offer the industry,” commented O’Connor. “We are very much involved in all the content for the trade show, together with the training, etc.”

For half a year O’Connor worked with the board of directors, CEDIA staff, and the guidance from strategy expert Dr. Rebecca Homkes, to understand where the organisation is and how it can best serve its members. The result is a new three-year plan.

CEDIA expects its new plan to help achieve significant advances and leadership in three key areas: education; increasing professionalism though standards, guidelines, and best practices; and deeper engagement and partnership with the design and build community.

O’Connor insists that the new plans are aligned with the values, interests, and input of all of CEDIA’s key stakeholders. “CEDIA is committed to members and their success, and this process created clarity around the priorities that provide the most meaningful benefit to them individually and to the industry as a whole.

“The overall health of the industry is dependent upon a well-trained and professional workforce, and CEDIA’s responsibility is to deliver education pathways to support that. CEDIA will seek to enhance the overall education experience through refining, curating, and developing new, relevant, and compelling courses. This will include an improved digital experience as well as expanded regional education offerings.” 

For 2018, CEDIA has scheduled over 50 regional training events in 12 countries. CEDIA education offerings will be available across the US, Canada, and Europe as well as India, Colombia, Australia, and China.

The second area of focus is creating standards, developing best practices, and defining guidelines to elevate professionalism and drive member and industry success.

“The ever-evolving nature of technology makes it especially important to ensure the highest level of expertise, which leads to consistent, successful client outcomes. We will be deeply engaged with relevant standards bodies to create and influence the direction of industry standards. We know time is a limited resource, so we will distil down these technical documents to deliver the information in a way that is quick and easy to understand and can be immediately implemented.”

CEDIA will also collaborate with manufacturers to facilitate adoption of the standards in new product development: The association will seek to better insights on product road maps and how CEDIA education can advance awareness, understanding, and implementation of these new technologies.

The third directive outlined in the strategy is to develop deeper engagement with the design/build community. O'Connor described how the organisation is in frequent talks with designers and architects to bidge the gap between them and AV technologies.

Efforts have been ramping up over the last two years, highlighted by the successful CEDIA Technology Solutions Pavilion at Design and Construction Week, which welcomes 80,000 architects, builders, and designers at the annual trade show.

CEDIA also currently has a proven, successful initiative supporting this effort - The CEDIA Outreach Instructor programme - that will get more emphasis and focus ongoing.

O'Connor is well aware of the importance of communications and marketing. She said that CEDIA has decided against just advertising but instead it is planning an integrated marketing campaign including hiring a media relations firm specialised in the building, interior design and architecture is area to ensure a consistent and clear message. 

“We are incredibly energised about the future, for both our industry and our association. We just had a fantastic ISE 2018, with a training programme featuring more than 50 classes, across business and technical topics, and certification examinations. Our CEDIA talks about new disruptive technologies and thought-provoking topics were fantastic and very well attended. We look forward to sharing our progress and success with the members.” 

Geny Caloisi

Geny Caloisi is an accomplished technology journalist who has worked in a variety of AV industry publications. 

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