Continuing Education

Chusid certified to teach Lightning Protection Basics

I am now certified by the Lightning Safety Alliance to teach continuing education courses in Lightning Protection Basics.

Every location in the continental U.S. is at risk of damage due to lightning. Lightning causes over a billion dollars annually of damage to buildings and their content in the U.S. The risks are increasing as more building systems have digital controls that are vulnerable to lightning surge. This is in addition to risks of injury and death.

The good news is that lightning protection systems, designed and installed in accordance with recognized industry standards, provide reliable and affordable protection. Lightning protection also contributes to the sustainability and resilience of buildings and communities.

The bad news is that many people in the building design and construction industry are unfamiliar with the scope of the problem or how to access solutions.

Help me rectify that situation by hosting a continuing education program. I am available, without fee, to present the one-hour training to professional and trade associations, architectural and engineering offices, property management groups, and civic organizations.

Worker's Memorial Day

 "Workers' Memorial Day is observed every year on April 28. It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers." OSHA

I urge you to use Worker's Memorial Day, an annual international event, as an opportunity to improve:

1. Safety in Your Operations:
  • Review your business operations and safety procedures.
  • Provide training to your employees and co-workers.
  • Recommit to total safety in your business.
2. Safety of Your Products:
  • What can you do to make it safer for builders to handle, install, and use your products? 
  • Redesign it to be safer.
  • Improve installation instructions. 
  • Provide more effective warnings on labels? 
  • Provide better training to installers?
3. Safety Awareness Throughout Industry:
  • Incorporate safety messages into your advertising. 
  • Dedicate part of your website to safety awareness. 
  • Provide superintendents with resources for job site training programs. 
  • Send your crews out into the field as ambassadors for training.
  • Submit safety-related stories to the media.
  • Organize safety-training programs at your distributor's warehouses.
  • Create safety posters for job trailers or site signage.
2014 Construction Industry Fatalities
Using Worker's Memorial Day as a stimulus for doing good can also improve your business's success. Safer operations reduce liability. Safer products improve customer satisfaction. And being a Safety Champion helps create a positive image for your customer.

Continuing Education's role In Building Product Evolution

USG recently launched an online portal for their continuing education programs,
Looking at the site, I reflected on the role of education in the company's history. They built their drywall business, in large part, through education. Gypsum board was a paradigm shifting concept and it took lots of education to convince contractors, code officials, insurance companies, designers, and engineers to embrace each step of the product's evolution.
I was a consultant to USG in the early 1980s and worked for Vince Waropay, director of architect services, and other individuals that were approaching the end of their long careers. They shared stories about the many challenges they faced, such as inventing metal framing, drywall screws, and tools for installing the screws. Then the challenge was to convince plasterers to use screw guns, since there-to-for the hallmark of their craft was the skillful trowel use. Hence, the need for education in their promotional efforts.
The site offers a course called, Evolution of Lightweight Building Materials. It makes the case for the company's new, lighter weight gypsum board products. To do so, they inserted their pitch into the larger context of the evolution of architecture, tracing construction techniques from the earliest stone-on-stone methods through the development of modern ultra-highrise buildings. They then extrapolate into the future by speculating on the impact of bio-mimicry, pointing out that nature has produced elegant and lightweight structures through 4 billion years of evolution. 
This approach, making a new product seem like an inevitable step in the evolution of the industry, works well with many architects, especially "designers" as their work draws upon the "idea" of architecture as well as the "tectonics".

Many CEU courses fail the quality test

Focus on learning, not CEU credits.
When I design or present a course offering Continuing Education Units (CEU), I strive to meet
educational objectives that will be valuable for architects and engineers and to provide authoritative content in an engaging format. If a course is presented online or in print, I also prepare a quiz to measure whether the student has gained competency in the subject matter. Writing the quiz is often more challenging than writing the courses. I try to write questions that reinforce the main concepts of the class and require a modicum of critical thinking about their application.

Too often, however, CEU courses have questions that only measure the student's ability to find trivial facts in an article. Some quizzes are written so that students can pass a course without reading the text.

For example, a commercial testing service recently mailed me a booklet, Continuing Education for Professional Architects, containing "3 Approved Courses and Exams" and offering "12 hours of Continuing Education for only $149."  The company's website say, "Our mission is to provide hassle free, cost-effective continuing education." Note that hassle-free and cost effective come before education in their priorities.

AIA Continuing Education System and state licensing boards require an hour of contact with the training material for each hour of credit.  I doubt that most individuals would invest even 1/10th of that time in these courses. That's because the courses are designed for students to pass without reading the material.

The test forms are at the front of the book and contain questions that direct student to answer.  Consider the blatant hints in the following questions, with my interpretation:
  • "According to Table 224.4..." In other words, go to table and read indicated number.
  • "As a defined term, __________ is a..." In other words, go to list of definitions and find wording used in question.
  • "As per the executive summary..." In other words, go to executive summary and find wording used in question. 
  • "A green roof is a continuous layer of __________ that covers a roof's surface (technology). In other words, go to the section of course titled, "Technology" and read answer.
  • "Regarding airflow models, which..." (The italic is in the test, it is not added for emphasis.) In other words, go to the section titled "airflow models" and read answer.
Here is the most difficult question
  • The results of the study showed..."  (The italic is in the test, it is not added for emphasis.) This is tricky, because the answer was in section titled "Discussion", not "Results".
I raise these concerns because companies offering exams with shortcuts like these downgrade validity of the continuing education system.  Every architect that pays for these shoddy tests takes away an architect that might otherwise take a high-quality course presented by a building product manufacturer or trade association.

I you to commit to providing high quality CEU programs. While some folks may pay their money and get credit hours on the quick and easy, little from the courses will stick with them. But if you offer genuine educational resources, students that take your course will remember you and the lessons for the rest of their careers.

I did learn one tip from the testing company.  Their course content consists solely of reprints of Government documents that are in the public sector. You can do this too.  Just be sure that your presentation and quiz are structured in a way that entices the student to study the material.

Illustration credit.

Continuing Education Units at Trade Shows: Why Not?

The three days I spent visiting exhibits at World of Concrete trade show felt like a trip to a major museum or browsing the stacks in a university library; everywhere I turned there was something new and exciting to learn.
At the Loos & Co. booth I was introduced to the different types of wire rope and how they are made. My "teacher" went on to regale me about the history of the product from John Roebling's 19th Century Allegheny Portage Railroad to the latest aviation applications.
Yet I may not be able to count any of my 36+ hours at the show towards continuing education units (CEU) I need to maintain my architectural license or my certified construction specifier status.  The continuing education criteria, established by state licensing boards and administered by AIA and other groups, are complex and impose burdensome paperwork requirements to get courses approved. While CEU can be earned through self-study, the design professional has to substantiate the educational value and an individual's initiative can be denied by regulators.
Cemex and several other organizations conducted a demonstration of roller compacted concrete and discussed quality control measures. While I had read about the technique, seeing it being installed was highly educational.
The educational value went beyond ordinary commercial transactions and networking to become brief master classes taught by the recognized authorities in their particular fields. When traffic in the booth was light, they would gladly spend a few minutes holding forth. The examples on this page are but a few of the many lessons received. Note that many of them would have earned me the more stringent health, safety, and welfare (HSW) credits if they had been presented in an approved course.
A gentleman form Oklahoma Wire and Steel took time to explain that concrete reinforcing is produced in coils. Fabricators either straighten the material and cut it to length, or they fabricate it into stirrups, rings, or the other shapes required on a construction site. Huge machines have largely replaced manual methods of cutting and bending rebar.
Many trade shows have concurrent classes that offer CEU credits. My argument is that this should be expanded to give credits for time spent on the trade show floor. Exhibitors are the financial underpinning of trade shows and want to maximize attendance.So it is in the interest of the building products industry to establish procedure for attendees to earn CEUs while visiting the show floor. Alternatively, show producers or trade association sponsors could take the lead in negotiating this change in CEU criteria.
Even though they knew I was not a potential customer for their equipment, the pair working the Sensocrete booth explained, with great passion, how to improve quality control of concrete.

One can argue that some trade show visitors are more interested in swag or social interactions than in educational benefits. But these same individuals can sit through a lunch time course and get nothing out of it but calories and an unjustified CEU.
Continuing education requirements are based on hour-long classes. Trade show lessons are necessarily brief, but no less powerful It took the rep at BASF only a few minutes to explain how their new "crack-reducing admixture" challenges fundamental assumptions about concrete performance and give me a sizable nugget of knowledge to digest.
The CEU divines differentiate CEU programs that involve face-to-face exposure with a qualified instructor from "distance learning activities" like reading an article or watching an online video. Distance learning activities require students to pass a ten-question quiz to demonstrate that they understand the material presented. Perhaps this model can be used for awarding credit for trade show time; attendees would have to submit a declaration of what they learned at the show. Another approach would be to discount show attendance so that an hour on a trade show floor would be worth only a quarter of a CEU.
A one-on-one master class with an Ward Malisch from the American Society of Concrete Contractors provided an authoritative answer to my question about cement hydration.  Figure above, from NIST, shows "concrete at four different length scales: upper left is concrete, upper right is mortar, lower left is cement paste, lower right is C-S-H." (See earlier post)

Are you ready to mount a campaign to accomplish this? Give me a call so we can plot strategy.

Lunch came Late

It is customary, at lunchtime educational programs, to serve lunch before getting into the educational content. Yet at a recent presentation, the catering service was late in arriving. I began the program at the appointed time and got 15 minutes into the training before the food arrived and I announced a brief intermission to allow participants to fill their plates and begin eating.

I noticed that many of the participants were using the intermission to discuss the material already presented. It seemed like those not speaking about the topic were still turning it over in their minds as they ate. When class resumed, participants were more energized and into the topic than when the program began.

With lunch first, many participants are dozing half way through the lunch hour. Postponing the food kept them alert through the end of the session.

I might try schedule again, even if I get some grumbling from hungry bellies.

Sponsoring Scholars

Many of the advances in material and building science emerge from academia. Here is how one company seeks to stay at the leading edge and attract talent while generating goodwill for the firm.  The following is from the website of Danzer, an major producer of wood products:

Final dissertation or thesis

Does your final dissertation deal with a topic of interest to Danzer? If so, we can assist you. Danzer will be happy to consider topics that you propose. You will be assigned a mentor from our company who will advise you when required.

Mentors do more than just answer questions related to your topic. They also see to it that you are fully integrated into the company. We will also support you financially while you are working on your paper. Students seeking a career in the wood processing sector should contact us before beginning work on their dissertation.

There are mutual benefits to completing your final dissertation at Danzer. It gives us an opportunity to get to learn you. At the same time, we offer you first hand insight into how our company operates. All doors will be open to you while you are working on your dissertation. And if we can offer you a job, the successful completion of your studies could also mark the beginning of a successful career at Danzer.

AIA CES Program Changes Could Mean Bigger Audiences

AIA has been tweaking its continuing education system (CES) program in ways that will likely bring more opportunities to businesses providing CES programs.

Continuing education is a voluntary process, sort of.  In most states, licensed architects must engage in continuing education in order to keep their licenses, although the number of credits required per year varies widely.  AIA members must also continue professional development to maintain their membership, and that is one of the changes.

The differences between states can create a very tangled situation.  Requirements vary not only in terms of number of credits, but how often they must be reported (1, 2, 3 or 5 years), and the specific reporting date (there are 14 different ones in the US).  AIA is partnering with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) to try and get the system more unified.  They are encouraging states to adopt a unified system of 18 credits (or units, or hours) per year, reported at year-end, with a minimum 12 of those credits being of the Health, Safety and Welfare category.  This is becoming the AIA member requirement as well, which increases their HSW minimum by 50%.  Also, a minimum 4 of those 12 HSW credits must be for Sustainable Design.

Moreover, self-reported credits - that is, credit for activities other than pre-approved courses, which the member claims as educational - will no longer be applicable to HSW requirement.

The AIA membership changes do not automatically apply to the states, or course; every state decides for itself, some by administrative rule, some by legislation. But AIA and NCARB have moved quite a few states in this direction, and they continue to promote it.

These changes mean that a lot more architects will now be seeking HSW hours to fulfill their requirements.  HSW is a very broad category that can include almost anything relating to the means and materials of building construction (as distinct from, say, the business of architecture, or construction contract law).  For manufacturers who provide CES programs as a means of educating designers about the use of products, and as a way to build relationships with the architectural profession, this is great news.  It could mean a noticeable increase in attendance, and increase in demand for presentations.  (AIA estimates it represents something like 42,000 more seat-hours per year in California alone.)

Fire up PowerPoint!

Lunchtime Follies

Once again, the folks at tell it like it is.
For many employees in a design office, lunchtime educational programs are one of the few perks they get. Use their hunger (for education and for nourishment) to your advantage.

They may come for the food, but make sure they leave with something more than a full belly. (I mean useful information, not just leftovers.)
Most people that make the effort to attend a professional society meeting are highly motivated. This makes them a good prospect for what you have to teach.

AIA CES Program Changes Could Mean Bigger Audiences

AIA has been tweaking its continuing education system (CES) program in ways that will likely bring more opportunities to businesses providing CES programs.

Continuing education is a voluntary process, sort of.  In most states, licensed architects must engage in continuing education in order to keep their licenses, although the number of credits required per year varies widely.  AIA members must also continue professional development to maintain their membership, and that is one of the changes.

The differences between states can create a very tangled situation.  Requirements vary not only in terms of number of credits, but how often they must be reported (1, 2, 3 or 5 years), and the specific reporting date (there are 14 different dates in the US, plus a few states that use date of birth or license anniversary).

The different reporting dates can theoretically be utilized to some advantage, since architects will tend to be more aware of their need to acquire credits as the reporting date gets close.  For example, Florida is the only state that reports on Feb 28.  This means that January and February might be times when a lunchtime CES presentation in Florida will attract better attendance in architectural offices.

AIA is partnering with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) to try and get the system more unified nationally.  They are encouraging states to adopt a unified system of 12 credits (or units, or hours) per year, reported at year-end.

The AIA member requirement is  even more stringent at 18 credits per year, with a minimum 12 of those credits being of the Health, Safety and Welfare category with 4 of th 12 in the subcategory of Sustainable Design.  (That increases AIA's current HSW minimum by 50%.) Moreover, self-reported credits - that is, credit for activities other than pre-approved courses, which the member claims as educational - will no longer be applicable to the HSW requirement.  (The AIA membership changes do not automatically apply to the states, or course; every state decides for itself, some by administrative rule, some by legislation.)  These changes mean that a lot more AIA member architects will now be seeking HSW hours to fulfill their requirements.

HSW is a very broad category that can include almost anything relating to the means and materials of building construction (as distinct from, say, the business of architecture, or construction contract law).  For manufacturers who provide CES programs as a means of educating designers about the use of products, and as a way to build relationships with the architectural profession, this is great news.  It could mean a noticeable increase in attendance, and increase in demand for presentations.  (AIA estimates it represents something like 42,000 more seat-hours per year in California alone.)

Fire up Powerpoint!

(For more information, you can download handouts from a recent AIA-CES workshop (held in Los Angeles in February, 2012) from the AIA website.)

Do you speak construction?

This blog has previously given the straight-up benefits of CSI Certification for careers in building products. So let me get the message across in a more lighthearted attempt:

When selling in Mexico, it helps to speak the language they hablan there.

     ¿Habla usted de la construcción?

Or to be fluent in Française when making a pitch in Quebec.

     Parlez-vous de la construction?

So if you sell building products, of course you'll want to

     Speak Specifese, the language of specifiers and contractors!

Specifiers and builders, like people everywhere, appreciate it it when you attempt to address them in their native tongue.

Now, you can learn Specifese even if you have never studied a second language before. In fact, many individuals become proficient in Specifese in under three months.

Language immersion classes are forming right now, at Construction Speaking Insiders (CSI) clubs around the country.

Members of the club take pride in their achievement; displaying the initials of the club's slogan,"Communicate, Don't Talk through your hat"* (CDT) after their names.

Impress your friends and family, and even your boss.

But hurry, this opportunity ends at the end of this month.
Act today, and get FREE CDT Study Guide.
Come on!
Do it
*The phrase "talk through your hat" means talking about something without knowing much about it.

Google+ Hangout

I have not used Google + yet, but their Hangout capability might change my mind.

This is a recording of a Hangout with eight space science journalists. The system replicates face-to-face conversation more effectively than any other online program I have experienced.

Imagine using it for sales training. Participating in project team meetings. Online panel discussions. Jobsite walkthroughs.

Watch for future developments.

Box Lunch Strategies

CSI Webinar - Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jim F. Whitfield, FCSI, CCPR, CTC, LEED APWhat do presenters do right or wrong during box lunch presentations? Hear it from an Architect that has sat through many presentations and a product representative that has provided thousands of programs. Learn the important steps to make your lunch and learn educational session more productive, effective and beneficial to your architectural audience. Discover new ways to stimulate interest in your product, methods to improve retention for adult learners, and techniques to make you their first call for product or system consulting.

Learning Objectives
  1. Find ways to become the first choice resource for your architects.
  2. Make your Box Lunch productive and rewarding for both you and your architects.
  3. Increasing the power of your presentation.
  4. Discover how adults “learn” and retain.
  5. Understand CES program requirements.
Speaker: Jim F. Whitfield, FCSI, CCPR, CTC, LEED AP
Credit: 1.5 AIA LUs, 1.5 PDHs
When:  Thursday, August 4, 2011 from 2:00PM to 3:30PM

To Register, Click Here

Union Training Centers

Today's trainees.
Tomorrow's customers.
A recent visit to the Cement Masons and Plasterers Training Centers of Washington ( is a good reminder of how important it is for building product manufacturers to work with labor organizations. The center provides vocational skills and business training and stress safety and craftsmanship.

I visited the Training Center as the guest of a product manufacturer. From the way he was greeted by the center's director and staff, it was clear that he was important to their program. In turn, the manufacturer got to use the Center to train its customers.

The Center had just had a series of classes on how to install self-leveling cementitious toppings. Building product manufacturers got to donate materials and to have their experts come and do the training. The results were instructive as the students got hands-on experience with a variety of products. Inspecting the work afterwards, it was also clear which ones performed, and which had shrinkage cracking or other defects. You can be sure, each of the participants shared their observations with their colleagues out on job sites.

CSI Continuing Education Program Terminated

Periods of rapid expansion in an industry are frequently followed by consolidation. This is what has, apparently, has happened to the now defunct Construction Specifications Institute's Construction Education Network (CEN).
The movement to require continuing education of architects began in the 1980s. AIA was one of the first organizations jumping onto the bandwagon, establishing AIA/CES for accrediting continuing education programs and vigorously promoting courses to AIA members. CSI joined the fray relatively late in the game, hoping to provide a continuing education vehicle that crossed disciplinary lines. But many other groups were more nimble in establishing themselves as the CEU providers of choice. US Green Building Council, engineering trade associations, and industry publishers now compete for a piece of the action, and demand has flattened.

CSI is still very active in providing continuing education, but will no longer be certifying programs nor tracking the credits obtained by participants.

Building product manufacturers with courses listed in CEN will need to make other arrangement for credentialing and promoting their programs.


Marketing with Standards

Standards: Dense Prose
Industry standards are essential to the construction industry. Yet they are often confusing, out of date, and contradictory. Produced by consensus organizations, they are subject to political pressures that can favor or exclude proprietary products and innovative solutions. Moreover, designers, builders, and building material suppliers are challenged to stay current with revisions to standards.

This complexity can work to your marketing advantage.

First, building product manufacturers should be active in standards writing organizations affecting their work. These consensus-driven committees need your insight into best industry practices, the needs of your clients, and the pragmatic limitations of current technology.

Further, you can keep your clients up-to-date and informed of changes to standards. This will make your firm the "go-to" resource for current and reliable information. For example, changed standards provide a great opportunity for publicity; contact the editors of trade journals and offer to provide an article about the revisions.

Your marketing and technical literature should be up-to-date, and that your sales representatives and customer service personnel are trained. Then use your product literature, e-mail blasts, guide specifications, and continuing education programs to inform your customers.

Your point-of-purchase and packaging provide other opportunities. Imagine a customer that has a choice between two products; one has a sticker proclaiming: "Complies with the New 2011 Industry Standards," and the other is silent on the matter. Which has the greatest appeal?

I recently updated a guide specification for a client that produces pigments for integrally-colored concrete. In the decade since I wrote the original guide spec, most of the standards it references had been revised. The updated standards cost over $100, an expense few construction firms are willing to pay, especially when a firm has to stay abreast of revisions in dozens or even hundreds of product categories. An even greater cost is the time required for a professional to review the steady stream of updated documents. This provides an opportunity for my client to be of service to their customers.

For example, American Concrete Institute document ACI 303.1 - Specifications for Architectural Concrete has not been revised since 1997, but it references another document that has been revised, ACI 117. The 2006 version of ACI 117 changes how construction tolerances are specified. Had my client reissued a guide specification with the obsolete tolerances, it would have been a disservice to their customers, a potential source of embarrassment, and perhaps even a legal complication.

Another document, ACI 301 - Specifications for Structural Concrete, also contains requirements for "architectural concrete." ACI does not offer guidance for coordinating specifications where loadbearing (structural) concrete must also meet rigorous appearance requirements (architectural). Having identified this conflict, my client can now help their clients by offering guide specification language that reconciles the conflicting documents.

Requirements for concrete pigments are defined in ASTM C979. Yet ACI 303.1 adds requirements that are not in the ASTM standard. The added requirements are not representative of industry practices and can actually be a detriment to successful concrete work. One suspects the committee was influenced of the one manufacturer that benefits from the added requirements; my client did not have a representative at the table. My client's revised guide specification explains the rationale for sticking to the ASTM requirements, and tries to paint their competitor into a corner.

I now serve on an ACI committee that is updating some of the outdated standards. While I am there to represent my client's interests, I must always work towards the goal of advancing the entire industry.

What's for lunch?

This is an encore of an article Michael Chusid wrote nearly 20 years ago. Some points in it now seem quaint (e.g., referring to "A/V" presentations instead of "Powerpoint", and sending a "letter" instead of an "email"). Other points have become even more important, such as the demand for continuing education credits. 

Use lunchtime presentations to dish up your product and whet prospects' appetites for one-on-one sales calls,

I've been invited to give a lunchtime product presentation at a large architectural firm. Should I approach it as a means of selling to specifiers, or just an opportunity to spread some good will? And how can I get the best results from making such a presentation?-F.T.B., sales manager

The cost of sandwiches is more than justified by the efficient use of your time at a lunch presentation. Such presentations expose you to a roomful of prospects in the same time it would take to make a sales call on one architect or specifier. The setting also lets you make a more thorough presentation and avoid the phone calls and other distractions that can occur when meeting in a prospect's office.

Use lunchtime presentations to create product awareness and lay the groundwork for future sales contacts. This is especially useful with new products since lunch allows time to display samples, give an A/V show, and demonstrate when and where to use the product. This is not the time to close sales or discuss specific projects. Instead, emphasize your product's benefits and offer solutions to your prospects' common problems. With this approach, your audience will see you as a resource they can call on with confidence when specific project needs arise.

The seminar-like format can also he used to teach product basics. If you sell admixtures, for example, use lunch to review the fundamentals of concrete technology or quality control. Younger audience members may not have learned this in school, and it can be a useful refresher for seasoned members.

When new codes or regulations go into effect, you can provide a real service to your audience by explaining the implications. A door hardware consultant I know, for example, uses lunch presentations to explain how the recently enacted Americans with Disabilities Act affects the design of entrances. Such presentations contribute to an architect's continuing professional education. This is especially important in light of the American Institute of Architects' new continuing education requirements.

Organizing a presentation
Ask the architectural firm to designate a staff liaison to give you a head count and reserve the office conference room Your liaison also may be able to suggest local catering services. The menu can range from deli sandwiches and soft drinks to something more creative. But don't get so carried away with food that the menu is more interesting then your program.

Request the firm's staff roster and send professional invitations yourself. Not only does this boost interest in your program, but you add the names to your prospect list.

Your audience will arrive en masse at the beginning of their lunch hour and will leave at the end of the hour, whether or not you are finished. They will be hungry, so feed them before you start talking. While they're eating, ask them about current projects so you can tailor your presentation to their needs. If more than one person from your firm is at the meeting, don't sit together. Spread out among your audience.

As an alternative to in-office lunches, you can hold a program at a restaurant or hotel, where you  can attract prospects from several offices. This works if you want to reach firms too small to justify in house presentations or if your message is targeted  to certain job titles, such as specification writers. Off site breakfast and lunch programs  generally attract only managements level individuals who have more flexible work hours. After-house programs can be expanded to include open bars, entertainment, and special displays.

At the end of the presentation, give everyone in the audience a brochure or other leave-behind piece. Those who are especially interested in your product will stay around to discuss specific projects. Allow time in your schedule so you will not be rushed. Pass around a sign-up sheet to get names or ask participants to fill out a short evaluation card before leaving. Then, follow up your presentation a week later with a letter or phone call.

Involve your audience
People learn more when they receive information via more than one sense, so use visual aids and product samples. Better yet, give participants a hands-on experience working with your product. A manufacturer of a new ornamental material, for example, passed around drawing paper and markers and gave the audience a building problem to solve using the new material. Quick sketch projects, or design charettes as they are called, can be an effective way for a designer to integrate information you have presented.

Your luncheon may be one of the few opportunities for members of an architectural firm to talk to each other about your product. By facilitating interaction among your audience, you can help build consensus and support for your product within the firm.

The best presentation i ever attended was for an electric water cooler, a product I though didn't need much explanation. The presenter began with a clean flip chart and marker. He had a box of coffee mugs imprinted with his company's logo and he offered one to anyone who asked a question or described a problem they'd had with his product type.

To my amazement, the room came alive. One designer complained that he could never get the colors he wanted. A construction manager griped about coordination with related work. A project manager described the difficulty she had selecting appropriate substitutions. And a specifier asked about warranty limitations.

Something to take home
During the exchange, the presenter passed out the mugs and jotted down the questions. He now had an attentive audience who knew why they were at the meeting. Rather than use a canned presentation, he used a well-organized slide show to answer the questions the audience raised. Everyone left the meeting with the sense that they had learned something they could use immediately, and with a coffee mug sporting the company's name and phone number.

Your local reps can use these presentations to build relationships with prospects and can readily provide follow-up. Some manufacturers establish incentives to encourage their reps to make box-lunch presentations. Others prefer to use an expert from the home office. In either case, be sure that your presenter is an effective speaker.

When appropriate, invite local distributors and contractors to attend the program. They will appreciate the additional exposure and it will assure prospects that your product is available and supported locally.

Bon appetit!

Have a question you'd like us to answer?
Send an email to 

By Michael Chusid, Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, Copyright © 1995

Top Ten in Continuing Education

A continuing education course written by Chusid Associates is "one of the top ten most popular Continuing Education courses of 2010", it was announced today by Laura Viscusi, publisher of Architectural Record. The course, “Form Follows Fun: Design Options in Modern Ceiling and Wall Systems,” published in the June 2010 issue of Architectural Record and available online, is sponsored by Ceilings Plus.

By reading the text of the article and taking an quiz on the topic, architects are able to receive one hour of continuing education credit required for AIA membership and, in most states, to maintain an architectural license.

According to Viscusi, 122,000 continuing education exams were received by her magazine. She continues. "This large quantity of test takers represents the number of architects and design professionals who took the time to learn from your course and thereby engaged with your brand." Additional architects also read the article without taking the exam.

Chusid Associates has written or contributed to several continuing education programs for Ceilings Plus, including:

June 2010 
Tessellated ceilings and walls take advantage of new technologies; metal and wood panels can be almost any shape, size, or finish, while contributing to LEED and offering a variety of sustainability opportunities.
January 2010 
Understanding acoustic design, surface materials and services will provide optimal educational environments.
July 2009 
Raising the standards for acoustical performance and design flexibility
July 2005 

For more information on how to use continuing education in building product marketing, see the Chusid Associates website.

Continuing Education on my iPod? Yes, please!

I love podcasts. Living in LA there's lots of time stuck in traffic, and podcasts become drivetime educational opportunities, which is why I am excited to see The Continuing Architect - an online continuing education course catalog from the publishers of Architectural Products - now offers streaming and downloads for iPad and other mobile devices.

There are a lot of online course catalogs for the A/E/C community; I haven't had enough experience with all of them to endorse the course quality, selection, or ease of use, but I predict The Continuing Architect's mobile-compatibility will be a winning edge. Or at least spur the others to introduce similar capabilities.

Tim Shea, publisher of Architectural Products, was telling me about The Continuing Architect's features when he came through town last month. Based on what he said, and my experience browsing around the site, this site is angling to be the most useful for marketers. Effort was made to make it as easy as possible to link to a course directly from your website (or a QR Code on your business card...) and the interface is clean and easy to navigate.

It's great to see this convergence of two trends - mobile computing and continuing education. It means architects get the content they need in the format they want. McGraw-Hill and AEC Daily currently have the biggest audience, but The Continuing Architect is an upstart worth watching!

Prospects for AIA Show in 2011

The AIA Show website shows that there are still many unsold booths for their May 2011 gathering in New Orleans.  This means you can still get good booth locations if you decide to exhibit there. But by most accounts, the AIA's show in Miami earlier this year was sparsely attended by architects.

What are the prospects for the upcoming event?
Attendance may be a bit better this year:
  • The economy has begun to turn around a bit, (I hope.)
  • New Orleans is more centrally situated for most of the country.
  • Who wanted to go to Miami in the summer, anyways?
  • I think many architects are curious to see how New Orleans is being rebuilt (at least I am).
Attendance may be up the show has new management -- Hanley Wood. HW's magazine, Architect, will become the official publication of AIA as of January. I suspect Hanley Wood will be pouring lots of resources into building the show this year.

Unfortunately, I don't see that yet. Their website, just six months before the event, is still little more than a place holder saying, "Continue to check back for more details."

Where to spend your marketing budget?
HW has other challenges. When AIA produce the event, it could tap into its members' sense of community. Now, the AIA Convention is at risk of being seen as just another of HW's events for architects. This is a weak position. For example, I don't go to HW's CONSTRUCT trade show because it is a major trade show (it isn't), but because I identify with the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) community that holds its annual meeting at CONSTRUCT. If CSI relocated its annual meeting to another event, I would follow my tribe.*

HW's architectural show will now have to compete against its other events for architects -- CONSTRUCT and their new virtual trade show, And will architects still traipse half-way across the continent if they can get all their continuing education credits from Hanley Wood University?

Booth prices begin at $4200 for a 10 x 10 ft booth. (Of course, renting space is less than half the cost of exhibiting.) It is unlikely HW will discount prices. Perhaps you will be able to negotiate a frequency discount if you exhibit and advertise in their magazines?

Should you exhibit at AIA or any tradeshow this year? 
The answer is no longer an automatic "yes". You have to look closely at the fundamentals: What do you want to accomplish? Does the show provide the right audience? How can the show leverage the rest of your marketing budget?

Many of my clients have done the math and have budgetted for trade shows in the coming year. For some, it may mean a smaller booth. One the other hand, one of my my clients has a new product launch that will benefit from a live demonstration. They are increasing their trade show participation because it is more economical than sending crews across the country for demos.

Reduced attendance at a show does necessarily mean reduce effectiveness. The World of Concrete (also a HW event) had significantly lower attendance in 2010; but those who came were there to buy and not just for a junket in Vegas.

I still believe trade shows have an important function, even in the digital age. It will be interesting to see what the next few years bring. 

* Prediction: HW will merge the AIA and CONSTRUCT shows into one super-sized event. Let's hope so, it would make for a more rational industry.