Inside the Mind of the Specifier

Slides and a recording of Inside the Mind of the Specifier, a recent webinar from CSI.have been posted:
The program is recommended viewing for anyone selling through design professionals.

Whither goes architecture?

Whither goes architecture?

What new opportunities await building product manufacturers?

Ned Cramer, the editor of Architect magazine shares his thoughts in this recent webinar presentation sponsored by Hanley Wood.
Ned Cramer
The link is:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/5717333276277826306

Free Webinar about Green Codes

Many environmental considerations have been incorporated into building codes and, increasingly, are mandatory. This free webinar can help your sales and marketing department stay on top of the green game:
Cities, states, and national organizations are working to establish minimum, enforceable sustainable construction requirements to complement, not replace, highly popular above-code incentive programs, like LEED. Green rating systems like LEED are an incentive that pulls the more daring owners and designers toward a sustainable ideal, thus fostering creativity and innovation, while green codes establish a base minimum requirement which is broadly accepted. Green codes, which raise the bottom line, result in significant positive environmental impact just by the sheer numbers of projects that fall within that category. Also, by raising the ceiling and implementing more stringent above-code rating systems, innovation in green design and construction is encouraged.

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the difference between building codes, standards and rating systems.
2. Understand why we need both green building rating systems and green building codes at this time.
3. Discuss several recent efforts to develop green building codes.
4. List some of the challenges inherent in developing and implementing green codes.
It is produced by McGraw Hill and sponsored by ICC-ES - an organizations that now certifies the green characteristics of products.

Time:  2012-03-12, 2:00 pm EST
Register: Click Here

Chusid Associates is also available to help you answer your questions about green marketing.

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

Twitter Augments Webinars

When you do a face-to-face seminar, the side conversations around the table help participants understand the information being presented, and to apply it to their own needs. For example, Charlie turns to Jane and whispers, "This would solve our problem on the new High School project."

This interactive aspect has been missing in many webinars.  Until now.
Twitter conversation during webinar enabled participants to ask questions and share insights.
Joy Davis, manager of CSI's online programs, conducted a demonstration during a seminar she presented recently at a CSI Chapter meeting. Her presentation was about use of social media in the construction industry. So she incorporated social media by simultaneously sharing her slideshow and talk with specifiers across the nation via webiar. Participants were also encouraged to engage in side conversations via Twitter.

A transcript of the Twitter feeds is at http://storify.com/csiconstruction/csis-first-tweetchat. While some of the comments are just chatter, serious information is also being exchanged, and relationships are being fostered. The tweets were projected on a screen at the live CSI meeting so the people in seats could benefit from the comments, and I suspect a few people in the physical audience were also conversing online.

Like it or not, this type of interactivity and further social media innovations will affect your business in the near future. Since anyone can create a hashtag to start a side conversation during a webinar, it might as well be you -- at least you will know about the conversation and be able to follow-up. Used wisely, Twitter feeds like this can be an important way to extend your sales effectiveness.

Social Media for Construction - Webinar

Social Media for Construction Professionals

Joy Davis, CSI's Social Media Champion, will be presenting this program at a CSI Chapter while simultaneously broadcasting it via a webinar and having a Twitter Feed so folks around the world can engage in simultaneous conversation about the topic.  Come and learn about the future of collaboration.

Join us for a Webinar on July 14 Space is limited.

Reserve your Webinar seat now at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/438735641 

Whether you’re considering a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a LinkedIn profile or another social networking option, if you’re “experienced” in the real world, you have something to offer online -- and social media has something to offer you in return. It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-man shop, or one-of-many in a firm. You can build credibility, demonstrate your expertise, and expand your network through the web. A decent web-presence can be as valuable to you as a well-written resume or a colorful brochure about your company.

This presentation focuses on understanding what social media is and how it works, so that you can approach any social media platform with confidence. We’ll look at the actual social media examples set by other CSI members, and see how some of the principles of construction documentation carry over into social media.

Twitter Users: We’re hosting a tweet-chat during this webinar. Please use hashtag #CSIFutureCom to participate.

Title: Social Media for Construction Professionals Date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 Time: 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM EDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

CSI Webinar - Guide Specifications: A Building Product Sales and Marketing Tool

Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS, SCIP and Vivian E. Volz, RA, CSI, CCS, LEED AP will explain how guide specifications make it easier for architects and engineers to write your product into their projects. A well-written guide spec also helps educate specifiers about your product, so they can write more accurate and better coordinated project manuals. This course will be led by two experienced specifiers with expertise in guide specifications and building product marketing. They will explain how to apply CSI principles to guide specs, integrate them into your marketing efforts, and train your reps to use them as a sales tool. You will learn how guide specs can help reduce the risks of product liability and substitution abuse. The course will also help you prepare for the CDT and CCPR exams.

Date: September 8, 2011
Time: 2pm EST 

Learning Objectives
  1. Understand guide specifications and how to use them to communicate with specifiers.
  2. Be able to apply CSI formats and principles to the special requirements of guide specs.
  3. Know how to use guide specs to provide "point-of-specification" assistance to specifiers.
  4. Use guide specifications to reduce product liability, construction claims, and substitutions.
  5. Train your sales team to use guide specifications as a valuable sales tools.
Credit: 0.1 CSI CEUs, 1.0 AIA LUs

Free Webcast: Green Product Certifications

Free Webcast
Green Product Certifications: 
Picking Out Green from Greenwash

Brought to you by BuildingGreen Suite

Enter the greenwash-free zone with the webcast that answers your questions on what green labels really mean and which ones to trust.

Wednesday, May 18 | 3 p.m. ET

Register now

What the heck do all these labels mean?
"Green" labels are everywhere today, from your breakfast coffee to every other building product. While there are benefits, if you don't speak the language of labels, certifications, and standards, it's easy to choose a product that appears to be sustainable, but isn't really.

Certifications and standards explained
BuildingGreen.com invites you to a certifications extravaganza: a one-hour live webcast packed with key understandings to sort out the green from the greenwash. We'll cover:

The value of "third-party" certifications vs. first- and second-party

What is a label vs. a certification vs. a standard
When does a single vs. a multi-attribute certification matter?
Less well-known but essential certifications for paints, wallboard, carpet, resilient flooring, furniture, wallcoverings, and composite panels
And a lot more.

What should I pay attention to?
In each major product category, some attributes are really important from a health and environmental standpoint, and some are secondary. We'll look at what really matters, and which labels deliver the goods.

You may be hearing more about EPD, LCAs, and other emerging trends. We'll forecast what's ahead, but also be frank with you about what matters today. We'll also tip you off to key tools that you can trust to screen products.

Your questions answered:
Is FSC still the "gold standard" in forestry?
Which emissions certifications really protect our health
Which environmental claims are relevant, and which are subterfuge?
Can you get a green product from a dirty company?

Attendees of this free webcast will receive:
One LEED CE hour
A CE certificate good for other reporting
A free email subscription to the GreenSpec Insights

Register now

Webinar: AIBD's "First Tuesday @ 2" discusses Blogging

Michael and I will be panelists on the American Institute of Building Design's "First Tuesday @ 2" webinar on April 5th. This month's topic is corporate blogs.

There is no charge for the session, and spaces are still available, so sign up to be part of the conversation. See the invitation below for more information:
Join us for a Webinar on April 5

Does your business have a blog? Have you ever been asked to blog? Are you thinking, "What the heck is a blog?" Join us for the American Institute of Building Design's First Tuesday @ 2:00 (p.m. ET) April edition and discuss with a panel of experienced business owners and bloggers the ins and outs of "web logging"; what it is, how to do it, what the pitfalls are and how it can help, or maybe harm a business or career.

Sponsored by Owens Corning and hosted by the American Institute of Building Design, the First Tuesday @ 2:00 (pm ET) is an audio roundtable held on the first Tuesday complimentary to AIBD members. This month’s presentation may include visual examples and access to a computer will be necessary for viewing.

Registration is required. AIBD Professional Members receive 0.5 CE units for attending the live presentation.

To participate, click the registration link and provide us with some basic personal information. After registration, a unique link will be sent to your e-mail to use on the day of webinar.  Everyone may listen to the discussion using their personal computer’s speaker system.  Joining into the discussion is possible by computer microphone, telephone link or by typing questions directly to the moderator.  For further instruction, contact the AIBD national office at 1-800-366-2423.

First Tuesday at 2:00 (P.M. Eastern Time)


Tuesday, April 5, 2011


2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements

PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Recession Changes Where Designers Work

One result of the recession may be a further decentralization of architectural practice. This will create new challenges for sales reps wishing to make calls on design offices.

I began reflecting on this after receiving the following email from an architect that had closed his small office after 25 years of practice at the same location. While his direct impetus was a downturn in workload, he points out the shifting nature of practice as follows:
"We have seen the tools of the trade evolve from Phones, Pencils, Parallel Rules and Paper - to black and white computers, fax machines, and pagers - to color computers and mobile phones the size of bricks - to 3D CAD drawings, remote access, and multi-media cell phones. Over the past several years, staff and I have taken advantage of this technology to work more and more from homes where we have ready access to our server and speedy graphic communications. So we have now moved our operations into our home offices."
Another friend, a construction specifier, opened a home-based consulting practice after being laid off by a large A/E firm. After getting use to more flexible hours and being more available to her children, I doubt she will ever again take a job that requires her to commute into the city.

These two examples are being replicated throughout the country. The recession is accelerating a fundamental shift in design. More online bandwidth allows easier and speedier collaboration among far-flung project teams. Even as the recession recedes, it is likely that corporate offices will remain leaner while more employees work from the field or from home.

In the past, a rep could visit four or five design offices in a day and potentially see dozens of architects and specifiers at each. It would be a challenge to have as many face-to-face contacts with people working out of home offices or remote locations.

Unless, that is, the sales rep embraces the same communication technologies that designers are using: email, social media, file transfer protocols, webinars, computer-to-computer video links, mobile applications, and the rest.

The other response available to a sales rep is to take advantage of professional society meetings and other events that attract large numbers of designers.

Happy Hunting!

A Green Virtual Trade Show

A trade show without travel does sound like an environmentally sound idea. Yet can a digital forum, a "virtual trade show," really provide the type of hands-on experience that a trade show provides?

Hanley Wood (HW) proposes to find out. They have partnered with a digital technology group to promote GreenExpo365.com, an "online community and virtual trade show."

The website is clearly advertising driven. That in itself is not a bad thing as most trade shows try to part manufacturers from their money. But can such an online forum really form a "community" of users? USGBC, CSI, AIA, and other organizations already offer real communities. Their online components are adjuncts to committees, chapter meetings, and real trade shows.

Here is an excerpt from an HW press release:

Starting in 2011, the publisher... will provide GreenExpo365.com users with increased access to green building and design resources and top-tier design and building industry experts. “GreenExpo365.com’s on-demand, community-focused platform is a natural extension of our green building information strategy,” adds Peter Goldstone, President of Hanley Wood. “Through this interactive site, we’ll be able to better help others increase their knowledge of environmentally responsible building practices and make well-educated decisions in the marketplace.”

The award-winning GreenExpo365.com site is a resource for architects, builders, remodelers, dealers, code officials, manufacturers and others interested in green building design and construction. It offers quarterly “live” events in an online trade show format that includes expert presenters and exhibitors, bi-weekly webinars on a host of green building topics, on-demand continuing education courses registered with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and 24/7 interaction on blogs and forums. 
The recession has reduced attendance at real trade shows, and some people wonder whether the large event format can survive. So I can't disparage HW, a large producer of trade shows, from hedging their bets.

Still, I think they would be better off exploring ways to build real online communities, forums that take advantage of the power of the web, rather than creating ersatz versions of trade shows.

CSI Webinar: BIM

CSI Webinar:
BIM for Building Product Manufacturers 

Thursday, December 09, 2010 

2 - 3PM EST

Robert Weygant, CSI, CDT, SCIP
Robert Weygant, CSI, CDT, SCIP
Join Robert Weygant, CSI, CDT, SCIP, leader of CSI’s BIM Practice Group, and let an expert on what architects are looking for and what manufacturers can deliver explain to you what your company needs to deliver to your design clients. Architects have made a wholesale change in how they develop projects, moving from 2D CAD software to 3D BIM software. Because a BIM project is driven largely by the elements used to build it, BIM is only as good as the components that are available. Making manufacturer specific components available to architects will allow them to specify exact products and leverage the information contained within them. BIM for Building Product Manufacturers will go through the expectations that Architects have regarding BIM Content, and provide a sense of what to do and what not to do when getting models developed.

CSI Webinar: A Marketing Tool for Manufacturers and Sales Reps

CSI Webinar
Guide Specifications: A Marketing Tool for Manufacturers and Sales Reps

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 from 2:00PM to 3:00PM


Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS, SCIP
Vivian E. Volz, RA, CSI, CCS, LEED AP
Building product manufacturers often provide guide specs to specifiers for use as starting points in the writing of project specifications. A simple guide spec is a useful tool, but much more can be accomplished when a manufacturer understands the guide spec’s potential. A well-crafted guide spec, employing CSI’s principles of specifying, can educate the design professional, hold the keys to successful installation, and build trust between the manufacturer and the design team. This course, led by two experienced specifiers with expertise in guide specification writing, will help suppliers identify whether a guide spec would be a valuable addition to the product literature. The course will offer insight into preparing documents that will be valuable to design professionals, contractors, and customers.

Register here.

Still Debating Taking the CDT Exam?

From a CSI news bulletin: 
Still debating taking the Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) Certificate exam? Participate in a FREE Webinar on the CDT Certificate on July 13, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET.

The CDT 101 webinar is an opportunity for individuals to learn about the benefits of CSI's Construction Documents Technologist certificate. The webinar will cover the requirements and resources needed for successful exam preparation and study.

July 20 is the EARLY certification registration deadline for the fall exams, which will be held September 20-25, 2010! Learn more, or register for the exam.

Webinar Questions

In preparation for leading an continuing education webinar, I created a list of questions and sent it to the host of the program... Just in case no one in the cyber-audience asked any questions. In a live presentation, I can usually use eye contact to elicit a question from someone in the audience. But it is difficult to generate a connection with an audience I can't see.

Sure enough, no one volunteered questions from the audience. Yet the host was able to interject questions into the audience to try to create the give and take that gives a program a live quality. He would say, "One of our participants has just emailed a question...."

What would be the best specification language to use?

Can you do a program for my CSI Chapter or for my consulting engineers?

How much does more expensive are the products?

I have never had the type of problem you described. Is this a very rare occurrence?

Are these a single source item or are there multiple manufacturers?

These were all questions that helped me restate the information being presented, and kept the presentation feeling spontaneous.

Charging for Content: Webinars

We just had an interesting debate in our office: should companies charge for webinars? I just got back from our Spĕkt for New Media seminar in Washington DC, where we helped participants find ways to build relationships with specifiers by being helpful, being experts, and creating online communities focusing on discussion of their industry, not just their products. The topic of webinars came up repeatedly throughout the two days but we never addressed this specific question, so I will examine it here.

First some background. Webinars are continuing education seminars presented via the internet. As discussed previously, they have become popular in recent years because education is one of the keys to getting new products specified, and webinars expand the reach of educational sessions without increasing travel costs. As with live presentations, some webinars are offered for free, downloadble by any visitor to the webpage, and others have a registration fee and are hosted on password protected sites.

Whether you charge for your webinar depends a lot on your goals; why are you offering a webinar in the first place? Common reasons include:
  • Increase brand recognition
  • Educate your target market
  • Develop a prospect list
  • Sales tool
  • Build relationship with clients
  • Viral marketing campaigns
Next question: what is your target market? Beyond issues like profession and specialty, consider:
  • How plugged-in is your audience?
  • Do they websurf from desktop computers or their phones?
  • Do they need continuing education for license renewal?
  • How affluent are they?
  • Will their office pay for the course, or is this an out-of-pocket expense?
For example, an architect who urgently needs more end-of-year credit hours will have no problem paying $150 for a quality webinar. Contractors seeking to learn more about a product mid-project will probably be less willing to shell out.

Most people use the price of an item to help determine its value; this is why companies can frequently charge more for their standard item, and increase their sales, by offering a “lower-cost” alternative. The standard option now appears more prestigious than the cheaper version, helping buyers justify the increased price (this is largely why a Lexus costs $10-15,000 more than a Toyota). Conversely, it is much harder to “waste” something if you paid for it than if you got it for free.

This was well demonstrated at a recent seminar we conducted. Attendance was much lower than the pre-registration numbers had suggested, even among registrants that had already sent payment. We did some research to figure out why, and found that while some participants registered directly for our seminar, others had admission included “for free” as part of a larger event happening nearby. Unsurprisingly, “paying” participants outnumbered “free” ones by better than five to one.

This experience suggests that charging for webinars would increase their perceived value, and help ensure attendance. When building a prospect list, this also pre-screens attendees; people are unlikely to pay for a webinar unless the topic is important to them. Do not expect this to be a profit center, though; at $150 per participant, you are unlikely to do more than cover expenses with most webinars.

On the other hand, the internet loves free. Enough so that every content-based industry has had to change their business model or die. If the goal is brand recognition, or to increase the general knowledge level about products in your category, a free webinar will probably work better. In this case, volume, or at least the capability for volume, is more important than the perceived value. This is also likely to be a more passive strategy; the webinar may only get a few hits per month, but by staying where site visitors – and search engines – can find it, it can gain more total hits over time.

If you have the resources and bandwidth, the best approach may be to offer two webinars in the high value/low cost model. This is not an excuse to skip goal-setting, but two – or more – well-designed webinars can position you as both high-value and high-accessibility. Put the shorter, introductory-level, “low cost” webinar on the public site where anyone can get it, and offer the more intensive “high value” webinar to those seeking more information.

Value of Webinars

Last month we mentioned our client’s plans for a CSI webinar. Now that the presentation has happened and the evaluations are in, I want to share our experience to serve as a guide for companies considering their first webinar.

Why a Webinar?

To start with, why do a webinar? There are several reasons:
  • Increased Reach: Most marketing efforts are geographically limited in reach, and increasing the geography considerably increases the time and cost of spreading the message. Traditional presentations, as face-to-face events, are of necessity the most limited. Putting the presentation online takes advantage of one of the greatest strengths of the internet. Remember, however, the impact of time zones; a presentation that starts in New York at 2pm needs to end by 3:30 or the participants in LA miss lunch.
  • Convenience: Related to the previous issue, attending an educational seminar while sitting at my desk in the middle of the work day is far easier than taking time off work, sacrificing my weekend, or spending hours traveling to get there. Making it easier to attend translates to improved attendance.
  • Reusable: Anything put on the web remains, in one form or another, forever. CSI saves popular courses for future on-demand viewing by advertising them in their course library. Presentations can be recorded for future use, posting on webpages, internal training, etc.
  • Prestige: The implied endorsement by the organization hosting the webinar can be a huge bump in your company’s image. Plus, the increased online visibility helps with search engine optimization. Even if participants do not make a direct association between the presentation and your company, as may be the case with groups that have “non-proprietary” requirements, they learn to see you, the presenter, as an expert.

Lessons Learned

Working with an organization like CSI is great; they provided the technical expertise so we could focus on designing and promoting the course. The webinar got free advertisement on the CSI webpage and newsletters, but I recommend doing additional publicity to spread the word. Draw in prospective clients by inviting all your prospects to attend; post it to your Twitter page and in forums dedicated to your target audience; be sure your local trade association chapters know you are the presenter so they can turn out in support. Our webinar was just a few weeks after CONSTRUCT 2009 so we had a great opportunity to promote it at the show.

The most important lesson we learned is practice, practice, practice. Most speakers experience a huge shock when they realize they are speaking to an audience they cannot see or hear. Good speakers learn to draw from their audience, adjusting pace, tone, and detail level to keep people engaged and excited. The most common webinar interfaces, however, only allow participants to give feedback and ask questions in a text-based chat box. Anyone that doesn’t understand why this is a problem has obviously never started a fight with their girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse by attempting to use sarcasm in an email; all emotion gets flattened out, and you can’t tell if a challenging question is asked in anger, curiosity, or excitement. Worse, you only get feedback when people feel strongly enough to start typing, meaning there is no way to tell who is falling asleep at their monitor.

As a result, speakers tend to speed up, get too loud or soft, mumble, and get ahead of the on-screen slide (especially when dealing with slow internet connections) without realizing they have lost the audience. Radio personalities undergo extensive training and practice to overcome this feeling of talking into a vacuum; most people do not have this experience to draw from, so it is important to practice using the actual technology, if it is available. We did not have prior access to CSI’s program, so we practiced with our client over the phone. For extra realism, try putting the phone on mute and only respond in text. Skype works well for this.

I also recommend getting a good microphone. In the past I have used a telephone, and it sounded like it. It was understandable, but there was that slightly canned sound and occasional static. Again, practice with your mike so you know how close you need to be and can speak naturally instead of shouting into it.

Lastly, remember that the webinar is not, by itself, a sales tool. No one closes a deal because of a great webinar. What it does is pave the way for future sales efforts – because you are now the expert in the field, and have an educated consumer base – and it generates a list of prospects for future calls. Be sure participants know how to find your website, and you, for additional information. Sending out a copy of the slide show or other handout is another great opportunity for follow-up. As part of a larger marketing plan, a webinar is a great way to reach and educate your prospects.

Do a Webinar for CSI

Webinars are an increasingly effective means of providing continuing education to architects. They are also economical: You don't have to travel, and you don't have to buy lunch for a roomful of disinterested people.

Here's the link if you want to propose a webinar to CSI National: http://www.csinet.org/s_csi/sec.asp?TRACKID=&CID=1330&DID=11039

Look for "propose a webinar" on the right. The person at Institute to talk to is Josh Spiler.

One of our clients will be presenting a webinar through CSI later this month. Not only does he get exposure during the webinar, but his message has been distributed to thousands through CSI's website and newsletters. We will record the presentation and post it on our client's website for future training purposes.

AIA 2010 Call For Presentation

The American Institute of Architects annual convention will be June 10-12, 2010 in Miami, FL. They have just issued the call for presentations, deadline July 1, 2009.

An AIA convention presentation can be a great platform for product manufacturers; it gives you an hour or more of face-to-face time with architects that have identified themselves as interested in your product. It gives you a chance to define the terms of discussion in that category, to set yourself up as expert, and to gather high quality leads.

The impact of being a speaker goes beyond the number of attendees. Thousand of people will see your name and program title in the trade show publicity. You can publicize your participation among your customers to raise your profile and stimulate requests for similar programs for local AIA chapters. And a video of the presentation can be a great addition to your website or used as a webinar.

For more information or assistance in preparing a submission, please contact me at aaron@chusid.com. We can also help you identify other conference looking for speakers from your industry.