CHICAGO, IL, April 15, 2021: Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA), a leading international trade consortium of high-performance residential technology retail and custom integration specialists, concluded its popular 2021 Spring Virtual Conference last week where members gathered to learn how to ‘Stay Ahead of the Curve.’ The virtual conference set an all-time attendance record with a total of 550 attendees, bringing together an enthusiastic group of HTSA members, vendors, service agencies, and industry media.
This year, the conference offered a more concentrated agenda, as compared to the organization’s traditional in-person events which normally take place over a three-day period. HTSA’s management decided to demonstrate their respect for members time away from their businesses, as well as to address the creeping Zoom-fatigue that many of us are feeling after more than a year of ongoing Zoom meetings due to nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns.
A Hyper-Focused Approach
The transformation of the agenda was accomplished by bringing a hyper-focus to the issues at hand in order to offer only the most critical topics needed over a tightly scripted, two-day period. Topics chosen included those centered around the economy’s transition from the last year of COVID-19 lockdowns to a new, more normal business existence.
“2020 turned out to be an exceptionally strong year for HTSA and its members, although a year ago it didn’t initially look like that would be the case. Probably the key reason for our success was our ability to assess the situation, adapt to the dynamically changing environment by developing customized educational programs, and effectively communicating and coordinating new tactics throughout our organization,” said Jon Robbins, Executive Director of Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA). “That process continues, as we again adapted to a changed environment by adopting a new concentrated approach to our 2021 Spring Virtual Conference that better benefited members, vendors, and everyone associated with HTSA.”
The two-day event launched the morning of April 5th with three key sessions available to all attendees in an on-demand video format. These sessions included: State of the Union by HTSA Executive Director Jon Robbins, Ahead of the Curve Keynote by HTSA’s Chief Learning Architect Keith Esterly, and Update on Key Technology Initiatives with Tom Doherty, HTSA Director of New Technology Initiatives.
Most attendees viewed these key sessions at their leisure in the morning before the panel discussions commenced. Each of the topical panel discussions were scheduled to run twice on each day – once each during an early session and a late session – to ensure that all attendees could fit into their schedule all the topics in which they were interested.
The virtual event offered two tracks of content running simultaneously, with member owners and leaders in one track, and team members in a parallel track. The expansive program offered expert sessions on key topical issues of the day, as well as presentations, demonstrations, and education by HTSA vendors.
Thanks to the record event attendance, virtually all of the sessions were attended by more than 100+ participants during each hour of the event.
Day One – Expert Presentations on Key Topics
Key topics covered in the 2021 HTSA Spring Virtual Conference included such subjects as Talent Recruiting Strategies in the CI Space (featuring Greg Simmons, SnapAV; Tres Huber, HD Staffing; Vanessa Vasilakeris, McQuiag Institute) which offered innovative personnel recruitment strategies to help HTSA members stay ahead of the curve in an industry where it can be a struggle to find qualified team candidates. Also in the human resources space, HR Issues in the New Remote World (featuring Andrew Davis, Gramophone; Eric Snieski, WalMart; Mano Rupra, McQuiag Institute) offered the latest thinking on innovative organizational configurations in this new world of remote or hybrid dispersed-team company structures. The agenda also included a now-more-important-than-ever panel titled Update on Cyber Threats (featuring Brian Thornton, ProWriters; Rick Mader, SonicWall) offering the latest information on Cyber Threats, with critical advice on how to best protect both company and client systems while safeguarding privacy. The session also covered various Cyber insurance options for members that best protect their company’s financial well-being.
Also served up for members were some of the latest and greatest methods for building their all-important business brand, in a session logically titled Building the Brand presented by Ron Callis Jr. of HTSA supplier One Firefly. This popular session suggested several innovative marketing methods that will allow HTSA members to better stand out among the competition.
Day Two – Panel Discussions
The second day of the event consisted of a series of roundtables focused largely on sophisticated business concepts. Each roundtable was populated almost exclusively with the founders and leaders from multiple member organizations with specific experience in each of these business areas.
Topics spanned a range of topics, such as acquisition, succession and exit strategies; formulas for effective employee compensation programs; services as a profit center; and advanced concepts in design documentation and client presentations.
As was done on the first day, the agenda for Day Two comprised of two tracks of sessions that ran simultaneously, with presentations by HTSA vendor partners offering detailed information and training for dealer teams.
Jon Robbins’ State of the Union Address
The entire conference was kicked off by Executive Director Jon Robbins who delivered a thoughtful and important State of the Union address. Robbins started by welcoming all attendees, and then offered this thought, “Welcome everybody to the HTSA Virtual Spring State of the Union Address. We’re really thrilled to have everybody. It’s interesting times, obviously. In 45 years, I thought I had seen everything in this crazy industry. But wow, the last year has really been mind-bending…to say the least.”
Robbins went on to note that he would have preferred to have the conference in Ft. Lauderdale with a face-to-face conference, “But once again we’re here making the best of it – we’re going to offer up some real great opportunities for people to get content with presentations and interactions over the next couple of days.”
Robbins then announced the latest group of dealers who have recently joined as new members of the organization:
- Acoustic Design Systems – Las Vegas, NV
- Aspire Audio Video Solutions – Charleston, SC
- Electronic Concepts – Rochelle Park, NJ
- Ratio AV – Farmington, UT
The group has also added a few hand-picked vendor partners, including: aboutGOLF (golf simulator), Apex Technologies (multiple brands, including Meridian), and Penn Elcom (equipment racks).
Robbins announced that, when all things were considered, HTSA had an excellent 2020 business year. In fact, despite the bumpy start of the pandemic, organizational purchases from vendors had an exceptionally strong Spring and Summer, with Fall business flattening out.
“The end result was a 17.5 percent vendor purchase increase for 2020,” Robbins announced. “Absolutely a win…it was exciting times for us at the end of the year. We were happy with those numbers.”
Robbins said the good news continues, as HTSA business is up again in Jan/Feb 2021. “For those who have reported thus far through February, we are up approximately 22% versus January/February 2020…which is amazing!”
HTSA, Robbins proclaimed, “…is bullish on 2021.” He went on to explain, saying, “After having experienced 2020, consumers have a new appreciation of the need for quality technology in their home, after having spent so much time there.”
After sharing some specific data points on growth projections by product category, Robbins summed up his presentation by telling the assembled group that in view of the bullish estimates, “I’m sure everyone will agree that, once again, the state of HTSA’s union, with our vendor partners, is extremely strong. So how do we maintain this strength? It’s about being ahead of the curve and we’re going to touch on that in the couple of days ahead that we’re going to be together.”
HTSA 2021 Spring Virtual Conference Participant Comments
“My team participating in the HTSA Spring Virtual Conference came away with nothing but positive results. They were really pleased with the attention the dealers paid to the presentation, the intelligent questions they asked, and the positive feedback they offered that was really valuable to us. You don’t get that level of interaction with every audience – but at this conference, we got lots of questions, lots of feedback, and lots of interest. I couldn’t be happier with our Spring Virtual Conference experience…”
John Clancy, Crestron VP of Residential
“The mix of topics they had at this conference was really great. I especially enjoyed the panels made up of both members and vendors - it’s always helpful to hear the perspective of your peers on the panel. The Services as a Profit Center session was really great…there were so many good ideas, I literally didn’t want that one to end. And I also loved Richard Millson’s design documentation session which was incredible! Absolutely, that was one of the most amazing presentations I have ever seen. All-in-all, the Conference was fresh and a big success!
Paul Bochner, Electronic Concepts
“We love the HTSA Conferences because of the quality of the members who come to the event. Any time I get a chance to talk to a group of highly talented CI dealers…that is time well spent for me. I really have to compliment the HTSA dealers, their comments and their questions always challenge us. I learn something every time I come out of an interaction with HTSA members. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about HTSA and the Spring Virtual Conference.”
Jim Mayo, Samsung
“There were several really valuable sessions at this Conference. The ones I found the most compelling were the sessions on employee compensation, services as a profit center, and particularly the session on design documentation, which was pretty awesome and really quite compelling. I also liked the session on recruiting – especially the idea they presented of understanding the difference between ‘draft picks’ versus ‘free agents’…an interesting and useful concept. Overall…well done!”
Ryan Davis, Ratio AV
To learn more about HTSA and its many membership benefits, see: www.HTSA.com.
President- The Stratecon Group