It’s hard to get 1,200 people to do anything. So how did Rockleigh, N.J. based Crestron Electronics get about 1,200 integration industry system designers and programmers to travel to Mohegan Sun casino in rural Uncasville, Conn., for its Crestron Masters 2019 three-day training and thought-leadership event?
It’s humbling, according to Rich Sasson who was instrumental in launching in 1998 the event that would become Crestron Masters in 2001. Sasson, now director, global customer experience for Crestron, says the nearly 1,200 AV professionals that come to Crestron Masters have something in common.
“The people who come to this event want to learn,” he says. “They want to be part of everything we do. They are really a wonderful audience that is constantly learning and constantly challenging us to take our technology to the next level.”
Along those lines, Crestron Masters 2019 offered 130 training sessions as well as a full slate of networking opportunities – adding a new Partner Pavilion this year at which attending programmers and system designers can interact with other manufacturers. (Crestron Masters 2019 hits Europe, with a May 21-23 event in Madrid.)
Of course, the integration industry offers lots of opportunities to get trained, to get certified, to watch thought-leadership presentations and to network. It’s interesting that Crestron Masters, a manufacturer event, has seen such growth from 25 in attendance in 2001 to nearly 1,200 in 2019.
Here are a few reasons why Crestron Masters commands so much attention:
First, A Little Crestron Masters History
Sasson: “The Crestron Masters event itself started in 2001. Myself and a gentleman named Jon Ottesen began that program to help our customers continue their education.
“One of the amazing things about technology is the fact that just because you became certified and learned how to do something doesn’t mean you maintain that knowledge and [grow it].
“You always want to continue to improve your knowledge base. As the technology evolves, you need to improve and keep up with the technology. We built the Masters program to continually educate our customers, to give them the resources they need to gain the knowledge to be successful, to grow their businesses.”
— CommercialIntegrator (@commintegrator) April 9, 2019
Crestron Trainers Learn from Crestron Masters Attendees
James Vaughn, technical director, unified communications: “I hope [attendees] know how much we appreciate everything that they are learning here. They come in here with their questions.
The idea that we’re the guys that are making the technology for the next couple of years here — I can tell you that there are many ideas that come from Crestron Masters that we bring back to the engineering table and we work on.
“Crestron as a company has always been that way where we’re willing to build what people [want] to put in and purchase. That doesn’t end here. Just because we’re teaching them, we also have the opportunity to learn from them.”
— Ian Bryant (@ibryant20) April 9, 2019
Creston Masters Aims to Confront Tough Issues
Nic Milani, executive director, commercial product marketing: “This is fundamentally about disruption. I think that the idea of education, the idea of teaching and learning is [about] being made to feel uncomfortable a little bit in a healthy way, right?
“Let’s challenge our existing norms. Let’s challenge our existing skills. Let’s challenge each other,” says Nic Milani, Crestron.
“Let’s challenge our existing norms. Let’s challenge our existing skills. Let’s challenge each other. It’s one of the things that I get most excited about [at] events like this.
“I had the opportunity to present twice this morning. Both times I had a group of people afterwards coming up.
“We were exchanging ideas, and some people were challenging some comments I made. There was pushing back and forth. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about some of the best and brightest in our industry pushing each other.
“Oftentimes what happens especially in smaller businesses is that we don’t get challenged by our peers. Maybe we’re in a unique position. Maybe they’re the one programmer in their company and they don’t have other people that share those ideas or ask questions or get challenged.
“What I see that’s really cool about this is when I look at the room [at Crestron Masters 2019], I don’t see people looking at each other as competitors. I see them looking at it as peers. I see them as the individuals that are trying to drive the industry from a technology standpoint. That’s really cool to watch.”
Sasson: “One of the things we need to look at as an industry is how to accept change and how to listen. I think that’s one of the biggest things we’re hoping our customers will take away from this year’s event, listening to the customers to create a consistent experience across the enterprise, across their homes so that wherever they go, they’re comfortable using the Crestron solution, allowing it to become as ubiquitous as an iPhone or an Android phone for that matter, being comfortable enough.
“We’re getting our customers to be comfortable enough with the technology that’s in front of them rather than them being afraid of it. I think that’s an important thing that hopefully everyone who comes through here this year will take away, the experience and understanding of how to create something that is consistent, easy to use, flexible and easy to understand.
“I certainly hope that with all the courses we’ve offered and how we’ve put them together, that message comes through clear and cleanly so that our industry can move forward and really become a bigger powerhouse within the market.”
— Case (@GibsonCase1) April 11, 2019
Crestron Masters Is a Point of Pride for Company
Sasson: “I am so honored and privileged to work with an incredible group of people at Crestron and outside of Crestron who are part of this event. Every year it blows me away the level of effort they all put in, many of them on their personal time, to make this successful. They care about creating something that’s wonderful for our customers.”
— Crestron (@Crestron) April 11, 2019
Networking at Crestron Masters Is Worth the Trip
Control Concepts president Steve Greenblatt: “Masters and other events similar are an opportunity for programmers to really get out and see what’s going on in the industry outside of the walls of a particular company. We work with clients and we work with the people in our community. However, being able to be part of something this vast and being able to network with other programmers and also understand what’s going on in the industry is an important part of having people like my team out at Masters.
“Additionally, of course, the learning and the content and understanding the trends and seeing what they need to do to prepare themselves for what’s coming in the future is a given. But the networking part, I think, is becoming a much greater opportunity and a much greater benefit to events like Crestron Masters.”
“One of the worst things I find in the interactions between my integrators and my clients is that they’re made to feel a bit dumb,” says architect @dannyforster (far left) at #CrestronMasters19 pic.twitter.com/3gxsTo0wXb
— CommercialIntegrator (@commintegrator) April 9, 2019
Crestron Masters Takes Coordination
Sasson: “We come into an event in a space like Mohegan Sun and we set up 16 different venues within the space for classrooms — for exhibits to be able to teach almost 1,000 people at one time with different course tracks. We offered 52 different unique courses over 130 sessions, which is a phenomenal amount of information to provide and to ingest.”
— stevegreenblatt (@stevegreenblatt) April 9, 2019
Crestron Masters Isn’t Just for Programmers
Sasson: “We actually this year have expanded the program. We created what’s called the Masters Technology Architect Program. Up until a year ago, Masters was only for programmers, certified programmers only. We realized that in order for our customers to succeed as programmers, they have to be closely aligned with the design community.
“We created the Masters Technology Architect Program to expand our reach with the Masters Program. This year that program grew even more. Last year it was one level, one set of courses for everybody. This year it’s two levels, so we go deeper into the design discussions.
“It’s not just a higher-level presentation but really why do you make the certain choices in products? How do you really learn to listen to your customers to understand their needs, to then provide to them a solution that eliminates the challenges they have in technology?
“We then have three more levels which are dedicated to our programmers.”