#CONSTRUCT: Thousands of People Strong

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National events, tradeshows and organizations are filled with attendees, members, associates and numbers.  Names and faces can be lost in the crowd.  People come, people go.  They attend one year, perhaps skip the next.

How many functions are a must attend for you?  Perhaps your annual family reunion? Greenbuild? That friend’s party that comes along every Summer? Inbound?  I can name just one for me: CONSTRUCT. The Construction Specifications Institute’s annual meeting and tradeshow, which is being held this year in Baltimore from September 9-12. www.CONSTRUCTshow.com

Since attending my first CONSTRUCT in Philadelphia in 2010, I’ve blocked out one week per September to ensure that I will make it to my must attend event.  While the show itself moves from city to city each year (2011 in Chicago, 2012 was in Phoenix, 2013 was Music City – Nashville and 2015 is slated for St. Louis),  the people themselves remain constant.

Coming from all walks of life in the construction industry – including specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors, facility managers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners and others – most attendees of CONSTRUCT are attracted for the education (which can be acquired both in a classroom setting and the tradeshow floor), while chances are the rest are there for the people.   An AEC family reunion of sorts, friends from across the United States and our ‘neighbours’ to the North, come together for the camaraderie that is CSI.  No matter the walk of life, all members of CSI hold an equal seat at the table.  This is evident from watching people interact at CONSTRUCT.  Architects sharing hugs with product representatives, handshakes exchanged by engineers and specifiers, cordial smiles between manufacturers and owners.  Your background and profession really doesn’t matter within CSI and at CONSTRUCT.

I’ve been fortunate enough to witness this firsthand now 4 years over.  While the admission for CONSTRUCT is worth every cent for the education and events alone, the real value is in the relationships and the people you meet and connect with.  Whether you share a cab, a class, a lunch table or a dinner, it is easy to meet a stranger that has the immediate potential of becoming a lifelong friend.  CSI has done wonders for my career over the last five and a half years, while introducing me to some of the friendliest, personable and most intelligent friends I know.

What is the value of a great friendship to you? If you think the terms invaluable and priceless like I do, then the annual $240 National membership fee of the Construction Specifications Institute is quite a bargain.  You can join CSI here and the more you get involved at either the local Chapter, Region or National level, the further CSI can take you and the more incredible people you can meet.

What consistently makes CONSTRUCT my must attend event of the year is the people I’ll see.  While we may only see each other once every year, we stay in touch however we can.   Through phone calls, emails and social media we ‘talk’.  Sharing information, ideas, learned lessons and more.   These are people I know, trust and will go to bat for any day of the week.  They are my inner circle and in one months time, I get to physically see them again.

You still have plenty of time to plan and attend CONSTRUCT.  Trust me that it will be a week in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore that you won’t soon forget, due to the people that you will meet alone.  Visit CONSTRUCT online to find out more and if you are active on Twitter, be sure to follow along using #CONSTRUCT now, during the week of September 9th and beyond.


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It’s Not Just the Person You Met, it’s the People You Meet

Once upon a time, not so terribly long ago, our methods of communication varied greatly from what we have now. Pre-smartphone, Facebook, LinkedIn and even email (we’re going WAY back here), most of our In Real Life (IRL) interactions were originated by telephone, traditional pen to paper or sheer happenstance. Many relationships were culled much differently than they are now. Our instant gratification, constant connectivity lifestyle has sped up the relationship cycle monumentally, going from ice breaker to “nice to meet you” to “it’s so great to see you again” at what seems like a World Record pace.

There is no denying that it can be difficult to meet new people at times, especially in new surroundings or under new circumstances. However, the ways that we can meet new people have multiplied exponentially due to the technology and our ever-sharing lifestyle that many of us now surround ourselves with. MeetUps, TweetUps, chat rooms and too many social media mediums to list have given us a virtual water cooler that at one time was impossible to even conceive. No longer do you need to feel that you are the lone member of any given club when you are a Google search away from finding not only a local person with your same interests, but even a support group to perhaps help cope.

After a voluntary relocation from Vermont to Amish Country Pennsylvania in early 2008, my life was literally turned on its side. I went from a state that I knew, filled with family and lifelong friends, to an area that held approximately three people that I had met before. Most people take working at an office for granted, but when you think about it, your co-workers can end up being a second family and many become close friends. But when you work remotely out of your home office, you rarely have the opportunity to see the same people in any sort of frequency. Things did change for me when I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Construction Specifications Institute – CSI – in early 2009. Priding itself on its members, CSI, and the Allentown, PA Chapter in particular, quickly became an adopted 2nd family to me, allowing me to see the same smiling faces with warm greetings on a monthly basis.

The more I got involved with CSI, the more it became an important part of my life. As the proliferation of social media, personal branding and social sharing became abundant, an extension of me became my tweets through my Twitter @EricDLussier. It did not take long to strike up minor conversations with a person that I now call the Pied Piper of the CSI social media community, Joy Davis, who tweets as @CSIconstruction. Having never met her, heard her voice, not to mention seen an image of her, I attended my first CONSTRUCT (exhibit hall only) in Philadelphia in May of 2010. I went a little out of my way to ensure that I met this person who, I was told by Mitch Miller (@m2architek), I would recognize due to the number of cameras that were hanging around her neck. Sure enough, in short enough time, I had the opportunity to meet and finally put the voice and the face behind the @CSIconstruction shield avatar. Fitting enough, she then took my picture with Marty Thornton, then of Foreman Group of Zelienople, PA who is the one responsible for inviting me to my first CSI meeting and getting me to join.
Our lives came together and quickly as that, our lives separated. I came to find out later that CONSTRUCT is Joy’s Super Bowl, World Series and Stanley Cup Finals all rolled into one.

Our paths have crossed a number of times since, including my chauffeuring from Wayne, NJ to Allentown earlier this year and now I can safely say I am very fortunate to call Joy Davis a friend. Our friendship may revolve around 140 characters at a time, but I think if given the choice, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

CSI is 130 Chapters strong, each with its own strengths and its weaknesses. From experience in visiting multiple Chapters, the one strength that each can boast is their Members – volunteers who take personal time away from their day to day grind to find and share information with other likeminded construction folk. Having the State of Pennsylvania as my territory allowed me to visit with many of the Chapters throughout the Keystone State. However, being heavily involved in social media, especially Twitter, allowed me to interact with more than those that I was just meeting in a Radisson conference room on a Tuesday night in Camp Hill.

Through the following years and CONSTRUCT conferences (2011 in Chicago and 2012 in Phoenix), the connections came from further away – @Dstutzman in NJ, @BaltoCSI in MD, @LizOSullivanAIA in CO, @JPeterJordan in TX, @SpecMonkeyNorth in CA, @kaitlinsolomon3 in VA, @CheriseSchacter in OR, @cliffordmarvin in NY and even one crazy Canadian in @PaulDGerber – all initially met or keep in touch through one medium in Twitter. While too many in society think it is all about celebrities talking about their lunch plans, a tremendous group of construction-field individuals seek, find and share information and laughs 140 characters at a time.

Even though Nashville will only be my third full CONSTRUCT, complete with education (the core of the conference), it is quickly becoming my second-family reunion. For I have friends in real life that I get to see – though not nearly enough as we all grow older and apart and then I have friends that I get to see IRL. Us CSI Tweeps may only get together once a year, but it has quickly become a group of people that I can’t imagine not knowing. They may only be an avatar 361 days out of the year, but for 4 days at CONSTRUCT, they couldn’t be any better friends.

If you are interested in attending, exhibiting or getting more information on CONSTRUCT, which is being held in Nashville from September 24 – 27, 2013, please visit http://www.constructshow.com

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Why Should I Visit a Trade Show? Isn’t It All Available Online?


Consultation in this day and age goes far beyond the traditional in-person meeting or an over the phone discussion.  Without having to confront a soul, one only has to remove a device barely larger than your palm from your pocket or purse and type (or speak!) away to find the information one seeks.  Our smartphone, and technology as a whole, has completely transformed our day to day life.  The way we contact and interact with people, research facts, retrieve data, shop and more has been completely revolutionized by devices that admittedly we can no longer live without (myself included)

Is all of this technology and convenience for the better?  I guess it depends on what you use it for and probably more, what you are accustomed to.  Entire generations of people will not know what it is like to live without having constant connectivity and answers at the end of a few keystrokes.  What once required a browse of an encyclopedia (remember those?)  or a trip to the library now requires but a few moments of your time and a small piece of plastic and microchips.  And for those that insist on speaking to someone, Siri is there to help.  However, for as powerful as our devices are, there will never be replacement for actual human interaction.

Technology is breeding a generation of people that are spending increasingly more time in front of a screen.  At one time, it was only a TV.  Add to that now the usage of desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets and our screen time has increased exponentially as our human relation skills have regressed.  A child may ask “Why do I have to go out and play to see Johnny?” when all they have to do now is log onto their video game system and enter an online chat room to talk to them.  Seemingly lost is the time when our parents would say “Go out and play!” and boot us out of the house to play ball in the field or hide and seek with the neighbors.

Our dependency on technology is addictive (speaking from experience) and contagious and will most likely only worsen as our children who are growing up amongst these devices will enter the workforce down the road.  Having everything at the end of some typing may breed increasingly more introverts that see no need to get out of the house or actually interact with people.

In no way can our reliance on technology bring answers to all of our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).  I’ve spent too much time delving into the search results of Google or a website user forum only to find that the answer was at the other end of a telephone and 5 minutes of my time.   Sometimes the search term is impossible to strip down to give you the results you need.  Other times, inflection in one’s voice offers just the right spin on a question to give the proper answer.

Most of us already spend our days in front of our screens for our jobs.  Emails, internet research, word processing, spreadsheets, social media.  It all ties us down and gives us a false sense of security that we may not need to rely on an outside living and breathing source to give us the answers that we so seek.   Many of us in our day-to-day jobs spend time actually dodging human interaction – that pushy salesman, the untimely phone call, prodding co-workers, chatty deliverymen – so why would one go out of the way to put themselves in front of other people?  Sometimes, it’s the only way to get information that you seek.

In the building product industry that I have immersed myself in over the last 7+ years, reliance on word of mouth marketing and in-person salesmanship still stands strong, true and even (gasp!) desired.  While technology, apps and websites are designed to help architects, interior designers and specifiers on finding and selecting building products, there is a tremendous reliance on relationships and trust in the proper selection of materials and equipment for the built environment.

Trade shows are still a major part of the construction industry, as they are in many business fields.  While the internet and technology has done wonders for price shopping and delivery of generic information, no website, application or time spent in front of a screen will be able to take the place of a candid back and forth conversation between one educated person and one person seeking information.  In the construction industry, few trade shows consistently stay at the forefront for those seeking prized information and education than CONSTRUCT. CONSTRUCT, the Construction Specifications Institute’s National meeting & trade show continues to lead the way, delivering consistent and in demand information from year to year.  CSI’s CONSTRUCT is the only national trade show and educational conference for the commercial building teams that specify and source building products.  Whether an owner, general contractor, construction manager, engineer, interior designer, architect, construction specifier, manufacturer or a building product representative, CONSTRUCT has an opportunity for those not only looking to deliver, but also those seeking, information.  Year in and year out, those familiar with CSI and CONSTRUCT continue to travel to CONSTRUCT due to the quality of the information and education that it offers, as well as to meet up with friends, associates and trusted advisors from across the Nation.   Dozens of educational seminars are coupled with informational tours and an unrivaled trade show hall filled with exhibitors who put their reputation on the line with every building project that their material is used in and with every question answered.

So you may ask why should I visit a trade show, isn’t it all available online?  The simple answer is no.  Relationships and trust cannot be maintained entirely behind a screen.  Social media and technology has certainly moved relationship building into the fast lane, but it cannot be sustained entirely behind closed doors on a device.

If you are interested in attending, exhibiting or getting more information on CONSTRUCT, which is being held in Nashville from September 24 – 27, 2013, please visit www.constructshow.com


#CONSTRUCT 2012 PHX Retrospect


If CONSTRUCT 2010 in Philadelphia was getting my feet wet (with an exhibit hall pass only) and 2011 in Chicago was jumping in head first (with a full education package) then I would view CONSTRUCT 2012, held in Phoenix from September 11th – 14th as a leisurely paddle down a stream, even if it did host my first Gala.

The week approached incredibly fast and passed just as quickly.  Looking back now, 2 weeks after returning to PHL from PHX, I can summarize the week with one word: comfortable.  This would certainly not be the case without the people that make up the Construction Specifications Institute – CSI.  Without these people the conference could be clunky, lonely, perhaps even boring.  However, it is none of the above because of what the members bring to the Institute and to the Conference.

From the greeters at the Phoenix Convention Center, to the team members of Hanley Wood, to the presenters and exhibitors at CONSTRUCT and most importantly to the attendees of the Conference, my week in Phoenix was like slipping into your favorite sweatshirt during the first chill of fall – comfortable.  From seeing old friends (those that I know from way back in the day in Philly 2010) to meeting new friends that were just an avatar in my Twitter-based world until recently, CONSTRUCT has become the CSI water cooler for me – the place that I go to connect with everyone IRL –  in real life.

Social Media, while seemingly having “taken off” in the last year, has been an important part of my life for the past 3+ years.  However over the last year the relationships have certainly “taken off’ with roots being firmly planted on a laptop screen, or on my smartphone or tablet.  PHX CONSTRUCT was all about meeting some of these people IRL.  From Kaitlin Solomon (@KaitlinSolomon3), Paul Gerber (‏@PaulDGerber), J. Peter Jordan (@JPeterJordan), Paul Treanor (@CONSTRUCTshow) and Liz “Don’t Call me Sullivan” O’Sullivan (@LizOSullivanAIA) to new Fellow John Guill (@SpecMonkeyNorth), Carol Hagen (@CarolHagen), Brok Howard (@BrokHoward) and Cherise Schacter (@CheriseSchacter) and more, it was like an instant reunion, despite having never met any of these people before.  Social Media may be the new cold call, but it’s also the new water cooler, bar stool, message board, and “blind date” all mixed into one.
As a relative introvert, I have found it becoming increasingly more difficult to meet people as the years progress.  Having been a lone employee who works from a home office over the last four years in Pennsylvania, CSI has become my neighborhood bar, coffee shop, library and grocery store.  It doesn’t seem to matter the persons occupation, economic status or firm seniority, by just being a CSI member, you have something immediate and important in common.
So I could continue and talk about the wonderful city that Phoenix was – how the food was great, the people were terrific and the amenities were fantastic or about how great the CONSTRUCT presentations and exhibit hall was and it would all be true.  But to me, PHX was about the people.  The incredible crew from CSI Allentown that were there with me – now Fellow Mitch Miller, our current President Tina Montone, Lee Ann Slattery, Rob Sarnowski, Tim Sisock, Sal Verrastro, Dave Fenstermacher to fellow PA CSI folk John Groff, Bill Brightbill, Jan Meyers, Charlie Beauduy and Mike Lechleitner there were plenty of now local friends that I got to see over 2000 miles from home.  Factor these folk in with the previously mentioned Twitter folk that I got to meet for the very first time and top them off with being able to spend some time with Joy Davis (THE woman behind the CSI Social Media community) and I deem CONSTRUCT PHX 2012 an absolute success.
Nashville 2013 is on my calender (as it should be with yours – September 24th – 27th) and I’d hate to make time go by any faster then it already is, but I can’t wait for it to get here!  Between now and then, I hope to see you at a meeting.

Connect through #CONSTRUCT this #SPECtember

Once upon a time the expression “you had to be there” meant something.  Besides some sort of video,  photo or audio documentation that you had to rely on – and then wait to be shared (remember slideshows!) – you did truly have to be there to relive the experience.  This “once upon a time” was really only a handful of years ago.  Can you remember what it was like before social sharing?  What about before smart phones?  OK, if you do, what about the time before email?  Besides a bill, when was the last time you actually put a postage stamp on something and mailed it?

The social web has completely revolutionalized the dissemination of information.  To say it is instant is perhaps even an understatement.  Take a photo, “share to” and voila.  140 characters, “share to” and done.  Even though I’ve been using computers for over 25+ years, it seems like the dark ages before the social boom we are living in now.  It changes daily, if not hourly, and I still laugh every time I read about an expert in Twitter, or Facebook, or digital marketing.  It is changing too fast for anyone to bill themselves as an expert.

This month is an exciting time for members of the Construction Specifications Institute – CSI.  Tomorrow the 56th annual CSI convention, CONSTRUCT, starts up in Phoenix, AZ. An assembly of construction specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors, facility managers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners and others all under one roof at the Phoenix Convention Center that are dedicated to improving the communication of construction information and the built environment.  The “Project”, what we all work so hard towards, is nothing without proper architectural specifications.  All of this September, with the focus being on CONSTRUCT, CSI members are bringing attention to architectural specifications by billing this month SPECtember.

Ever tried grocery shopping for the week without a grocery list?  Ever tried to plan a surprise birthday party without an invite list? Ever tried to build an IKEA bookshelf without the instructions?  OK, maybe the last one is not a great example, because even with the instructions IKEA assembly is difficult.  But, I hope you get the point.  Without the end in sight and without that proper ‘walking path’, a Project cannot be built without proper architectural specifications.

CSI members are passionate about the Project.  Integrating new technologies with the tried and true, architectural specifications are the glue that makes the Project and the team stick.  Having that go to source – the grocery list, the invite list, the owner’s manual, the instructions – gives the Project Team something to reference.  Poorly written specifications can give you a poor Project.  One riddled with flaws, holes, sub par products and issues.  Conversely, excellent architectural specifications can give you an excellent project. A buttoned up, flowing, well oiled machine that functions for everyone – the facility director, the owner, the employees, the visitors.  I hope you get the idea.

CONSTRUCT is where the industry goes to fine tune the grocery list, the invite list, the owner’s manual, the instructions.  200+ exhibitors are in Phoenix this week to ensure the Project goes according to plan.  Thousands of people are there for Information, hugs, handshakes, smiles and laughs, which are all shared freely and warmly.  CSI is about education and CONSTRUCT is where people go to get educated.  Filled with dozens of accredited classes from National speakers, knowledge is shared and notes are taken.  CSI is not about hoarding information for personal consumption.  CSI is about improving facility performance by sharing.

Everything this SPECtember will be tied together with a hashtag (that’s the “pound sign” for the old school telephone users) – #. Look for it across many mediums – mostly Twitter, but also Instagram, Google+ and others.  You don’t have to be there (in Phoenix) this week to connect and share.  Information, photographs and videos will all be available instantly across the social web, tracked with #CONSTRUCT from my Twitter (@EricDLussier), CSI, CONSTRUCTshow and dozens of others. Give it a whirl! Click on the CSI logo above to search Twitter for #CONSTRUCT.  You don’t need an account (but it’s much more fun if you do!) Photos will be shared on FlickR, FacebookGoogle+, Twitter and other places. And you can do all of this from the comfort of your own home, without the 100 degree heat.  Just remember…it’s a dry heat.

#CONSTRUCT 2012 – Phoenix Here I Come

It wouldn’t be like me if I didn’t wait until almost the last second.  Despite the fact that I had my airfare booked from PHL > PHX for September, I finally pulled the string and booked my attendance and hotel for CONSTRUCT.   Having never been to Arizona (and really only west of Chicago once – to Seattle), I am looking forward to Phoenix for more reasons than one.

The CONSTRUCT Show, now produced by Hanley Wood is formerly the CSI Show.  This will be my 3rd year attending the Exhibit Hall and 2nd straight year attending for the seminars and education.

Attendees of CONSTRUCT are Architects, Engineers, Specifiers, General Contractors, Project Managers, Building Owners and professionals such as myself in the building team.  Under one roof and in one City you can meet more people in one day that a year’s worth of meetings and work can get you.

CONSTRUCT is a registered AIA/CES provider and each class is 90-minutes.  Focusing on subjects such as sustainability, specification intent, contracts, building envelope, moisture, modern technology and more, the chances are strong that you will find numerous sessions that interest you.

Flight is booked, attendance is booked and hotel is booked.  Looks like I’m as good as there.  I hope we have the chance to meet at #CONSTRUCT if you make it.  Drop me a line in some social medium at @EricDLussier I’m planning on seeing the Diamondbacks host the Dodgers on Tuesday night if anyone is interested.

Don’t wait too much longer! Wednesday, August 15th is the last day to save over $100 on your attendance.  Take advantage now at http://www.constructshow.com/index.aspx

Social Media Before and During CONSTRUCT 2012

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a great TweetChat that occurs every Tuesday afternoon at 4pm EST for the AEC  (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) community.  The hashtag is #AECSM and the topics have ranged from “Do you FEAR Social Media” and “A Focus on LinkedIn” to “Finding Work in AEC using Social Media” and “Pinterest for Business: Yeah, But Does it Work for AEC Firms?” The AECSM Facebook page is here and the official Twitter account is here

Taryn Erickson (from SocialMedia Consulting @SoMeffect. AEC Marketing @Trindera. Board @MASpokane. Leader of @SMCSpokane and @AEC_SM. http://about.me/Taryn44) has assembled a great cast of characters who assemble on Tuesday afternoons and bring plenty to the table.  Taryn has been extra busy as of late and as 4PM yesterday was approaching, she let me know that she wasn’t able to moderate the TweetChat.  On a hour notice and with major help from Joy Davis (Communications/Community/Web Director for CSI – Construction Specifications Institute and @CSIconstruction on Twitter) we were able to pull together “Driving Traffic to Your Booth: Social Media Before & During a Tradeshow”.  Questions addressed included:

1. Have you attended a tradeshow in the past where Social Media was used to promote in advance? What methods?

2. Do you find key people in advance & begin building a relationship in Social Media before you get to the show?

3. Have you found the use of social media while at a tradeshow directly brought you more traffic to your booth?

Have you thought about helping your booth traffic at a tradeshow using Social Media?  Your marketing budget takes a major hit when attending most some tradeshows.  Not only do you have your booth fee, but you need to think about your hourly wage, travel costs including hotels, meals and maybe even airfare and then all of your office catch up after the fact.  So, why not take advantage of your time at the tradeshow by trying to drive traffic to your booth in advance?  Promote a contest, tell people what booth number you are at, send private invitations for a one-on-one.  There are numerous ways you can interact with your potential audience using Social Medial.  Are you a Facebook friend with an architect?  How about sending a private message?  Have many followers on Twitter that are in your field?  Promote your location and implement a hashtag (#) that the tradeshow may be using (search for #AIA2012 if you want an example of a hashtag in action.  Also, using the #CONSTRUCT hashtag on Twitter generated 475,000 impressions on 46,000 people last year). Connected to your attendees on LinkedIn?  Promote using your LinkedIn updates.  These are just 3 easy examples.

All of this is in advance of CONSTRUCT (formerly the CSI Show, now in it’s 56th year)  which is in Phoenix at the Phoenix Convention Center September 11-14, 2012.  As an attendee of the last 2 CONSTRUCT show’s the exhibit hall is a true showpiece for CSI.  If you are attending as an exhibitor, CSI is offering a special webinar to help drive traffic to your booth. Titled “Social Media Before and During CONSTRUCT 2012” it will be held next Thursday, June 14th at 11am ET. Register here: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/451247024

Join Joy Davis, myself and others for a presentation on how you can use social media before and during CONSTRUCT 2012 to drive traffic to your booth and build better relationships with your clients. We’ll discuss general best practices for exhibitors using social media and offer suggestions on some activities you may want to try. We’ll also cover how CSI and CONSTRUCT will use social media tools before and during CONSTRUCT 2012 so that you can make the most of your presence at the show this year. If you have specific question about social media, you can email CSI Director Communications/Community/Web Joy Davis, CSI, CCPR, at jdavis@csinet.org in advance of the presentation. We are organizing a tweetchat to accompany this presentation – plan to use hashtag #CONSTRUCT. This webinar is available exclusively and at no cost to CSI members, and to exhibitors that have reserved a CONSTRUCT 2012 booth by June 13, 2012. Be prepared to supply your CSI member number or your exhibitor’s name when you register here.

Not a member of CSI?  Keep your eyes open on Social Media as CSI will be promoting a 20% discount on membership in CSI soon.