I’ve always considered myself a “tech geek.” It even says so on my Twitter profile. As a kid, I had my fair share of game consoles, a Talkboy, and even my very own Tamagotchi. As a young teen, my birthday and Christmas gifts were always electronics, whether it was a palm pilot that I never used, or a minidisc player. In the late 90’s I was the first kid in my high school to own a CD burner, which instantly bumped my cool points up a few notches.

All of this to say, when we arrived in Dallas last week for my first time at CEDIA, I was giddy with joy. I’ve never been to an event quite like this. It felt like I had just stumbled into a grown-up version of FAO Schwarz (RIP). CEDIA opened with a flood of fellow nerds, streaming through the double doors and onto the floor, eager to be the first to pick the brain of their favorite brand rep.

The Audio Advice team, however, didn’t have the same urgency. They were much more methodical and even-keeled, like a group of Jedi knights. “Be cool,” I thought to myself, wanting to blend in while really thinking “let me at that new Sony 4K laser projector!” It was only when I took a step back and observed my colleagues that I began to see what made my team so unique.

We are the Tastemakers

I’ve been to my fair share of trade shows and product releases. Never have I been with a group as educated and respected in their field as the team we have at Audio Advice. We received the same pitch as others in many of the booths, but as we readied to move on to the next area, inevitably a member of the brand’s leadership team would approach to ask us for feedback.

Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series launch party

Lead product managers asking what features were missing. CFOs asking about price points and gauging our interest as a respected face of the dealer/integrator community. CEOs of the some of the largest speaker brands in the world, watching our private demo, just to see our reactions. These folks weren’t just asking to pretend like they cared. They listened intently, asked follow-up questions, and spent as much time as we would give them, getting our input.

Brands in our space care what Audio Advice thinks. Having grown up in the area, it’s awesome to think that a company from right here in Raleigh, North Carolina has an impact on how corporations like Sony or Bowers & Wilkins develop their products. We’ve earned our partners’ respect, and they’ve earned ours.

We Only Sell the Best

I can’t tell you how many cool new products I passed while at CEDIA, tugging on the arm of a fellow team member like a child asking their parent for a toy or a treat. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming.

Sony 4k Reference projector

The rest of our team was much more seasoned. More focused. They were able to quickly wade through the sea of products to hone in on the ones that mattered, and they had an uncanny ability to separate the sizzle from the steak. They knew all of the right questions to ask, and they knew when it was time to move on.

When I would ask why they had passed over a product or moved on so quickly, I always got a clear and detailed answer. Some products weren’t well-made. Some lacked important features while others were too early to bet on. It’s an intuition that only comes after many years of experience.

It’s one thing to say that we curate the best products for our customers. It can come across as lip service. But being there on the floor, I can tell you that everything we did and everything we saw was done deliberately and intentionally. Every product was held to the highest standard — whether we would feel good having our customers living with and using these products in their homes every day. Even the products that we all agreed seemed great will be tested in our own homes before we will ever give our stamp of approval and sell them to a customer.

We Invest in Our People

There were a lot of people at CEDIA, no doubt. At times, we’d have to turn sideways, squeezing through groups in a way that gave me flashbacks to college parties. The convention center was crowded, the hotel was crowded, and the buses were crowded. Everywhere we went there were swarms of people. Yet, in the whole time we were in Dallas, I don’t recall seeing another group of 10 people from the same company.

I mentioned it to a colleague and I tallied it up in my head. 10 plane tickets, hotel rooms, tickets to CEDIA, meals, and other expenses. The night before we left, we all went to dinner at Perry’s Steakhouse (pass on the pork chop and you’ll regret it) and had one of the best meals of my life.

Perry's Steakhouse - Dallas, porkchop

What may first appear to be an expensive trip is really much more. It’s an investment in our team and in our company. It says a lot about the value that Leon and Scott place on our people. An investment that we pay back every day by delivering the best products, services, and most importantly, experiences to our customers in a way they simply can’t get anywhere else.