The phrase ‘knowledge is power’ in today’s construction industry still rings true. In a bid to build smarter, safer, and to a higher standard, the sector has developed a thirst for learning.
It’s no surprise then that the use of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has grown exponentially over the years – becoming go-to learning tools where architects can develop specialised skills and obtain a greater understanding of a rapidly changing industry. For manufacturers, this presents a unique opportunity, and with the right CPD strategy, can allow them to connect with architects on a deeper level.
So, what can manufacturers do to ensure they’re delivering show stopping CPDs?
It may seem obvious but first impressions count. Strong visuals are essential to an effective CPD yet many brands fall short in this area. Not only can it bring content to life but it can help present products in their best light. Architects respond well to impressive photography, illustrations, and graphics so good design is your friend. This includes using images that show products in-situ to deliver that ‘wow-factor’ feeling.
Video content is another option – it can be used to break up speech and keep things looking and sounding fresh. If you want to capture the attention of architects, make sure it looks as good as it sounds.
Spin a yarn
Storytelling is an art form and the most compelling CPDs are those that can tell a tale. How does it solve common problems? Think beyond just ‘product explainers’, why is it relevant and how can you show this in a meaningful way? This includes choosing the right content and speaker – you’ll want someone that can reflect the dynamism of your brand. Can they hold an audience’s attention?
Great presentations aren’t just one-way streets either, interacting with audiences is also key. Can you ask questions or encourage quizzes to get groups talking? Breaking the ‘fourth wall’ can be a great engagement booster.
Right on time
The length of a CPD is vital and for time-strapped specifiers, convenience is king. The sweet spot tends to be around 40 minutes for an in-house live presentation. Webinars, for example, work well as they allow all participants to interact and save information for future projects.
Avoid CPDs that are hours long – the easier to consume, the better. Information that is useful and practical will help you go far, particularly if it explains how products can be specified accurately and safely.
However, in-person CPDs still remain a winning formula, and a mix of both will allow brands to ‘cover all bases’. Time away from a screen is also a pleasant change of pace, free from distractions. Architects also use events to network and connect with others as well getting ‘hands-on’ with product samples.
Above all else, remember that content must educate and so avoid heavy sales pitches at all costs.
Strike a chord
The industry is seeing major regulatory changes so CPDs that inform or offer solutions will be well received. The Building Safety Act, Fire Safety Act, or changes to Part L and Part F Building Regulations are particular touchpoints at the moment. CPDs around sustainability and net zero are equally as important and offer widespread appeal.
The RIBA Providers Network is a great resource for this type of content and contains solid technical information that can help architects increase their knowledge base about these areas and their impact on responsible product specification.
Do it your way
Don’t feel pressure to follow the status quo – finding different ways to engage audiences is also welcome. One that springs to mind is a murder mystery CPD for a lighting company. However, consider immersive factory or showroom tours which are worth their weight in gold in terms of brand awareness, but may take more organisation.
Try experimenting with shorter, micro-learning forms. Presentations up to around half an hour, as well as CPD articles, blogs, or podcasts, can be useful for specifiers learning on the go. Don’t be shy to ask audiences what they want either – the more tailored a CPD, the better.
It’s important to keep up to date with the construction media – this will help you stay relevant. RIBA or NBS information is reliable and current and, along with the construction and design press and social media, are good ways to stay informed.
Careful attention should be given to resources within CPDs – particularly around fire testing certificates, technical and installation documents, product brochures, and EPD declarations. Use information from reputable sources.
Becoming CPD accredited through RIBA’s CPD Providers Network can help raise the standards of presentations. By working alongside well-respected brands that offer exclusive information, support, and benefits, CPDs can be enhanced for a more engaging end result, including specification sales.
Joni Tyler is Head of CPD at RIBA. NBS is a global leading technology platform that combines some of the best content and connectivity for anyone involved in the design, supply, and construction of the built environment. A previous arm of RIBA, NBS ran all the commercial CPD content for architects on behalf of building product manufacturers. NBS was sold to Byggfakta Group, but still delivers CPD through the RIBA CPD Providers Network