A record 50 people attended Alan Colker’s 30th educational seminar in Richmond, VA, on Oct. 17. In honor of it being his 30th event, the seminar’s theme was “30 Important Questions Every Professional Lighting Showroom Consultant should be Able to Answer,” based on actual questions submitted to the American Lighting Assn.  (ALA).
Colker, who along with his son, Mitch, make up Alco Lighting Sales, has been hosting these ALA-accredited seminars featuring ALA Director of Education Joe Rey-Barreau since 1996.
“Offering these seminars is just something we can do to give back,” Colker says. “Nowadays, the industry is changing so fast and so much more knowledge is needed to be a successful showroom consultant. Showroom managers need to realize that in order to be successful in the long-term, they need to have an educated staff.”
For the first time this year, the seminar was co-hosted by several lighting manufacturers, bringing the registration cost down to just $30. Sponsors included: ALA, Allegri , Arroyo Craftsman , H.A. Framburg & Co. , House of Troy , Kalco Lighting , Millwork Lighting , Northeast Lantern , NUVO Lighting  and Satco Products .
“Mitch and I are extremely grateful to the vendors who helped us co-host this event, making this the most successful seminar we’ve ever had,” Colker says.
Cori Middlebrooks, a Virginia sales rep, says she appreciated the practical nature of the seminar.
“It covered real-life questions that customers may be asking us, and it gave us information to give customers to help us sell products and also build customer trust,” Middlebrooks says.
Renee Baker, Showroom Manager of Timberlake Lighting  in Charlottesville, VA, says she also found the seminar’s format very helpful.
“I like the way the whole seminar was formatted, with 30 questions from actual consumers, because these were very practical questions that consumers might walk into my showroom and ask,” Baker says. “I actually just used something I learned from the seminar today when helping a customer with transformer issues and how not reaching the minimum load can cause problems for dimmers.”
Four-time attendee Emilie Maynard, Showroom Manager at West Virginia Electric Supply Co.  in Huntington, WV, says she keeps coming back every year because of Rey-Barreau’s expertise.
“I like how [Rey-Barreau] always has a new perspective on what’s going on in lighting, and he’s always up to date on new code, regulations and products,” Maynard says. “He also explains how to best relay the information to the customer and calm them down instead of having them panic on us and selling them products they don’t need right now just because they’re scared.”
Mike Hadank, Director of Retail Sales, North America for Swarovski  and Schonbek , says he enjoyed his first time attending one of Colker’s seminars, especially the discussion about future applications for LEDs.
“[Rey-Barreau] was able to teach the class so that it hit the level where someone well-versed like me could stay interested, but people who didn’t know that much about LEDs could also get a lot out of it as well,” Hadank says.