SEMA Member News July 2020

By Ellen MCkoy

ETTN Stays a Steady Course During Pandemic With Focus on Continuing Education

Caption: ETTN Live Chat Host Tom Burden, inventor of Grypmat.

ETTN Chair Ian Lehn.

When the United States was put on a nationwide lockdown, SEMA councils and networks had to put some programs on hold while also moving forward with other initiatives to help keep members informed, motivated and involved. The Emerging Trends & Technology Network (ETTN) was no exception. According to network Chair Ian Lehn, ETTN is still open for business.

“One of the points we have been trying to make is that just because things are shut down doesn’t mean ETTN is shut down,” he said. “We’re trying to get all of our ducks in a row so that everything is cued up at the starting line and we can hit the ground running.”

For example, ETTN’s vehicle-sharing program—designed to enable member manufacturers to borrow project vehicles from one another for product development and prototyping—is currently on ice.

“With everything that’s going on, no one is sharing vehicles,” Lehn said. “We were in the process of successfully onboarding a group of companies, and we are still actively looking for businesses to be part of the program once things open back up, even though we’ve suspended vehicle sharing.”

The same reasoning applied to temporarily sidelining ETTN’s program to connect advanced-level engineering students who compete on SAE Formula teams with SEMA-member manufacturers.

“The student competition program is a great way for companies to engage with schools and continue R&D at the academic level,” he said. “But for now, it’s on the back burner until things open up.”

At the same time, ETTN is in fast-forward mode with its Facebook Live Chats.

“The big thing we are stressing right now is continuing education,” Lehn said.

Live-Stream Broadcasts Deliver Value-Added Learning Experiences

“During this period when we’re forced to stay within our own walls and not allowed to go out, focus on sales or go to car shows, we want to provide members with an educational series they can binge watch and that gives them a roadmap on how to get product into the market,” Lehn said.

The Live Chats are designed as a series, with each episode focused on a different topic.

“The ETTN series is built around product development and going to market, from idea inception all the way to presenting the product at the SEMA Show,” he noted.

Each Live Chat session lasts one hour and is led by an expert on the designated topic. Advance notice is posted on ETTN’s social-media channels, in “Member Updates” and in SEMA eNews. The video sessions are archived on ETTN’s Facebook page, so those who cannot tune in during the live presentations can access them at any time, day or night.

The first session was held in March. It was presented by design consultant, industrial engineer and brand strategist Mark Moneypenny, who centered his talk on ideation, innovation, resources and processes needed to create successful products.

The second Live Chat took place in May. It was led by Tom Burden, the inventor of Grypmat—a flexible material that keeps tools in place on any type of curve and surface. Burden won the 2017 SEMA Launch Pad competition and also sealed a deal on the “Shark Tank” TV show. He talked about the importance of relying on research and competitive analysis in the product-development process.

Other sessions are in the pipeline, with ETTN currently lining up additional presenters.

“Our main focus is to reinforce to our base that we’re still out here and still trying to provide value to them while staying cognizant of everything happening around us,” Lehn said. “With so many people sitting at home feeling as if the world is passing them by, it really helps if they’re given an opportunity to learn something new and stay ahead of the curve.

“The Live Chats were well received, and we expect that they will continue to grow as more of them happen. Because it’s a series that lives on our Facebook page, if someone watches one session on product development and realizes there were episodes before that on product ideation or market research, we anticipate that people will go back and watch more of them.”

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