NSS-CDS Training Program

DEMA

No DEMA? No problem.

By now you are most likely aware the 2020 DEMA Show in New Orleans isn’t happening. Some of this is due to the obvious safety concerns (New Orleans was an epicenter for the spread of COVID-19). Most people we’ve talked to, however, are relieved that in a year when money is tight, they won’t have to spend the cash needed to exhibit at or attend the show.

The 2019 DEMA Show was especially good for the Section. Not only did it provide us with the opportunity to make a good impression with our booth, but it also allowed us to talk to hundreds of attendees and fellow exhibitors. The dive professionals who attend and exhibit at DEMA are some of our best prospective candidates for Cave Diver training. The Section also made a fair amount of money through the sale of t-shirts, books and other items.

However, for the Section to make that money, the volunteers who staffed our booth had to spend a collective total of well over $2,000 for travel, accommodations and meals. New Orleans would have cost us more, as it is a more expensive destination than Orlando. Those who staffed our booth last year told us this just wasn’t in the budget this year.

The bottom line is, few of our instructors appear to be shedding crocodile tears over the loss of this year’s DEMA Show. Nevertheless, the question remains: How do we collectively compensate for this loss?

What the CDS Training Program is doing

The good news here is that what the Training Program could be doing to compensate for the loss of DEMA are things we’ve actually already done. They include:

  • We’ve revamped the Training Program website to provide a more accurate and up-to-date overview of NSS-CDS training courses. Visitors can download the standards for Apprentice and full Cave Diver courses to see what will be expected of them and what they can expect from their instructor.
  • Our instructor listings have been reorganized by geographic region. This way, prospective students can quickly find which NSS-CDS Instructors teach in the region in which they are most likely to want to learn.

This is not to say we can’t do more. If you have suggestions for ways we can better promote the Section and its instructors, we will be happy to listen.

Just be aware that the Training Program has no budget. All of the money we collect in diver and instructor registration fees goes directly to the Section. What we accomplish in Training is solely the result of volunteer time and effort. However, if the idea is worthwhile, we have people willing to put in that time and effort.

What you should be doing

If you presently have more students than you can handle, you can go ahead and skip this section. Otherwise, you may want to keep reading.

This is the part where we remind you of things you most likely already know. Sometimes, however, it’s helpful to have somebody remind you that you already know them.

Here is a list of things you should be doing if you want to increase the number of people coming to you for training.

  • Check your instructor listing: Take a look at your instructor listing here on the NSS-CDS website. Does the email link go to the right address? Does the Facebook button go to the right Facebook page? Does the website button go to the right website or the right page on that website? If something isn’t right, let us know. We will fix it.
  • Encourage past students to recruit for you: Even in the age of the Internet, word-of-mouth remains among the most potent tools for diving educators. Encourage past students to recommend you to their friends or social media contacts.
  • Get serious about social media: You should be posting something on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts at least twice a week. It can be pictures of recent course graduates, updates on diving conditions or anything new prospective students may find interesting.
  • Use content marketing: This is among the most cost-effective means of advertising and promotion. It’s easy to do, too. Post how-to and should-do content in your website’s blog section. Link to these articles on your social media pages. Not only will this drive visitors to your website, but they’ll also share your content with friends, further expanding your reach.
  • Put that camera to work: It seems most instructors these days seldom get into the water without a GoPro in their pocket. The ability to show students video of themselves performing various skills is a very effective teaching tool. Beyond this, however, you want to be able to post photo albums of students in each class you teach on Facebook and elsewhere. Your students will share these with friends and — guess what? — your will get more students because of it.

Finally, do something about that website

Many NSS-CDS Instructors have clean, modern and highly effective websites. Many don’t. Some don’t even have websites.

If you are not teaching actively, then you obviously don’t need a website to recruit students you don’t want. But if you are not getting the students you think you deserve, lack of a website…or lack of an effective website may be to blame.

Here are some of the problems we’ve seen on some of our instructors’ websites:

  • Archaic design: You wouldn’t show up to teach a class in shabby, out-of-date equipment. It would reflect poorly on your professionalism. But if your website looks like a relic from the turn of the century, visitors will most likely seek another instructor.
  • Lack of responsive design: You may use a desktop or laptop computer to view your own website, but two-thirds of your prospective students will do so using their smartphones. Your website must be responsive. That means it automatically reconfigures itself for optimal viewing on mobile devices.
  • Poo organization: Once visitors arrive at your website, you have mere seconds for them to find the information they want. If they can’t, they will go elsewhere. If your cave and technical diver training info is buried among other pages, people won’t bother to look for it. Consider having a separate website for cave training, or at least make sure the CDS website links to the page which has this information.
  • No website: Sorry, but if you don’t have a website, you effectively don’t exist. Why should anyone bother to call or write you when other instructors have the information they want readily available online?

The good news is, it’s now easier than ever to create a clean, modern-looking and responsive website using platforms such as Wix and Sqarespace. Of, if you want to take your web game up a notch, learn WordPress. It’s easy, intuitive and there are plenty of online tutorials to show you how. Plus, WordPress is free. You will only pay a few bucks a month for server rental.

Your website doesn’t need to be overly complex. You need only supply the answers to a few simple questions. These include:

  • What courses do you offer?
  • What are the prerequisites?
  • How long does each course take?
  • How much does each course cost?
  • What equipment must students provide?
  • How can students schedule training?

You should also include a Contact Us page and a page that tells a little about yourself. Above all, make sure visitors can find the info they want in just one click.

Don’t procrastinate

It’s no secret this will be a challenging year economically. The longer you wait to get your marketing house in order, the more business will go elsewhere. Don’t let it happen.