National RV Training Academy Seizes Opportunity with Online Expo Experience

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The National RV Training Academy (NRVTA) discovered new opportunity in the midst of adversity when the coronavirus situation forced planners to adjust their strategy for the first-ever NRVTA Expo training event and supplier showcase.

Originally, the expo was scheduled as a live-training event attracting nearly 200 people to NRVTA’s Big Red School House in Athens, Texas from April 18 to 19. However, in an attempt to confront the coronavirus threat, Texas officials shut down all education facilities in the state and prohibited groups of more than 10 people from gathering.

That threw a wrench into plans less than a month before the expo was slated to start. The Expo was further complicated when all supplier training was cancelled as companies restricted employee travel.

“A few companies, like Lippert Components, Dometic and Truma did provide video training from their offices in Elkhart, Ind., and we are greatly appreciative of their effort. However, it was only a few smaller segments, not the planned eight-hour sessions,” said Terry Cooper, course instructor, NRVTA managing director and co-owner. “One vendor, PullRite, was able to quickly adapt and convert their training to offer an online session.”

Experienced RV inspectors and certified technicians shared extended training on various RV systems and appliances along with some business development sessions.

“It was very unique, but well received as colleagues researched topics that our participants would normally learn, and then presented the training themselves,” Cooper said. “The students really enjoyed listening to their peers talk about common problems and what they did to address them as well as what their own research revealed to be the cause.”

Bryan Carbonnell, owner of Tech-Reational Vehicle Services, is an RV inspector and NRVTA-certified RV technician. He developed a presentation regarding multiplex wiring systems for RVs used to control all components in a recreation vehicle from a computer screen on a wall.

His presentation explored how the products are interconnected and offered inspectors and technicians troubleshooting tips on how to diagnose problems with the highly-technical system.

“So many RV brands have evolved their products to work in a multiplex system that is essential for inspectors and technicians to be able to operate the technology in order to perform a thorough diagnosis,” Cooper said.

The expo also included business development training sessions. The inspectors and technicians are highly-skilled on the practical side of their trade, but can often lack the skills to build websites, engage customers on social media and market their businesses to local customers, he added.

“Our inspectors, who come from other careers involving marketing, website development, and similar backgrounds, offered training on what search engine optimization is, how it works, why it is important and what they can do to manage these important functions themselves,” Cooper said. “They also offered tips on how to evaluate vendors when hiring outside resources to provide those services to business owners.”

The online sessions took place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT April 18 and 19 with a half-hour break between sessions. Participants could log in to the expo website to access presentations and download handouts they would have received had they been able to attend the event in person.

Because continuing education credits were recorded for successful completion of the online sessions, each participant had to complete and pass a quiz to earn the credit.

“The event was so well received by participants that we have decided to host similar events each quarter,” Cooper said. “We are soliciting ideas for future presentations and reaching out to those who expressed interest in making them to help guide their effort.”

NRVIA Director of Administration Stephanie Henson will be working directly with the presenters to help develop the seminars and ensure the training flows smoothly, he noted.

She expects the online presentations will prove to be even better than listening to training recorded live during a class.

“When we record live training sessions and post those online, sometimes there are too many distractions, like coughing and shuffling papers, that make it more difficult to hear or understand the presenters,” Henson said. “By hosting the presentations and sharing them live on platforms like Zoom, we ensure only the speaker can be heard and other sounds are muted. We also have the ability to take questions and allow the presenter to facilitate discussion as needed.”

NRVTA is planning to offer another expo and supplier showcase next spring, which the staff hopes people will be able to attend in person. The training will be the same whether viewed live or online. However, the live training offers more opportunities for networking and forging relationships, said Cooper.

The 2021 Expo will take place April 16 to 18 at NRVTA campus in Athens. Supplier training sessions will be offered before and after the weekend expo to give participants even more reasons to attend, Cooper said.

“Expo was a great way to showcase the vast knowledge of individual techs and inspectors,” Cooper said.

To schedule a supplier training session, please email Stephanie Henson at [email protected]

For more information about the NRVTA Expo and planned training sessions, visit www.nrvtaexpo.com. To make RV or lodging reservations at the Texan RV Park, visit www.texanrvpark.com.

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