NRVTA Reports on Solid Virtual Expo Experience

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The Athens, Texas-based National RV Training Academy (NRVTA) was forced by COVID-19 to adjust its plans, and rather than hold its first-ever NRVTA Expo training event and supplier showcase at its “Big Red School House” in Athens in mid-April, it had to adjust on the fly and turn it into a virtual event. It said an order issued by the state less than a month away from the proposed event prohibited gatherings of 10 people or more, and the group had been expecting about 200.

The NRVTA says its 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, managing director and co-owner of the NRVTA. “One vendor, PullRite, was able to quickly adapt and convert their training to offer an online session.”

He said 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,” said Cooper. “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.”

The expo also included business development training sessions. The inspectors and technicians are highly-skilled on the practical side of their trade, but 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 explained. “They also offered tips on how to evaluate vendors when hiring outside resources to provide those services to business owners.”

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,” said Cooper. “We are soliciting ideas for future presentations and reaching out to those who expressed interest in making them to help guide their effort.”

NRVTA 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.”

The 2021 Expo is planned for April 16- 18 at the NRVTA’s Big Red Schoolhouse in Athens.

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