Workshops: a different approach to selling diver education


Let me ask you a simple question: How many diver workshops did you run last winter… or whenever your low season is?

It’s OK, you don’t have to answer out loud. And in fact if your answer is something like: “As many as we could schedule!” you really don’t have to read any more; you already get it.

Workshops are one of the most productive brand-building exercises for a small, medium or state-wide dive retailer. A workshop is a hands-on, one-on-one opportunity for our customers to get to know us and for us to make a lasting impression on them as their personal mentor and a reliable source of information about their sport.

A workshop can take just about any format and be on almost any topic. It can cover something directly connected with an SDI or TDI (or ERDI) courses, but certainly does not have to. It can instead deal with something indirectly connected to training, or seemingly unrelated to the business of training at all. A workshop can be a casual mid-week evening get together or a weekend boot camp with an hour-by-hour agenda followed to the letter. The choices are up to you and what your customers would be interested in.

One of the first questions asked by a dive retailer who has never run a workshop has to do with how a workshop is different to a formal dive class. There are several ways to answer that question because a workshop can include an actual certification and a formal course, or it might be a pre-cursor to a formal course, or it may supplement a formal course. Overall though, a workshop should promote at least one of your dive store’s revenue streams.

For example, a really popular workshop especially as we approach the winter dive travel season is “Packing for Dive Travel.” This workshop is not directly related to a formal course but it can sell a multitude of products from dive bags to spare mask straps.

Probably one of the key things to consider is that workshops have to be fun, packed with information and relevant to your customers to be effective. Here are some pointers that may help you to design your own workshop events.

  • Build a workshop around a topic on which you are an expert
  • If you are not the expert, parachute the expertise in by using a ringer. For example contact STI for help with anything relating to dive travel
  • Charge a fee to add the perception of value to the workshop
  • Design around a fixed number of bums in seats
  • Invite special customers personally… and think of all your customers as special
  • Give incentives for your customers to bring dive buddies into your workshops
  • Start off small for your first few workshops… a two-hour evening event works fine
  • Take small bites. Design a workshop around a specific aspect of a complex topic, rather than trying to present definitive answers to everything
  • Workshops should be a part of your marketing strategy, use them as such
  • Design the Workshop to promote the future sale of a product or service you sell
  • Make it easy for participants to “buy the T-shirt” during or after  the workshop is finished… sign-up sheets for related courses, a course schedule or a product display front and center
  • Work with suppliers to provide hand-outs, promotional materials, free samples etc.
  • Make the format relaxed and provide snacks and beverages
  • Run workshops in your store, at local dive sites, in local shopping malls and service clubs… think global
  • Promote like blazes and follow up with a letter and satisfaction survey if possible
  • Get a video clip of one of the fun portions of the workshop and post it on your store’s social networking site
  • Make a habit of running workshops… doing so WILL build your shop’s profile in your customer’s eyes

Ok, so the obvious  next step is to decide what topics to cover in this season’s workshops. Here are some suggestions, and some examples of subjects that have been successful for other SDI, TDI facilities over the years. Look these over and recycle those that appeal or you can add your own input to make up your own titles. The simple rule is that the most successful workshops are those that the consumer can immediately see some value in. What they want is information that promises to save them time, money and grief.

  • Advanced dive planning: How we dive the {LOCAL SITE A LITTLE BEYOND OPEN WATER SCOPE}
  • How do you get there from here? The pathway to technical diving
  • Dive Computers: The A to Z of personal dive computers and how to pick the one that suits your dive profiles
  • Staying Warm and Dry: The benefits of drysuit diving in local waters
  • Travel with Dive Gear
  • The Ultimate Save a Dive Kit
  • Sidemount Diving 101: The basic facts about diving doubles a different way entirely
  • DPV Diving: is there a scooter in your future
  • Wreck Appreciation
  • Expedition Diving: Planning the logistics and dynamics of remote diving operations


And of course the list goes on. As an experienced diver you have made mistakes and learned from them. Running a workshop gives you the opportunity to help your customers avoid making the same mistakes you did!

Attending DEMA this year. SDI, TDI, ERDI staffers are running several professional level presentations during the show including ones addressing workshop design, structure and promotion. Sign up for your spots using our ONLINE registration form




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