I had been asked to do a presentation to a group of technical divers in Dubai on some of the ship wrecks that I have been fortunate enough to discover off Durban, South Africa along with Dave Griffiths, PADI Examiner and TEC Instructor Trainer as my co-presenter. I had planned to arrive in Dubai at 5am on the direct flight from Durban with Emirates Airlines, get in a few hours sleep and be ready and set up for the start of the presentation at 7pm.
The day before I checked in online and the flight was on time. I spoke with Ahmed Sayed, the PADI Regional Manager for the Middle East and he confirmed that there would be close to 100 attendees for the presentation. I arrived at King Shaka International three hours before the flight, checked in and went through to the International Departures hall. About an hour before boarding we were notified that due to bad weather the plane had been delayed by three hours. No problem, as I still had plenty of time. Needless to say, South Africa was hit that evening by extensive thunderstorms with terrible flooding, hailstorms and strong winds. I eventually got to board my flight at 2 pm the next afternoon. There was no way that I was going to make the presentation in time given that I was in for an eight hour flight.
Fortunately I had remembered that Emirates Airlines has Internet connection on the plane. I had confirmed with the very helpful ground staff that our plane had internet and confirmed that it was working. I told Ahmed that I was still going to do the presentation, but it would be from the air and not in front of the audience live. I Dropboxed Ahmed my Powerpoint Presentation and ran through it with him. Ahmed was to set up everything at the conference Centre and I would connect via Skype. We arranged to meet online two hours prior to the start of the presentation to check that everything would work. The Emirates flight crew had arranged for me to use the rear Galley to do the presentation from as this would give me some privacy.
We took off and I waited for the seatbelt sign to switch off. Twenty minutes later I had my laptop out, logged on to the airplanes wifi, bought 500 megs of data for $1 and connected to Ahmed in Dubai. Absolutely mind boggling.
The connection was fantastic. The sound was clear and I could control the presentation from my laptop. Just then we encountered same bad turbulence and I was sent back to my seat. This was minutes before the presentation was due to start.
So I ended up doing the presentation 35 000 feet above the ground, somewhere over Kenya, some 4000 km from Dubai, with the laptop resting on my lap, earphones on and all my co passengers sitting in the seats around me listening intently to the presentation.
My presentation lasted 56 minutes. Not once did I loose connection, the audible was clear and in real time and the presentation went by without a hitch. Something I would struggle to do even from my home office.
The next day when I went visiting the dive centres in Dubai, everyone seemed more amazed by the fact that I had done the presentation from the plane rather than the content of the talk. Ah well, I will just have to up my game.
Having to try to tell someone this story 10 years ago would have been like trying to convince someone that unicorns existed. Not possible. And yet it worked and we have the technology to do it. No longer do we need to send a pigeon with a bit of paper strapped to its leg to deliver a message.
The diving industry has seen this revolution and entry into the digital age. PADI has all the core courses available to download to your mobile device onto your PADI Library. Your prospective customers could be 4000 miles away, 35 000 feet up in the air doing their Dive Theory, Knowledge reviews and exams, ready and prepared for the start of the course when they land.
Times have changed and our customers expect to have the latest technological offerings available to them. They want to have the opportunity to decide when, where and how they do their theoretical knowledge. Nothing is ever going to replace the need for an instructor in the swimming pool or open water, but by using the digital materials available to you, you can then spend more time in the water with a better prepared student, practicing the required motor skills and applying their theoretical knowledge.
I have found that quite often it is the Instructors that are resistant to change. They find that it is comforting to teach using the methods they were taught with. And then they use this as a reason that their customers would prefer the traditional paper and classroom methods for receiving lectures.
If you don’t offer your customers the full range of products that are available, they will seek out those dive centres that do. Maybe it’s time to move forward into the digital era?