Webinars are web-based seminars (web + seminar = webinar). Webinars allow anyone with a computer/tablet and an internet connection to attend a class, presentation, lecture, workshop, etc.
Consider the problems that locksmiths typically encounter when seeking continuing education related to the trade:
- The opportunities might not exist within a reasonable vicinity of their home and/or office.
- They may not be able to justify costs associated with traveling to a class or classes.
- They may not be able to leave their business in order to pursue continuing education.
No matter the case, webinars are one solution available to potentially solve these problems and provide locksmiths with continuing education opportunities.
There are great benefits associated with the use of webinars for continuing education. They include:
- Cost: With no venue to rent, no travel or lodging costs to cover, etc., webinars are inherently the most cost-effective instructor-led education option available to locksmiths.
- Availability: Again, webinars are available to anyone with a computer/tablet and an internet connection. Whether you’re in Bangor, Maine or Seattle, Washington, you’re capable of attending the same class at the same time. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
- Efficiency: Webinars are generally shorter in duration than their in-person counterparts, typically lasting between 1-3 hours. It is also not uncommon for webinars to be conducted on weeknights outside of normal business hours, such as between 6 and 8 PM. Each characteristic of webinars would reduce the impact of continuing education on an attendee’s schedule.
Historical and Modern Day Locksmith Webinars
In 2011 ALOA tried their hand with webinars. From an attendee’s perspective, I considered it a resounding success. I attended 3 classes offered and I recall that each one was filled to capacity; caps being set at either 25 or 35 attendees per class. Additionally, multiple offerings of the same class were offered which mean that, at the very least, the demand was there from the start.
ALOA is not the only one in the industry to try their hand at webinars however. ASSA ABLOY currently offers 58 online classes (essentially webinars) via their ASSA ABLOY Academy which are, by all indications, very popular. Other manufacturers, such as CDVI, have offered webinars for product training in recent years as well. Recently, Wayne Winton has offered and self-hosted multiple webinars via WaynesLockShop.com. Having attended all of the aforementioned webinars, I can state unequivocally they have been well-attended and well-received, indicating that webinars are still viable and desired.
From ALOA’s standpoint there are two very favorable benefits: revenue and reputation.
First, webinars would result in additional revenue for the association. Using historical metrics (25-35 attendees at $35 each), the Association stands to generate $875 – $1225 in revenue with each webinar. I am not privy to ALOA’s costs associated with conducting webinars but typical webinar “software” currently runs ~$40 a month for unlimited classes, typically capped at 25 attendees per class. Coupled with typical administrative costs and instructor fees, I find it hard to believe that ALOA couldn’t make money with each webinar offered.
Second, if ALOA were to re-take a proactive stance towards making education available online via webinars then that certainly would improve their reputation by way of increased membership benefits.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of webinars is that they undermine in-person classes. The reasoning behind this criticism is that since you’re making education cheaper and more ubiquitous, there will be a reduced demand for in-person classes, which could have larger underlying effects such as reduced ALOA Convention attendance. Wayne Winton offered a great rebuttal to this. To paraphrase, Wayne says that since nothing can ever realistically compete with hands-on classes and training, it’s not really a threat. He’s absolutely right.
Nevertheless, if we conceded this argument – that webinars undermine in-person classes – a viable solution would be to offer topics/subjects that aren’t typically offered by in-person classes or utilize niche topics that would never be offered by in-person class. By adopting this strategy you would eliminate any possibility of competition, indirect or not.
Additionally, a solid argument could be made that even if you did cross-over topics, webinars could act as excellent “teasers” for an in-person class. If someone is able to get a cursory overview of a topic, such as frame removal and installation, they may be more apt to take an in-person class because they’ve seen that the subject/topic isn’t that daunting. Some people would rather $25-35 for a webinar on frame removal and installation to get a “taste” of things before spending $285 – $435 to attend an in-person class, plus all other associated transportation and lodging costs. In other words, webinars could feasibly act as a promotional tool for in-person classes.