High-Tech Training

By Tim Diering

In this brave new world of technology, you now have the opportunity to streamline the training process in a way that not only can give a camp more qualified counselors and staff, but also can make prospective parents take notice of your camp in a more favorable way.

Let’s approach these two ideas separately.

A Web site is not only for pictures and words anymore. In fact, with the technology available these days, a Web site can become the engine for year-long training, conferences and news. In this piece, let’s consider one of the basic tools and how you might be able to make it work for training staff.

Using Webinars
As the name implies, a webinar is simply a seminar presented on the Web. Your webinars can be about anything--new purchases, news updates, etc. It is a great way to stay in touch with new and returning staff. But one of the most efficient ways to use a webinar is training sessions. And because of space, I will discuss one particular type of training session--safety.

Webinars For Camp Safety Training
Take a walk with staff through the grounds of the camp via a webinar, giving them a refresher on the layout and landscape. This also provides an opportunity to point out possible safety issues that they need to remain aware of; discussion of any possible safety lapses that may have occurred in the previous season; review of camp safety policy; as well as an update on any steps that have been taken to make the camp safer for the coming season.

First-Aid Training
Giving staff and counselors access to online first-aid training is a great way to build confidence. This kind of webinar can be divided into several short sessions to make information easier to absorb. It is also a good idea to work with a local Red Cross chapter in putting this webinar together, to see if first-aid certification is available for staffers who attend.

If a camp includes a water activity on a lake or swimming pool, making sure that staff is up to grade on CPR techniques is very important. This may be part of the basic first-aid webinar, but in Red Cross training, CPR is often a separate certification. While staff will not be able to have actual hands-on training in resuscitating Annie (the lifelike mannequin stand-in for CPR trainees), check with the Red Cross to see if a webinar might qualify for certification.

Safety Procedures
Go over with staff the proper procedures to follow in the event of an accident. Who do they contact? Where do they bring the injured person? What’s the easiest way to call 911?

Emergencies And Fires
Review exactly what you want staff to do in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Go over the different types of fires, and the specific types of fire extinguishers needed to put out a fire safely (using a liquid fire extinguisher on a kitchen grease fire is bad). Even more importantly, instill in staff the art and necessity of fire prevention.

Tips For Successful Webinars
Keep it simple. One idea per video is all you need. Resist the temptation to go off on tangents, no matter how much you think the staff needs to know.

* Work from a script. The best way to guarantee that you’ll lose audience interest is to work off-the-cuff when presenting this information. To be effective, everything needs to be presented in a straightforward, logical way--speaking extemporaneously is a great way to ensure that never happens.

* Organize videos by category--make them easily accessible on a special staff-only page of the Web site.

Keeping Staff Accountable
There is no reason to have this information available if no one is going to use it. But one way to ensure that new and returning counselors go online to use these webinars is to have review quizzes at the end of each training unit (to get Red Cross certification, these tests are mandatory).

A webinar module can be built so that you can keep track as staffers sign onto each session, as well as see who has taken the review quiz and how they did for each one. You can make these webinars and reviews mandatory by letting everyone know that they may not be able to start if they do not finish each session; that decision is up to you. If you’re serious about using the Web to streamline training and make the pre-opening weeks smoother and less hectic, it is a good idea to make these trainings a requirement for summer employment.

The Two Biggest Reasons For Webinar Training
Reason number one--easy pre-opening weeks. Knowing that staff is up to par on all the safety issues of the camp, with online proof that each member has passed important reviews of the information, has to go a long way to ease the headaches before opening day. You’ll save precious time if every staffer has gone online and passed each test. Plus, you’ll have a good idea of how serious first-time counselors are about your camp before the season starts.

The BIG reason to use webinar training--marketing. Did you think that we were going to get through an entire article without mentioning the “M” word? How could you?

The number one thing that almost all parents want in a summer camp is safety. They are entrusting their children to you for a number of weeks; they need to know that they will be safe while in your charge. And one of the best ways to show parents that the camp is taking safety seriously is through these online training sessions.

If you have been reading my articles regularly over the years, you recognize that this is really just the second part of what we have always called the “two-pronged approach” to marketing. While it’s necessary to excite the kids with a thrilling and visually compelling Web site, you also have to reassure parents that you take your responsibilities seriously.

Parents of a prospective camper are going to be looking at many different camps before choosing the one they feel is right for their child. They’re going to read many brochures, and visit several Web sites. While the kids are digging the pictures of the rock-climbing walls, the skate park and the archery range, the parents have only one thing on their minds: is this place safe for our kid?

So, you have parents looking over camp after camp, trying to choose the right one … with that safety question repeating in the back of their minds. They see pictures of infirmaries, and that they are clean. They read bios of camp nurses and directors, who seem like nice people.

And then they come to your Web site, with safety webinars … and they see that not only do you have a nice camp, but the entire staff has been pre-qualified in all matters of safety and health--even before the season starts. “Wow,” they think, “these people take safety seriously.” You’ve addressed the issue of safety better than all the other camps the parents have looked at--and you’ve won the battle.

With online webinars and review tests, you can prove to prospective parents that you do indeed take safety seriously. If you want, give them access to an overview page that describes each training session, and show that all counselors have passed the safety tests.

Of course, none of this replaces actual, hands-on, first-person training. But with the practical use of online training, you can shorten the time it takes for everyone to get up to speed before opening week--and create a unique way to separate your camp from all the others in the mind of parents.

Tim Diering is the Vice President of Marketing at Summer Camp Design, a full-service marketing and design firm dedicated to creating cost-effective marketing and design solutions for summer camps. He can be reached at (800) 957-7175, or at tim@summercampdesign.com or visit www.summercampdesign.com.