From Aftermarket Matters
LAKEWOOD, Wash.—The safety of employees and attendees were top priority when ASA Northwest President/Executive Director Jeff Lovell and its board of directors decided to make the association’s annual Automotive Training Expo (ATE) a virtual event for this year.
“We worked on it ‘day and night’ for the two months leading up to ATE Virtual 2020,” Lovell told Aftermarket Matters Weekly. “Given the short amount of time we had to work on it and market the event, we were still able to have 200 people register. We’ve learned a lot about how to leverage social media.”
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ATE, like many other events during the pandemic, went virtual this year in August to provide training for shop owners, managers and technicians. The annual event had been postponed from its traditional March scheduling due to Covid-19.
While Lovell was quick to say that there’s nothing like an in-person event where people can network, visit exhibitor booths and experience a live ATE, he added that there were benefits to going virtual.
Traditionally, ATE classes sell out and are limited by room capacity, though the virtual presentations allowed for up to 1,000 attendees each class.
“That’s the magic of going virtual,” he said, adding that participants still received classroom materials and handouts, as well as the ability to view recordings of the sessions three weeks post event.
CTI-WTI and Advance Professional were instrumental in helping develop and execute the virtual training event, Lovell said. “We couldn’t have done it without them — and WORLDPAC powered the whole event. All the technology came through without any glitches. A special thanks to Dave Parkhurst, owner of GreenHaven Interactive, as well, who did a great job for us on web design and programming. We really had to quickly change gears.
“Everyone had a steep learning curve and we all pulled through. My advice to other associations considering a virtual event is to surround themselves with great technical people.”
ATE featured eight three-hour classes per day for a total of 32 for the event. Each class had a break halfway through each session. “It can be tough to sit in front of a computer for long stretches, so our 30-minute breaks were critical in keeping everyone fresh and attentive — it gave everyone a little window,” he said.
The half-hour breaks also featured two- to three-minute videos from all sponsors that informed attendees of their businesses and products.
ATE Virtual event and training sponsors included Advance Professional, aeswave.com, Automotive Training Institute (ATI), Autoshop Solutions, Benefit Solutions NW, BOLT ON Technology, CompuTrek, CTI/WTI, Educational Seminars Institute (ESI), EnviroStars, GreenHaven Interactive, Hunter Engineering Company, Kukui, Motor Age Training, Northwest Tire Dealers Association, Opus IVS by Autologic, Repair PAL, RLO Training, and Standard Motor Products.
“This new technology is here to stay and, generally speaking, we’re doing things now as an association that brings more value to membership, from meetings to weekly training offerings that are accessible to everyone without demanding travel.
“We’ve learned some valuable lessons — and we look forward to the next ATE if it goes virtual, too.”