As I mentioned in my March 2020 column (“Never stop training… together”), I didn’t even touch a sprayer the first three months I began working in pest control — back in 1984.
Each day I came to work, I plunked down in a tiny kitchenette and watched video after video about our craft. I even listened to a few audio 8-tracks. You’d think I’d be bored with it after a few hours, but to me, it was enthralling. I actually ran through the pest control company’s entire collection of videos and tapes, and the manager had to pull more from other branches.
Of course, books and testing were part of my training, too. But what I always enjoyed most was popping in that huge VHS tape and just sort of inserting myself into what they were doing. To me, it was the next best thing to being there.
Fast-forward (no pun intended) 37 years, and virtual training is more abundant now than at any time before. With a few clicks, you can dial in almost any pest control subject and have multiple streams of information to view. These are true experts sharing wisdom — really learned people teaching things that may otherwise take you years to learn on your own.
There are webinars, podcasts, training sites, YouTube videos, blogs and even my own Facebook group, PestCemetery.com. In that place alone, more than 11,000 people chime in all day, every day. So many folks are willing to share; so many people are giving information you might otherwise never come across. It’s all now so easily attained from the comfort of your own couch at home. Of course, you do need to weed through the few knuckleheads taking out a wasp nest with a firecracker — but all in all, it’s an amazing time to be in our industry.
With the days of in-person meetings in serious question, what exactly are we giving up? Just where does virtual training fall short?
For me and many others I know, we miss the chance to catch up at least once a year with our friendly, crosstown competitors. We miss meeting with vendors eagerly giving out samples, and the chance to actually see first-hand that sprayer or insecticide we had our eye on for a while.
Sometimes, an esteemed presenter comes along at an event, and it’s a bit like a rock star was there that day as pest management professionals ask for autographs and take selfies standing next to a pest control legend. Videos and online training can only take this so far, no matter how sophisticated they may be. And although virtual training is an exciting new chapter in our industry’s story, that’s a tough one to leave behind.
That said, virtual training is not going away anytime soon. Hey, at least with today’s technology, we don’t have to be reminded at the end of each session to please be kind and rewind.
Tips from the Pest Cemetery crew
“Sure, virtual training is convenient and allows us to hold training classes under certain conditions. However, it can never replace the advantages of live, in-person events, where interaction between the attendees and the presenter are a valuable portion of the experience.”
— Paul Bello, ACE, BCE, President, PJB Pest Consulting and Education, Alpharetta, Ga.
“When you attend a live training event, you have mentally and physically carved out and dedicated that time for learning, human interaction and industry connections. When you attend a virtual training event, you mentally think you’ve done the same, but in reality, all you’ve done is squeezed one more thing into your already-packed day.”
— Natalie Castillo, Owner, AmeriChem Lawn & Pest Control, Vero Beach, Fla.
“I hope virtual training does not become the norm. You don’t learn as much in virtual meetings as you do in the hallways and bars after the in-person meetings. In virtual meetings, you also run the risk of getting talked over and not getting your questions answered.”
— Tim Leatherman, President, Perfection Pest Control, Union, Ky.
“With current technology, virtual training has a valuable place. But we also must not allow it to take over and separate our industry.”
— David Poplin, ACE, President, Legion Pest Management, Murrieta, Calif.