The Millennials are coming!

Article written by John Kinsella

You can either run for cover or step up and take notice, but no matter what you do, the odds are that the majority of your dive business will be done with Millennials in the not too distant future. Born between 1980 and 2000, the Millennials are poised to become diving’s largest emerging market, especially for the dive industry and we have exactly what they’re looking for.

PADI University Program Channel Islands Shoot March 24-29, 2007

You have to be careful when you start applying sweeping assumptions to large groups of people. Every time I’ve researched “Millennials” I’ve come up against myth and discrepancy. “They all live at home sponging off their parents.” Not so apparently, the majority (nearly 60 percent) have their own homes (and don’t forget that many of them are still in their teens!).

But there are a few significant consistencies. Two of these should have PADI Pros paying attention: Millennials are concerned about their careers. They are receptive to becoming dive professionals and earning a living while doing something that they love. This generation appreciates how the PADI System is structured with recognition for each step they take.

When talking about diving to Millennials, it’s easy for PADI pros to highlight how each course builds towards a professional qualification. It’s simply a matter of taking the time to point out how the PADI System builds, seamlessly, from entry level right through to Divemaster and beyond. Make sure that these people know that earning a professional/vocational qualification is an extremely realistic goal and not a burdensome long-term project: The course they’re enjoying right now is part of that process (and may well qualify for college university credit). All they need to is take well-defined steps and enjoy the rewards and recognition they earn along the way.


Millennials are also likely to warm to PADI’s commitment to connected learning and social media. Millennials don’t just use social media – it’s an integrated part of their life. Mobile responsive websites and active communication via social media are mandatory. Instagram is a big one with this group, as well as Facebook and YouTube. These are not just ways to interact, fully 88 percent of Millennials get at least some news from Facebook according to the American Press Institute. Again PADI Pros, literally, have it made. From EVE to My PADI Club to learning in the cloud, there’s a PADI solution ready and waiting.

Take a look at the article on Emerging Markets in the 1st quarter The Undersea Journal for more detail on the Millennials (and some other significant emerging markets) and what some of your peers are doing to make sure that diving is at the top of their list.

How to Perfect Your Dive Briefings

Article by John Kinsella

“I’d have given you a shorter briefing, but I didn’t have the time”
Comprehensive, to the point, dive briefings take focused effort.


Sometimes little things pack a big punch. Consider the ubiquitous dive briefing. This common, short, presentation has a huge influence on a dive’s outcome and, especially in light of the Risk Management article in the 1st quarter 2017 The Undersea Journal, it’s a good idea to make sure that dive briefings get looked at, critiqued, and improved regularly.

The legal case mentioned in the UJ article hinged on a dive guide’s failure to include information on potential environmental conditions. Not mentioning the existence of these inherent, potential environmental conditions became a key factor in the court’s decision: The guide received the majority of the fault; in spite of the fact that the diver signed a release and made a simple procedural error.

So what do you include in a brief? A good start is a review of the Divemaster materials, particularly the slates. There are 10 points to cover:

1 – Dive site name
2 – Site description
3 – Your role
4 – Entry and exit techniques
5 – Dive procedures
6 – Emergency procedures
7 – Signal review
8 – Roster and buddy check
9 – Environmental orientation
10 – Predive safety check

Some of these are simple and self-explanatory, others are a bit more involved and overlap. For example, under site description, make sure to cover topography, points of interest, hazards, conditions, depth, compass headings, facilities, emergency equipment, etc. Without dwelling on the negative, cover hazards and conditions thoroughly. If, say, there are tidal currents at a particular site, mention them (and how to avoid or deal with them) even if you’re diving at slack water.


Some of these will blend in with dive procedures, especially if there are recommended procedures for dealing with specific local hazards or environmental conditions. Under dive procedures cover such topics as suggested course, how to avoid any problems that may occur due to site hazards and conditions, safety stops, air reserves, group control, etc. Many of these will vary from site to site.

Emergency procedures should deal with local protocols, separation, low on or out-of-air, diver recall procedures, surface signaling devices, and so on. Again, there’s no need for exhaustive scare mongering, but it’s vital to be comprehensive.

How do you get all this into a nice tight brief? Ironically, it takes some time to eliminate unnecessary technicality, jargon and detail, which is the surest way to kill a brief.

A great start is write this information down for each dive site you visit, not only so you have something in hand to make sure you don’t forget anything, but also because the process of writing it down is a great way to focus thinking and make sure nothing is forgotten. And there’s no better way to gather input from staff or clients than to hand them a copy of the briefing and welcome their feedback.

Brevity, relevance and impact matter hugely: take the time and make the effort to achieve them.

Teaching Tips – Emergency Weight Drop

The emergency weight drop skill was added to the revised PADI® Open Water Diver course to teach student divers to drop their weights exactly as they would in an emergency and experience the sudden buoyancy increase. It’s different from, and should not be confused with, the weight removal and replacement skill. Student divers should learn to discard weights at the surface without hesitation, which in an emergency is very beneficial and can greatly improve the situation. Here are a few tips for teaching this skill:


Tip 1 – How to not damage the pool or lose weights in open water

  • Drop weights over an insensitive or protected area
  • In a pool, use soft weights, place a mat on the pool bottom or tie a rope around the pocket-weight handle or weight belt and hold one end so you can catch the weight when dropped
  • In open water, tie a rope around the pocket-weight handle or weight belt and clip it to a buoy so that when dropped, the weight will stay attached to the buoy
  • Position a certified assistant underwater to catch the weights

Tip 2 – How to make it realistic

  • Demonstrate and encourage a quick pull and immediate release of weights
  • Do not have divers pull weight, then control where it’s dropped
  • Do not have divers hand you the weight
  • You may have divers check the area to make sure all is clear, however, separate this step from the actual weight drop skill

Tip 3 – How to conduct the skill

  • Position student diver in water too deep in which to stand either in confined water or open water
  • Have diver start with regulator in the mouth, empty BCD, floating at eye level and gently kicking as needed
  • Have diver release enough weight to feel positive buoyancy, which does not have to be all weight worn
  • Repeat skill as necessary until diver masters the quick pull and drop

The New & Improved PADI Business Academy


While PADI’s 50th Anniversary marked a renewed focus on ocean conservation and industry prosperity, PADI Business Academy (PBA) has recharged its efforts to meet the expanding needs of PADI Members worldwide. Now there are two options for business development, PADI Business Academy Lite and PADI Business Academy.

PBA Lite is a one-day, regionally specific business development seminar offered in more global regions than ever before. It overviews tactics to attract more nondivers and promote continuing education to existing divers, while staying engaged with clientele through the vast amount of marketing channels in today’s tech-forward society. This program is designed both for members who haven’t previously attended a PBA as well as those who have and simply need to refresh and update their business practices. Also, PBA Lite costs less than the full program.

The full PBA is still conducted over two-days, this year with a renewed focus on hands-on workshops and networking. It guides you through integrating industry-specific business strategies and tactics that can be used to achieve business goals.

2017 PADI Business Academy Lite (One Day) Schedule

Day Month Location
23 February Chicago, Illinois, USA – Before Our World Underwater
19 April Calgary, Alberta, Canada
02 June Seattle, Washington, USA
20 September Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
18 October Denver, Colorado, USA

2017 PADI Business Academy (Two Day) Schedule

Day Month Location
24-25 January Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
22-23 March Secaucus, New Jersey, USA – Before Beneath the Sea
05-06 April Houston, Texas, USA
03-04 May Rancho Santa Margarita, California, USA at PADI Regional Headquarters – Before the Scuba Show

To enroll for a PADI Business Academy 2016, please contact or call 800 729 7234 (US and Canada) or +1 949 858 7234, ext. 2356.

Why Survey Your Customers


Blog article by Megan Denny

As a teenager, you likely put a lot of time and effort into preparing for the SAT, ACT, HSC, A-levels, Abitur exam, O.W.L.’s, etc.  A high score on one of these exams can bring success in adulthood.

But how do you measure the aptitude of your business? By profitability, sure. Good online reviews are another quasi-indicator. But do you really know why customers value your business versus another dive shop? Or why people book a scuba vacation instead of, say, golf or skiing?

Knowing more about your customers will help you answer important questions like:

Can I raise prices?
Do I need a marketing person on staff?
Should I expand my travel offerings?

A customer survey is a cost-effective way to take the pulse of your business and prepare for the future. If you’re already sold on this idea, scroll down for sample questions.

Survey your current customers to find out what they like and expect from your business – the answers may surprise you. Connecting with new customers can help avoid negative reviews, and checking in with long-term customers has been shown to improve loyalty and profitability. Why?

  • A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is customer service-related rather than price or product related. (Bain & Company) 
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%.
    The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% (Marketing Metrics)
  • 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience (Oracle)

I once worked with a dive center that had recently hired a new employee, switched their rental line and moved to (what they thought was) a better location. Business drooped, but the owners couldn’t identify which factor caused the downturn. Unfortunately, they learned the hard way that it’s 5-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one. (Bain & Company)survey-monkey

How to Create a Customer Satisfaction Survey

STEP ONE: What do you want to know?

This may be the hardest question to answer. There’s probably a lot you want to know, but be mindful of survey fatigue. Numerous studies have shown that a five to seven question survey is ideal. If the survey includes more than ten questions, the response rate will drop off significantly.

Some things you can ask directly, such as: “How did you hear about us?” Others require some subtlety. You can’t straight-out ask, “Is it okay if we raise prices?” but there are ways to go about it. For example:

How would you rate the value of our classes (or dive gear, boat charter, etc)?
Excellent value
Too expensive

What are the top 3 things you look for in a dive shop?
Excellent online reputation (4-5 star average)
Friendly staff
Experienced instructors
Small class size (or small numbers on charter)
Low prices
Large gear selection
Caters to families
Supports technical diving
Other (include a text box for comments)

Do you shop with other dive retailers? (check all that apply)
Yes, locally
Yes, online
Only when travelling

In the question above, a high percentage of “No” and “Only when travelling” answers indicate a high level of loyalty, and an opportunity to raise prices. Similarly, if not many people check the “low prices” box in question number two above, you know customers are not price-sensitive.

As you construct the survey, imagine how you’ll ultimately use the data. For example, if you’re thinking about adding or expanding a dive travel program, don’t just ask, “Should we offer more dive trips?” If 80% of respondents answer yes, that’s great, but you don’t know what type of trips to offer (local, international, liveaboard, etc).

Similarly, “Where would you like to travel?” is not a great question. We’d all like to dive the Galapagos, but coming up with the money to get there is a different story. Instead, ask questions like:

How much do you typically spend on a ‘nice’ vacation?
$1000 or less
$1000 – $2500
$2500 – $5000
More than $5000

How frequently do you travel internationally for fun (not business)?
More than once a year
Once every few years
Rarely / Never



Survey Monkey’s Basic plan allows you to create a 10 question survey and collect up to 100 responses free. For US $26/month you can collect up to 1000 responses and make a longer survey.

Before you pay more, keep in mind that it may take a while to reach 100 responses. Only 10-20% of people who receive a survey actually respond. Also, we strongly discourage making your survey longer than 10 questions.

Other recommendations:
– Avoid questions that require a lengthy response.
– Use multiple choice questions with an optional box for comments.
– Make the survey anonymous.
– Don’t require respondents to answer every question, limit required questions to a maximum of two.

Below are some additional question ideas.

How did you hear about us?
Search engine
Online ad
Social media (Facebook, Instagram)
Review website (Yelp, TripAdvisor)
Recommended by someone I know
Drove by the store
Other (single-line text field)

What piece of dive equipment do you plan to purchase next?

What scuba course are you most interested in taking next?

In what areas have we done business with you? (Check all that apply)
Scuba student
Equipment repair
Equipment purchase
Dive trip

How often do you dive?
At least once a week
A few times a month
A few times a year
Once a year
Once every few years
No longer diving

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being very likely, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?
(add multi-line text box for optional comments)

Do you have any other comments, questions or concerns? Include your contact information if you would like us to follow up, or submit the survey anonymously and contact us at [email and phone number].
(multi-line text field)

Lastly, ask a few demographic questions such as diver-level and age. For example, if 80% indicated they had no interest in taking another scuba course, that might be shocking… unless you had a question about diver level and noticed 80% of the respondents were Divemasters or Instructors. Or perhaps you noticed 50% of respondents report they are no longer diving, but that same group are age 25-35 (and probably have young kids).

STEP THREE: Collect responses

Send out your survey by email, post on Facebook, and consider including a printed copy with student crewpaks. Include a short message explaining how long the survey will take to complete and a value statement.

For example:
“We value your feedback! Take our short, 5 question survey, all answers are anonymous.”

“Do you have 60 seconds to help us improve our business? Take our short survey. All feedback is anonymous.”

“A good diver is always learning. Help us improve our business and staff training by filling out this one-page survey”

STEP FOUR: Analyze and repeat

As your surveys roll in, start a list of action items and share with your staff. Be sure to respond to any concerns if customers choose to identify themselves.

Send out your survey annually and consider posting it on the contact us page of your website. You might also create a survey that goes out to every new customer.

Use the data a tool to guide your business: expand marketing efforts in channels that draw new business, and stop wasting money in areas that aren’t increasing profits. Discover whether your customers are looking to spend money on equipment or travel and position your business to satisfy their needs.

Thinking Like a Diver: Learning for Life

PADI Digital Underwater Photography Course

By John Kinsella

It’s easy to underestimate this: The skills and attitudes divers learn during the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course really can help them lead better lives overall.

The Thinking Like a Diver section, for example, encourages divers to think about what they’re doing before, during and after every Adventure Dive in the same way more experienced divers do. It focuses on principles such as gas management, situational awareness and buddy communications. It helps divers better understand how to improve their dives and manage risks.

It’s important stuff, and PADI Pros diligently help their charges “think like a diver” by discussing how it applies to each Adventure Dive. It helps the dive go smoothly; divers think through the dive in advance, dive the plan, and consider what went well (and what didn’t) after. It’s a great skill, and a great attitude, and it has applications far beyond the particular dive and scuba diving itself.

Make a point of thinking like a dive pro by taking a minute or two to relate how the knowledge, skills and attitudes developed during the Advanced Open Water Diver course apply to people’s daily lives. Show them that the approach and process they learn to use while planning the Deep dive is just as relevant to a hike up the side of a mountain or a first subway trip across a new city. Make a point of mentioning that what they get out of the Digital Underwater Imaging dive will apply to, and may even improve, every subsequent image they make, either under or above water.

It doesn’t take much. Even a brief mention that relates the immediate dive activity to a similar situation in a broader life context will add great value to your course and will get people thinking. It will help them realize that their investment in dive training has benefits they might not have realized. And you’ll find it’s a great way to get divers interested in the related Specialty Course too.

AOW: Search and Recovery Dive Helps People Find Themselves


By John Kinsella

We were waiting excitedly on the dock for the lead Course Director to arrive. We were a bunch of newly-trained OWSIs and this was a dive for our Search and Recovery Specialty Instructor course; we were looking forward to it after an intensive IDC together. This was quite the dive site for a search and recovery dive too. It was inside a marina in an area about the size of football pitch that had been cordoned off especially for our use. We had spent the last 15 minutes hypothesizing as to the actual bottom content: murder weapons and worse were the latest thoughts. One thing we all agreed was that there’d be a ton of miscellaneous rubbish down there.

As the CD walked down the gangway towards us, he wriggled his wedding ring from his hand and tossed it casually into the middle of the open water while explaining that he had so much confidence in us that he wasn’t worried about having to mention this to his wife.

Talk about an attention getter. I remember the moment in perfect clarity to this day. There was a collective gasp as we realized that we were now staring at the expanding rings that marked the last know location of the first object we were to recover that day.

In my view, the Search and Recovery Adventure Dive and Specialty are right up there with Rescue Diver as the most rewarding courses in the PADI System. There’s something bordering on pure magic when divers spot a long lost object underwater and bring it to the surface. Successful search and recovery takes discipline, effort and careful planning in addition to solid dive skills.

Much of this comes in handy other times too. Lost your keys? Figure out where you last saw them and start there. Search each area you look thoroughly so you don’t have to search it again. Have you more than one searcher? Divide up the search areas. It’s basically the same approach we took that day to finding the wedding ring in the marina.

Make sure your Advanced Open Water Divers get to know the rewards of Search and Recovery Diving, in addition to enjoying some rewarding diving, they’ll build skills that will stay with them forever. And find the ring we did, only to discover it was a cheap plastic substitute.