Archive for the 'Associations' Category

09
Feb
16

Coming soon to association learning: gamified learning and microcredentials

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, co-founders of Tagoras

Tagoras recently released its much-anticipated 2016 Association Learning + Technology Report, which contains a wealth of information about associations’ efforts to incorporate technology into their educational programs and platforms.

We know the educational landscape is changing as associations adapt to their members’ learning needs and habits. In fact, almost 90 percent of the nearly 200 associations that responded to Tagoras’ survey reported offering technology-enabled or technology-enhanced education for their members.

How?

Webinars continue to be the No. 1 technological learning tool, followed by online learning programs, such as tutorials or presentations.

But some new types of learning are also emerging: massive open online courses, flipped classes, gamified learning, microcredentials and microlearning, which has the highest rate of adoption.

Other key takeaways from the report:

  • Social media – Not surprisingly, associations use YouTube for education. But Twitter ranks a close second followed by LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Mobile learning – About 41 percent of associations that use technology for learning provide a mobile version of their content. In addition, in the next year, 26 percent plan to go mobile.
  • Live streaming – Not many associations offer virtual conferences, but instead nearly 30 percent said they live stream events.
  • Learning Management Systems – A LMS is the second most popular technology platform. In fact, the percentage of LMS users increased from 51 percent in 2013 to 60 percent in 2015.
  • Data – Despite a growing use in technology, less than one-fifth of respondents said they always use data to decide which learning platforms to use for future educational opportunities.
  • Instructional design – More than 50 percent of associations employ instructional designers.
  • Chief Learning Officer – About 40 percent of respondents said someone within their organization holds a title that incorporates the word “learning.”
  • Knowledge transfer – More than 30 percent of associations reported using technology to sustain learning after the completion of an educational product or service.
  • Credentialing – Across the board, credentialing is becoming increasingly important for education. In fact, 68 percent of associations provide education to support a credential required in their field.

internet-315799_1280Blending technology and learning seems to make business sense for associations. More than half of those surveyed have seen an increase in revenue from their educational offerings. In addition, the associations that employ a Chief Learning Officer, or someone with a similar title, net more revenue from their educational offerings than those that don’t. Read: Credibility counts.

All this said, cost is still a top concern among associations. Just more than 50 percent of respondents said they’re satisfied with the cost of creating educational offerings and the cost of employing staff to develop and execute them.

Somewhat disappointing: Only 18 percent of associations that use technology think they’re successful.

“Technology has changed learning irrevocably, and the rate of change isn’t likely to slow,” Tagoras said. “This creates a clear opportunity for technology to transition into a more significant, more strategic part of the mix of education and professional development associations provide to members.”

As this happens, Tagoras predicts:

  • Growth in implementation of learning platforms and their integration with other key systems, like association management systems
  • A continued focus on professional instructional design to help ensure educational products are effective
  • An increase in competition that will, in turn, drive experimentation as associations look at how best to deliver more value
  • The professionalization of the education function overall and the growth of roles like chief learning officer

Aligning with Event Garde’s tagline, Learn.Network.Transfer, look for blog posts throughout the next few months that break down specific elements of Tagoras’ report.

31
Jan
16

Bonus Content – Event Garde e-news – February edition

 

Elyse

Elyse Kopietz, director of communications, marketing and events, Michigan Manufacturers Association

Q & A with Elyse Kopietz, director of communications, marketing and events, Michigan Manufacturers Association

Q:  It’s February…the month of love, candy hearts, chocolate and other sweet treats. So, if you could pick a special valentine, who would it be and why?

A: My children fill my life with love, sweetness and excitement. Greyson (age 8), Kinsley (age 7) and Arlo (age 5) have changed my world and make me a better person every day. I am sure there will come a time when they don’t draw me pictures and sing me songs, but for now, I’m going to hold tight to these moments and soak them up on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.

Q: If your friends had to give you a nickname, what would it be, and why?
A: There has been more than a time or two that I’ve been called a “firecracker!” Full of energy, a spark for innovation and the courage to be bold and take risks are a few of my stand out characteristics that make me a firecracker!

Q: Learn: How do you learn best? In a coffee shop with lots of noise or in a quiet, library-like setting?
A: To learn, take in new information and consider its impact I need to have both. Headphones help me to tune out the noise, but an active atmosphere gives me the opportunity to sit back and people watch while taking a study break and reflecting. Anytime I am able to add a delicious caramel latte into my study routine it is a definite bonus!

Q: Network: Some people are wallflowers while others are natural networkers. Which are you (or are you in the middle)?
A: For those who don’t me, I come across incredibly outgoing and ready to pounce into any networking situation with a smile. Those who know me know that sometimes it takes effort to come across as outgoing and confident. Entering a group of unknown people can be intimidating and there are times when I have to prepare, get excited and think of engaging conversation starters.

Q: Transfer: Let’s say you just attended a certification course. What would be your first step in applying what you learned?
A: Currently, I am studying to take the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam in May. What I am enjoying most about this process is finding opportunities to apply what I am learning as I go. I find learning new things incredibly exciting. For me, it is important to look at what I can apply right now, what should be part of a longer-term strategy and what I want to explore further.

19
Jan
16

Cut through communication clutter

home-gloryAs a writer and professional communicator, nothing (O.K., well, not very much) is more frustrating than people who can’t communicate. Or even worse yet, companies. Inconsistent messaging drives me nuts.

Rant over.

But seriously…communication is a hard gig for most companies, especially with the advent of social media. Communication is everywhere.

So it’s not really a surprise that associations continue to struggle with effective communication, according to Naylor’s 2015 communication benchmarking study.

While associations have made headway in navigating communication chaos, only 6 percent of the more than 700 associations surveyed reported they have a fully integrated communications strategy.

Perhaps more problematic, however, is that very few associations employ social, mobile or video strategy.

All this said, there’s good news: Associations realize they need to do a better job – starting with what they have. For example, if given a budget increase, more than one-third of respondents said they’d develop a mobile strategy while another one-third said they would pour resources into social media.

indexMore than one-half of respondents have optimized their websites for mobile, while more than one-third have done so for newsletters and blogs for mobile. And it seems more associations are connecting with members on social media.

But let’s face it. Without content, communication efforts are null. It’s hard to know what audiences want, so let’s trust Naylor.

According to its survey, in 2015 respondents chose best practices and how-tos as the most important topics. Second and third: professional development and industry trends. That’s changed from 2014, in which survey participants ranked lobbying/advocacy as most important. So maybe this is why 58 percent of those surveyed say members ignore at least half the communications they receive.

At a glance from the report:

  • 41.7 percent of associations feel understaffed overall
  • 43.5 percent feel their publishing/content creation teams are understaffed
  • 43.6 percent feel their social media teams are understaffed

“To their credit, associations are working hard to shed their stereotype as overly cautious, slow-moving, bureaucratic organizations,” Naylor said. “They have made significant strides in optimizing their websites and publications for mobile, and in offering members a wide variety of streaming video content, mobile apps and social media outlets. But, there is a big disconnect between associations’ willingness to try new forms of communication and their willingness to put a viable strategy behind those channels, much less staff them adequately, support them financially and measure them aggressively.”

Now that we’ve identified the communication challenges, what do we do about it? How do we transfer the knowledge we’ve learned?

Ask-a-Question-photoNaylor has some suggestions.

  • To build better content and greater engagement, you must start by asking what they want and why. Create a survey and ask your members, for example, whether they prefer digital or print communications – and why.
  • Take a closer look at who your stakeholders are and what they are telling you — and what they’re not — to uncover areas for improvement and set your goals. Take into account all audiences – staff, advertisers and members. Looking at membership demographics can provide insight into content consumption – Which publications are your competitors?
  • If you don’t have a social media strategy, get one. Don’t create a Facebook account just because. Instead, use your survey data to determine topics that lend themselves well to social media and then determine how, and through which platforms, your audiences want to learn.
  • When it comes to your digital communications, make every message count. In other words, integrate content and make messaging consistent. Start with subject lines for emails and e-newsletters. Make them catchy, but then, once they click, what will readers find? If people opt out, find out why.
  • Stop under-utilizing video. Case in point: Event Garde started incorporating video into our e-newsletters a few months ago. Continuing education, event memorialization, live streaming and integration opportunities make video an incredibly viable communication tool.
  • Designate an ambassador of integration. Establish someone who can liaise between all departments and audiences to make sure content is integrated and on message.
  • Review available communication vehicles and consider how much more powerful a message can be if it’s repurposed across different channels. Think about what can enhance current content (i.e. video). Or repurpose your conference program book and reword it for social media.
  • Make sure your content and communication vehicles are ready for consumption on the go. As part of your communications audit, ask your IT staff to analyze how mobile-friendly your websites, blogs and e-newsletters truly are.
  • Don’t wait to measure—incorporate it as an everyday practice. Remember: Data are good. Measure early and often, and chart how your different communication vehicles are performing so you’ll know what’s working best.
  • Track your results, and if you didn’t perform well in a certain area, ask for help. If you discover after analyzing data that you can’t give members what they need, this makes a good argument for boosting staff and budget.

“As we said in our 2014 recommendations, avoid ‘shiny-object syndrome’ and the temptation to be all things to all people,” Naylor said. “Consider how relatively simple a communications strategy can be with a Take AIM approach. Gather member feedback, deliver great content, monitor results, and watch engagement levels rise.”

12
Jan
16

What will 2016 bring for associations?

2016-vpisIt’s a new year. New predictions. New trends. New goals. New successes.

From memberships to learning to partnerships, software and services provider Abila just released its predictions for associations in 2016.

Of special interest? Learning and partnerships. (Note our new tagline – Learn. Network. Transfer.)

The demand for knowledge will continue to grow this year, specifically the focus on certification programs. In fact, Abila predicts certification revenue will surpass membership revenue in 2016.

“One of the most valuable resources you have is your association’s e-learning content,” Abila wrote in its whitepaper. “For many members, certification has greater perceived value and affords a significant career edge that mere membership can’t provide. This is particularly true for your millennial members who will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2020.”

As further evidence, according to Associations Trends’ TRENDS 2015 Report, about two-thirds of survey respondents receive less than half their revenue from dues.

partnershipAt the same time, Abila predicts an increase partnerships. As the association industry continues to evolve, community engagement and networking among industry leaders will be key to success, which could include sharing of resources. So, will there be an uptick in swapping of online materials and open source documents? Maybe.

“Your association should look closely at similarly aligned organizations – regionally, nationally and internationally – to forge alliances for greater visibility and awareness,” Abila wrote. “All avenues, channels and opportunities should be explored to connect with potential new members and customers and generate revenue.”

This could mean partnerships between nonprofits and forprofits. Why? Such partnerships could offer new revenue streams and raise an organization’s profile on social media and among professional and personal networks.

So we’ve covered learning and networking. What about transfer?

Let’s say your staff completes a certification program or engages in e-learning. Or it learns how to better network.

How do staff members apply this newfound knowledge?

It’s about rethinking association management systems, Abila says.

Chalkboard - Strategy

As 2016 progresses, associations will increasingly use AMS for strategy – not just tactics. Mining the system for specific member information will allow associations to personalize customer experiences, which could very well include new networking and learning platforms.

“2016 will be a year in which many associations will take a deeper look at membership and the entire membership experience to better understand when and how to engage,” said Amanda Myers, senior product marketing manager for Abila. “Many organizations will also look more closely at revenue channels and partnerships as hybrid membership models continue to emerge, revenue from certification programs grows and associations will form new and different partnerships. The AMS will also re-emerge as a key piece of technology and play a far more strategic role.”

Do you have predictions to share? Think new trends will surface this year? Share your comments below!

02
Jan
16

Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – January edition

Adrienne Segundo

Adrienne Segundo, chairman/COO, Limitless Association Solution Resource, LLC

Q & A with Adrienne Segundo, credentialing specialist, chairman/COO, Limitless Association Solution Resource, LLC

Q: How do you plan to kick off 2016?
A: Well, ideally it would be with a vodka martini in hand; however, that will have to wait until the ASAE Great Ideas Conference in March! All kidding aside, on a personal note, I plan to purge more and more material items while offering my family more experiences. As each day goes by, I cherish special moments and memories as opposed to the latest and greatest material items that end up being donated for lack of practical use. On a professional note, I hope to continue to grow my business, Limitless ASR, and the relationships with our clients and partners.

Q: What personal and professional goals would you like to accomplish this year?
A: Ah, the age old question for the new year. Shall I say more gym time? Actually, I will continue my gym time while incorporating more family time through family travel, volunteering at my children’s school, baking and cooking more with the kids and more adult date nights with my husband. Professionally, I would like to volunteer more with my state and national SAEs, join more SAEs and add more speaking engagements to my year.

Q: If you had to pick a song that best sums up your life so far, what would it be?
A: Neil Young’s “Walk with Me.” My favorite lyric is, “If you just walk with me and let me walk with you; I am on this journey; I don’t want to walk alone.” This song defines me because it walks you through the emotion I have in my faith, my family and my professional life. We all need someone to take us through life’s journeys personally and professionally. It’s a privilege to guide and be guided while sharing life experiences and growing as one with those you love, those with whom you work or those with whom you serve on a volunteer basis. Life is too short not to share with others.

Q: You’re walking along and you see two paths: one that’s well traveled and one that seems to be relatively untouched. Which do you take…and why?
A: Definitely the road less traveled. It has been my experience that the road traveled may seem to be the easiest since it has safely taken many travelers to their destination. However, those travelers have also taken the majority of the opportunity along the way. So the best opportunity is on the road less traveled, plus you chart the course as the road expands. Hence, Limitless was founded as a full-service association management company, yet the model quickly evolved to take a detour from the road well traveled to the road less traveled. We began to focus on the credentialing piece – something only a handful of companies currently does. We now have clients ranging from stand-alone associations to association management companies. So the road less traveled is not only just my choice, but has always been my preference.

Q: If you had once piece of advice to tell your teenage self, what would it be?
A: Never miss an opportunity to help someone, regardless of what may be offered to you. First and foremost, stick with people who are loyal to you and enrich their lives as much as you can. Enjoy every moment with your loved ones as tomorrow is never promised to anyone…but most importantly, hold on tight because this is going to be the best ride of your life!

30
Nov
15

Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – December edition

Aaron new photo

Aaron Wolowiec, founder and president, Event Garde

Q & A with Aaron Wolowiec, founder and president of Event Garde

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Event Garde’s four-year anniversary, this month’s Event Garde-ian of the Month is Aaron Wolowiec.

Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts with us. As we go into 2016, we’d like to know what you think… how are we doing? Are we providing you with helpful resources? What would you like to learn? Please complete the brief survey by Dec. 8 and you could win some Event Garde schwag!

Q: As the year winds down, and you reflect on the successes of Event Garde, of what are you most proud?
A: As I look ahead to our fourth anniversary (Dec. 8), I’m most proud of the brand we’ve built (and continue to build). Just four short years ago Event Garde was nothing more than a seedling. It didn’t even seem real. With time, hard work and dedication, we’ve watched it grow and bloom. Today, its sturdy roots within the association community represent an established place where people naturally congregate for professional development advice and support. I am grateful every day for the opportunity I’ve been given to do the work I love with people I respect.

Q: What one piece of advice would you share with your colleagues?
A: Struggle. But not necessarily to sign the next client or to cash the next paycheck. Struggle to find balance between work and everything else. Remember to routinely put time and energy into the things that mean the most to you: family, friends, health and hobbies. You’ll come to regret it if you don’t.

Q: What do you think is Event Garde’s biggest strength?
A: Our commitment. Our commitment to people and relationships. We plan events and programs with an emphasis on providing networking environments and opportunities for program attendees and participants. And individually, we belong to networks and organizations that enhance our personal and professional goals. Our commitment to learning and professional development.  We are educators and we are educated. As responsible contributors to our industry, we participate in professional development while also planning it. And finally our commitment to learning transfer. We realize the needs and wants of an industry that experiences ups and downs and use our collective and individual experiences and knowledge to foster performance improvement.

Q: What’s in store for Event Garde for 2016?
A: A major theme for the Event Garde team in 2016 will be collaboration. We are partnering with a number of leading industry experts both to create new content and to deliver exceptional client deliverables and experiences.

Q: And, finally, how will you be celebrating the holidays?
A: I’ll be celebrating the holidays in and around my new home in Kalamazoo with family and friends — and painters. Not only is every weekend already booked up with holiday parties and gatherings, but the entire inside of my home will be painted later this month, as well.

24
Nov
15

Time to cut the fat

cutting-fat-thumb18752006Like most businesses, associations have a lot of bulk. Maybe that’s because it’s hard to trim the fat.

That said, eliminating wasted efforts and minimizing defects can lead to new products and innovations, according to a new whitepaper by Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, and Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, director of information systems for National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

From the whitepaper: “Is there a process that can help associations achieve our missions, stay in business, find problems worth solving and make a real and meaningful difference for our members, achieving the sustainable, dynamic impact we seek? Your authors would argue that there is: lean startup methodology, as most fully developed and articulated by Eric Ries in his 2011 book ‘The Lean Startup.’”

Elizabeth Engel

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

I asked Engel to break it down for us, and following is our Q & A. Thanks to Engel for her contribution!

Q: How would you simply explain lean startup methodology?
A: Lean startup is an innovation system developed by Eric Ries that came out of his experiences with lean process improvement, which is all about reducing waste and defects and working more efficiently and effectively. Ries had an insight: It doesn’t matter how quickly you’re moving if you’re headed in the wrong direction.

Lean startup methodology is designed to help make sure you’re going the right way and going there quickly and efficiently.

Q: Why is it important?
A: To quote Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, my co-author, “There’s no bigger waste than investing resources working on the wrong thing.”

Lean startup methodology has been being used not just in startups, but also in more conventional for-profit business, for several years. And that makes it easy for associations to dismiss: “We aren’t a startup – or even a for-profit. This isn’t for us.”

Guillermo and I would argue that associations share a key characteristic with startups: tight resources (and by that, we mean human as well as financial resources). Those perpetually tight resources are precisely why this methodology is so useful for our community.

Q: How do you think associations, specifically, could benefit from practicing this methodology?
A: In associations, decision-making is often driven by anecdotes, untested assumptions and the HIPO (highest income/influence person’s opinion). “One of our board members talked to a member who said she wants X so therefore everyone must want X and therefore we have to go build X immediately.”

But are you sure you’re solving a real problem that’s important to at least one of your key audiences, in a way that’s useful and makes sense to them – and that they’re willing to pay?

Guerimallo

Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, director of information systems for National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

That very situation was what sparked Guillermo’s interest in lean startup methodology. His association, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, is one of the case studies in the whitepaper, and he relates two stories: one of a project that took place before NCARB starting using lean startup that was NOT the right problem, the right audience or the right solution; the second of a project after NCARB “saw the light” that was far more successful for them.

Q: Walk me through the build-measure-learn cycle…what’s involved?
A: The build-measure-learn cycle is the core of the methodology.

In lean startup, you build first. That means you’re trying to get the Minimum Viable Product (that is, the minimum version of the product you can build with the smallest investment of resources and effort that would still be real enough to let you start testing your assumptions) out to your audience as quickly as possible. No theorizing or speculating, no “stealth mode,” no working for two years on creating the absolute perfect thing (that you then discover no one wants). You build a prototype and get people using it and offering feedback as quickly as you can and with as small an investment of resources as possible.

Next, you measure. You’ve identified a problem you think might be worth solving, and you have a hypothesis about what the right solution might be. Now you have to test whether your hypothesis is correct. You have to identify and track a few key measures that will prove – or disprove – your theory.

That testing leads to learning. Did you identify something that’s a real and important problem? Are you targeting your solution at the right audience? Does your solution work and make sense for them, at a price they’re willing to pay?

The only way to reliably answer those questions is to let people use your product and find out what they think and how they act. That information feeds back to your team so you can get closer to where you should be going in your next MVP iteration.

Q: Change can be scary. So what do you think is the best first step?
A: First of all, the whitepaper is just a primer on lean startup methodology and is designed to introduce the concept to association executives and hopefully pique their interest in learning more. If that’s you, I’d strongly encourage you to read some of the more extensive treatments of lean startup we share in the bibliography, to get some formal training (and we share sources in the conclusion) or to join a local lean startup MeetUp group for peer-to-peer learning.

Beyond that, start small, with something that lies completely in your own area of responsibility and is relatively low profile. Once you have a few examples of how the methodology works, it’s time to start sharing your story.

Q: Let’s say associations are ready to start with lean. How do they achieve buy in from the board of directors? members? staff?
A: It’s all about being able to demonstrate that the methodology works, which is different from building the perfect product right out of the gate.

To quote two of the other key thinkers in lean startup, Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer: “It’s liberating to recognize that no human being can guess correctly when you face uncertainty, and that part of the process is making changes to adjust to these inevitable errors.”

That’s what’s so powerful about lean startup: You are not going to get it right all the time. This methodology is built on that fact and structured to help you move as quickly and efficiently as possible from “here’s an interesting idea” to “here’s a program, product or service that we know – because we’ve been testing it all along the way – our audiences want, need, will use and will pay for.”

LeanstartupQ: And finally, what are two or three takeaways from your research that you’d like to share?
A: I’d strongly encourage people to download the whitepaper – it’s free – and read the stories of four associations we interviewed, all of which are using lean startup. It’s eye opening to see how this methodology works in real situations, where your peers are using it to help their organizations provide better service for their members and other audiences and invest their resources more efficiently and effectively.

Second, one of the concerns we’ve heard over and over from associations is: “What about our brand?” Again, quoting Guillermo: “In associations, we tend to worry that releasing a half-baked program will negatively impact the brand. I would argue that doing the same thing year after year without changing also negatively impacts your brand.”

Also, you have to realize that lean startup may not be suitable for every single initiative of your association or for every single audience – it’s hard to create a Minimum Viable Certification. Some of your members will not be O.K. with beta-testing a new product for you. But some will love that and leap at the opportunity to co-create a new service with the association. It’s up to you to find those people, who are your champions and allies in this.




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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