Archive for the 'Learning' Category

25
Mar
14

Association e-learning: what you need to know

Sarah Lugo

Sarah Lugo, digital marketing coordinator for Digitec Interactive

This month’s guest blog post is by Sarah Lugo, digital marketing coordinator for Digitec Interactive. Follow her on Twitter.

 

Associations are beginning to grow their education departments by bringing member education online. Why? Selling courses and certifications online provides a new revenue source for the association while adding more value for members. At the same time, members who can’t attend a conference or workshop benefit from the convenience of on-demand content. But it’s difficult for many associations to determine the types of offerings they should provide online.

Want to get off to a good start with your association’s online education products? Here are my suggestions for best-in-class member education:

Give members what they need and want
. Will an eight-hour course be something members will utilize or do they prefer shorter “mini modules?” The education members want online will likely differ from what they want at a conference. Analyzing the online education products your competitors provide can also help you determine what already exists and what your audience wants. The best way to determine what your members need and want is to ask. Survey your members and gauge their interest in potential topics and formats. While you’re at it, ask members what they’d be willing to pay for these offerings. For tips on surveying members and valuing your education products, check out Digitec Interactive and Tagoras’ recent webinar.

Keep it fresh. The shelf life of an online course is not indefinite. Keep your content fresh by re-purposing and updating content routinely to ensure it’s both relevant and timely. Pre-plan your content’s maintenance schedule and decide how you’ll determine when the content has “expired.” One suggestion is to look at the data from your Google Analytics account and the association’s learning management system (LMS) to determine which courses are least popular among members. The trick is to refresh the course or webinar before traffic has died down completely. If the content has become so outdated that members have quit purchasing it entirely, consider whether the topic is still relevant to your members.

Invest in marketing. Most associations do an excellent job of marketing their annual meeting, but few know how, or even attempt, to effectively market their online offerings. Developing and delivering education is an investment like any other initiative. Don’t sell yourself short by assuming, “If we build it they will come.” Getting members involved early on (i.e. surveying) is also helpful in obtaining buy in. Keep members abreast of your plans to offer online education and begin marketing your offerings well before they launch. Once you’ve launched your first course, continue to roll out additional offerings and utilize features within your LMS to “up sell” members on related courses. You can read more about marketing your education products on the Association eLearning Blog.

e-Learning Concept. Computer KeyboardEducation is at the core of professional and trade associations, and technology-enabled learning is quickly gaining popularity with membership organizations. Associations are uniquely suited to provide members with specialized professional development and continuing education, so if you haven’t already, it’s time to get started with association e-learning and begin bridging the skills gap for your members. There is value in offering online education, and with these tips you’re sure to get off to the right start at your associations.

25
Feb
14

That’s so…2013

Each month, we’re asking editors and content producers to share with us what they’re writing about, upcoming trends and other behind-the-scenes must-haves for the association industry.

Julie Shoop

Julie Shoop, editor of Associations Now.

If you’d like to contribute, please contact Kristen Parker, digital content manager for Event Garde LLC, at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

This week’s guest blog post includes excerpts from “What’s Out, What’s In: Association Edition,” by Julie Shoop, editor of Associations Now.

Rebranding

Out: Aging brands
In: New names, fresh logos

Globalization, digital technology, shifting markets, regulatory change—with so many disruptions in the business environment, it’s no wonder that a slew of associations remade their brands and aimed to broaden their reach in 2013. Cases in point: Lobbyists became government relations professionals; recording merchandisers became Music Biz. Associations in the fashion, mobile, supply chain, marketing and recycling industries hopped on the rebranding bandwagon as well. We’ll be watching for who’s up next in 2014.

Conferences

Out: Lavish meetings and events
In: Slim federal conference and travel budgets

There’s a new reality for associations serving industries that interact heavily with the federal workforce: Government meeting attendance isn’t what it used to be. The wave of scrutiny that started in 2012 with revelations about a lavish General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas grew higher this year as reports of excessive spending on meetings by the IRS and Department of Veterans Affairs came to light. With slimmer conference and travel budgets now written into law, association events will continue to take a hit. Associations will need to drive home the value of face-to-face meetings to government agencies that will be footing the bill with fewer dollars and congressional watchdogs looking over their shoulders.

Workplace Culture

Out: Constant collaboration
In: Time and space for solitude

This was the year when a “whole world of secret introverts” was exposed, and being quiet was suddenly cool. Thanks largely to Susan Cain, author of the bestselling “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” momentum is building for greater understanding of different personalities and work styles to leverage every staffer’s strengths in pursuit of business goals. It was an eye-opening message for associations, where collaboration is king. Remember the buzz around open workspaces to promote teamwork? Now, not so much.

Volunteers

Out: Long-term commitments
In: Micro-volunteering

Plenty of dedicated association volunteers share their time and talents in abundance year in and year out—but that’s probably a small group of your hard-core enthusiasts. Micro-volunteering is emerging as a smart way to expand your volunteer pool and build engagement among your less connected members. Got people who can’t commit to helping plan your annual meeting, but can spend a few hours being a conference greeter? This is for them.
Editor’s note: See a related blog post for more on this.

Advocacy

Out: Bemoaning congressional gridlock (was this ever in?)
In: Putting pressure on Washington

The government shutdown in October highlighted the power of associations to show policymakers the consequences of their actions—or inaction. From air traffic controllers to businesses to Head Start and Meals on Wheels, nonprofits sent volunteers, activists and cold, hard data to D.C. about the effects of the shutdown. Their collective message: This hurts everyone. Fix it.

Learning

Out: Expert-driven education
In: Peer-to-peer learning

With competition heating up from for-profit providers offering free or low-cost alternatives to association education programs, pressure to innovate in association learning mounted in 2013. While we don’t expect to see the traditional keynote address fall by the wayside anytime soon, associations are experimenting with decentralized learning formats where peers interact in smaller groups and more casual settings. Is a “learning village” right for you? Or if you need to beef up your online offerings, digital credentialing may be the ticket. You might be surprised at how motivating a digital badge can be.

18
Feb
14

The certification conundrum

Book questionTo certify or not to certify. That seems to be the debate among association professionals.

CAE. APR. They’re just letters, right? Sort of.

When listed after someone’s name, they add credibility. And on a resume, those letter combinations pique employers’ interests since it means candidates strive for professional development. Whether it’s for prestige, a salary bump or a resume builder, people from all industries seek out certification programs.

So it’s a safe bet that just about every industry has them. But the question is, should your association offer certification programs?

Such programs can be costly and sometimes there are legal loopholes, said Mickie Rops, principal consultant for Mickie Rops Consulting, LLC. It’s tempting to jump on the certification bandwagon but first, it’s important to conduct research. And lots of it.

The three reasons most associations cite for starting certification programs are to generate revenue, to increase attendance at events and to one-up (or at least match) their competitors, Rops said.

Increasing revenue is a good goal to have, but it takes time. And too often, associations measure success with dollars. But money should never be the motivating factor.

In addition, while boosting attendance may seem tempting, the best way to increase interest is to improve curriculum. If your association needs a certification program to draw attendees, chances are, better content would do the trick.

Finally, while it’s human nature to compare, associations often wear blinders when doing it. For example, your association may think its program is better – and it might be. But the key is to determine the market demand.

How? Research: What’s already out there? How can your certification program complement – not compete with – existing programs? Remember, Rops said, just because your competitor does it, doesn’t mean you should.

Ask your members what they want. But rather than simply asking if they would be interested in a certification program, explain to them the specifics of the program – goals, eligibility criteria, testing requirements, etc. – and provide a timeline. This will help to avoid the inflated “yes” answer.

Mickie Rops

Mickie Rops, principal consultant for Mickie Rops Consulting LLC

“The key is to agree to step back and strategically consider what you are trying to accomplish and determine if certification is the most effective strategy for accomplishing it,” Rops said. “Yes, this may delay progress for a month or two, but it may very well save your association a costly mistake or help develop a certification program that’s much stronger for it.”

But where does an association start? The first step is to determine goals, and this might be a good project for a board of directors. Possible goals could include protecting health and safety, enhancing career mobility and opportunities for individuals or providing performance standards. Once you determine goals, make sure they align with your association’s mission.

Next, an association should weigh opportunities vs. obstacles, Rops said. Certification programs can provide improved visibility for the field/industry, but they can also create a rift between certified and non-certified members, and with partnering organizations. Your organization needs to decide if that’s a risk it’s willing to take.

And finally, associations should examine whether offering certification programs is truly feasible. Things to consider: Do you have enough staff to support such a program? Do you have enough funds? (Research alone usually costs $100,000 plus, Rops said.)

I’d like to open this up for further conversation. If your organization offers certification programs, what was the impetus for starting them? How do you measure the success of such programs?

11
Feb
14

Goodbye e-learning

TechStockPhotoAs a former journalist, I love data. And trend data are even better.

So when I came across “Association Learning + Technology 2014,” a recent report by Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, founders of consulting firm Tagoras, imagine my delight!

Young or old, technology has redefined the way we learn and work. As 8-to-5 days at the office have slowly turned into 24-hour social media networking from the car and virtual meetings during the kids’ soccer practices, social media has filled in the gaps.

“The world of continuing education and professional development has changed dramatically in the past few years,” Cobb and Steele said.  “To meet member needs and stay out in front of the competition, you need to arm yourself with real data targeted to help you grow your programs.”

The 52-page Tagoras report provides such data, which were collected based upon a survey of 200 trade and professional associations. “Association Learning + Technology 2014” is designed to help association leaders strategize for a new learning landscape, while meeting their members’ needs for convenient and quick access to information.

There’s a goldmine of information in the report, which you can get for free if you subscribe to Tagoras’ free e-newsletter.

I’m sure the trends and data provided in the report will provide future blog fodder. But for starters, Cobb and Steele have abandoned the term e-learning and instead use the term technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning.

Nearly all survey respondents – 88.7 percent – indicated they use some form of technology-enabled learning. The most popular form of such learning, according to the report: webinar.

As for social media, 33 percent of respondents reported using YouTube for learning programs, followed closely by Twitter (32 percent). Facebook was next, followed by LinkedIn. Nearly 37 percent of those surveyed indicated they have a mobile learning platform, and live streaming – rather than virtual conferences – seems to be an upcoming trend.

Another key takeaway: The majority of all respondents report technology has increased their revenue from educational offerings, but less than a quarter have a strategy in place to launch new learning platforms.

Cobb and Steel found organizations that consider themselves to be very successful:

  • Report increased net revenue from their education offerings as a result of their use of technology for learning.
  • Have a formal, documented strategy for their use of technology for learning.
  • Have formal, documented product development and pricing processes that cover their technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning.
  • Offer facilitated online courses, gamified learning, virtual conferences and at least some mobile learning.
  • Use a learning content management system (LCMS).
  • Offer a formal credential (e.g., a certification or license), regardless of whether the credential is their own.

As the association industry transitions into technology-enabled learning, other trends will emerge, the report said. There will be:

  • 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.
  • The slowly growing use of social media for learning and increased dabbling in emerging products, like microcredentials and massive courses.
  • 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, as the adoption and integration of sophisticated technologies increase the demand for savvy, experienced leaders in the continuing education and professional development business.
Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

“We want to see more associations develop and use a strategy to guide their use of technology for learning,” Cobb and Steele said. “Gut-level governance can work, but more consistent approaches empower staff all over the org chart.”

While all this may seem overwhelming, “Associations Learning + Technology 2014” is an incredible measurement tool for associations, regardless of size and budget. As associations plan educational programs, sessions and conferences, it’s becoming increasingly important that technology take center stage.

But it’s O.K. to start small. Maybe the answer is a hybrid conference – in-person and live stream. Or maybe it’s establishing a professional group on LinkedIn. Or perhaps smaller associations can establish a YouTube channel and provide “tips of the day.” (By the way, this is a great project for interns, who love to create videos and are social-media savvy.)

The point is: Don’t be afraid to taste technology. And don’t leave your clients and members hungry or with a bitter aftertaste in a world full of ripe and delicious technological treats.

So, tell us, are you embracing technology-enabled learning? How do you incorporate technology into your matrix of educational opportunities?

29
Oct
13

Straight from an intern’s mouth

Editor’s Note: This week’s guest post is from Samantha Moore, meetings and membership coordinator for the American Bakers Association in Washington, D.C.  Before working full time for the association, Moore was an intern. What can associations offer interns? She explains.

Samantha Moore

Samantha Moore, meetings and membership coordinator for the American Bakers Association.

ABA Logo“You should submit something,” said Karin Soyster Fitzgerald, my mentor and former boss, referring to an email from the American Society of Associations Executives encouraging members to comment on internship programs.  She isn’t even my supervisor anymore and I still take orders!

This subject is near and dear to my heart because without my internship, I would not be the meeting planner I am today. I hope that my story provides guidance for other young meeting professionals and persuades other meeting planners to implement stellar internship programs in their own associations.

I graduated from Penn State, majoring in hotel, restaurant and institutional management.  I wanted to be a wedding planner, but I fell in love with the meetings and convention industry after taking an introduction to meeting planning class that was based on a CMP prep textbook from PCMA.

But I had no idea how to break into that position right out of college. Many of my classmates went directly to hotels to be conference service managers but I knew that I wanted to be on the other side. So that’s where my internship at the American Bakers Association came in and where the magic started!

I interned with the ABA three separate times. I worked directly with both the meetings and membership departments. Some of my daily tasks included:

  • Membership record projects and outreach
  • RFP processes
  • Contract negotiation
  • Registration
  • Meeting materials (badges and other fun necessities)
  • Invoicing and monthly financial reconciliations.

Most of the time, someone reviewed my projects once I finished or they were already completed (contracts). But the experience of working on those projects is what an internship is really all about.

In my opinion, an internship is the most important item to have on a resume. Internships reflect drive, resourcefulness and professionalism. They teach valuable skills, such as collating/alphabetizing, Xerox machine mastering, document merging, coffee making and life skills. But more importantly, internships teach responsibility, professional workplace etiquettes, business ethics and last, but certainly not least, they provide a step toward the ultimate goal of a fulltime job that is successful and enjoyable.

As a 1½-year-old planner I have many responsibilities that are solely my own and I work directly with my supervisor on all other meeting logistics. I am responsible for our sponsorship program, registration process, evening events for ABA committee meetings and special events and many other day-to-day operations.

More recently, I coordinated the scheduling and supervision of more than 100 volunteers during ABA’s largest tradeshow, International Baking Industry Exposition, and was a key contact for the education program consisting of 75 sessions throughout four days. This was an amazing experience, not to mention all of the great baked goods! Because of my history with the association, they knew I could take on such responsibility, and for that I am extremely thankful.

Thanks to my internship, I’ve been able to apply almost two additional years of knowledge and experience to my current position. When I was asked to become a fulltime employee, ABA was undergoing a change in management. I was tasked with supporting the brief gap of management at the ripe age of 22.

The wealth of historical knowledge not only sustained me during that time but also enabled me to work alongside my new supervisor. This sense of empowerment and trust taught me critical thinking and showed that I could stand on my own.

To sum it all up:  Students/young professionals and associations need to get together! Associations benefit from creative and fresh perspectives from interns and interns grow into people who are well rounded and prepared for the road ahead.

What I adore about our industry is that it is versatile and flexible. What could be better than an internship in an association where the student is exposed to all daily functions of a modern company? And what can be better than quality and cheap (not free) labor?

Associations are flexible and vast enough to give interns a tailored and stable environment in which they can flourish and network for their future.  And interns: You never know when a small opportunity like a temporary internship can turn into a successful relationship and fulfill a young professional’s dream.

01
Oct
13

Leveraging strategy to amplify education initiatives

Aerial of downtown Detroit Riverfront Photo Credit: Vito Palmissano

Aerial of downtown Detroit Riverfront
Photo Credit: Vito Palmissano

On Oct. 3, I’ll have the opportunity to speak at the seventh annual NACEDA (National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations) Summit. Hosted by the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit, the theme is “What’s Working?” Considering the NACEDA Summit is taking a road trip for the first time in seven years, it’s only appropriate the group decided to convene in the Motor City.

Despite bad press, Detroit offers countless examples of what’s working. For starters, meetings are not only safe and thriving, a transformation is happening here more rapidly than at any other time in history. Likewise, Detroit is not the ‘black eye’ of America and Motown magic continues to attract business. Case in point, the “Super Bowl of Conferences” will be held here in 2015.

Generally, I think visitors are surprised by everything the city has to offer. And if you doubt me, just ask my friend Jeanette Pierce of D:hive. I recently had the good fortune to tour several Detroit sites with her as a committee chair for the aforementioned event. Not only is she the city’s most unabashed advocate, but she’s an absolute wealth of information about Detroit and its many points of interest.

So, as a self-proclaimed “meetings coach” and Michigan native, I’m pleased to have been invited by Brian McGrain of CEDAM (Community Economic Development Association of Michigan) to submit a presentation proposal for this year’s summit. My session will illuminate current best practices in training and conference session planning and has come to be titled, “Leveraging Strategy to Amplify Education Initiatives.”

Although I’m a firm supporter of developing sessions unique to conference objectives and attendee needs, I often raise this theme of “intentionality.” In an article I wrote in June 2002 for Associations Now, I encouraged readers to take a break from the daily firefighting we’ve come to expect and instead approach tasks with more reflection, strategy and collaboration.

In the spirit of this advice, take a moment to consider participation in your current suite of professional development programs. What’s inhibiting attendance? We’re likely all feeling the pressures of time, competition, money and technology. But when specifically asked during a recent NACEDA prep session, leaders added travel, opportunity costs, value proposition and marketing to their list of challenges.

I consider my own work with the Michigan Association of REALTORS earlier this year. During a similar powwow with the best and the brightest minds, local association leaders added certification, continuing education credits, programming for disparate experience levels, personal/professional motivation and regulations – all of which resonated with this group, as well.

So it’s clearly time to start thinking differently about education, including what it means to meet the unique needs of our professional development consumers (as dwindling attendance and revenue is likely not an alternative we’re willing to accept). While distance learning is one possible solution, it’s not the only solution. The Meetings Report reminds us to diversify revenue, reward difference, value context, maximize opportunities and prioritize learning.

To prioritize learning means to:

  1. Develop and apply an intentional education strategy;
  2. Experiment with more creative instructional strategies that align with adult learning theory; and
  3. Deliberately explore the intersection that exists between logistics and learning.

I think we can all agree that the days of talking head, instructor-led sessions are waning. To remain relevant, organizations must elevate the quality and sophistication of their programs, build the reputation of their signature events and improve their bottom lines. This session will answer the simple question: How can we do that?

In the meantime, I’m curious to know: What’s inhibiting attendance at your organization’s events? When it comes to training/conference session planning, what needs improvement? How much adult learning theory informs your meetings/events? Share your thoughts in the comments and I’ll hope to see you Thursday.

24
Sep
13

To pay or not to pay?

Intern name tag

Photo courtesy of myjoboption.com.

Not that long ago, interns were known as the coffee getters, copy makers and phone answerers. In other words, the grunt workers. Or office gophers, perhaps.

Thankfully, those days are gone (for the most part).

Now, interns are treated as valuable members of the team, often attending meetings, working on projects and managing social media accounts. They bring a fresh perspective to the workplace and employers welcome their enthusiasm.

But the question of whether to pay interns continues to perplex employers. It’s not a question of free labor, but rather regulation. Are you required to pay your interns? And, if not, should you anyway?

These days, it seems that to find a job after college, students must engage in at least one internship during their academic careers. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most employers expect it.

And it seems that paying interns is the way to go.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the results of its College 2013 Student Survey showed that 63.1 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer, whereas only 37 percent of unpaid interns did.  That’s not much better than the survey’s results for those with no internship—35.2 percent received at least one job offer.

But it’s complicated for nonprofits, which are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which mandates for-profit companies pay their interns at least minimum wage.

Since the ruling in the Black Swan case, there’s been a lot of buzz about what constitutes work and what doesn’t. In June, a federal judge ruled that unpaid interns at Fox Searchlight Pictures violated the FLSA by not paying interns during the production of the 2010 movie “Black Swan.” The judge ruled the interns performed the same work duties for which others were paid, and that the internships didn’t provide an educational environment, but instead benefitted the studio.

While the film industry is notorious for not paying interns, the decision could turn other industries on their heads.  Now, employers are asking: Will unpaid internships soon be history?

Black Swan movie

An artistic rendering of the movie, “Black Swan.” Photo courtesy of wallpapersus.com.

There’s a fine line when it comes to unpaid vs. paid internships, so in 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor released a fact sheet to determine under which circumstances a company could use unpaid interns. According to the department, there are six criteria that must be met to justify unpaid interns:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

It’s not easy to navigate the mumbo jumbo of labor laws.  But if you’re thinking of starting an internship program, and if you’re debating about whether to pay your interns, Prima Civitas, a nonprofit economic and community development collaborative, offers a good resource. Prima Civitas’ Employer Internship Toolkit outlines what a successful internship program might look like and what an intern might do.

Next week, I’ll talk with Cheryl Ronk, president of Michigan Society of Association Executives, about the association’s successful internship program. I’ll also be doing some research to find other examples of successful programs, so I look forward to reporting back to you in a couple weeks.

But in the meantime, tell me: Does your association or organization use interns? If so, how? And do you pay them?

13
Dec
12

Transforming your community into a collaborative learning environment

On Dec. 4, I had the pleasure of presenting a breakout session on collaborative learning environments during the 2012 Higher Logic Super Forum. Early in the presentation, we discussed the expanding role of content curation and how it can serve as a valuable tool for associations who wish to make meaning of the sometimes excessive information, content and messaging they share with members.

Simply put, content curation comprises three elements:

  • Sorting through vast amounts of content.
  • Organizing it around a specific theme.
  • Presenting it in a meaningful way.

And it’s valuable because:

  • We live in an era of content abundance.
  • Content curation offers high value.
  • Content curation maximizes resources and builds community.

Simply consider the more formal education programs your association offers each year. This likely includes face-to-face programs, digital learning, other meetings and events, and any certification, accreditation or licensure programs. Now multiply each of these programs by three marketing touch points and it’s more messaging than the average association member can reasonably absorb.

And we’ve not yet even considered the informal learning opportunities generated within our industry’s peer networks. So, it quickly becomes evident that a simple content curation strategy could easily help qualify some of this information, further promoting the organization as a valuable resource and content expert. Content treasurers may take many forms. Following is a partial list:

  • Guest bloggers/journalists
  • Slide decks/executive briefs
  • Handouts/resource materials
  • Discussion boards/online communities
  • Podcasts
  • Audio/video recordings
  • Social media feeds/conversations
  • Participant discussions/chat transcripts
  • Question/answer summaries
  • Program outlines/white papers
  • YouTube videos
  • Newsletter/magazine articles
  • Facilitator interviews
  • Case studies

It’s important to note here that true content curation requires some sort of transformation. It’s not about simply posting a slide deck to a website for someone to download. Rather, curating a series of slide decks from a single conference on the same topic might result in an executive brief highlighting only the key points/images from each.

Besides, when’s the last time you downloaded every single slide deck from ASAE’s annual meeting? Okay, it’s possible; I’ll give you that. Let’s take it a step further. When’s the last time you then reviewed, considered and implemented the ideas from each? This, my friends, is nearly impossible. Not to mention, the thought alone is purely overwhelming.

But it’s not enough to simply create content – curated or otherwise. You must then communicate and share this content with others. Otherwise, why do it? Following are just some of the ways you might consider sharing your content with association constituents:

  • Newsletter
  • Magazine
  • Blog
  • Website
  • Online community
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Social media

When utilizing these communication channels to share content, consider these tips:

  • Utilize a consistent learning, education or content brand. This may include a clever name, logo and tagline, as well as certain graphics, colors and fonts.
  • Identify your organization’s available communication channels and draft a comprehensive marketing strategy that utilizes multiple media.
  • Develop an editorial calendar that focuses on a specific subject each month or quarter based on the volume of content you have to share.

Finally, creating a collaborative learning environment requires the engagement of your community. There’s no need for this responsibility to land squarely on the shoulders of staff. Consider your target audience. It’s likely bigger than your current membership. Some examples of your organization’s various constituent groups may include:

  • Subject matter experts
  • Board members
  • Speakers/facilitators
  • Legislators
  • Sponsors
  • Vendors/suppliers
  • Members
  • Staff
  • Volunteer leaders
  • Components

You’ll note here that not every constituent group will be interested in the same content or should be communicated to in exactly the same way. What’s the right combination for each target audience? When you are able to curate the right content and share it with the right constituents via the right communication channels, engagement soars.

Furthermore, utilize these individuals as content experts. Whether this means recruiting them to serve as presenters, facilitators or curators, or simply featuring their blogs and industry resources within your established community, bring them into the fold. Develop file sharing, communication and collaboration tools that makes this process even easier and less cumbersome.

So, my question to you is this: How does your organization curate content? Likewise, how have you transformed your community into a collaborative learning environment (or what strategies are you considering for 2013)?

05
Nov
12

What is the key to a successful event? (Hint: Engagement.)

Jennifer Sweet, CMP

This post is authored by guest blogger Jennifer Sweet, CMP. Jennifer is owner and lead coordinator of JS Event Consulting. Email: jseventconsulting.com

Throughout my years of event coordinating, that is a question I have been asked time and time again: “What is the key to a successful event?” A successful event? How do you really know what ratio of components equals a success? Many obvious things come to mind, such as the facility, speakers and proper equipment. However, the one element that stands out, leaves participants satisfied and turns an event into a real success is (drum roll please) engagement!

A couple years back, I attended a conference where the following statistics were presented: Attendees remember 25 percent of what they hear, 50 percent of what they write down and 75 percent or more of what they actively participate in. Think of it in terms of trying to learn a card game. If someone tells you the rules, you may remember bits and pieces. If you write down the instructions, they will sink in a bit more. However, if you actually play the game, you become involved. This helps you to remember the rules the next time you pull out the deck!

This idea works very much the same for attendees, legislators and members. The more active of a role they have in your organization, the better they are able to remember who you are, what you do and why your work is so important.

While so many components make up a truly successful event, engagement is particularly effective in providing individuals with a worthwhile experience. There are many innovative ways in which to engage your audience to ensure an experience that propels one’s desire to be actively involved. Involvement turns to investment and investment leads to the support of the continuous efforts made within your organization. This is, indeed, a true success!

So, what are you doing to engage attendees, legislators and members during your events?

17
Oct
12

25 instructional strategies guaranteed to refresh your signature programs

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: People are busy these days. They’re also moving at a faster pace and have limited dollars to spend on professional development. Period. Combine this competition for time and resources with the endless access to information and content available online and you have a long list of continuing education providers competing for market share. (Not to mention the countless organizations now offering education opportunities at competitive rates—even free!)

That’s why we – the collective association community – need to up our game when it comes to the instructional strategies we employ at each of our signature education programs. The number one question I’m asked by association staff, subject matter experts and the media has to do with innovative, engaging and creative instructional strategies. So, here are 25 I’ve collected and curated (and, in some cases, facilitated) within the last year.

Note: I could never credit every individual or organization that’s had a hand in developing and shaping these instructional strategies. I will, however, say that this list has been influenced by the likes of ASAE, MSAE, NACE, Segar Consulting, TSAE and Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. Of course, some are also my own creations.

1. Behind the Scenes

Attendees have the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the host venue delivers exceptional customer service. Stops during the tour may include the kitchen, sales, housekeeping, A/V and more. At each stop, attendees meet and interact with key personnel, have the ability to ask questions and walk away with a new-found appreciation for hotel/conference center operations.

2. Conversations That Matter

Participate in engaging, facilitated conversations that explore industry questions/issues that truly matter. Conversations may be tailored to any member segments/topics.

3. Deep Dive Sessions

These are interactive education sessions on a given topic that span approximately three hours or longer. Content is more detailed than what can typically be covered in a traditional 75-minute breakout session and engaging learning activities tend to necessitate the additional time.

4. Executive Learning Experience for CEOs

This intensive workshop (half-day, full-day or longer) will cater to CEOs (and sometimes other top staff leaders) who are serious about a specific subject affecting their industry. Often, these individuals find that the safe space (apart from their staffs) allows them to effectively leverage the collective wisdom of their peers and work through possible solutions.

5. Fish Bowl

Attendees, armed with questions and concerns based on a predetermined issue, stand facing each other in two concentric circles. Those in the outer circle pose a question to their counterparts in the inner circle, who then provide feedback based on their personal experiences. After five minutes, the two circles shift to the right or left and the process repeats.

6. Flash Learning Room

When attendees don’t see the content they’re looking for on the program agenda, allow them to claim a specified meeting room onsite and conduct a session of their choosing. It will be their responsibility to promote the session through the various social media channels available during the conference.

7. Game Changer Sessions

Get a compelling look into the minds of today’s most influential leaders in business, innovation and finance. See how these “game changers” redefined their industry and, at times, the world through engaging lectures, stories and real-world examples.

8. General Sessions

Traditional plenary sessions focused on topics of interest to a majority of conference attendees. Often, these may be combined with brief interludes of association business, speeches, entertainment or multimedia presentations – or are facilitated in an engaging way (e.g., talk show-style).

9. Genius Bars

These are modeled after the Genius Bars found in Apple stores. They may be set up between education sessions and during longer break times. “Geniuses” have extensive knowledge about the industry, and they work with you face-to-face to provide technical support and troubleshoot any problems you may be experiencing.

10. Idea Swaps

One predetermined topic is assigned per table and each table is assigned a facilitator who poses questions, synthesizes discussions and encourages participation. Each idea swap lasts 20-30 minutes. Participants have the opportunity to visit three to four different idea swaps throughout the allotted time.

11. Ignite

Presenters are given just five minutes to speak about their ideas and personal or professional passions, accompanied by 20 slides. Each slide is displayed for just 15 seconds, and slides are automatically advanced. The presentations are meant to generate awareness and to stimulate thought and action on the subjects presented.

12. Jam Sessions

A jam session is typically scheduled at the end of each day and members are grouped by area of expertise. Initially, attendees sit in rounds with a discussion initiated by a facilitator who provides leading questions to help reinforce key concepts and recurring themes. Participants are then regrouped based on their biggest takeaway, allowing them to engage in highly targeted conversations specific to their priorities.

13. Keynote Alternative

The organization identifies four to five industry trends and selects volunteer/industry speakers to develop mini-presentations (one for each hot topic). Each individual is then allotted a maximum of 10 minutes to share the most relevant information about his/her trend. Time for questions and answers – or interaction among the experts – adds additional dynamics.

14. Learning Groups

A learning group functions in 15-20 minute sessions held several times throughout the day. Attendees are assigned to groups of three, tailored to their levels of experience and areas of expertise. For the duration of the conference, members disperse for sessions then reconvene at prearranged times, bringing with them questions, concerns and potential topics of interest for further discussion.

15. Learning Labs

Take part in these 75-minute learning labs for tried and true education led by your peers.  Sessions may focus on every functional area of your industry – and are the closest to a traditional breakout session. Often, these are well-received by the Boomer and Silent generations.

16. Lunch for 6

Each table for six (a distinction that’s important for meaningful dialogue) has on it both a tent card indicating a broad topic and several index cards listing various question prompts or challenges related to the table’s theme. Participants roam the room, identify a topic they are interested in, sit at that table and informally converse with others also interested in that topic over lunch.

17. Mobile Playground

This showcase of mobile-driven sessions immerses participants in activities and experiences designed to maximize their productivity. From an App Boutique featuring an App Mixologist, to hands-on iPad training, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

18. Open-space Technology

This approach is most distinctive for its initial lack of an agenda. As participants create the agenda, they post issues in bulletin board-style. Each individual “convener” of a breakout session then takes responsibility for naming the issue, posting it on the bulletin board, assigning it a space and time to meet, and then later showing up at that space and time, kicking off the conversation, and taking notes.

19. Rolestorming

Participants take on another identity during the brainstorming process, viewing an identified industry problem or challenge from a very different perspective. By using an assumed identity, unusual or radical ideas are not only welcomed and encouraged, but serve as the foundation for real-world solutions. 

20. Self-directed Learning

According to Malcolm Knowles, self-directed learning describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.

21. Smart Talks

High-energy, fast-paced events that combine 20-minute presentations with 40-minute interactive group discussions. 

22. Solution Room

This innovative learning concept provides conference participants with an opportunity to unpack and make meaning out of information presented during a general session. Small teams identify personal opportunities for change and brainstorm a variety of strategies for growth. Each attendee then commits to an actionable objective to be completed within a specified period of time.

23. Story Slam/Coaching Jam

Explore the art of good storytelling in a fun and exciting format. Each presenter has five minutes to tell a story based on a theme. Presentations are not predetermined. Participants are selected onsite and receive immediate feedback on how to make their story more engaging.

24. Wisdom While You Walk

Who would’ve thought you could actually learn something outside of a meeting room? In this exploratory learning format, attendees pair off with a colleague and go for a short walk while examining a predetermined topic. Findings are then shared and debriefed with the rest of the group.

25. World Café

The process begins with a brief introduction and leading question about an industry problem.  Attendees, seated at tables of four to encourage an informal café-style meeting, are asked to discuss the topic for 20 minutes. Once time is up, three participants from each table move to a different table and repeat the process. One participant at each table stays put to function as “table host” and reviews what concepts were discussed during the previous rounds.

So, my question to you is this: Which of these instructional strategies have you tried? Were they successful in meeting program objectives/learner outcomes? What could have been improved? Also, what innovative, engaging and creative instructional strategies not on this list would you add?




meet aaron

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

meet kristen

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

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