- There’s a lot that could go wrong in the backcountry. It’s probably best not to leave your homes. (Kidding!)
- Interestingly enough, this course aligned with Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, a systematic instructional design process (which I quite enjoy!) with a focus on learner outcomes.
- As learners (and leaders) it’s important to step away from our functional areas from time to time to gain professional development experiences from thought leaders and in content areas unfamiliar to us. This Wilderness First Aid course has absolutely made me a better learning strategist.
- Experiences like these, which allow us to better connect with our staff or clients, cannot be underestimated. The teambuilding opportunities and shared experiences are both memorable and invaluable.
- This investment (of both time and money) has already allowed me to better connect with my client’s members. My first-hand glimpse into their world allows me to better relate and collaborate.
Archive for the 'Professional Development' Category
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.
In alignment with Event Garde’s focus on networking, this month’s guest blog post is by John Rampton, the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Due, a free online invoicing company specializing in helping businesses bill their client easily online.
It was originally published on BusinessCollective.
Over the past five years, I’ve attended, on average, one event per week. For those who attend conferences and trade shows often, networking can become mundane. We get used to doing the same thing over and over: from quick chats between meetings in designated coffee/beverage areas to huge parties thrown at local nightclubs by conference sponsors. Each morning, we get up and do it all over again. Due to the repetitious nature of conferences, I don’t enjoy them as much as I used to anymore, and I’m sure many of you are in the same boat.
Over the past six months, I’ve changed up my routine to make conference networking something I enjoy. With just a little bit of planning, I have been able to change my perception about networking and get 10 times more return out of every conference I attend.
Here are some of the ways you can make this happen:
- Throw a small meetup. Renting out a bar or restaurant — or even a hotel room — to host a conference meetup can be quite expensive, with really no ROI guarantee. However, you can achieve many of the same goals of hosting a conference event (without the cost) by hosting a meetup. Simply call a few local bars and restaurants and ask for some specials on food and drinks (don’t ask to reserve a space), create an event on Facebook or Eventbrite and spread the word via conference social channels. Keep the meetup informal and limit it to around 20-30 people. This allows the right setting to establish deeper connections but doesn’t tarnish your reputation if it doesn’t go so well.
- Hit the hotel bar. Every conference has a nearby watering hole. Pick the closest one to the conference and “belly up” to the bar. As attendees come and go, you will have an easy opportunity to strike up a conversation. However, remember that you are at the bar for business, so make sure to not go overboard with the booze.
- Go “hashtag hunting.” The key to conference hashtag use isn’t in what you tweet, but rather what you observe being tweeted. Scan conference hashtags often during your conference to search for small gatherings at nearby restaurants, bars and attractions. Searching conference hashtags can lead you to more networking opportunities, including small meetups, unpublicized events or just connecting with conference attendees you wouldn’t otherwise have met.
- Leave your lanyard on. As long as you are near the conference, you should have your lanyard with your conference badge on. Though it’s slightly embarrassing (like leaving stickers on new jeans), rocking your lanyard will let other attendees easily identify you and can lead to some easy networking opportunities — like a quick chat while you wait in line at Starbucks or an exchange of elevator pitches in an actual elevator!
- Read non-verbal cues. Not everyone at a conference is looking to connect, but it can be easy to find people who are looking to network just by their posture, how they are standing, with whom they are standing and other non-verbal cues. Networking isn’t always easy or fun. Hopefully the tips above will yield you some new business and add some flavor to your typical networking routine.
As you probably gathered from our recap of 2015, it’s been a pretty awesome year for Event Garde!
And it shows.
Again this year, Event Garde has been nominated for the best meeting planning company for the Michigan Meetings + Events 2016 Best of Michigan Awards.
We’d love your support, and ask that you vote for us! Click here to vote.
Each year, Michigan Meetings + Events sponsors the readers choice awards. The MIM + E team chooses categories, which vary every year to reflect a changing industry. This year, some of the categories: best audio-visual provider; best caterer; best convention and visitors bureau; best college/university venue; best event rental company; best hotel with meeting/event space; and best service.
“Event Garde should win for best meeting planning company because our team not only believes in dynamic, meaningful and compelling learning and networking experiences, but is committed to operational excellence and the delivery of exceptional experiences, both for our clients and for their attendees,” said Aaron Wolowiec, founder and president of Event Garde.
With 3,000 votes received for 2015, last year’s Best of Michigan Awards final voter tally set a record, so let’s do it again! Voting is limited to one ballot per email address and voters must vote in at least 10 categories. Write-ins are an option.
Voting closes Feb. 2. The winners will be announced at the annual Best of Awards Party.
So…why should Event Garde win for the best meeting planning company?
Between May and November, Event Garde managed five major meetings and several other education events. As such, Wolowiec spent many hours on an airplane for speaking engagements. From Atlanta to Florida to Michigan, he spoke at 25 events on a range of topics. Audience size varied from three to 144, but in total, Wolowiec spoke to more than 1,200 people. Some of the topics: learning/how the brain learns; how to improve conferences and events; and membership.
But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what others have to say:
“Aaron and his staff at Event Garde provided first-rate service to our nonprofit organization. Their professionalism and dedication to delivering a thorough and comprehensive analysis of our team’s annual conference planning process was present from start to finish. … We were encouraged to brainstorm solutions and outline the future of our conference and are motivated to take the lessons we’ve learned to improve our process for next year’s event! We appreciate the timeliness and promptness of Event Garde’s staff. They were crucial to making sure we stayed on schedule and made the best use of the time with our team.”
– Julie Metty Bennett, Great Lakes Fishery Trust
“Aaron Wolowiec and the Event Garde team provided calm and confident direction, helping us remain focused. … Part of the benefit of working with Event Garde is the professionalism. They are excellent at handling challenging tasks and finding ways to minimize the stress, all while keeping the rest of us at ease knowing things are under control.”
– Jean Jernigan, vice president of business development, Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants
While we’re at it, Event Garde would like to give props to some of our friends in the profession. Below is a list of fellow nominees for whom we hope you vote!
- Best Convention and Visitors Bureau – Detroit Metro CVB
- Best College/University Venue – Michigan State University (Go Green!)
- Best Craft Brewery/Brewpub – Bell’s Brewery
- Best Décor Provider – All Grand Events
- Best Entertainer/Entertainment Provider – Three Men and a Tenor
- Best Event Rental Company – All Grand Events
- Best Florist – Bill Hamilton Designs
- Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (more than 200 guest rooms) – The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit
- Best Meeting/Event Venue in Detroit Metro Area – Cobo Center
- Best Meeting/Event Venue outside Detroit Metro Area – Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
- Best Rooftoop Venue – Skydeck Kalamazoo
- Best Sweets Provider – Sweetie-licious Bakery Café
- Best Transportation Co. – Metro Cars
Remember: Voting ends Feb. 2, so please consider voting for Event Garde for the best meeting planning company. As always, thank you for entrusting us to help you learn, network and transfer differently.
Event Garde is a professional development consulting firm that employs a versatile skill set and a wealth of experience to create well-connected leaders. We’re committed to lifelong learning, for ourselves and for our clients, believing in its ability to produce transformational experiences that advance innovation. Sharing our deep knowledge, we’re dedicated to performance improvement for the professionals we serve and those who attend the events we facilitate.
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.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s time for us at Event Garde to reflect on the many things for which we’re thankful.
From education to content creation, we’ve had a successful year and have experienced tremendous growth.
And we owe much of that to you. Thank you for trusting us to help you learn, network and transfer differently. (See more on this below).
This year end report is just a smattering of the successes we’ve achieved. It’s hard to quantify those day-to-day “ah-ha” moments, but we hope you enjoy this glance at our 2015.
We look forward to spending 2016 with you, and can’t wait to see what’s in store!
Here’s a look at 2015:
Marketing and Communications
In September, Event Garde held a marketing and communications retreat in which we discussed our communications strategy and marketing goals. With so many moving parts and pieces throughout the last year, it was time to reflect on our brand.
So we asked ourselves: What have we become? How are we different from our competitors?
Thus the birth of our new tagline: Learn. Network. Transfer.
Learn – We are educators and we are educated. As responsible contributors to our industry, we participate in professional development while also planning it.
Network – 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.
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.
As for personality, here’s a list of words we think describes us:
Next month, we’ll be discussing how to implement our marketing and communications plan. So stay tuned.
This year, Aaron spent many hours on an airplane for speaking engagements. From Atlanta to Florida to Michigan, Aaron spoke at 25 events on a range of topics. Audience size varied from three to 144, but in total, Aaron spoke to more than 1,200 people. Some of the topics: learning/how the brain learns; how to improve conferences and events; and membership.
And here’s what some people had to say:
“Aaron is knowledgeable and engaging.”
“This is the first webinar I actually paid attention to throughout the whole hour.”
“Very engaging, personable, knowledgeable, understood his market, well prepared, very good at herding cats, great content, well-presented. Kept us engaged and moving.”
Professional development and community engagement
As stated above, we’re lifelong learners, so the staff of Event Garde attended 28 professional development sessions this year, with topics ranging from instructional design to volunteer training to conference presentations.
At the same time, we value the communities in which we live, work and play. And we understand the importance of giving back. So again this year, Event Garde sponsored a Relay for Life team, walking 24 hours around the track at East Lansing High School in recognition of those fighting cancer, in honor of those who’ve triumphed and in remembrance of those who’ve lost their battles.
In 2015, Event Garde produced 50 blog posts. Kristen Parker contributed most of the content, but Aaron wrote posts at the beginning of each month and each month we featured guest bloggers.
On average, blog posts received about 220 views and the site averaged about 200 visitors per month. Topics of the posts varied, but the most popular seemed to be those focused on hotels – rates and room blocks, specifically.
In addition, Event Garde published a newsletter each month, with an average open rate of 600. As an education resource, each newsletter included links to stories or blog posts we found inspiring and informative. In addition, we featured “bright ideas,” in each newsletter and, of course, an Event Garde-ian of the Month.
Throughout the year, niche media publications re-printed blog posts from Kristen and Aaron, quoted Aaron as expert or included written pieces by Aaron. Key media hits include Michigan Meetings + Events, Naylor Publications, Associations Now, Biz Bash, MSAE Association Impact and TSAE Association News.
Here’s a look at some of the media hits:
And finally… Event Garde got a new headquarters this year!
Aaron bought a new house in Kalamazoo, which will serve as Event Garde’s new home.
Tags: annual conference, answers, attendee engagement, attendee reactions, audio, brain-centric, colleagues, consultant, delivery, design, discussion, education audit, education committee, evaluations, experiences, feedback, ideas, industry speakers, iterative process, job aids, knowledge, learning guidance, learning objectives, learning outcomes, mentoring, online community, participant materials, peer-reviewed, planning, post-session, PowerPoint, practice, presentation outlines, questions, reflection, resources, retention, self-evaluations, skills, slide decks, staff, strategies, touch points, training webinar, transfer, video, watch list
When’s the last time your organization’s education committee was asked to identify the three to five greatest challenges currently inhibiting its industry speakers from reaching their fullest potential during the annual conference? I recently did this for a client and following were the responses that bubbled to the surface:
- Attendee engagement within presentations is often minimal or formulaic.
- Facilitators have difficulty reeling in discussion in the allotted time to cover all topics planned within their presentation outlines.
- PowerPoint slides are overwhelmed by too much content.
- Presentations often hit on the “This is what we do at…” but do not identify how the idea may be adapted within other contexts.
Do these sound familiar? What would comprise your organization’s “watch list”? Based upon these areas of focus, we then developed a one-page resource and shared it with all selected speakers, requesting they use this document in designing their conference presentation experiences. Specifically, we:
- Provided 20 different brain-centric attendee engagement strategies ranging from “Write learning objectives into participant materials” to “Schedule post-session touch points.”
- Encouraged speakers to limit their content and slide decks, plan appropriately for practice and feedback time, park unrelated topics and leave time at the end of their sessions for questions, feedback and evaluations.
- Assembled 10 slide tips intended to help speakers overcome death by PowerPoint. Key insights ranged from “Limit bullet points and text” to “Use video or audio.”
- Asked speakers to share with attendees not only their experiences, but also how their ideas might be adapted to other organizations with differing resources.
Next year we intend to offer a training webinar (or a series of shorter training webinars) that helps illuminate these and other strategies, and provide individualized coaching that allows for more robust reflection, planning, practice and feedback.
Additional ideas for investing in conference speakers might include one or more of the following:
- Personal feedback from professional development/learning staff sitting in on conference presentations.
- Key insights from an outside consultant conducting an education audit during the conference.
- Aggregate feedback from attendee evaluations focused more on learning outcomes than on attendee reactions.
- Self-evaluations conducted by speakers and peer-reviewed by staff/volunteers.
- Online community devoted to questions, answers and other resources intended to support speaker development.
Growth in the delivery of conference presentations is an iterative process. Mastery does not occur overnight. Rather, repeat industry speakers should be provided ongoing learning guidance, opportunities to practice new knowledge and skills, meaningful feedback from seasoned colleagues and staff and job aids that enhance retention and transfer.
What strategies have you found most successful in mentoring your industry speakers in the design and delivery of top-rated conference sessions?