Posts Tagged ‘Learning

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.

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?

18
Dec
13

Strategic meeting audits: Leveraging data to improve ROI

Are you under the impression that all associations are experiencing diminished attendance at their in-person events? Has your organization’s meetings function experienced a year-over-year revenue decline – however slight – since the 2007 recession?

If you’ve answered yes to one or both of these questions, 2014 may be a great opportunity for your organization to conduct a strategic meeting audit. We need only look to ASAE to learn that at least two signature in-person events were stronger than ever this year:

So I’m sure you have some questions. For example:

  1. What does a strategic meeting audit look like?
  2. What is the first step in initiating this type of audit?
  3. Who should be involved in the process?

Let’s start by identifying the key players. In my opinion, this isn’t a job only for the senior management team. Nor should the meeting professional conduct an audit in isolation. Rather, the association CEO/executive director, senior executives, meeting professional and anyone else responsible for the successful implementation of programs or events should be invited to the table.

Additionally, I’ll advocate here for supplier participation. Although this individual – or team of individuals – may not be involved during the preliminary discussions, I believe it’s important to include industry partners early on both to encourage diversity of thought and to promote better collaboration and decision-making during the planning and implementation of programs.

Next, let’s identify step one. After all, getting started is generally the greatest barrier to the implementation of most projects. As a CMP (certified meeting professional) preparation course facilitator, I’ll borrow a page from our participant reading materials: Identify event goals and objectives. For those who know me, this has sort of become my mantra.

It seems simple and obvious, but this very important first step is often overlooked. Many meeting professionals simply do not take the time to set goals and objectives for events they inherit (they tend to focus more on program maintenance), nor do they comprehensively evaluate these events using a variety of financial and non-financial indicators.

It’s not that they don’t want to; they either don’t know how, don’t feel empowered or have limited resources. And while a handful of industry tools already exist to support these planning and evaluation efforts, they are tedious. And let’s be honest – this often prevents adoption. Unfortunately, failing to set goals and/or evaluate success perpetuates the status quo and inhibits organization growth and member ROI.

If only we could leverage the right data to elevate the quality and sophistication of our programs, build the reputation of our signature events, improve our bottom lines and enhance member outcomes. Believe it or not, there’s a way. When establishing goals and objectives, there are at least four key indicators that should comprise the strategic meeting audit:

  • Onsite experience – What experience do you hope to deliver to attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and speakers onsite? What must you implement to make this happen?
  • Financial performance – What are your revenue and expense targets? Does event pricing reflect the projected profit margin?
  • Relationships/engagement – How will you create opportunities before, during and after the event to create meaningful relationships among participants?
  • Transference – How will you help ensure information and knowledge presented onsite is retained by attendees and applied to their workplaces?

Following each event, meeting professionals should evaluate actual performance and identify areas of opportunity for the future. Quarterly, meeting professionals should then use the aggregate results to drive continuous quality improvement efforts and annually this data should be used to help draft the organization’s meetings budget.

Ultimately, it’s about improving ROI both for your organization (i.e., financial performance, member engagement and alignment with the organization’s mission and strategic plan) and for your members (i.e., learning, networking and value).

Tell us in the comments about your experience conducting a strategic meeting audit. What key indicators did your organization emphasize?

23
Jul
13

Want to boost attendance? Just ask.

Kevin Wharton

Kevin Whorton, principal of Whorton Marketing and Research

Last week, Jeff De Cagna explained that in order to thrive, associations must think differently. Simply put: They should accept change rather than shun it. And it starts by asking questions, even if management doesn’t want to hear the answers.

Self-reflection is never easy, but this week, Kevin Whorton, principal of Whorton Marketing and Research, will help make the process a bit less painful.

As this week’s guest blogger, Whorton suggests questions associations should ask as they look at their bottom lines.

Kevin Whorton writes:
I wondered what to write for Event Garde, but then a client solved that for me. On a conference call recently, the marketing and meetings directors of a healthcare organization asked me a basic question: “How can we increase attendance for a meeting that has been stagnant for years?”

This made me think about the marketing and programming of meetings, an area where I help just a few associations at best every year. Some of the questions I asked them on the call are the questions I’d ask myself in a new job and I think you should be asking too, if you’re not already.

“What are the profiles of attendees compared to non-attendees?”
Do you actually understand who you attract, in terms of their age ranges, their practice specialties, from where in the country they come and their genders? This is the first step to finding out why people with under-represented characteristics don’t come and how you can change that.

“How closely do you collaborate with state associations that also use the site you’ve chosen?”
The answer to this says a lot about how well you’ve thought through your grassroots marketing. State (and/or local) associations hold meetings in your site’s area every year, so they could be your best friends and marketing partners. Or they could spread indifference or bad word of mouth from regional thought leaders. You can’t have too many friends.

“When was the last time you spoke to an attendee about their experience?”
Almost immediately I hear “we do surveys,” which isn’t what I asked. Do you reach out to random people through focus groups or phone discussions, unburdened by a script, to have a give-and-take conversation about what they expected, what they disliked and what they want, no matter how unrealistic? It’s an important conversation to have because every opinion you hear will stick in your head. In reality, those opinions represent the feelings of hundreds, even thousands, of people you’d like to attract.

“What is your messaging?”
How does your marketing copy sound when you read it aloud? What do you understand about how a certain kind of member valued the hall talk at your event? Can you share specific first-person examples of a killer idea from a podium presentation or from a cocktail party discussion that an attendee took home?

“What is your programming mix and how well does it fit your overall audience?”
One thing I’ve noticed from senior execs is that they like to hear themselves talk. And for good reason—their body of knowledge is bigger, their learning needs more nuanced and specific, so they want give-and-take experiences in which they can ask questions and hone in on the things they need to know. We’ve found that ego prevents some of these execs from attending meetings in which they would mostly sit and listen. Or if they do attend, ego can sometimes keep them in the hallway interacting with people they already know and trust. But how well you convey the importance of roundtables in which these execs are likely to find kindred spirits with similar experience levels and helpful knowledge will attract mid-career people who have done well without attending your events.

“How well do you segment?”
Most conferences offer tons of content: 20, 40, 200 programs and lots of exhibitors. Yet if you mapped them against the demographic and interest of attendees, they appeal to different kinds of individuals. Are you sending the same message to everyone, aiming for the median attendee and therefore missing the chance to make a deeper connection with everyone? It’s hard to do, but messages that outline the five programs that person is most likely to attend works because it saves them from spending time reading through your program or searching online. Segmentation has a good ROI if you also adjust your level of effort based on the individual’s history and future likelihood of attending. If someone is a regular and hasn’t registered a few weeks out, email or call personally to ask why. You may not like the answer but it will help to maintain a profitable relationship.

“How do you help them visualize an experience they’ll have, if they’ve never attended before?”
Believe it or not, attending an in-person event is not an instinct that comes to everyone. Some introverts may be terrified at the prospect. Many experienced people already “know it all” and need to be sold on the benefit of attending. Almost everyone needs hints on how to get the biggest bang for their buck. If you want them to take a leap of faith, change their habits and attend your conference, you must provide them with video, testimonials and even peer-to-peer contacts showing them how they would benefit. Of course, sometimes they need aggressive first-timer discounts or money-back guarantees. These approaches reflect confidence and a willingness on your part to put your money where your marketing is.

These are just a grab bag of suggested questions. The key thing to remember is that changing market behaviors, such as getting first-timers to attend and therefore increasing your reach, requires creative thinking in marketing.

Kevin Whorton is principal of Whorton Marketing and Research, a consulting firm that conducts industry and membership research and develops marketing campaigns for a wide variety of nonprofit organizations. Whorton has conducted more than 180 quantitative and qualitative research projects for 100 association and nonprofit clients, including needs assessments, compensation studies, public opinion polls, industry-wide analyses and product launch/market feasibility.

 For more information, you can contact him at (202) 258-9889 or info@kwhorton.com.

 

25
Jun
13

What’s trending?

Susan Robertson

Susan Robertson, executive vice president of American Society for Association Executives

From the minute we get up to the minute we go to bed, we’re surrounded by it: social media. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Skype.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But whether you dub it a blessing or a curse, there’s no denying social media platforms have made it easier to learn, to connect and to engage.

And that also means the state of the meetings industry – especially professional development – is changing, and we’re along for the ride.

“The most dramatic impact on the landscape has been brought about by the convergence of sweeping changes in technology (particularly mobile and social media), demographic shifts, content and knowledge dissemination and management – patterns that affect volunteering and the ability of organizations to meaningfully engage their members,” said Susan Robertson, executive vice president of American Society for Association Executives (ASAE).  “That said, there are now opportunities to deliver content and an experience to members wherever they are and in ways they find convenient, affordable, engaging and valuable.”

And thus the exciting firsts of ORGPRO 2013, which will be held  from July 8 to July 10 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel at Kalamazoo Center.  Robertson and Cheryl Ronk, president of Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE), will close ORGPRO with a session titled, “Association Trends – Future Strategic Issues.”

From the economy to politics to shifting demographics, Robertson and Ronk will discuss industry trends. Leaders need to embrace change and respond to clues about the challenges that may affect their associations for years to come, they believe. But this means questions. Lots of questions. And you’ll get the answers at their session.

“ASAE is monitoring and influencing at the national level on a wide range of issues from policies affecting meeting and tradeshow attendance by government employees to protecting the tax exempt status of all of our organizations,” Robertson said. “State societies are also monitoring and influencing policies and issues at the state level that are unique to their states and regions.”

This will be Robertson’s first time attending ORGPRO, and like many of you, she’s excited about learning, networking and socializing. Since she’s an ORGPRO newbie, she’s not quite sure which advice to share.

But, she said, “Attending ORGPRO is an opportunity to leverage and build relationships and to learn the latest about state issues, peer-to-peer learning and perspectives on association leadership in general.”

And the same goes for attending the 2013 ASAE Annual Meeting and Exposition, which will be held from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

“Known as the ‘Super Bowl of Conventions,’ ASAE’s Annual Meeting and Exposition is the flagship education and exposition opportunity for associations and nonprofit organizations in the United States,” Robertson said. “It is the must-attend event for all association professionals , whether they are representing trade associations, professional societies or philanthropic organizations.”

Like ORGPRO, the ASAE annual meeting will cater to all types of learners.  In addition to more than 120 sessions, there will be three Game Changer sessions, three Master Class sessions, a Snap Learning Spot and a Green Safari for meeting planners.

Just a few of the topics on the agenda: sustainability, technology, working more efficiently, membership marketing and governmental relations.

In fact, Event Garde President Aaron Wolowiec and Donna Oser, founder of Vital Associations,  will host a session, “Building Financial Momentum through Meetings and Collaboration,” which will focus on cross-functional collaboration strategies to positively affect attendance, engagement and membership numbers.

Robertson said ASAE received more than 400 session proposals, so narrowing the list to about 120 sessions wasn’t easy. But Wolowiec has spoken for ASAE previously and always receives positive feedback, she said.

It’s going to be an exciting couple months for Robertson and her colleagues – and for Event Garde. Two meeting platforms. Similar issues. Creative content. Engaged experiences. It’s all there.

So tell us…What do you think is the best part about conferences? After the dust settles and you’re back to your office, what do you hope sticks with you?




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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