Posts Tagged ‘technology

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 If the content has become so outdated that members have quit purchasing it entirely, consider whether the topic is still relevant to your members.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.

11
Mar
14

New data: Volunteerism at an all-time low

volunteer-11As parents, I think most of us want to instill in our children the importance of giving back. Thus the reason I’m PTA president, I teach Sunday School and chaperone field trips.

As a working mom, it’s sometimes hard to manage professional and personal commitments, but new federal government data suggest that we working moms volunteer the most.

That said, volunteerism is on the decline, according to a new report released Feb. 25 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report found that volunteerism fell 1.1 percent in 2013, with a total of 25.4 percent of people reporting some form of volunteerism. This figure is the lowest since the bureau started the survey in 2002.

Data were collected through a supplement to the September 2013 Current Population Survey, sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The CPS is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment for the nation’s civilian non-institutional population age 16 and older.

According to the report, about 62.5 million people volunteered at least once from September 2012 to September 2013, averaging 50 hours. And, as mentioned above, women volunteered more than men.

Surprisingly, while we’ve heard that Millennials and younger generations find volunteering important, 35 to 44 year olds volunteered the most, while 20 to 24 year olds volunteered the least.

Why? Because many of us in our mid-30s and mid-40s are parents. Specifically, the report found 44.5 percent of moms vs. 38 percent of dads volunteered. Religious organizations took the top spot for volunteering, followed by schools, sports groups or other youth extracurricular groups.

Other key findings of the BLS survey:

  • Married people volunteered at a higher rate
  • Those who achieved a higher level of education volunteered more often and were more likely to volunteer with multiple organizations
  • Part-time employees volunteered more than full-time employees
Peggy Hoffman

Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

The data may be surprising, but it’s important for associations to keep them in perspective, said Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC.

“There isn’t clear indication of why [volunteer hours are down], but remember that this study looks at community volunteering, which is different from association volunteering,” she said.  “We do know that people have less time and more work responsibilities, so it makes sense that volunteering is down and will continue to be until we create accessible volunteering.”

So what’s the key, especially to attracting young, energetic volunteers?

Gen Xers are inspired by entrepreneurial approaches and celebrate individual effort and risk-taking, Hoffman said.

In addition, Millennials thrive on cross-mentoring with older volunteers, especially when it comes to technology, said Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

“This presents a terrific way to build relationships between the generations, to create micro-volunteering opportunities for your younger volunteers, to allow them to develop the professional skills they seek through volunteerism and for your Boomer volunteers to learn new skills as well,” she said.

But first you have to ask, Engel added. In fact, according to the BLS study, 40.5 percent of people volunteered because they were asked.

And feedback is just as important. Engel and Hoffman suggest asking what interests volunteers, and it can be done casually during drinks, a quick poll or during a conference call.

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

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

“You can ask people to suggest topics for your newsletter, magazine, blog, webinars or conference, or vote on topics others have suggested. You can ask people to rate an article or comment on a blog post. You can ask people to post a question or an answer to your LinkedIn group, private community or list serv.

“You can ask people to make a personal call to a new member, welcoming her to your association. You can ask people to serve as welcome ambassadors at your chapter events or as meeting buddies for first-timers at your annual conference. You can ask attendees to share their thoughts at a town hall meeting at your next event. You can ask people to take a poll or short survey. You can ask people to share your content through Facebook or Twitter. You can ask them how they’d like to contribute to your association. Truly, you’re only limited by your imagination,” Engel said.

For more ideas on attracting volunteers, check out this previous blog post about mission-driven volunteering.

What trends are you seeing in your volunteers? Are you surprised by the findings of the BLS report?

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?

21
Jan
14

What’s in store for 2014?

This week’s guest blog post is by Alexa Stanard, editor of Michigan Meetings + Events magazine. I asked her to speculate on what 2014 might bring for the meetings and events industry. Here’s what she had to say.

Alexa Stanard

Alexa Stanard, editor of Michigan Meetings + Events magazine.

In the magazine business, we generally have to think many months ahead. This is tricky; it’s a psychological leap to imagine a June wedding or a fall association meeting when it’s 14 degrees outside. It also means trying to gauge what’s going to be on everyone’s mind well before it actually is.

The meeting and event industry is much the same way. Savvy planners must be thoughtful and attuned to their environments and clients. They have to read the tea leaves, but they also have to know if their clients are black tea drinkers or prefer chamomile. In other words, just because a color is hot on the Paris runway doesn’t mean someone in Milan, Mich., is going to like it. It’s our job to predict patterns and to steer clients to those we think are the most relevant and noteworthy.

Michigan hasn’t been a trendsetting state since the heyday of the American-made automobile. Suddenly, though, that seems to be changing. Everyone’s hot to visit Detroit; Grand Rapids is topping national lists of places to live; and Traverse City keeps crushing it as a vacation destination, somehow figuring out how to lead about every trend – from craft brew making to farm-to-table cuisine – that comes down the pike.

At Michigan Meetings and Events, we’ve taken a few educated guesses at what will matter in our industry this year:

  • A little dirt is a good thing. Farm venues are hot, and Michigan has some great ones.
  • Traditional venues need to figure out how to up their game. Too many people are heading off the beaten path for the ballroom-based spaces to phone it in. Venues need to let planners get creative and should invest in photography of their spaces being used for imaginative events.
  • Self-sufficiency is in, on just about every front. We’re giving up on corporate jobs to start our own one-person businesses; we’re growing our own food and making our own booze; we’re finding ways to save money and be responsible by operating as green and lean as we can.
  • Values matter. People care about where their food comes from, how workers are treated and whether their meeting or event is leaving a giant, carbon-emanating footprint. Few clients will expect perfection on all fronts (even fewer will want to pay for it), but finding ways to integrate a greener, more-humane approach into one’s offerings and operations will pay off.
  • No one wants his or her time wasted, but people still yearn for connection. In other words, use technology thoughtfully. It aids efficiency and the dissemination of information. But effective meetings must also approach people as people. Learning occurs primarily though interaction and connection. Technology is a supplementary tool.
  • Finally, cost isn’t everything. This one is nearly always true, but especially so as Michigan rebounds and as values increasingly take center stage. Compete on cost where you can, but people will pay for value and for values.

If you think I’m missing some key items, tell me! I hope you’ve had the chance to read our Winter 2014 issue, and I hope you’ll send me your feedback on what you read (or didn’t see and would like to.)

Happy 2014!

12
Nov
13

Move over Fred Flintstone

George Jetson

George Jetson works in a futuristic office.

Remember the TV show, “The Jetsons?”  The funny robot housekeeper who talked back and the fancy buttons that made everything fly?

I loved it.

O.K. So maybe life won’t be that exciting 17 years from now. But I think George Jetson – or Hanna-Barbera I guess – was on to something.

Think about it. Seventeen years ago, I was in college, using dialup Internet to do research. There wasn’t Facebook or Twitter.  And I used the phone to talk, not text.

It’s amazing how far technology has come. So imagine what’s in store for the year 2030!

“Technology will specifically shape and challenge the meetings industry by 2030,” according to the German Convention Bureau. “The Internet, social media and mobile devices are the sources of this transformation.”

Recently, the bureau published, “Meetings and Conventions in 2020: A study of megatrends shaping our industry.” The study examines eight megatrends – globalization, demographic change, shortage of resources, urbanization, feminization and diversity, technology in work and life, sustainable development, mobility of the future and safety and security – to paint a picture of what the industry might look like in 2030.

I know what you’re thinking – it’s Germany, so why should I care? But Germany is second only to the U.S. as a meetings and conventions location, according to the bureau. And while it’s true that demographic trends may be different in Germany, issues such as technology and knowledge transfer apply globally.Techology

Obviously, I can’t write about all the trends here. But there are some key points of the study that are worth highlighting.

First, technology is a blessing and a curse. Infrastructure – meaning the venues that host conventions and meetings – will most likely change to accommodate more complex technology needs. As people become increasingly dependent on mobile news and social networking platforms, conference and event planners will look for facilities that are keeping pace. For instance, conference rooms will be better prepared for virtual speakers (i.e. webinars) and digital white boards. Of course, by 2030, who knows what fancy tools we’ll have? But one thing is for sure: Venues must follow the trends or they’ll lose business.

As we become an increasingly interconnected world, knowledge of other languages and cultures will be crucial, the study found. This means conference and event planners, caterers and wait staff may be expected to expand their global prowess. They may have to travel more. Learn a language. And adopt a love of lifelong learning. By 2030, these could be employer expectations,  rather than suggestions.

Along the same lines, the meetings and convention industry will gradually become more diverse, according to the study. And this means accommodating a variety of physical and social needs. An extreme example cited in the study: service robots in buildings. They may clean buildings, work security and help older guests get around.  Sort of like Rosie from the Jetsons.

The German study predicts by 2030 more older adults will attend meetings and conferences. People may work into their 70s by then, since retirement may one day become a financial luxury. So, the German Convention Bureau said the industry has to consider the needs of the older generation.

Fred Flintstone

Fred Flintstone

Another finding: Sustainability will become increasingly important. By 2030, environmental responsibility will soon be a top factor when businesses are choosing venues. In other words, certification systems (i.e. LEED certification) will be valuable, as will barrier-free accommodations.

The year 2030 may seem far away – as it did when we were kids watching “The Jetsons.” But as we parents know, time flies. So if you’re more like Fred Flintstone than George Jetson, get ready.

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.

09
Jul
13

Extreme trends or the new normal?

ASAE Online Engagement Center

An online engagement center at the 2012 ASAE Annual Meeting. Photo courtesy of ASAE on Flickr.

A couple years ago, I was sitting at my desk when I got a text message from my dentist with an appointment reminder.  So naturally, I checked Facebook, which encouraged me to “like” his page. Yep. Even my dentist has climbed aboard the social media bandwagon.

The truth is, I’m a customer, and these days, I text rather than talk and my smart phone works harder than my laptop. I check news on Twitter and connect with friends on Facebook. Good observation for a dentist, right?

But it’s not just my dentist. It’s my doctor, my employer, my grocery store, my gas station.

Times are changing. And this is how customers operate. In a 24/7 plugged-in  society, businesses need to embrace change and welcome technology.

Some might say this is extreme. But is it?

This month, I’ll be writing about a couple trends that could help associations remain viable – perhaps even become more profitable – in a constantly changing world. I’ll talk to two experts in innovation, Jeff De Cagna, founder of Principled Innovation LLC, and Sarah Sladek, founder of XYZ University. Both strategists have graciously agreed to share some of their much sought-after advice.

De Cagna’s book, “Associations Unorthodox,” may one day redefine association operations. In the e-book, he lists six radical shifts toward the future. Especially of interest to association professionals: Go all in on digital.

De Cagna argues that face-to-face experiences are becoming obsolete.  By offering more digital platforms, associations will better engage and serve their members in the methods they prefer. Gone are the days of 10-page newsletters and here to stay are the days of SMS alerts.

And it seems American Society of Association Executives is listening.

During its annual meeting, which will be held Aug. 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, ASAE will engage and connect members – even if they can’t attend physically. For example, ASAE Annual Meeting Daily Now will be blogging about the event. And, by the way, if you want to join the blog roll, you can do so.

The Twittersphere will be buzzing with tweets, Instagram photos and hashtags during the event. You can follow along on Twitter using #asae13  and the handle, asaeannual. Also, ASAE is collecting a list of Twitter handles, and is asking people to join the Twitter roll, even if they don’t plan to attend. And, of course, there’s Flickr.

I’ll ask De Cagna what he thinks about all this, so stay tuned.

Next up will be Sladek. Her book, “The End of Membership as We Know It” explores the new challenges and opportunities facing organizations. Membership isn’t dead, she argues, but associations must look toward the future.

This should be an exciting month of blogging! I know there will be counterarguments and hesitations, but fostering conversation is what this blog is all about. So until next week, I hope you’ll spill it here.

What trends are you noticing? Are you embracing social media? Is there anything you’d like me to ask these two great minds of change?

11
Oct
12

10 tactics to ensure your strategic plan addresses member learning

Whether your association has just recently penned a new strategic plan or you’re three or more years into a long-term strategic planning cycle (however impractical that may be given today’s environment), do me a favor and locate this document.  Whether in hard copy or (preferably) electronically, open it up and conduct a simple search of the following key words:

  • Education
  • Learning
  • Professional Development
  • Conference
  • Meeting

Record the number of times each of these key words appears throughout this document specifically related to member learning (as opposed to the professional development of staff members, board members and volunteer leaders or any other possible reference). Obviously, conducting the search electronically will save you some time and energy – so what are you waiting for? (And, by all means, feel free to conduct a more comprehensive review of your strategic plan should you feel compelled.)

[Insert Jeopardy "Think Music" here.]

Finished? Good. What did you discover? In my mind, there are really only two possible outcomes:

  • Member learning is well-represented in the strategic plan, both as a core service of the organization and as an important revenue stream. Adequate time, money and other resources (including a talented and knowledgeable complement of staff) have been allocated to this essential association function.
  • Member learning is not well-represented in the strategic plan. And this could be true for any number of reasons. For example, perhaps it’s just not a part of the association’s mission, vision and values statements and, therefore, has no real place in the strategic plan. Likewise, it’s entirely possible the organization has created a separate strategic education plan.

Or, perhaps, the less desirable alternative is true: Member learning is important to the organization (maybe it’s even specifically cited in the association’s mission statement), but it’s just missing from the strategic plan, inadvertently left out or somehow taken for granted.  Whatever the case, following are 10 tactics your organization can immediately implement to right this wrong:

  1. Convene a representative stakeholder group to set strategic education goals and measurable learning objectives for your organization.
  2. Identify current (and optimal) engagement levels for the organization’s signature programs.
  3. Launch a survey to determine satisfaction of current education program offerings, member needs, opportunities for improvement and communication/technology preferences.
  4. Conduct a full SWOT analysis to identify learning gaps and priorities, environmental cues and organizational capacity.
  5. Research the organizations in your industry offering competing education programs and identify opportunities that exist within the marketplace for the addition of unique program offerings.
  6. Identify core member competencies, including job tasks performed, knowledge needed and skills required. Develop an optimal annual meetings calendar aligned with these knowledge domains.
  7. Explore opportunities for the application of web-based, virtual and hybrid programs based on survey analysis and market research.
  8. Create a comprehensive plan to sunset legacy programs and develop new programs based on current learning gaps.
  9. Develop a plan to more deliberately and timely cross-promote education program offerings and more effectively communicate program value to members.
  10. Review adult learning principles with professional development staff, subject matter experts and industry speakers as a first step toward developing more innovative and engaging learning opportunities.

So, my question to you is this: Which organization are you? Is member learning well-represented in your strategic plan or not? If not, which of the aforementioned 10 tactics do you think will be most helpful and valuable in refocusing the association’s available resources on member learning?

27
Jun
12

What my 60 year old father reminds us about Facebook

This is my dad with his granddaughter (my niece), Bella, during a visit to North Carolina.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my dad doesn’t actually turn 60 until this October. Nevertheless, he’s nearly hit this extraordinary milestone, so I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

The story, itself, is pretty simple. I was traveling from Grand Rapids to Lansing yesterday in my mobile office. As is generally the case, I took this opportunity to call my mom for one of our weekly gab sessions. You know how those calls go: “Here’s everything important that’s happened in my life since last week,” and vice versa.

By the way, my sister and I both have a proclivity for doing this – and yes, mom, we know it makes you crazy, but it doesn’t mean we love you any less. I’ll take a moment here to publicly blame it on generational differences. Right or wrong, outside of client engagements, I generally text or Facebook or Tweet or LinkedIn way more than I actually pick up the phone to “catch up” with someone.

Anyway, I mentioned to my mother how surprised I was that:

  1. Dad set up a Facebook account.
  2. Dad and I were now friends on Facebook.
  3. Dad responded to a Facebook status update.
  4. Dad “liked” a Facebook status update.
  5. Dad “liked” my Facebook business page.

I’m surprised not because of my dad’s support. Rather, I’m surprised because prevailing assumptions in the association community is that Baby Boomers either aren’t on social media platforms or aren’t actively engaged with us in those spaces.

Certainly, my dad could be an outlier, but I don’t believe that to be the case. In fact, I think there are a number of people out there – just like my dad – who are beginning to take the leap. The only problem is that we’re not providing these individuals with the support they need to be successful in our online communities – and, more importantly, we’re not giving them unique, valuable content.

Here’s what I mean:

  • My dad needed help. So do your members. My dad just this year got an iPhone. I don’t even have an iPhone (I’m a loyal Droid fan). He’s certainly interested in experimenting with all of the features of his new phone, but the sales reps at his store only have so much patience and it’s not likely he’ll Google or YouTube directions. That’s where you can step in. A simple social media kit identifying which social media platforms your organization is on, as well as very basic tips, tricks and best practices for actively engaging with others in these communities.
  • My dad is watching. So are your members. Whether they’re still actively engaged in the workforce, have long since retired, have received life membership with your organization or volunteer for your cause a couple of hours a month, most associations have a subset of Baby Boomers they’ve written off when it comes to social media. I hear it time and time again: “They’re just not interested,” or “We’re not reaching them.” I think these are myths – and I think it comes down to sharing appropriate and informative content with this demographic.

Following are a few additional thoughts that have bubbled up for me since chatting with my mom:

  1. Know what social media platforms your members, volunteers, speakers, advocates and supporters are using – and don’t be surprised to find them there. With a steady stream of updates and valuable content, as well as an approachable identity, Facebook can be an important mechanism for membership development, sponsorship procurement, attendance building, reminiscing, recommending and more. (The sky really is the limit.)
  2. My dad has nothing but time on his hands. Yes, he is retired. And, yes, he still works full-time to stay busy (the man could not sit still for any extended period of time if his life depended on it). Nevertheless, he still has time to check Facebook and engage with his peers. Won’t you please set him up for success?
  3. Believe it or not, my Dad is using his iPhone to check Facebook posts, updates, news and information. I was sure he was using the computer, but that’s just not the case. My mom claims he hasn’t even turned the thing on in two weeks or more. This has strong implications for your website, as well. If it’s not yet mobile-friendly, it’s time to start moving in that direction.
  4. With a little help and the right content, I think there’s an entire group of individuals out there who are, first and foremost, loyal to a fault. In many cases, they’re either new to the idea of online communities or they just haven’t been actively engaged with their professional associations in this space. A little resources could go a long way to developing your fan base. Ultimately, I think you’ll find a pretty significant return on your investment.

So, my question to you is this: Has your organization found this Baby Boomer presence online? What have you found most successful in actively engaging this important demographic? What outcomes have you experienced as a result of this renewed commitment to more seasoned veterans like my dad?




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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