30
Aug
16

Associations play an important role in higher education

Higher-EducationWhen I graduated college 16 years ago, times were different. I had a job before graduation and I never questioned the value of my degree. While I had an internship, the focus then on skills (vs. education) wasn’t nearly as strong. Today, students need internships before entering the workforce.

And then comes the price tag. My son is a freshman this year and soon, we’ll be looking at colleges. As some of you may know, I work at a university (in addition to my Event Garde role), so I live and breathe higher education. Yes, it’s expensive. And yes, it’s worth it.

But when I see students struggling to make ends meet and their parents sacrificing to pay tuition, it’s a scary thought: What will happen?

We’re facing a student debt crisis. Recent college graduates are saddled with thousands of dollars in debt and many can’t find a job, let alone start a career. So what should we do?

The answer may lay in associations, according to Elizabeth Weaver Engel, chief strategist for Spark Consulting, and Shelly Alcorn, principal for Alcorn Associates Management Consulting, who just released, “The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm.”

Educators should develop a better understanding of what students need to be learning, and then connect those learning outcomes to employment, they said. According to their research, students and employers agree on the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace: critical thinking, problem solving, oral and written communications, teamwork, ethical conduct, decision-making and the ability to apply knowledge.

However, there’s a huge divide in the readiness of such skills. Many employers report not finding such skills in recent college graduates because earning a degree doesn’t necessarily teach them.

But with credentialing programs, MOOCs, conferences and other online offerings, associations can fill the skills gap.

“With an education system that is being disrupted, college students graduating with degrees that fail to provide them practical job skills and more adult and nontraditional learners than ever, associations stand at a crossroads,” Engel and Alcorn wrote. “There are enormous needs we can meet: creating high-quality, competency based education; fostering social learning; and providing clear pathways to employment for students, the long-term unemployed, returning veterans or those individuals who are about to see their jobs significantly affected by the rise of automation and artificial intelligence. It’s a big opportunity and a big challenge.”

CBEOne example: competency-based education. Students drive their own pace of completion through a program’s curricular courses or modules by demonstrating competencies through learning exercises, activities and engaging experiences. CBE creates opportunities for digital badges, certification and micro-credentials to visually demonstrate ongoing growth and professional development for adult learners who seek career opportunities and advancement without waiting for completion of a terminal degree as the only signal of qualifications for employment.

“CBE offers the flexibility that could bridge the job-skills gap between employers and those who seek employment in professions that are rapidly evolving,” said Tracy Petrillo, chief learning officer for EDUCAUSE. “Because the learning can occur in varied settings and forms, individuals are not restricted by course schedules and access to programs. New business models are emerging, focused on making CBE programs affordable and on filling needs that are not currently well served through traditional post-secondary models.”

In addition, associations represent every industry and therefore can offer college graduates a pipeline to employers. Associations provide niche education – via credentialing and certification – something most grads won’t have entering the market.

But associations should move quickly, while the landscape is changing, Engel said.

“We have a rapidly closing window of opportunity here,” she said. “For-profits and venture capitalists see a $1.23 trillion market (the current level of student debt in the U.S.) and they aren’t going to sleep on that opportunity forever. (Indeed, the whitepaper covers some of the early moves companies are making into “our” space.) We have other advantages they’ll have a hard time duplicating, but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to waste our first-mover edge.”

The whitepaper offers seven keys to the shift in thinking, which I encourage you to read in detail (page 28) and offers suggestions for conducting workplace analysis (pages 28-29).

At the same time, Engel and Alcorn offer some tips for associations to take the next step in the educational spectrum:

  • Clearly define educational competencies needed, including soft skills
  • Clearly define career pathways
  • Consider alternative delivery methods and new technologies
  • Offer micro-credentialing and badging
  • Offer blended learning environments
  • Professionalize content development and delivery
  • Provide quality certification programs
  • Create effective alliances

“The education-to-employment system is broken and we need to understand why and what we can do to help,” Alcorn said. “There is a symbiotic relationship between education (acquisition of knowledge and skills), employment (economically rewarded activity) and living a ‘good life’ (an ethical, spiritually rewarding existence as individuals and as a collective). After all of the research we have done, we believe the current system may have been sufficient for the 19th and 20th centuries, but not the 21st. We can do better.”

Finally, some advice for millennials reading this:

Shelly img 26 large“You have personal power and more options than you have ever had. You are just at the beginning of an exciting and accelerating lifelong learning process. Focus on developing competencies required by a new employment sphere. Mix and match educational opportunities. Maybe a formal degree will give you the competencies you desire, maybe not. Maybe a certification can get you working while you pursue other educational avenues. Try MOOCs or coding camps. Try it all. The most important thing is to find and maintain a balance between education broad-based enough to help you build the trans disciplinary muscle you need to understand the interplay between systems, and education designed to help you develop a deep expertise in an area you find compelling or personally rewarding.”

– Shelly Alcorn

Elizabeth Engel

“Don’t discount the value of higher education, but also realize that it’s not job training (and it’s not designed to be), and it’s not necessarily the only way in to your desired career field. Consider all your options, including the education and professional development associations can provide. And if the association in your desired career field isn’t meeting your career and professional development needs, don’t walk away – kick a fuss! Get involved! Agitate for change!

– Elizabeth Weaver Engel

29
Aug
16

Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – September edition

Bob Thomas

Bob Thomas, Michigan Chamber Foundation

Q & A with Bob Thomas, senior director of operations and executive director, Michigan Chamber Foundation at Michigan Chamber of Commerce

Learn: Q: What’s one subject you’d like to learn more about?
A: I’d love to learn more about macroeconomics. The more I grow in my career, the more these concepts seem to creep in.

Network: Q: Social media or face-to-face? Which form of networking is better and why?
A: I think social media is a more interesting way to network, but face-to-face is more effective for establishing a trustworthy relationship

Transfer: Q: Tell us about an experience in which you learned something new and then applied it to your personal or professional life.
A: I started taking ballroom dancing lessons. Not only have I learned a ton about dancing, it’s been a fantastic experience to learn more about my partner, communicating non-verbally and leading by following. It’s an amazing trust-building exercise.

Q: If you could live someone else’s life for a day, who would it be, and why? 
A: I love my life. I don’t know that I’d want to live anyone else’s drama but my own! But I’d love to spend a day with James Corden and do “Carpool Karaoke.”

Q: Would you rather sky dive, bungee jump or climb to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, and why?
A: None! I’m afraid of heights.

23
Aug
16

Listen: Don’t just hear

 

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Jennifer Grau, president, Grau Interpersonal Communication

This month’s guest blog post is by Jennifer Grau, president of Grau Interpersonal Communication, who is a listening trainer, coach, facilitator, speaker and consultant. She co-organized the first European Listening and Healthcare Conference in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, in 2014 and is currently planning the International Listening Association’s 2018 convention.

 

We invest significant time selecting conference themes, locations, accommodations and meeting spaces; finding speakers; planning activities; and relating these to learning objectives and business goals. But something critically important is missing from this list: the kind of listening environment you cultivate.

People rarely design conferences with quality listening in mind. If they do, they often mistake listening for hearing and so they focus on audio quality. Yet, the listening experiences you foster makes your event memorable and enjoyable and provides lasting value to your participants.

Listening is one of the most important business skills today, yet few people know what listening entails. When asked to define listening they frequently respond with something like, “Listening is hearing what someone is saying” or “Listening is taking in a person’s verbal and non-verbal signals.

While both of these definitions describe elements of listening, neither is complete. The International Listening Association defines listening as “the process of receiving, constructing meaning from and responding to spoken and or nonverbal messages.” And the ILA definition neglects to mention the enormous amount of effort and energy listening requires to sustain focused attention over time.

Attending, constructing meaning and responding are perhaps the most important elements of listening for conference participants. Understanding what you can do to help people listen makes it more likely they will leave your conference with value.

Most people are passive, lazy listeners. Words wash over them. They don’t remember people’s names, let alone recall the information they heard after lunch. They are easily distracted and most can’t find the WIFM (what’s in it for me) if a speaker is abstract or overly detailed.

Few people realize the effort and skill needed to listen effectively. They don’t arrive with listening goals nor have they thought about whom they want to meet. In other words, most people haven’t created an information or relationship retention plan.

Even those with the best intentions and good listening skills find conferences difficult environments in which to sustain focus and attention. Multiple days in stimulating settings with a barrage of new people and new information can be overwhelming. Back-to-back sessions, events and marketplace stalls, combined with networking and socializing, can undo even the most committed and skillful listeners.

listening-skills-for-trial-lawyersAs a listening trainer, coach and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience helping people listen in a variety of business settings, here are some tips to foster a better listening environment at your next conference.

  1. As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” As part of the conference registration process, get people thinking about their listening goals. Get them to reflect on what they will take away. Ask a question like the ones below and use the information to shape your event:
  • “What three things are you looking forward to gaining from this conference?”
  • “How will your time at this conference improve your work/life?”
  • “What burning issue, question or idea do you hope to explore?”
  1. Insist on speaker introductions that go beyond a list of credentials. Make sure your MC provides the WIFM by building a connection between the speaker, the content of the session and your conference theme or organization’s mission. Invite participants to consider how they personally will use what they are about to experience.
  1. At the end of each session ask participants to consider what they have gained. Allow time to record; reflect and integrate these insights; summarize notes; post to social media; take a memory-prompting photo; request slides. For listening that lasts people have to commit what they heard to their long-term memory.
  1. Avoid “talking head” panels whenever possible. Use a variety of formats when planning sessions. People habituate quickly. A variety of formats and session lengths will hold attention better and renew people’s listening stamina. Consider formats similar to TED talks, poster sessions and Pecha Kucha to add variety.
  1. Listening and digesting do not go well together. Do experiential or interactive learning after lunch.
  1. Plan a variety of interactive experiences for people to connect with other participants and exchange ideas. Leverage the face-to-face experience. Listening is a powerful relationship development tool. Consider adding World Café’s and other discussion formats that will engage participants and encourage two-way exchange of ideas.
  1. Open your next conference with a mini listening boot camp on how to listen to get the most out of conference events.

Don’t forget the power of listening to music to set a mood, calm or energize your group.

16
Aug
16

What’s the state of association marketing?

Digital-Marketing-TrainingAs many of you probably know by now, I’m a public relations fanatic. Not only is it my full-time profession, but I’m constantly soaking up stories about new trends, PR disasters, crisis communications and more.

Years ago, PR (which used to be more focused on media relations) and marketing didn’t always mix well. Fast forward: The line is fuzzy – if it exists at all.

Now, marketing is very much about content. Without content, you’ve got nothing to communicate, no brand and no campaign.

But not just anyone can do marketing. It takes careful planning, strategic thinking and skill.

This week at the ASAE Annual Meeting, Demand Metric (sponsored by HighRoad Solution) unveiled its benchmark report, “2016 State of Digital Marketing in Associations.”

Among the findings: Association customers think marketing communications are rather stagnant – and each year, those feelings grow a bit stronger, according to the survey results. In fact, in the 2016 report, only one-fourth of respondents reported their members perceive communications as always relevant. (Marketing Tip No. 1: Know your audience!)

“All associations need a strategic marketing plan to drive all marketing capabilities and tactics,” Demand Metric said. “In the absence of a marketing strategy that is based on an association’s values and objectives, it is difficult for marketing to have the impact that it should. So for marketing communications and all other capabilities, the right approach is to lead with strategy and planning.”

As for tactics, email marketing again took the No. 1 spot as the most effective (the same as last year.) The biggest dip: mobile marketing. It dropped 11 percent from last year, and this year, only 18 percent of respondents said it’s an effective marketing tactic. Event marketing took the No. 2 spot while content marketing took No. 3.

Other key findings:

  • 71 percent of study participants report their association marketing overall effectiveness as somewhat or very effective.
  • More one-third of study participants rate their understanding of member needs as poor to neutral.
  • 91 percent of associations in the study are tracking some sort of marketing metric. Just 22 percent track ROI as a marketing metric.
  • 82 percent of the associations that track ROI report high overall marketing effectiveness.
  • The average annual marketing budget for associations in this study falls in the $250,000 to $299,999 range.

ROI_blog_graphicSpeaking of ROI, according to the study, many marketers shy away from analytics – which can be a fatal mistake. My two cents: There’s no point in engaging in marketing if efforts are fruitless, right? And so, marketers need to have a key spot at the table when it comes to strategic planning.

According to the report, IT handles many marketing tactics (the logistics of email campaigns, for instance), but marketing staff needs to be involved in the overall vision of an organization. All this said, it’s crucial for marketing staff to have an understanding of HTML and other basic web functions. Unfortunately, according to the report, that skillset has decreased among association marketing staffs.

Here’s where learning and professional development come in.

“Associations must view training as an investment, not just in growing the skills of the marketing team, but in enabling the marketing function to help the organization achieve its goals,” Demand Metric said. “Marketing needs to exist within a culture that values learning. The marketing team that has a competitive technical skill set is an asset to the entire organization it serves.”

So marketers, what do you think? How do you fit into your association’s strategic plan? Share your comments here.

09
Aug
16

Big city love from ASAE

attendees6Good news fellow Midwesterners!

In 2018, ASAE’s Annual Meeting and Exposition will be coming to Chicago!

On July 25, ASAE announced the host cities for its meetings, through 2022:

2017 – Toronto
2018 – Chicago
2019 – Columbus
2020 – Las Vegas
2021 – Dallas
2022 – Atlanta

“Congratulations to the cities selected for our 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 ASAE annual meetings and expositions,” said John Graham, ASAE president and CEO. “We had seven cities that were finalists in our selection process, and each one did a fantastic job. The proposals submitted by the winning cities exceeded our expectations. Looking forward to growing our partnerships with the respective convention and visitors bureaus in the coming years as we plan exciting and engaging meetings.”

ASAE last held its annual meeting in Chicago in 2007, which had the highest attendance of association executives. In 2019, it will be the first time Columbus has hosted an ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition.

attendees11And, it’s hard to believe, but the 2016 ASAE Annual Meeting is next week, Aug. 13-16, in Salt Lake City, offering a versatile lineup of sessions and inspiring keynotes. New this year, ASAE is offering learning formats from which to choose.

I’m guessing there will be avid social media engagement, especially on Twitter using #ASAE16 and @ASAEAnnual. In fact, I’ll be following the stream, searching for future blog post topics and future guest bloggers. So please follow me on Twitter and don’t be afraid to tag me!

Is it your first time? Check out these tips from ASAE. And remember to use #newbie on your tweets.

At the same time, download the ASAE Programs App to help you connect with your network, keep track of your schedule and engage on social media.

And finally – have fun! I’ve been to Salt Lake and it’s a gorgeous city with some must-try eating hotspots. We’ve heard about how much revenue events such as Super Bowls and presidential debates generate for cities, think about how excited Salt Lake is to welcome you! Share some Twitter love.

I look forward to communicating with you next week!

03
Aug
16

Disney-inspired conference experiences

862de4ac-6590-4b05-a26c-3e939f6efa8aHave you ever wondered what attracts nearly 17 million guests a year to “The Happiest Place on Earth”? Surprisingly, it’s not magic. As our members, exhibitors, sponsors and attendees struggle to allocate limited resources, including time and money, they’re making tough decisions about whether or not to participate in our events. Regardless of attendance, revenue and other key performance indicators, there’s always room for improvement.
During a recent ORGPRO breakout session for the Michigan Society of Association Executives, I helped association professionals and industry partners apply Disney’s secret sauce of innovation, quality, community, storytelling, optimism and decency to their own conference experiences to foster loyalty, to grow repeat attendance and to generate buzz.
According to Disney’s culture statement, following are the core values of Disney’s approach to guest experiences:
  • Innovation – We are committed to a tradition of innovation and technology.
  • Quality – We strive to set a high standard of excellence. We maintain high-quality standards across all product categories.
  • Community – We create positive and inclusive ideas about families. We provide entertainment experiences for all generations to share.
  • Storytelling – Timeless and engaging stories delight and inspire.
  • Optimism – At The Walt Disney Company, entertainment is about hope, aspiration and positive outcomes.
  • Decency – We honor and respect the trust people place in us. Our fun is about laughing at our experiences and ourselves.

Member-Centric_Data_modelIf we dive a bit more deeply into this aspirational culture statement it’s easy to see how the values that make The Walt Disney Company an extraordinary place to work are the same values that are capable of transforming association events into member-centric conference experiences.

Consider, for a moment, your organization’s events, particularly it’s major annual meeting. How do you and your team:

  • Infuse innovation and technology into the design, development and implementation phases?
  • Demonstrate a high standard of excellence?
  • Create positive and inclusive experiences for attendees of all generations?
  • Identify, capture and share member stories and testimonials?
  • Foster positive learning and networking outcomes?
  • Honor and respect your key stakeholders (e.g., board of directors, volunteers, exhibitors, sponsors and attendees)?

While I had a number of ideas for how associations might translate these core values into member-centric conference experiences, the session participants simply blew me away with the robust list they developed. In the meantime, what ideas might you add to this list? What have you learned from your most memorable customer service experience (good, bad or ugly)?

28
Jul
16

Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – August edition

asp_17

Stephanie Wohlfert. Courtesy of Michigan Meetings + Events.

Q & A with Stephanie Wohlfert, meetings coordinator, MSAE

Q: Learn: What’s one subject you’d like to learn more about?
A: Nutrition Science – Throughout the last several years I’ve become more conscious about health and wellness and what my family and I eat daily. I focus on eating non-processed foods without all the fillers and preservatives. I have a very good understanding of why this is important; however, I’d love to take it to another level and understand the science behind it, too, so I can educate others as well.

Q: Network: Social media or face-to-face? Which form of networking is better and why?
A: Although I’m a fan of social media for so many other reasons, when it comes to networking, I think I’ll forever be “old school” in thinking face-to-face is the best form of networking. I know we are a lot busier in our personal and professional lives than ever before, but I’ll never get tired of physically attending a networking event to meet people in person. I feel that you can connect with people so much more on a personal level this way.

Q: Transfer: Please share with us a resource you just can’t live without.
A: I don’t read as many books as I’d like but my go-to book to keep me on track is “Secrets of the Obvious” by Harry Cohen. One of my colleagues gave me this book several years ago when I was very green in the industry and feeling overwhelmed with balancing my personal and professional life. Sometimes we get so caught up with the hustle and bustle of everyday activities that we forget the basics and how just focusing on a few positive changes will restore that balance!

Q: Tell us about an experience in which you learned something new and then applied it to your personal or professional life.
A: Ah, yes! Last year I attended the Convention Industry Council’s CMP “Conclave” and I’ll never forget the opening keynote speaker, Andy Cohen. His presentation was titled, “The Assumpt,” and it was all about the daily assumptions we make and how sometimes we treat our assumptions as truths rather than reality. Every time I hear or think the word “assume,” I now instantly think of why I should be more aware, keep an open mind and ask more questions.

Q: Which adjectives best describe you?
A: Dependable. I think I’ve been carrying around this adjective to best describe me for quite some time but I pride myself in always being reliable to those around me. Although I feel like I can always do more for people, I love helping out and doing things for others. I want my friends, family, colleagues and those I meet along the way to know they can always depend on me.




meet aaron

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

meet kristen

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

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