Changing the world (that is, Michigan) in 2012

The Christmas decorations are all packed up and safely put away for another year. The endless trays of cookies and shortbread and toffee have been consumed; the trays washed. The house has been cleaned, the furniture and knick-knacks replaced to their usual positions, the laundry caught up and the New Year’s resolutions begun.

For many, this begins the longest three months of the winter. Here, in Michigan, it means the first “real” snow for many communities throughout our great state, as well as countless dark and dreary days, blustery temperatures, slippery driveways, icy windshields and salt-covered shoes tracking in and out of our cars, homes and offices (no matter how careful we are).

But it’s not all bad news, I swear. Although this picture (at first blush) appears bleak (and a touch depressing), the real story in 2012 has nothing to do with the weather. Rather, it’s the people that promise to make 2012 something special. Many of you have already read Maddie Grant’s post: “How are you going to change the world in 2012?” If not, I highly recommend checking it out to provide some context for my contribution to this meme.

As many of you know, 2012 is shaping up to be a big year for me. After nine years as an association professional with the same Michigan trade association, I’m changing gears and putting on the proverbial “consulting hat.” It’s both exciting and scary; however, the continued support of my family and friends is quickly transforming this dream into a reality.

My consulting work centers on learning. At the end of the day, when you take away the big, flashy lights, the world-renowned entertainers and the dynamic assortment of locally-grown foods, what matters most at any conference or meeting is the learning.

Year after year, associations around the world plan learning programs for their members. These programs contribute substantially to the financial stability of their organization, but are also intended to impart knowledge and information (with the expectation that these members will walk away with something meaningful that not only improves their lives, but also the lives of those people who use their products or services).

And this is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. There’s endless knowledge and information in this world to be known. These days, there’s also a (nearly) endless supply of providers willing to share this knowledge and information (usually, for a fee).

This reminds me a bit of a scene from American Idol that plays out time and time again. How many auditions begin with much promise (after all, the person auditioning has taken vocal lessons for the last 10 years) and end with the judges scratching their heads (or, more tragically, giggling).

What is the correlation? It’s simple: We can do better. Just because organizations can and do offer continuing education and professional development opportunities for their members (vocal lessons), doesn’t mean these learning opportunities are successful at imparting knowledge and information in such a way that ensures retention and transference (a quality singing voice).

“We can do better” means delivering content via innovative design and delivery methods that is unique to the target audience. It means developing an evaluation process that actually measures learning (rather than preferences) both onsite and at a specified period of time following the program. It means engaging speakers and facilitators during the planning process to ensure a learning experience that is dynamic and meaningful. (I could go on, but I think you can hear the passion in my voice.)

Although my work forwarding these and other initiatives related to learning promises to take me beyond the borders of Michigan, I’m committed to making things better here at home, too. This will begin with a Michigan association meetings industry survey in partnership with the Michigan Society of Association Executives. The results of this survey will identify current practices of Michigan meeting professionals and associations, and will identify future opportunities for me (and others) to give back to this remarkable community.

Anyway, that’s my first step to changing the world in 2012. Maddie’s recommended we tag some more people and encourage them to write a quick blog post or share a comment, and tag some more people. Following are the people I’m tagging (but the invitation is open to everyone!):

For more information about my new consulting firm, please “Like” Event Garde LLC on Facebook.

6 Responses to “Changing the world (that is, Michigan) in 2012”

  1. January 4, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Ok, you’ve inspired me to elaborate on my 2012 vision. I took you cue and wrote a new post…

    • January 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Thanks, Stephanie, for taking the challenge! I love your post and absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you *can* and *will* make the world a better place in 2012 by helping raise others up. You inspire me and I’m proud to call you my friend.

  2. January 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks for the prompt, Aaron. I’ll post something too.

    BTW, I think it’s really great that you are focused on finding new ways for people to learn. The more options that exist, the more people will be able find what works best for them. But, as I’ve said before, you can add new ways of learning without dumping the old ones. I’m not the only person who avoids sessions that are advertised as “highly interactive.”

  3. January 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    David, I look forward to reading your post! And I agree that there’s room for both “new” and “old” learning formats. The one point I won’t concede is this: Sometimes – no matter how painful – people who would normally run kicking and screaming from a session advertised as “highly interactive” would best be served to attend such a learning experience (not every day, but occasionally). I believe if we only learn from opportunities that resonate within our comfort zone, we have little chance of truly reaching our fullest potential as learned professionals. Inevitably, there will be just too many experiences, opinions and perspectives that we miss out on.

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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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