In the last week, I’ve had the occasion to engage in several different learning opportunities with a variety of individuals who were clearly not trained speakers, educators or facilitators. (We know what this looks like, yes?) The specific instances aren’t important; however, I should note that they cross several different organizations and involve about a dozen or more people (in other words, we’re not talking about an isolated incident here).
As a result of these experiences, I’ve decided to take a second look at this notion of “associations as curators.” Although the organizations in question technically aren’t associations, I feel as though the concept is equally applicable. The fact of the matter is that these organizations had quality content and endeavored to teach others – and did so poorly.
Now, I should tell you that I’ve been hating on the phrase “associations as curators” for at least the last six months. To me, it’s been way overused and didn’t really demonstrate to me new ideology related to education and professional development. After some careful reflection, though, I’m slowly seeing the err of my ways.
There’s an endless amount of information in this world to know (a point I talk about often). Presumably, there’s an association that specializes in just about every major body of knowledge. Associations curate this knowledge just as any manager or overseer does his or her gallery, museum, library or archive. Both are content specialists who (1) are responsible for their institution’s collections and (2) are involved with the interpretation of the material contained within these collections.
The important distinction here is the interpretation of this material. In other words, it isn’t enough to simply have knowledge or content or data or information. Rather, it’s necessary to create added meaning (value) through a process of elucidation or explication. It’s necessary to analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply this material in a meaningful way, as well as teach it – successfully – to others. And there’s the rub.
All content experts are not good curators.
That is, not all speakers, educators or facilitators are skilled in the process of interpreting and delivering content in such a way that ensures retention and transference in adult learners. Nevertheless, as the entity “responsible for their institution’s collections,” associations (and all organizations, really) are responsible for ensuring that their speakers, educators or facilitators are adequately prepared to deliver meaning and value to learners (our members).
Traditionally, this is done via a series of interactions with speakers, educators or facilitators. Preparation can take the form of individual coaching, conference calls, online meetings, e-mails or dedicated websites or portals. And content can range from venue or session logistics; training or tips for better presentations; information about expected attendees (e.g., number, interests or skills); information about overarching themes or content tracks at the meeting; or information about the speaker or session evaluation process.
The point is this: As a curator, associations are responsible for much more than hiring speakers, educators or facilitators. To create the most dynamic member experience possible, associations must take an active role in supporting these individuals to success. (A lesson that’s equally relevant to for-profit organizations throughout Michigan and beyond!)
So, my question to you is this: How do you prepare speakers, educators and facilitators for your meetings and conferences? What type of content does your organization provide to these individuals in anticipation of an upcoming program? What best practices have you instituted over the years to ensure positive member experiences?