The professional development trifecta: Competition, strategy and experience

The professional development landscape is changing. Wouldn’t you agree?

Simply scan the environment and it’s clear our culture is mobile-obsessed. We’ve become more technologically advanced and move at a faster pace. Combine this competition for time and resources with the endless access to information and content available online—not to mention the countless organizations now offering education opportunities at competitive rates (even free!)—and you have a long list of continuing education providers competing for market share.

And as associations play a more significant role in training today’s workforce, they must help learners take responsibility for their own learning, as well as teach them how to learn and how to leverage that learning within their organizations. To remain relevant, associations must also:

  • Transform industry-specific knowledge and information into viable training;
  • Align education with member needs through regular industry research, analysis and trending;
  • Connect the dots between theory and practice; and
  • Explore opportunities for virtual and/or blended learning formats.

Finally, recall a past conference experience with a one-dimensional keynote speaker and an afternoon of lecture-style breakout sessions. (Rather not, right?) Members today demand compelling experiences—delivered in a unique and interactive way—that inspire learning, engagement and community. These transformations require buy-in from key leaders and stakeholders, deliberate training and coaching of program facilitators and content leaders, and significantly more planning, organization, lead time and logistics management than ever before.

So, my question to you is this: How is your organization adapting to this shift in the professional development landscape? What are you doing differently to make your education offerings more innovative and engaging (dynamic, even)? How will you stand out from the crowd this year?

4 Responses to “The professional development trifecta: Competition, strategy and experience”

  1. April 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    I enjoyed this post and agree with your viewpoint. I’d like to highlight a group that’s doing a great job in my area engaging people and not just talking at them. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation in Columbus, Ohio is an organization that has a long and rich history, much like the national association and peer groups around the country. Last year they developed the Bringing It to the Table Conference, which reached beyond the OFBF membership and brought together everyone and anyone from around the country that deals in the world of food. Academics from Ohio State University’s Food Innovation Center, small organic farmers, grocers, wholesalers – anyone involved with food processing and manufacturing was invited. The free, all-day summit featured discussions on everything from the factors influencing food production to how to feed local and global communities. I had the opportunity to emcee the event and was amazed by the engagement level. A mixture of interaction and lectures, it lead to an ongoing discussion which provides education and helps the OFBF organization build its ever-powerful network of innovation.

  2. April 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm


    Thanks for sharing! This does seem like a very exciting and engaging event planned by a very innovative and forward-thinking organization. I hope that over time such learning and networking experiences become the “new normal.” I believe that associations can and must play a significant role in providing such open spaces for people worldwide to come together, to wrestle with important issues, to brainstorm solutions and to implement the steps necessary to bring amiable resolution to these matters. The “old conference format” just doesn’t cut it. And it doesn’t cut it for at least two reasons. First, people today are sophisticated adult learners who demand more engagement out of their learning experiences (in addition to their needs/wants/desires to have a greater role in molding and shaping their learning experiences to best meet their professional development goals and objectives). And second, lecture-style presentations aren’t dynamic enough to link theory with practice. The learner may walk away with new information, but the transfer of learning is incomplete (and the opportunity to successfully complete this transfer of learning will have passed before the participant returns to his or her workplace). Although I’m not advocating a one-size-fits-all solution or format, associations have a lot to learn from examples like this in responding to and keeping up with the changing professional development landscape.

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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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