Achieve more: Professional development consultations to the rescue

It’s certainly no secret that the professional development landscape is changing. If you have any doubts, take a look at my Feb. 29 post titled, “The professional development trifecta: Competition, strategy and experience.”

There I break down the impact technology is having on the sheer volume of continuing education programs being offered today, the importance of education research in the development of quality learning and networking events, and the expertise required to pull off truly dynamic member experiences that draw upon innovative programming models and contemporary adult learning principles.

As part of a new, ongoing series I’m calling “Achieve More,” I will profile each month a unique strategy guaranteed to breathe new life into some aspect of your organization’s professional development efforts.

To kick-off this series, I’d like to address the benefits of a professional development consultation. Each and every day, someone, somewhere is planning an educational program or special networking event for association members. The very first step in the planning process generally includes a look back at the previous year’s records, including timeline, financials, communications and the like (assuming this is a repeat event).

Depending on the amount of available planning time and resources; the foresight to identify member needs through industry research, analysis and trending; the interest of volunteer leaders to take an active role in the establishment of program goals and objectives; and, finally, the organization’s own staffing, infrastructure and expertise, stage two varies considerably.

And, without a doubt, it’s this next step that determines the fate of an entire event.

Consider, for a moment, the old adage: “You only get out of something what you put into it.” Or, more succinct (and a bit crasser): “Garbage in, garbage out.” Primarily used to call attention to the fact that computers will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical of input data (“garbage in”) and produce nonsensical output (“garbage out”), this phrase is equally applicable to programs and events.

Churn and burn the same processes, meet with the same cohort of volunteer leaders, book the same venues, call upon the same speakers, partner with the same vendors (the violations are endless). Know what you’ll get on the other side? The same exact member experiences you’ve been turning out for the last several years (and, in some cases, even longer than that).

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with building upon a successful learning format or booking a multi-year contract with a great hotel to save a bit of money for both you and your members, but the line must be drawn somewhere. Just because your members come back year after year doesn’t mean:

  1. Your educational program inspires learning, engagement and community (the ultimate goal);
  2. Your members will continue to come given the introduction of a next best alternative; and
  3. Your organization is meeting its fullest potential (for both attendance and revenue).

Now, I’m not jaded enough to think that meeting professionals and professional development staff around the world are intentionally taking the easy way out. Quite the contrary. I’m intimately aware of the limited resources with which many education departments are faced. However, this isn’t a valid excuse.

Enter professional development consultants.

“Quick-fix” consultations (limited in scope and, believe it or not, overall investment) can have a sizable impact on jump-starting your planning efforts and providing new, innovative perspectives on what is possible. Consultations with a knowledgeable professional development expert can range from half-day to full-day sessions (or longer, depending on your organization’s needs) and may focus on:

  1. Framing an upcoming program or event to make it unique and memorable (think innovative programming models here); or
  2. Coaching staff to host a meaningful volunteer leader committee meeting intended to capture new ideas or identify member needs; or
  3. Developing strategies to better support your speakers, transforming your organization’s subject matter experts into effective instructional designers.

The opportunities are endless. But in every instance, actionable recommendations should be provided by the consultant via a written report or executive summary to focus and refine your planning efforts long after the consultation has ended.

So, my question to you is this: What elements of your next signature program (or new 2012 event) could be reimagined? What effect would some coaching and advance preparation have on the effectiveness of your organization’s next education committee meeting? How would some targeted speaker preparation (e.g., dissemination of venue or session logistics, training or tips for better presentations) impact the experience of both your subject matter experts and program participants?

For more information about my professional development consulting firm Event Garde, download our promotional brochure, visit the website or like us on Facebook. A personal, fun and completely free conversation will also enable us to discuss how I can best contribute (via consultation or other strategy) to the success of your organization’s professional development efforts. Together, we can achieve more.

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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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