Archive for March, 2016


Bonus Content Event Garde e-news – April edition


Emily Thomas

Q & A with Emily Thomas, assistant director and membership manager, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education

Q: Would you rather sky dive, bungee jump or climb to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, and why?
A: Bungee jump. It’s a bucket list item of mine that gives me butterflies just thinking about it!

Q: If you could live someone else’s life for a day, who would it be, and why? 
A: Being a fan of taking risks and not afraid of pressure, I’d choose the president. For starters, it would be a humbling experience understanding what the president and his team are tasked with on a daily basis and the obstacles in their course. And due to my curious nature, I’d also be very interested in learning “behind the scenes” tidbits about being president.

Q: Learn: What’s one subject you’d like to learn more about?
A: Coding. HTML, JavaScript, C++, all of them.  

Q: Network: Social media or face-to-face? Which form of networking is better and why?
A: I prefer face-to-face but in today’s world with associations serving communities far from their home office, social media is the way to go.

Q: Transfer: Tell us about an experience in which you learned something new and then applied it to your personal or professional life.
A: I immediately think of the various Stephen Covey courses I’ve taken (think: “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”) One course in particular, “Speed of Trust,” taught me 13 specific behaviors that, when implemented, will promote trust and in turn lead to lasting change within an organization. After the course, I brought the materials back to my office and led my department in focusing on one new behavior each week to build a more cohesive and trusting team. I still look back on the trust cards today for dealing with tricky situations.


Connected in every way imaginable


new 2016 headshot

Jessica Pettitt

This month’s guest blog post is by Jessica Pettitt, a diversity expert, educator, speaker and consultant with Good Enough Now.


Last summer I attended my first ASAE Annual Meeting. I swam in the hallways of the Detroit Convention Center looking for the correct bus back to one of the many host hotels while trying to network, build business leads and learn about association trends.

Even as a huge extrovert, I was exhausted within the first few hours of a multi-day conference. But I got excited about Starbucks lines, elevator trips and escalator rides because I had a slow, quiet moment with one or two other people and I could recharge and take on the masses again.

One afternoon, there was something called an Edu-Tour. I was excited to be on a quiet bus with a small group of people. I had always wanted to visit the Detroit Institute of Art, so I signed up, prepared to relax, exhale and maybe connect with a few people.

The Edu-Tour concept connects attendees to an event venue’s surrounding areas. As such, I shifted from an ASAE attendee to being part of a group of participants interested in the museum. Detroit served as the icebreaker and Matt Chung was our official tour guide. Matt spoke about Detroit with such pride that it’s hard to explain how much more amped up he got when he spoke of his own art students, local artists, smaller venues and the crown jewel, the DIA.


Picasso’s “Sylvette” Photo courtesy of DIA

Together, the dozen or so folks on the bus trip connected with each other, our love for artistic expression and the same trials and tribulations Detroit and the DIA were currently plowing through – state and federal funding difficulties tied to political regimes, the struggle to maintain and energize a loyal membership base and even giving back to the local community through youth projects.

Each and every new friend on the bus left feeling connected to each other and to Detroit, and at the same time, reconnected with our own successes in our associations. We all struggle but together we can be supported and succeed. What an amazing community-building tool for ASAE!

Several of the folks on this trip have since stayed in touch using Facebook and I now have familiar faces to look for at the next event. I also have a new and stunning love affair with the DIA and Picasso’s “Sylvette.”


Edu-Tours and place-based education connect the purpose of an organization with the local community, and more importantly, with members. It’s a trifecta: association, members and the outdoor real life!

On a side note: When visiting Detroit be sure to check out the Detroit Experience Factory Welcome Center, which offers tours, maps and resources to help you connect with the city.


The latest on learning

learningMath just isn’t my forte. Maybe it’s because I work with words every day or maybe it’s just because I don’t get it.

It’s fascinating to me how brains are wired so differently. Take my three children: the boys are math and sciences whizzes and my daughter is a singer and artist. So just what makes us tick?

There are millions of resources about cognitive science so it’s easy to suffer from information overload. But a new report by nonprofit organization Deans for Impact summarizes some of the latest research on the science of learning.

The report is targeted to teachers and traditional educators, but since education is crucial to the event, meetings and nonprofit industries, “The Science of Learning” is an awesome resource.

I’ve broken down some key findings that can easily apply to those who engage in continuing education programs.

New ideas
Curriculum should be well sequenced so students can build upon concepts they’ve already mastered.

Students must transfer information from the working memory to the long-term memory. How? Teachers shouldn’t do all the talking, but instead use models and examples to explain. At the same time, visual cues can help knowledge transfer, i.e. speaking while showing a graphic.

By associating meaning with material, teachers can help students retain information. For example, when teaching a course, consider asking students to answer questions about why or how something happened and share stories and examples.

While practice is important, all practice isn’t created equally. The key to long-term retention is to practice over time. Quizzes (think CEs) and self-tests are effective tools.

Teachers need to give feedback to their students, but it should be effective. What does this mean? Focus on the task, not the student; be specific and clear; and focus on improvement rather than on performance.

Intellectual-Property2Learning motivation
When students feel appreciated, they’ll learn better. So when teaching a course, it’s important to praise those who are preforming well – and those who are trying. At the same, when students feel accountable for learning, they excel. Set learning goals and help students achieve them.

In addition, engage students in tasks that allow them to monitor their own learning. Vehicles can be testing, self-testing and explanation.

Finally, when students feel they belong, confidence grows. The lesson: Create a welcoming and encouraging climate for learning. Encourage students to network and learn from each other. Small groups foster conversation. And, of course, discourage negative feedback.

Common misconceptions
Regardless of the subject, teachers should acknowledge common learning misconceptions. The Science of Learning report debunks a few:

  • Students don’t have different learning styles.
  • Humans don’t use only 10 percent of their brains.
  • Novices and experts can’t think in the all the same ways.

In summary, Deans for Impact says, “All educators, including new teachers, should be able to connect these principles to their practical implications for the classroom (or wherever teaching and learning take place).”


The makings of a good nonprofit

nonprofit word in letterpress type

As some of you may know, I launched my career in nonprofit. I quickly learned that nonprofits play a crucial role in just about every industry.

While each nonprofit thrives on its own accord and each offers something unique to the constituents it serves, there are common traits that define a good nonprofit.

Perhaps more than anything else, good leadership molds a successful nonprofit. Excellence starts at the top, trickling down to those who support leadership.

But what else?

TVD Associates recently unveiled an infographic, “10 Traits that Make a Nonprofit Great.”

I won’t go through the entire list but a few traits are worth pointing out.

  • Focus on a few things – Think quality not quantity. It’s tempting to provide everything to everyone, but it’s much more effective to specialize in a few products and services. Nonprofits that stick to a mission and develop measurable goals perform the best.
  • Develop diverse funding sources – I’ve written before about methods to increase non-dues revenue since members shouldn’t provide the only funding stream. In addition, funding should also come from grants, special events and local foundations.
  • Reach the right audiences – I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: Communication is key, especially tailored communications. It’s best to identify three key audiences and craft messages specific to those communications needs. Key audiences include staff, board members and volunteers (internal messaging works well for this audience), those who might use products and services (think potential clients here, too) and potential donors.
  • Say thank you and ask for help – Nonprofits often ask for dollars, but a good nonprofit lists specific needs and builds financial transparency by providing examples of responsible stewardship. And when receiving funds, nonprofits that thank donors – based on their amount of giving – will earn respect.
  • Commitment to excellence – Good nonprofits keep apprised of industry trends and engage in professional development. They follow and seek out best practices; evaluate their programs and services; measure and publish outcomes; and communicate their efforts toward excellence.


“There are many other traits that are easy for organizations to overlook or to let fall by the wayside in favor of achieving day-to-day objectives,” TVD Associates said. “Also, for most nonprofits, the prospect of reflecting on, evaluating and altering the organization’s guiding tenets is daunting at best.”

What are your thoughts? What defines a good nonprofit?


Join the #whatisengagement conversation

8f5a2112-3c39-4265-83ff-f083c8c2aae0Engagement. We know we want it. In most cases, we know we need it. But with the ambiguity surrounding what engagement really is, it’s challenging to develop and deploy strategies we’re confident will grow the participation, reach and value of our education programs. In an attempt to create a unified definition, to illuminate best practices/strategies that truly engage learners and to identify real-world examples of engagement done right, both Tracy King, chief learning strategist of InspirEd, and I have prepared a few questions for which we would love your opinion. Specifically, we’re interested in your thoughts on what engagement is and strategies that work for both you and your learners. We’ll compile responses into a resource we will then share with you. We hope you’ll consider joining the #whatisengagement conversation sometime between now and the end of the month. It’s easy and fun (we promise)! Moreover, your ideas are important not only to us, but to the greater professional development community. With only seven questions to answer, there’s absolutely no barrier to participation and the aggregate responses are sure to be informative. Just be sure to share with us your responses (no matter your experience level) before the survey closes on March 31. Should you have questions or feedback about the survey, please don’t hesitate to email me your thoughts or insights. In the meantime, thanks in advance for your participation. And stay tuned for more details about this project in the coming months. It’s kind of a big deal.
The #whatisengagment survey is now open and may be accessed here. Please share it with your friends and colleagues. The more, the merrier!

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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