On Oct. 3, I’ll have the opportunity to speak at the seventh annual NACEDA (National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations) Summit. Hosted by the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit, the theme is “What’s Working?” Considering the NACEDA Summit is taking a road trip for the first time in seven years, it’s only appropriate the group decided to convene in the Motor City.
Despite bad press, Detroit offers countless examples of what’s working. For starters, meetings are not only safe and thriving, a transformation is happening here more rapidly than at any other time in history. Likewise, Detroit is not the ‘black eye’ of America and Motown magic continues to attract business. Case in point, the “Super Bowl of Conferences” will be held here in 2015.
Generally, I think visitors are surprised by everything the city has to offer. And if you doubt me, just ask my friend Jeanette Pierce of D:hive. I recently had the good fortune to tour several Detroit sites with her as a committee chair for the aforementioned event. Not only is she the city’s most unabashed advocate, but she’s an absolute wealth of information about Detroit and its many points of interest.
So, as a self-proclaimed “meetings coach” and Michigan native, I’m pleased to have been invited by Brian McGrain of CEDAM (Community Economic Development Association of Michigan) to submit a presentation proposal for this year’s summit. My session will illuminate current best practices in training and conference session planning and has come to be titled, “Leveraging Strategy to Amplify Education Initiatives.”
Although I’m a firm supporter of developing sessions unique to conference objectives and attendee needs, I often raise this theme of “intentionality.” In an article I wrote in June 2002 for Associations Now, I encouraged readers to take a break from the daily firefighting we’ve come to expect and instead approach tasks with more reflection, strategy and collaboration.
In the spirit of this advice, take a moment to consider participation in your current suite of professional development programs. What’s inhibiting attendance? We’re likely all feeling the pressures of time, competition, money and technology. But when specifically asked during a recent NACEDA prep session, leaders added travel, opportunity costs, value proposition and marketing to their list of challenges.
I consider my own work with the Michigan Association of REALTORS earlier this year. During a similar powwow with the best and the brightest minds, local association leaders added certification, continuing education credits, programming for disparate experience levels, personal/professional motivation and regulations – all of which resonated with this group, as well.
So it’s clearly time to start thinking differently about education, including what it means to meet the unique needs of our professional development consumers (as dwindling attendance and revenue is likely not an alternative we’re willing to accept). While distance learning is one possible solution, it’s not the only solution. The Meetings Report reminds us to diversify revenue, reward difference, value context, maximize opportunities and prioritize learning.
To prioritize learning means to:
1. Develop and apply an intentional education strategy;
2. Experiment with more creative instructional strategies that align with adult learning theory; and
3. Deliberately explore the intersection that exists between logistics and learning.
I think we can all agree that the days of talking head, instructor-led sessions are waning. To remain relevant, organizations must elevate the quality and sophistication of their programs, build the reputation of their signature events and improve their bottom lines. This session will answer the simple question: How can we do that?
In the meantime, I’m curious to know: What’s inhibiting attendance at your organization’s events? When it comes to training/conference session planning, what needs improvement? How much adult learning theory informs your meetings/events? Share your thoughts in the comments and I’ll hope to see you Thursday.
Aaron Wolowiec is founder and president of Event Garde, a Michigan-based professional development consulting firm. Event Garde works with association leaders who want to deliver dynamic, meaningful and compelling education and networking experiences.