By Erin Roberts
A friend of mine has a dog that needs to lose weight. The vet recommended a simple strategy that guarantees weight loss. Just feed your pet the same meal day-in, day-out, he said. It doesn’t matter how good the meal is, over time it will become so boring that the dog will get no pleasure from it and will reduce his consumption.
Membership organizations often put their members on the same diet. The result is reduced member engagement and, ultimately, a drop in membership.
If we keep feeding our members the same meal, no matter how excellent, they will look for variety elsewhere – and we will lose them.
So how do we keep our professional education programs fresh and interesting for our members?
We know from working with our clients, that most association leaders do not see professional development programs as events. An event is something that is engaging and entertaining. A professional development seminar is something we do because it’s good for us.
Most associations see an invisible line between an event and an educational seminar.
This is a mistake. If we focus on making learning more of an event, there is a subtle, but important shift in focus. Treat your learning program as a series of events.
The only element that must be predictable is that you are providing value. The way you accomplish this goal should be a creative process that is constantly evolving.
Here are three tips to keep your professional education programs fresh:
- Make it fun.
- Choose speakers and trainers who are adept at engaging their audience.
- Make it interactive.
- Make sure that the learners have an opportunity to interact with the speaker and the other learners.
- Try something new.
- Add a new networking game to get your members outside of their cliques.
- Bring in a speaker with a controversial view.
- Change the order of the agenda.
- Change the time of day.
- Change the venue.
Erin Roberts is a Partner at Zzeem and an expert in the business of membership organizations. In over a decade of working with membership organizations, Erin has observed that the not-for-profit organization is a business and must be operated as a professionally-run and revenue-positive entity to be sustainable.