Event learning made cool

January 23, 2012

I love adventures. Doesn’t matter if they’re small adventures, or big ones, or any size in between. I especially love ‘em if they have something to do with learning.

Here’s an adventure I had a couple of weeks ago – the first of what I’m sure will be lots of learning adventures in 2012!

Build-your-own learning

Are you looking for a cool new way to offer learning at your conferences? Take a hint from the Learning Lounge at PCMA’s recent Convening Leaders conference in San Diego. The lounge offered a build-your-own experience, allowing conference participants to choose from a variety of bite-sized chunks of learning.

Exhibit Hall F at the San Diego Convention Center was given over entirely to the lounge. Lots of activities were going on simultaneously in clusters of comfortable seating and mini-theaters scattered around the hall. I had the good fortune to be invited to participate by Jeff Hurt and Dave Lutz of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, who organized part of the lounge activities – the “Really Live Chats” and the “Big Ideas Pavilion”. Both areas featured a number of experts in growing attendance, expo and sponsorship, and designing meetings for learning.

Really Live Chats

     For the “Really Live Chats” Jeff and Dave identified, in advance, 22 thought leaders in conference learning, growing conference attendance, and sponsorship generation, then interviewed them via Skype video. The resulting 10-minute video clips were available for viewing in each of three mini-theaters clustered together. I was one of several chat facilitators who played clips (chosen by those present) and then facilitated informal discussions with people who came and went as they chose. Some marvelous spontaneous conversations and idea-generation occurred!

Big Ideas Pavilion

     Over the three days of the conference, the “Big Ideas Pavilion” featured 40 or so TED-style presentations offered by a number of meetings and learning experts. Continue reading →


Initial musings from ASAE

August 12, 2011

Another ASAE annual meeting has come and gone…yet it wasn’t just another ASAE annual meeting. If you were there, and/or follow the Twitter stream (#asae11) and the association blogosphere, you know that already. There was just something about this meeting that struck a very positive chord throughout the association community.

I suspect it has a lot to do with ASAE’s responsiveness to the significant criticism of the 2010 event in Los Angeles. ASAE listened (and perhaps St. Louis did, too), a critical association skill I wrote about early in the week, and made a number of changes in response. Kudos to everyone involved in those changes! The ones I noticed the most were the wide variety of session possibilities (Game Changers, Ignite, Deep Dives, Learning Labs, Conversations that Matter, Innovation Exchange) and the spaces opened up – near all the action, this time – for participants to gather and discuss topics of their choice or just relax (Flash Learning, Online Engagement Lounge, and others). It was probably the first ASAE meeting in a long time (and I’ve been to a lot of them) in which I truly wish I could have cloned myself to avoid having to choose from among what all looked like wonderful sessions.

My biggest regret…

Continue reading →


Strategy is an important element in association management. Whether your mantra is “strategic planning is dead!” or “long live strategic planning,” there is no doubt that in today’s world we need to be strategic about where we’re going and what we choose to do.

In one session I attended at an ASAE annual meeting, “Future Trends: State-of-the-Art Environmental Scanning in Associations,” content leaders Jim Dalton and Alan Balkema highlighted new research on trends and environmental scanning, including 50 trends identified in the book Designing Your Future: Key Trends, Challenges, and Choices Facing Association and Nonprofit Leaders. The research included how (and if) associations are engaging in environmental scanning. Dalton distinguished two context types associations might use: the general environment – scanning the entire universe using categories known to be major change areas – and the task environment, which is a focus on the immediate conditions faced by members by demographics and market segments. ASAE, for example, used a STEEP model (Social, Technology, Economic, Environmental, Political) for its general environmental scanning.

Dalton offered two critical questions to consider about each of 50 trends on the list:

(1)    Will the trend have significant bearing on your members?

(2)    If so, how and why will this trend have an effect on your members?

In answering these questions, Dalton says, you convert a trend from the general environment into a strategic issue in your members’ task environment.

I was excited to see a number of these trends relating directly to learning, because in similar trend lists identified over the years, learning issues have been more inferred rather than being the focus of trends themselves. The rise of these trends demonstrates the increasing importance of learning to association management.

So what are these learning-focused trends? They fall into four of the five STEEP categories and are listed below (one in the fifth category can be inferred). Think about them using the two questions above, and you just may identify some strategic learning issues to which your organization should be paying attention. Note: emphasis placed is mine.

Continue reading →