How To Develop a Learning Strategy For Association Meetings and Events
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How To Develop a Learning Strategy For Association Meetings and Events

By John Nawn | Mar 5, 2019

[This article was originally published by MPI Chicago Area Chapter.]

The top two reasons people attend association meetings and events are for the educational programs and the networking (formal and informal learning, respectively). All other reasons pale in comparison. Yet, most associations are doing a poor job of identifying learning needs, designing, developing, and delivering learning programs, and evaluating their results in ways that lead to individual and organizational performance improvement - the only meaningful outcomes that matter.

We know this because too few association members can say with any certainty what return, if any, they get from the learning programs they attend.

Just as a business strategy defines your long-term goals and objectives and outlines the steps to achieve them, a learning strategy insures your programs are accomplishing what they’re designed for. If your business and learning strategies aren’t aligned, you’re literally wasting your member’s time and money.

Key elements of an association learning strategy:

  • Needs Analysis

  • Competency Model

  • Learning Professionals

  • LMS/LCMS

  • Evaluation System

A needs analysis involves gathering information from multiple sources in multiple ways, not just sending out a survey. It’s actually the synthesis of several different analyses:

  • Organizational analysis (goals, resources, constraints, support, etc.)

  • Learner analysis (demographics, performance challenge, current state, desired state, definition of success, etc.)

  • Job and task analysis (performance measure, frequency, difficulty, importance, steps, etc.)

  • Instructional analysis (defining tasks, sub-tasks, instructional methods, etc.)

  • Content analysis (resources, reference materials for building learning programs, etc.)

A competency model is the most critical outcome of a needs analysis. It identifies the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that determine successful performance on any job. Most associations don’t use an empirically based competency model, but without one, your learning programs are little more that wishful thinking.

Compounding the lack of a competency model, association learning programs are often developed by committees that lack specific training in diagnosing performance problems (it’s more than just knowledge and skills), adult learning principles, the ADDIE Model of Instructional Design, curriculum development, etc.

As meeting professionals, we use our knowledge, skills, and abilities to plan meetings and events. Why leave the planning of our learning programs, the top reason people attend our meetings and events, to non-professionals? 

To manage your online learning programs, you’ll have to invest in an LMS (Learning Management System) or LCMS (Learning Content Management System). But remember, not all LMS/LCMSs are created equal. And if you’re not thinking about mLearning (Mobile Learning), it’s time to start. Your members are already consuming most of their content via mobile phones.

Finally, the most important factor in determining whether your learning programs result in some individual or organizational performance improvement, you have to start measuring what matters. Newer metrics and measurement systems are required.

These steps will ensure that your learning strategy is responsive to the changing needs of individuals and your organization.

 

Author

John Nawn
John Nawn

John Nawn is the founder/CEO of The Perfect Meeting, which designs formal and informal learning and content strategies that help organizations grow revenues and increase market share. John has served as chief learning officer for several multinational corporations and associations across different industries. Email: info@theperfectmeeting.com.