Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts on Association Education

Just two.

Webinars. They must engage the audience. Recording the plenary sessions from your Annual Conference and letting people watch them on the web is about as useful as letting them read your committee reports. There are fundamental differences between the way you deliver education from a podium to a room of four thousand people and the way you deliver it over the Internet to a single individual sitting at his/her computer. Respect those differences.

Live Workshops. Schedule them so that no more than 20% of the time is spent in presentation mode and at least 80% of the time is spent with the participants interacting with each other. Trust me. If the room is filled with my peers, I can learn more and more quickly from interactive discussion than I can from listening to 75 minutes of didactic presentation. Really. I'm not kidding.

Special bonus thought on association board meetings. The same 20/80 rule applies. Yes, the CEO should makes sure the board members have accurate information and that their discussions are framed correctly. But then he/she should facilitate interaction by as many board members as possible. Talk less. Listen more.


Jeff De Cagna said...

Eric, I think spending only 20% of a workshop in presentation mode is not realistic. That would mean that less than an hour of a four-hour workshop could be devoted to the explanation of unfamiliar concepts. I agree that learning from peers can be powerful, but if the intention of the workshop is to present new thinking, it will take some time.

Eric Lanke said...

Thanks for the push back, Jeff. I thought that comment might be controversial. Part of our disagreement might be semantical. I agree that there is value in educational sessions that present didactic information, especially, as you say, if the intention is to explain new or unfamiliar concepts. I just don't call those sessions workshops. A workshop, in my mind, is for discussion and experiential learning, and too many sessions that are billed that way (whatever the organizer chooses to call them) wind up talking at people for a vast majority of their time.

Dave Lutz said...

Eric, in principle I agree with your initial post. However, as Jeff points out the math on % of presentation vs. participation may vary. I think its highly dependent on the skill level of the learner. For beginners, participation is important but more instruction is needed. For advanced professionals, instruction can be much less, but quality facilitation will be required to maximize the desired results.

Bottom line, most workshops are erring by not having enough dialogue among the participants.

Eric Lanke said...

In some ways, it's a negotiating position, Dave. Right now, we aim for 50% interaction and wind up getting 20%. Maybe if we ask for 80%, we'll get 50%. There's something baked into the fabric of most association conferences that pushes them towards passive learning techniques.

Anonymous said...

If only 20% is spent in presentation mode, is the speaker only paid 20% of his/her fee? (Someone had to see this coming in this thread.)

Eric Lanke said...

Speaker: yes. Facilitator: no.

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