Your association formed because you and your members all have a common interest and shared knowledge. Now you want to take that knowledge and spread it further; to the community, to your members, to up and comers in your area.
Time to set up a learning program!
Decide the goal
The first step is to figure out two goals: your association’s goal in having a learning session and the student’s goal in coming. Once you decide those, a format should become clearer. If you’re looking for new ideas, brainstorming and open conversation might be the best fit. If you happen to have an expert or a few who are willing to talk, a lecture or a panel may be an option. Other formats include class series, workshops, labs, webinars, and traditional classroom-style instruction.
One of the best things about belonging to your association or attending your association’s events is the camaraderie and networking from your members. Even though your class/series/lecture/workshop is different than meetings or other events, you can still offer a taste of the community that exists in your association. This makes for a friendly learning environment and leaves attendees with a happy feeling about your organization.
Save lessons for later
Make save PowerPoint slides and post them online, use your AMS to start a forum discussion, or bring up the topic in your next membership meeting but keep that information alive. That way people who weren’t able to participate can still be in the loop and some outside conversation could be generated.
Whether you’re teaching your members about legal policy regarding your association or all enjoying new forms of botany, leave your members with an action item. It’ll help your “lesson” sink in.
Interact so you can learn too
Not all learning programs encourage back-and-forth communication between instructors and attendees. A big lecture, for example, might have some Q & A but less interaction than a smaller workshop. If you are holding more of a one-sided event, make time to stay after and network and interact. It’s a great place to get feedback about the presentation and become inspired for future topics.
Integrate smart phones, social media
Depending on your audience, social media may be a great way to interact with your attendees and generate buzz. Consider making up a hash tag beforehand or making a Foursquare or facebook check in.
Solicit feedback, but don’t count on it
If you want to have a successful event, ask how it went, what was learned, and how you can improve in the future. But don’t count on all of that feedback. Surveys tend to get ignored pretty quickly, but if you’re face-to-face you might have success with paper hand-outs. Use the feedback you do get to shape your future events.
I was drafting this blog when I joined the weekly twitter association chat under the hash tag #assnchat, a regular occurrence on Tuesdays at 2pm eastern. I was delighted to see this very topic addressed! If you want your brain to get kicked into high gear and network with some great, connected people, please join!