Here’s something I hear far too often from association board members: “Well, I haven’t really participated in any of the ______ myself.” You can fill in the blank with “online courses,” “Webinars,” or even, in far too many cases, “conferences,” “seminars,” or “continuing education” in general.
Unfortunately, the same is often true of executives and even of the education staff. They may be intimately familiar with their own offerings, but their experience going out and participating in lifelong learning offered by others is very limited.
Here, on the other hand, are some of the issues I often hear raised:
- We’re getting beaten down on price; there’s no way we can charge more.
Nine times out of ten, the core problem is that there is absolutely nothing to distinguish the organization’s offerings from numerous other offerings in the market and the entire market is gripped by a race-to-the bottom commodity dynamic. But it’s hard to know how to differentiate when you don’t know what you are differentiating against.
- Related to the first issue: We should be able to charge a lot more for what we provide, but we can’t – our members just won’t pay it.
I can pretty much guarantee there are education experiences for which you members pay quite a bit. I, for example, routinely pay north of $1,000 to attend professional development events I find of high value. I have yet to pay that much for an association event. Of course, if you have never gone out and experienced what it might be like to pay a high price tag for an educational event – what it felt like psychologically, what the experience ultimately was – there is little chance you will understand how to successfully present such an offering to your prospects. It can cost a bit to do the research on this one, but the upside is many multiples of the investment.
- Our members won’t use social tools as part of their learning experiences. It’s just not what they do.
At this point, every stat on every major network suggests this is not true. Social media usage is high and growing across just about every demographic and a huge percentage of what goes on across social networks is learning in one form or another. It’s past time to learn to leverage this dynamic, but again, if you are not experiencing the dynamic, it’s tough to figure out how to make it valuable for your audience.
- We just can’t seem to come up with any innovative ideas for our learning experiences.
In a word: borrow. There is plenty going on out there. Check out what is going on with MOOCs, or microlearning, or flipped learning, or digital credentials. Surely there are lessons you can take from these and many other examples. But it helps greatly to be aware of them and experience them first.
That may be a bit of a rant – perhaps I woke up on the wrong side of bed this morning – but really, there ought to be a revolution going on in association education right now.
So, the next time you hear “Well, I haven’t really participated in…,” tell them it’s well past time they did.