Organizations offer a wide variety of professional learning opportunities to their members, employees, and partners which range from online courses and webinars, to regional or annual conferences, to classroom-based learning. All of these different types of training have varying costs and levels of accessibility for members to attend, yet the most infrequently offered and (usually) most expensive to attend, the association annual conference remains perennially popular among members. Almost every association hosts conferences for their members and for many associations these events comprise the majority of their training. What keeps members coming back to conferences, when there are cheaper, more easily accessible options for continuing education?
Reasons Members Attend Events
A recent poll from Association Adviser asked what is the main reason that members attend events? It turns out that the two key reasons are Networking and Education. Association Adviser note that events, such as the association annual conference, enable members to "connect with like-minded individuals in their industry and to grow their professional knowledge beyond their formal education". In the post accompanying the poll results, they also outline how educational events can provide more value to both members and association staff. In a continuous cycle of improvement, successful educational events can deepen relationships between members and association staff and improve the quality of events as staff get to know their members' needs better. This leads to higher attendance and renewal rates, and ultimately an increase in non-dues revenue, which the association can re-invest in providing even better events and service to members.
How do you Manage Learning at your Events?
If events like the association annual conference are an essential part of your education offering, how are you managing learning at these events? For example, you may offer training to your members at your annual conference, or at a series of smaller regional events in local hotels, where the sessions will be recorded and distributed to attendees after the event. You need to manage the number of people who can register for each session based on room capacity and location. You might need to manage the equipment allocated for that room (screen, projector, etc) and you might offer the same session multiple times depending on demand. How much time will you need to spend checking and updating spreadsheets to manually track the logistics?
From managing scheduling and facilities for educational sessions at the conference, to enabling your members to record their attendance and credits earned in their training history, to reporting attendance for post-conference analysis - do you have one system that can simplify and manage all of this for you?
You might be surprised. Often people associate a learning management system (LMS) purely with e-learning, online courses, and more recently the cloud. However, certain types of LMS, such as extended enterprise or association LMS, will enable your organization to support the delivery and management of all types of training – online or offline. An LMS that fully supports online and offline training will enable your organization to streamline the additional administration tasks of offering off-line training to members, but very few LMS offer integrated conference management within the LMS.
Integrated conference management in the LMS facilitates:
- Creation of agenda, tracks, breakout sessions
- Management of speakers, locations, rooms, and resources
- Display conference details and tiered pricing in LMS catalog
- eCommerce features, including earlybird discounts, bundling
- Tracking of continuing education credits in the learner's training history
- Notification, calendaring, surveys, and reporting
- Register for “interest” for a later time and wait-listing for popular sessions
Why use an LMS to Manage Learning at the Association Annual Conference?
With an LMS that has been developed to support conference management as a key education offering, you should be able to manage locations, facilities, registration, and administration of all types of learning with ease. For example, TopClass LMS will allow you to easily manage registrations and set up wait-lists for over-subscribed sessions, and can automatically enroll wait-listed learners if space frees up or if another room is made available. You may even choose to live-stream some sessions and allow members who cannot attend in person to participate online for a separate price. You might offer Continuing Education credits for attending the event, and can award these for each learner using the LMS, tracking them within each member's individual training history. You may even use the LMS to run a survey to get feedback on the event or to sell offline materials to accompany the conference or session – all of which can be tracked and reported on at the individual and group level from in the LMS.
The ability to plan and track logistics and participation, gather all the data in one place and run detailed reports, enables your organization to make more informed decisions when planning educational sessions for your association annual conference and other events. Combining efficient management of learning with networking in person with members at the event enables your association to provide truly valuable educational experiences to members, which will keep them coming back for more!
At WBT Systems, we recognize the fundamental importance of the association annual conference and other educational events and have used our years of experience working with associations to build an award-winning LMS that enables organizations to manage, track and report on all types of member training.