Membership associations hold regular face-to-face training sessions and conferences for members. The upcoming season is usually a prime time for events but this year, plans for in-person gatherings have been thrown into disarray. To fill the void, many associations may hold virtual events through online conferencing services with the aim of delivering their usual schedule in an entirely different way. The modern learning platform can support these events, providing members with a continuous learning experience as they build knowledge, apply skills and collaborate. To achieve this, there are a number of considerations for organisers to take on board:
1. Learner types
Members attending sessions or events online may comprise a wide range of learner types and have a broad range of reasons for attending, including professional development, re-certification, knowledge-building and networking. It’s important to consider members’ pre- and post-event learning needs as well as what the event itself can deliver. Additional material can be provided through the learning platform before and after the event to help fill knowledge gaps and support ongoing learning.
2. Learning objectives
It should be clear what members will get out of the session or event and how this will contribute to their overall development. Learning objectives also help organisers determine the content to include and how to break this up so that it is presented in manageable chunks. Attention should be paid to the interactions the event will need to provide. These are likely to include small group discussions as well as the opportunity to network with a wider group of members. Collaboration tools can facilitate these exchanges in the virtual event.
3. Learning content
It is unrealistic to expect attendees to read screen-based text for the duration of a long online session. Content should enhance and support what is said during presentations and ideally include a range of formats. It’s also important to think about delivery: tone should be conversational as this invites learners to think about what they’re hearing and seeing and consider how it applies to them in their situation.
4. Learner engagement
There is a range of learning platform tools to help keep members engaged and maintain concentration including quizzes, polls and discussion boards. Gamification, through rewards and leaderboards, can motivate learners to reach their goals. This works for both members and organisers – members by creating guide paths for progress and incentives to keep going, and organisers by providing insight into learner progress as members demonstrate their skills to attain rewards and reach the next level.
5. Back-up options
All live events, whether they’re delivered face-to-face or using technology, need back-up options in the event that something changes the plan. A presenter could suddenly be unavailable on the day or could lose internet connectivity during their presentation. Back-ups avoid gaps in the planned schedule and last-minute scrambles for solutions. Give thought to pre-recorded presentations that can be slotted in if required or standby presenters to take over.
Technology means that conferences and training needn’t be cancelled when people can’t be brought together face-to-face, but virtual events also offer a range of benefits in their own right:
- Attendance: there’s no travel, so more members should be able to attend and their arrival won’t be delayed by rail or road disruption
- Flexibility: the annual one-day face-to-face conference doesn’t have to be substituted with the same thing online; it could instead be split up into a series of shorter sessions to maximise attendance from members who struggle to commit to a whole day
- Content: additional content can be provided through the learning platform for download so that members can build on their understanding of topics covered in the presentations
- Recording: sessions can be simply recorded and provided afterwards, capturing all the activity which is often a challenge at face-to-face events
- Reporting: platform analytics provide a wealth of valuable data including attendance, member engagement and content interaction for insight to inform future events and learning programmes.
Virtual events and training sessions, as part of comprehensive learning pathways delivered through the learning platform, can support members in reaching their development goals. Through careful planning, and by utilising a range of tools that facilitate interaction, associations can help members capitalise on the benefit of their membership through convenient and engaging sessions online.
or more on delivering engaging learning experiences for members, download our ebook for associations.