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Posted on behalf of Rick Smeltz: 2013 ALC Conference Recap

11/04/2013 1:36 PM | Deleted user

There was a wealth of information and ideas that were exchanged in the sessions that I attended at the ALC conference. I attended many of the programs that focused on providing a better membership experience. ASTD is no longer an organization that is comprised of members only in the professions of  K-12 teachers, college professors, internal and external trainers, and consultants. Therefore, the programs that we offer must be of interest to a wider professional group. These include the traditional members including trainers, business coaches and consultants, and teachers that we've had in the past but now need to include and attract professionals like designers/developers as well as organizational development  and e-learning professionals.

One of the sessions that I attended was quite interesting because of their methodical approach in planning their chapter programs.  They created a program spreadsheet so that they could visually see that the planned programs addressed the diverse interests of their membership somewhere during the year with the various programs that they offered. They took into account the type and frequency of the event. These included annual events, regular monthly meeting events, or special events. Next, they focused on the purpose of the event. Was it to attract new members, or retain existing ones?

Next on the decision tree was the type of speaker that was going to be at the event. Should it be a nationally known speaker, regionally known speaker, or a local speaker? Some chapters are having great success without having a keynote speaker. The planned program event itself is the draw. Many of the chapters are now trying to include sponsors who help pay for the cost of the events. Some of the partnerships between the chapters and the sponsors actually split the profits of the events. In many cases, the sponsors pay for the entire event, therefore, the proceeds gained go directly into the chapter’sprofits.

Next under consideration is the expertise level of the audience that is planned to attend the event. Are they a novice, have some experience, or are they a seasoned professional. Are the topics that will be presented at the session a hot trending topic, a topic that's been around for a while but is of interest to a large group of professionals, or a topic that is way out there in terms of the normal programs that the chapter would provide? The checklist includes a section that addresses whether the topic will be of interest to trainers, designer/developers, organizational development, professional, coach, and e-learning professionals.

The next consideration is the month, day, and time the event is planned. Does it address ASTD competencies, ASTD training and development area of expertise, or ASTD foundational competencies? Finally, will the intended event be projected to be a loss and cost the chapter, would it be a breakeven event, or will it be profitable?

There were many types of programs and formats discussed during this exchange of information. The majority of the programs yielded breakeven profitability results. However, the events that seem to be profitable for the chapter included World Café style type of events that included a variety of subject matter in which to choose from. These included technology-based programs, professional skill development, and exchange of best practices. It was clear, because of the diversity of professions within the chapter membership, that events must be of interest to a broad range of professions and that the events themselves must be engaging and “hands on”, If possible.

Another idea that helped increase membership was to have a number of local business leaders to present and discuss workforce trends and exchange of successful business practices. A few chapters have had their events at the sponsor’s business or college location that included a tour of their facility. Train the Trainer programs were very popular all day program events.

Food is always an attraction that brings people together for various events. A few chapters included ice cream socials, pizza parties, and even meetings at local pubs after work. Many suggested that they are using supermarkets to cater various events because it is less expensive than using traditional caterers and has had great success. Many provide the supermarket or caterer with a budget and have them create the menu.

The program events listed below have been very popular and usually resulted in a profitable event for the chapter.

Program ideas included the following: (Not in order of popularity)

  • ·      Trainer throw down competition
  • ·      Decide to be organized
  • ·      Growing your learning and development career
  • ·      Supersession- many simultaneous sessions with a variety of topics
  • ·      Train the Trainer programs
  • ·      Memory enhancement
  • ·      Own your niche
  • ·      Unleash employee engagement
  • ·      State of the training industry
  • ·      Technology showcase
  • ·      Latest trends in e-learning
  • ·      Professional fundamentals

Member “turnoffs” and “turn-ons”


  • ·      New member not welcomed soon after they have joined the chapter
  • ·      No communication received from chapter after joining
  • ·      Website had incorrect date of events listed
  • ·      Events have presenters reading PowerPoint slides verbatim
  • ·      Events not starting on time or ran over time


  • ·      Provide member tags
  • ·      Podcasts on ASTD chapter website
  • ·      Visitor follow-up phone calls
  • ·      Contacting new members within 30 days
  • ·      Recognizing new members at an event or in the monthly newsletter
  • ·      For events in which the speaker was late or didn't attend -send a free copy of speakers book to members that registered
  • ·      Use LinkedIn to personalize member experience
ATD Eastern PA Chapter
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