Lessons Learned from the ASTD Chapter Leaders Conference – Part 2

The first day of the ASTD Chapter Leaders Conference was great. The sessions were informative, I was able to network with new and existing friends and peers, and I ended my day with a pretty extensive action plan for my chapter.

Of course, like most conferences, the marathon day was a little tiring, and I was looking forward to getting some much needed rest. I should point out that with a six year old and one year old at home, it’s rare that I don’t wake up earlier then I’d prefer each morning, so I was really looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity and ‘sleeping in’ till 7:30 or so.

That was, of course, before I learned that Bob Pike was going to be conducting an informal Q&A session during breakfast, starting at 7:00.

Informal Q&A with Bob Pike

I arrived a few minutes after seven, and there was a already a crowd of about 75 people and growing present. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought listening to Bob Pike was worth getting up early for. By the time the session ended, there were probably 300 people in the room.

Bob Pike has always been a friend to ASTD, not only at a National level, but for the individual chapters as well. I was very impressed with how chapter-specific and relevant his comments were. Here are some of the highlights.

An interesting statistic was shared regarding the Learning and Development field: 50% of all trainers have been in the business for less than 5 years. That shows that half of those who may be interested in our events are novices in their roles. Does our programming reflect that?

There was discussion regarding legacy, specifically wondering if there is legacy to your chapter. Here’s a good yardstick to initially measure legacy: if the incoming Chapter President is here less then three years, it shows that there is likely no legacy in the chapter.

Bob also discussed the marketing of chapter events and used a great example to drive the thought home. He asked how many of us would be able to attend a session he was having on October 28th, about 3 weeks from today. About 10% of the audience raised their hands. He then asked how many of us would be able to attend the same event if it was held on March 3rd 2010, and about 80% of the audience raised their hand. The same concept applies to our chapter meetings. People need to plan ahead – the more notice we give em, the better attendance we will likely see.

Bob closed his chat by reviewing what he considers to be the three major reasons that people join a local chapter: Content, networking, and most importantly, connections!

The session ended with the National Advisors for Chapters presenting Bob with a gift and thanking him not just for the morning, but for all the support he has given to ASTD and the local chapters throughout his career.

I could not agree more. It was a great way to start the day (and well worth getting up early for).

Breakout Session- Center Stage: Social Media

This session was actually broken into two parts. The first part was facilitated by Deb Lang and Linda Pinkham of the Central Indiana chapter. Their presentation was on introducing Social Media within Chapters, with the main focus being introducing Twitter to the group.

I’ve seen ‘Introductory Twitter’ taught a number of different ways, but never like this. All participants were issued handouts that had a number of fallout boxes on them. The facilitators used these boxes to walk the group through setting up their Twitter profile, composing their initial tweet, and the concept of reviewing, retreating, and following other people.

It was a highly interactive session that was informative and fun. As the audience started handing their pages around the table to review and retweet the tweets of others, there was a great deal of laughter. More importantly, there was learning, as there were a number of questions being asked of myself and the other Twitter users at the table by those that had not yet taken the jump into the Tweet-stream.

After a short break, it was time for the second half of the breakout session. This portion, facilitated by Patrick O’Malley of the Greater Boston Chapter, focused on marketing your chapter via social media.

Let me just say one thing before I talk about the learning points. If you have the opportunity to attend a session that Patrick O’Malley facilitates, DO IT. Don’t think about it, just do it. You will not be disappointed. This was a highly energetic session, filled with extremely valuable and actionable content, delivered in a roll-off-your-chair humor style. Patrick is obviously a
naturally funny person, and he is able to channel it in a way that it enhances his message and the learning of his audience in a way you rarely see. This wasn’t just the best session of the conference for me and others; we all agreed it was one of the best we’ve attended, period.

OK, that should be enough to warrant a referral fee of some sort. Now I can share with you some of the tips from the session. Patrick gave the audience a number of great ideas on how chapters can better market themselves via social media.

If people search Google for “professional training organization”, you want your chapter’s name on the top of the search results. Why is that so important? Consider this: ten percent of people never go past the first Google search page. If your chapter appears on page two of the search, ninety percent of searchers will never see it.

Google likes it when one sites points to another – it helps up your rank. If every chapter listed the other chapters on it, all of their Google search profiles would be raised.

Patrick also recommended that chapters market their events via Television commercials. There was a large number of people who sarcastically chuckled at this suggestion, as generally chapters don’t have the budget for TV advertising. It wasn’t until Patrick pulled the Flip camera out that people really grasped his message. If you have a Flip or an iPhone, you have all you need for TV advertising, via YouTube.

Have a speaker record a 30 second summary of an upcoming event, upload it to YouTube, and BINGO, you now have a TV Commercial that you can link to in your chapter communications.

Another area we explored was LinkedIn, and how chapters can find potential new members in its database. A popular misconception about LinkedIn search is that when you are searching for people to connect with, you search for the person’s name in the PEOPLE search option. That label is misleading, because what you are really searching when you use the PEOPLE search option are profiles. That’s important, because you can search for job roles like Training Manager or Training Specialist to find new people that may be interested in your meetings. This functionality is further expanded via LinkedIn’s advanced search options.

Patrick also gave some tips for using Facebook and Twitter to market chapters.

He discussed advertising on Facebook as it targets the ad to profiles that may be interested in it. There is no upfront cost to advertising on Facebook, but there is a cost every time a user clicks on your add.

As for Twitter, it was suggested to search phrases that trainers may include in their tweets to prospect for members, such as “Taught a class” in your region. In addition, Twellow, which functions as sort of a Yellow Pages for Twitter users, was recommended as a resource.

The session ended with cheers and a well-deserved standing ovation. I look forward to my next opportunity to learn from Patrick.

Patrick has made the slides from his session, as well as a host of additional resources available on his website. You can get all the information HERE.

Keynote: Tony Bingham

Tony Bingham’s keynote was what closed the conference for me, as I had an phone appointment during the last session of the conference. Tony shared with the group some important chapter updates, including:

*CPLP bundle is approved for public funding in NY – how can I leverage this?
*There is now a portal that chapters can use for collaboration. It is available at http://www.collaborate.astd.org/.
*CHAMP/website fees will be phased in. Fees will be scaled based on chapter size category. Specific fees will be announced in October.
*Chapter websites – ability to add new pages coming this month!
*Chapters are currently required to have 30% joint members. This will be staying at 30% in 2011, and increasing 5% annually till it reaches 50%. Currently the average joint membership for chapters is 41%; that percentage goes up to 67% if you’re on CHAMP.
*National has just released a new toolkit for chapters that provide practices for succession planning.
*There have been enhancements to the CHiP program, including 10% on conferences and 10% on job bank referrals (employers also get a 15% discount when referred by a chapter)

At the conclusion of the session, many of the exiting members of the National Advisors for Chapters were thanked for their service, including the exiting NAC President, Cindy Hugg (Great Job Cindy! Thanks for all the assistance!).

Day 2 and Conference Summary

Day 2 reinforced the feelings that I had at the end of Day 1- that this was a valuable experience for me as an ASTD Chapter Leader, and one I hope to repeat in 2011.

The conference left me with many action items to review and plan for in the coming weeks and months. My train ride from Washington back to New York City was about 3 hours, and I spent the whole time reviewing and refining my notes from the conference.

My only regret regarding the conference was in my travel plans. I came to the conference late Thursday night after work, and left Saturday evening at the end of the conference. There were a great deal of chapter leaders who were there earlier than me and who stayed the night on Saturday, and I would have enjoyed continuing the networking with those peers.

Thanks to all those I met and shared with at the conference, both in person and via the Twitter backchannel. I look forward to seeing you again in 2011.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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