Association Connect

Education at Events: It Can Be Taught!

By Samuel Hoffmeister | September 26, 2023

No matter how frequent, association events offer one place where two enormously important member benefits—networking and education—intersect. The networking side so often takes care of itself with planning some evening receptions, committee get-togethers, and more. The education side is often more purposeful, with industry trends and evolutions taking center stage.

But what if you could offer something (other than swag) your members could take home with them? Something that helps them level-up their careers in just a few days at your show—a certification or credential.

Value-Added: An Understatement

First things first: Not every association has the resources to create or facilitate a certification or credentialing program. It can take a significant amount of time, money, and staff to create a program and facilitate it on an ongoing basis. If you’re at one of those associations, don’t stop reading; there’s a bit for you later in this piece. If you do have a certification or credential to offer, your flagship event is the perfect place to see it through.

Most associations that facilitate credentialing programs lay out the track to complete it throughout a given time frame, often online over the course of a few months to a year, depending on the training needed. While that allows members to complete it on their own time or attend just a few courses weeks or months apart, it may not necessarily be the best way for members to connect with each other, discuss training, and learn together—what being part of an association is all about. Creating a collaborative learning environment, such as offering a set of fast-track courses or even just the final test at your annual event, could be the difference between members lapsing once they’ve gotten that credential and staying on board because of the added community value.

Plus, you could provide an additional (perhaps sponsored) networking opportunity by popping a “graduate” reception on the conference schedule, which could also be a great chance for staff to gain qualitative feedback on the program and get suggestions for future program management and development. Another advantage: Imagine in-person credentialing leading to even greater in-person event attendance, giving members a sense of accomplishment with their peers, creating that tribe mentality among your membership. Even if you allow members to complete certification online before your event, you could still hold a reception and perhaps even offer discounted conference registration to those who completed the program—another value-add. How many wins can we add to “win-win”?

One of the Others?

Are you one of those associations that simply doesn’t have the resources to create a certification or credentialing program? What you can do is offer even more focused educational tracks within various topic areas being covered during your events.

When building out your event programming, organize learning sessions and panel discussions by topic. For example, if you’re a manufacturing association, you could categorize sessions by topic, such as supply chain, workforce development, safety and regulatory issues, and leadership and management. Then, in your event schedule—hopefully available within an easy-to-use event app—color coordinate sessions by topic and allow attendees to plan out each day’s learning by those topics. This way, if you can’t offer a certification or credential, you’re at least driving a more intentional, customizable event learning experience.

Lean on Your People

If you do find yourself in need of creating a new certification or credentialing program, leverage the best resources you have available to you: your members, your subject matter experts, your staff, and your communications team. These are the best people to help you come up with the right educational content and the most effective approach to deliver the support your members are looking for to advance their careers.

Looking for a partner to elevate your content in a way that connects with your educational aspirations? What about a team of event experts to take your conference to the next level? We’ve got you.

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