Taking Your Successful Conference Professional Development Track to the Next Level
In Part 1 of this series (How a Strong Career Development Presence Can Boost Your Association Conference Return on Event (ROE) – Part I), I discussed several ways association conferences could greatly impact both the return on investment (ROI) and return on event (ROE) for their members through the establishment of a strong Professional/Career Development program.
ROI might be considered the ultimate measure of event success by finance people; for those in charge of membership retention and growth, ROE may be deemed the most important consideration by conference and event coordinators. But in truth, both measures try to take into account the extent that psychological, attitudinal, and behavioral changes translate to added value in the workplace environment.
A strong ROE usually indicates the event has a long tail; in other words, it’s value remains high as measured over time after the event through what’s termed the “chain of impact.” (This chain of impact is more often associated with ROI evaluation.) The impetus for positive behavioral or attitudinal change (i.e., learning) begins at some time point during a conference (during a keynote, a breakout session, a one-on-one conversation) and in time leads to the acquisition of new skills or knowledge, which in turn influence the performance of a work-related task that later results in some increased value to business performance.
We know that the further removed we are from a conference, excitement, inspiration, and retention drop off precipitously. Streaming presentations and using cloud storage for registered attendees helps revisit content to reinforce retention. We also know that without frequent reinforcement, the gains experienced immediately following the conference can be lost altogether. But even with retention reinforcement, assigning ROI in the absence of methods to measure at various links in the chain is a difficult proposition.
So the question becomes: What post-conference approaches can associations embrace to help attendees extend that chain of impact to a measurable result?
POST-CONFERENCE RETENTION APPROACHES
Not all conference attendees are looking for the same thing from a Professional Development track. Career development is part of professional development and a good percentage of attendees want to know not only how to do what they do better — some want information on getting their careers to the next level. Attendee expectations are very often tied to their current or future roles in the workplace and differ from one industry or profession to the next. That understanding (roles vs. industry) will be critical when designing post-conference follow-up email and tweets to help reinforce knowledge retention. Segmenting members/ attendees by role instead of industry will help make follow-up microlearning more individually relatable because it contextualizes the content specifically to the function, increasing the likelihood of the message being viewed or read.
Drip marketing is used to maintain a “top of mind” position for a product or service. The same technique can be used for post-conference retention efforts whereby brief emails, ads, blogs, YouTube messages, or tweets “drip” information from keynotes or breakout sessions at frequent intervals to attendees. Often all that’s needed to induce recall is the repetition of a brief statement or fact. Someone watching that conference video on corporate compliance might benefit from an email with a link to a related TED Talk or blog post. The association’s social media staff should work with HR and education managers to develop a strategy for drip marketing channels.
When a conference Professional/Career Development program helps send the ROE through the roof, how can an organization capture that value for its members and incorporate it into a more permanent option rather than at annual events or sampling during the chain of impact? One successful method is to integrate those successful elements from the conference into a member benefit (or student benefit) package.
PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE
If your organization already has an online job bank where employers post vacancies or a résumé upload database that lets employers review member résumés, well..that’s a good start but it’s not nearly enough today. Every association and organization has a percentage of its members who are looking for a job, considering a career change, or advice on building their business to get more clients or customers. A professional development member benefit package today must incorporate effective, high-value career development strategies that are easily accessible for members.
Here are several ideas for incorporating career development strategies as part of an organization’s Professional/Career Development member benefit package that can enhance and extend the event ROE.
“Connected Career” Column
Have career strategists from a recent successful conference provide a career strategies column for the organization’s newsletter, website, or magazine. Authors for that column can be rotated among those interested. It’s a great way to maintain the post-conference “buzz” with topics and authors the members are familiar with.
Cover Letter, Résumé, LinkedIn Profile Evaluations
Cover letter, résumé, and LinkedIn profile evaluations are likely to be the most popular option for a career development strategies member benefit package. There are several ways in which this program can be incorporated. The association can partially subsidize discounted evaluations (perhaps through a subscription fee to the career strategist conducting the evaluations), or members can pay for the evaluations themselves.
Another career development strategy is to have career strategists provide webinars and podcasts on different aspects of moving forward with careers or developing small business, all designed to extend the conference ROE value (the event) into the member benefit package (the program).
“Ask the Expert” Column
Another resource is to have guest career strategists respond to career questions from members on the association website or newsletter.
Extending the chain of impact, drip marketing, and even gamification (using gaming techniques for elearning) can help keep those high-value conference learning opportunities and career strategies “top of mind” with conference attendees once they have returned to their jobs. Perhaps a future “return on extended event” () measure might yield some interesting ROI.
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Meeting planners and conference coordinators: Would you like to upgrade your status to Superstar? Contact Donn to learn how he can help you push that ROE over the top. Visit donnleviejrstrategies.com to learn more about his Career Strategy Member Benefit Subscription Program.
Keynote speaker, seminar leader, career strategist, and award-winning author Donn LeVie Jr. helps event planners and conference coordinators become superstars.
Donn has nearly 30 years experience in hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and many others. In addition, Donn has taught at the University of Houston Downtown College in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and worked for the federal government with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for Business:Careers. He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award and SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award for Business:Careers.