How do we keep them engaged?
I know that I owe you an overview of the last presentation we had on healthcare at the Executive Assembly, and I will follow through with that very soon. But before I do that I wanted to report on my “most excellent” experience at the UPCEA Mid Atlantic Regional Conference at Penn State.
First of all, what could be better than meeting in Happy Valley in the fall? The changing of the leaves was just beginning and the site, the Penn Stater, was great. The content of the sessions was very interesting, very timely, and very helpful. Many thanks to the folks at Penn State for coordinating the meeting and the Mid Atlantic planning committee; you did an outstanding job of selecting topics and speakers.
Second, it is significant that as with the Central Region meeting, the Mid Atlantic had a number of first-time attendees; I believe over half of the attendees at Central and nearly about one third of the 175-200 attendees at Mid Atlantic were new attendees. On the surface this is great news, we have often seen the regional meetings as a platform for attaching new members to the association, and based on these two conferences, this is the case.
And yes, while this is great, we need to be prepared to step up to the next challenge, and that is how do we keep these first-time attendees engaged with the association? Clearly part of the answer is that we make every effort to make them feel welcome and we invite them to take on active roles in our regional and national committees. It is interesting that both Bob Hansen and Emily Richardson shared their first-time attendee experience, and they indicated that they stayed with the association because someone reached out to welcome them and then they were asked be active members of the association. They both moved quickly into regional and national leadership roles.
Another way to keep new attendees engaged is by offering timely sessions on topics related to the day-to-day responsibilities of our members and offering these sessions in easily accessible ways, e.g., online, webinars, podcasts, etc. Therefore the burden is squarely on us, all of us in the association, to be keenly aware and in tune with the needs of our new members and to be ready to try new delivery methods.
Our colleague Bob Lapiner provided excellent advice as one of the key notes at the Mid Atlantic in terms of how our units can stay competitive, and I believe the same advice relates to how we make UPCEA relevant to our members. He suggests that we:
-create a platform for the exchange of best practices
-create advocates for our mission
-facilitate communication up, down, sidewise
-learn how to powerfully tell our story
-become forceful rather than timid in implementing new ideas
-commit to fix things along the way.
Let me finish with a two question pop quiz:
1) Which association member feels terrible that he (that is a hint) will be out all next week because he has work in Florence, Italy?
2) Who was the guy (another hint) with the great wig and sunglasses at the Mid Atlantic tail gate celebration? One more hint, he has a very responsible position in UPCEA.