An Executive Director's point of view


July 18, 2017: Learning new skills

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt

November 29, 2016: Too much "interactive"

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
There is far too much reliance on the word "interactive," as if it was considered a requirement for any learning session. And many "interactive" exercises carried out in these sessions are nothing more than manipulative gimmicks.

Some presenters even go so far as to insert an "interactive" segment into their presentations, despite it often being out of place and totally unnecessary. Perhaps they believe it will make them more attractive to meeting goers.

But if the program content is not engaging and relevant, the style of presentation isn't going to make much of a difference.

So, when planning an educational session, understand what your audience wants and how it wants to be treated. Then clearly communicate those details.

Just slapping an "interactive" label on it doesn't add value.

June 06, 2016: More than charisma

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
Most professionals are not electrifying speakers. Yet, they are often expected to be.

The organizations they address may provide them with tips that can help them better connect with their audiences.

But those "tips" are frequently intimidating, and give the impression that the speakers need to be top-notch entertainers.

While that may sometimes be nice, it is definitely not always necessary.

Organizations should brief speakers about the people who will be in the audience, including the types of companies or associations that employ them, their positions in those groups, their preferred styles of learning (if those are known), their interests, and the questions they are likely to ask.

Additional tips can be offered about how to present and how to interact with the audience in the way it wants to interact.

Well-received speakers are likely to display an unpredictable combination of charisma, content knowledge, speaking ability, audience insight, and constructive use of feedback.

Charisma, alone, may not be enough.

October 21, 2015: Don't try anything new

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
Many association members prefer educational sessions to be held in styles that may be considered "traditional" or "old fashioned." They often acquire and process information differently than do association management professionals.

Here's an example of the likes and dislikes of the majority of members of a physician group:

Like -

- Lectures
- Knowledgeable speakers (they may even refer to them as "faculty")
- Speakers who know something they don't
- Speakers who stand behind a podium
- Speakers who move around the front of the room as long as they don't wander into the audience
- PowerPoint slides packed with copy
- Handouts packed with copy
- Graphs, charts, and relevant pictures
- Classroom style seating
- Q&A at the end of the presentation

Dislike -

- Questions asked during presentations (those are "interruptions")
- Group discussions
- Information they already know
- Comments and facts not included in slides or handouts
- Images on slides and handouts that don't seem relevant to the topic
- Boring speakers (sometimes)
- Sessions that don't offer CMEs
- Interactive seating arrangements
- Too much reliance on technology
- Whimsy and humor

So, be prepared to conduct educational sessions the way your members think is best, not the way you may think is best.

June 30, 2015: More boring sessions?

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
I'm getting ready for an educational conference and the same old issues have popped up - bad presentations and bad use of slides.

Whatever techniques you use, keep your session interesting and present in a way that meets attendee needs.

April 10, 2014: Learning can be fun

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
The Society of Correctional Physicians ended an educational conference with a hands-on casting and splinting workshop. Most of them rarely needed to perform these medical tasks but wanted to know how to be prepared in emergency cases when injuries required immediate treatment.

About half of those in attendance left before the session began. But those who stayed had a blast.

They learned how to create casts and splints for broken limbs and enjoyed experiencing the process from the patient's perspective. They left their seats and congregated around medical supplies and improvised treatment stations.

While they were certainly serious about learning, they also had a lot of fun placing and removing splints and casts from each other. It was a great "wind-down" activity after a full day of presentations.

Most trade and professional associations can create "fun" activities at their educational events.

Just remember, though, that not everybody wants to have "fun." So, schedule the activity at a time when those who want to opt out can do so without interfering with the rest of the program and without calling attention to themselves.

January 10, 2014: No "rookie" tracks

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
You can call people beginners, novices, or first-timers. And you can create educational sessions that target their specific needs.

But those folks will often opt for higher level sessions, even if they lack adequate knowledge, because those sessions often sound a lot more interesting.

So, if you think it's really important for less experienced members to learn the basics before they sit in on more advanced sessions, find a way to make them think it's really important. And don't call those sessions "beginning" or "basic" or "foundations" or "boot camp."

Create titles that sound just as exciting as the more advanced sessions.

August 09, 2013: Don't call them "lurkers"

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
People who visit web sites and blogs without posting comments are not "lurking." They are not being sneaky or trying to hide anything.

They just don't want to comment - and there's nothing wrong with that.

Those folks may be just as engaged as those who post comments, opine on listservs, and speak up at meetings.

People learn in all different ways. Being quiet, reserved, shy, or just not vocal are not signs of not being engaged. They are signs of being quiet, reserved, shy, or just not vocal.

So don't let outgoing colleagues bully you into being more "engaged."

Gather information, listen to others, read blog posts without commenting, and learn in any way that makes you feel comfortable.

June 23, 2013: Online education?

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
"50 percent of students said they don't need a traditional classroom to learn, but 78 percent do think that it's easier to learn in a traditional classroom than online," says Associations Now, summarizing findings of a report by Millennial Branding and

The biggest attraction of an online course is students' assumption that it will be easy - they can merely boot up their laptops and not have to travel to campus. But it's often more involved than that.

When my son was an undergraduate, he was surprised at the demands placed upon online students. So, he dropped his online course and signed up for a traditional class, instead.

April 25, 2013: Destroy the slides

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
At a recent educational conference, one speaker dished up 61 slides for a 45 minute presentation.

Each was crammed with details, including statistics, graphs, and charts. Some of the copy was too small to be viewed from the back of a small room. Other presentations were similar.

Attendees had less than one minute to read each detailed slide, listen to the presenter, and think about the information until the next slide appeared. That's not how people should be expected to learn.

A great service would have been done if all of those slides had been placed in a pile, doused with gasoline, set aflame, and burned until nothing remained.

Slides are NOT a script. Slides are NOT a book. Slides are NOT a classroom blackboard (and even a classroom blackboard should not be cluttered with lots and lots of copy).

Slides are visuals that enhance the oral presentation, help attendees understand the information, and keep them engaged. The job of the speaker is to present or facilitate, not to narrate slides.

Even when a speaker is presenting lecture-style, slides should be sparse and should contain lots of images, not lots of copy.

Details can be contained in a handout that attendees can view later and refer to in the future.

If all the details were contained in the slides, there would be no need for speakers or meetings. Associations could simply send slides to everybody and spare the time and expense of a big conference.

So, if you use slides when you present (and you don't have to), be brief. Save the details for the handout.
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