The value of professional development: e-learning or face to face?
Posted by Tamra Gaines, CMM, CUDE, Experiences & Events VP, Cornerstone Credit Union League on 7/7/2020

In our current climate, we are sheltering at home, home-schooling, and conducting more Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings than ever before. We long for social distancing to wane so we can again make face-to-face connections. This time of uncertainty can be daunting, but it’s also fostering deeper relationships, albeit mostly virtual, in our homes with family and online with friends and co-workers.

As a 25-year veteran event planner, I’ve been part of economic challenges, terrorist attacks, and two pandemics (remember the Bird Flu in 2009). Through it all, we were able to find silver linings and band together as families, co-workers, and communities.

Looking ahead, we will do business differently. As a member-driven trade association, it will never be “business as usual.” Still, I do believe we will strike a balance when it comes to providing the greatest value of professional development for our members. 

Developing people in their job functions and leadership roles will always be vital to an organization’s success. When you stop investing in your people, they will stop investing in the business. Fortunately, your League had already started balancing face-to-face events with online offerings. We’re also creating an e-learning portal, so we’re well-positioned to take on the changes ahead. 

In-person meetings are not dead. As humans, we have a desire to connect, engage, and network in real time. That being said, there is now more opportunities to use technology in a way that supports our members while practicing caution as we face so many unknowns. We’ve heard from many credit union CEOs about how they are using CU Webinars not only to support continued education but also to keep staff engaged during a time when they may not have a full workload. With more options for webinars and virtual events, consider how you can expand the number of staff who receive valuable training. Supporting education through your League is the equivalent of “supporting local,” and we strive to earn your business every day. 

Although we will pivot to provide more webinars and new virtual conferences, we will still offer in-person meetings. The difference will be what I call “COVID-19 Best Practices,” with more social distancing, hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers, and a flexible refund policy should we need to change direction at the last minute. When we do meet in person, we will get creative with food service, room layout, and networking. We want our members to feel confident registering for events, knowing that we are monitoring the pandemic climate and will adjust as needed for the safety of our staff and members. 


I have been asked if I think all meetings will be virtual moving forward since we know we can accommodate that medium. I am confident when I say that there will continue to be value in face-to-face meetings. Like with most things, it’s about striking a balance. The lessons that can be learned during a 30-60-90-minute webinar should be conducted as such. Developing 5-10-minute videos for microlearning will help to offer those with limited time the opportunity to get training. Face-to-face meetings will provide engagement to network with others and discuss common challenges and interests and work through solutions. 

Live, in-person meetings will change. However, organizations that primarily focus on regional meetings like ours will fare the best under the new norm. Whether you attend an event in person or online, the critical factor is participation. Now more than ever, we need to come together, share ideas, and learn new processes. 

The 2020 State of the Conference Industry Report conducted by OmniPress reflects the responses collected through an online survey of 125 association and corporate professionals who are primarily responsible for conference planning. According to the report, the content sourced and shared at a conference will need to work harder to achieve growth and success in 2020 and beyond. This content must serve a purpose beyond marketing next year’s event because the conference format is evolving from an annual event to a year-round learning strategy. Rest assured, your League has been and continues to be focused on providing more value for our members. 

In summary, Cornerstone will strive to earn your participation in professional development offerings, whether online or in person. We will work to strike the right balance based on the safest way to conduct meetings or events. We look forward to serving you.

 

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