When the school day comes to an end in the U.S., over 10 million students head to an after school program. The National AfterSchool Association (NAA) wanted the 850,000 professionals who are working with these children to have all the resources and training they need to do their very best at this important job.
For nearly 30 years, the NAA has served as the hub for resources, continuing education, networking, and consultation services, for professionals who work with children and youth in a school or community-based setting. As part of the NAA outreach, the staff sends monthly communications to over 100,000 subscribers made up of professionals and businesses in the after school field. The association also hosts an online resource center and the largest annual in-person convention with over 2000 professionals attending each year.
How can we do more for members and advocates?
This year, the leadership team at NAA took a good look at their annual convention. The conference brings 170 presentations from industry-influencing speakers, high quality professional development and training opportunities, and networking to all those who attend. A close look at how to offer more resources like these to professionals in the field raised the question…
How do you capture this content and training and share it with professionals who aren’t able to attend?
The answer? A Part II for the convention in the form of a completely virtual, 14-day convention. What has formed is an online experience that brought the ‘best of the best’ presentations from the live conference – as ranked by conference attendees – together with a library of resources, and networking opportunities.
Gina Warner, president and CEO of NAA, said, “We hear professionals in the field say they have a difficult time finding access to quality, affordable professional development. We are using this online convention as one way to deliver a solution.”
Warner says the online convention is a great addition to the association’s national professional development offering. She recommended associations that were looking to give a value-add to members, as well as give advocate members additional exposure, consider an online convention. The conference included an exhibitor hall, allowing event sponsors and association partners an additional opportunity to network with attendees. Non-association members attended the conference also.
Just as with in-person events, an online convention comes with challenges.
Any event of this magnitude requires extensive planning, and challenges will certainly come to light during the process. Warner shared about two challenges her team faced and how they overcame them.
The first challenge came after a review of all the content provided at the in-person convention and determining which would fit an online experience. The team had to be sensitive to what materials would best allow for a virtual presentation. Some of the presentations at the in-person event scored high by participants, but were very hands on and wouldn’t lend themselves to a virtual convention.
Solution: The team chose presentations that ranked highest and would provide the ultimate online experience.
Another challenge for the organizers and the speakers was how to find ways to engage with the audience when presenters were used to getting immediate feedback and being energized by the audience.
Solution: The NAA used the iCohere Unified Learning System to host the conference. By integrating a myriad of the platform’s features such as video, live streaming, chats, polls, and Q & A sessions, the team ensured the audience was engaged. In addition, they allotted time for all speakers to be online for a certain amount of time taking questions and interacting with participants.
Warner said the speaker interactions coupled with the access to great resources offered tremendous value for participants. At the online event, participants attended at their convenience and chose from nine recorded workshops, and unlike an in-person event, they could attend everything. It was also very easy to attend.
Would your association benefit from developing an online convention for members and sponsors?
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