We talk a lot about how to engage younger members with our association. There is also an engagement issue with many long-time members as well. Particularly the ones who haven’t participated in many leadership opportunities.
Somewhere there must be a more scientific study of the levels of professional achievement. Since Google search isn’t revealing anything let’s try these:
Level 1: Learning – at this level the professional is new to the profession, new to their career or new to an industry. They are learning the basics and more. They are moving toward mastery.
Level 2: Optimization – now the professional has mastered the tactics of the profession and moves on to planning. Perhaps they are managing a team or department or business. They are now looking for efficiencies and tweaks that make the system run better.
Level 3: Mentoring – once a professional has attained mastery professionals may choose to share their knowledge. They mentor high potential younger staff members and help them with tips and connections.
Many association conferences target that basic “learning” level 1. This is “how to….” Sometimes the learning focuses on optimization. Little of the learning focuses on that final level.
These long-time members sometimes admit they register and go to the conference to catch up with old friends but, they don’t attend the sessions because there is nothing to learn. So what can we do for these folks?
“Teaching is the best way to learn” may be the answer. But, perhaps we have to make more opportunities. When there’s only a 1 in 6 chance to have a speaker proposal selected participating formally may be tough. Talk with these members and think about other ways to get them involved. Can long-term members be paired up with conference first timers? Can some of the time slots be devoted to small roundtable like discussions with long-term members as the subject matter experts? How about creating more opportunities outside of the conference?
How about a mentor program? Or monthly expert panels? Or have individual long-time members moderate/host a one day discussion group.
The easier you can make the opportunity to teach the better. The members who want to volunteer already have. It’s the ones who haven’t stepped up yet, the ones that hold a lot of wisdom and haven’t found a way to participate, those are the members you may be losing.