Scheduling an annual Professional Development Day (PD Day) is an innovative way to keep members engaged with your learning programs. Here are some tips to pulling off a notable learning experience for your members.
Why plan a Professional Development Day?
While you may offer several year-round virtual courses, conferences and member events, dedicating a day for all members to come together to set goals for what they want to improve can be a valuable touchpoint to engage with members. PD Day can be an introduction for members to begin habits that improves an area of their careers. The topics may be targeted towards a particular job function, or a global skill, such as time management. The primary goal of PD day is for members to walk away with plan for improving themselves over an extended period of time.
For an association, this is also the ideal opportunity to introduce members to the learning programs that you are offering. You can think of PD Day as a platform for you to promote how your continuing education programs can improve your members’ careers. While members are creating their roadmap for self-improvement, be sure to engage with them about how their association can support them.
Setting up your PD Day for success
While PD Day is generally used within an organization for its own employees, associations are an ideal source for industry-wide knowledge of how to improve a certain trait within that field. Coordinating all of your members’ time for a single event can be challenging, in conjunction with the other events you may be promoting. This is why choosing a time of year that is convenient for most members is an important consideration to having a well-attended event. Selecting a holiday may be a good approach for members that opt to constructively use that time, however you may want to consider ‘down times’ in your members’ industry, when business may not be as demanding.
This may seem controversial, but your association’s Professional Development Day should be FREE to members. That’s right, the goal of this event is not to grow non-dues revenue, but to create awareness, and engage with members about how your other offering can support their career journey. This is important to consider when budgeting and coordinating your speakers, and how you plan to deliver this program. A Virtual PD Day is going to be your best bet, to keep costs down, while getting the best attendance possible.
Coordinating a PD Day lineup
As we mentioned before, PD Day is intended for your members to start on a journey for personal growth. The best place to start to curate this event is speaking to your members far in advance. Like many of your conferences and learning program planning begins, survey members on what they would like to learn more about. If you have a content committee, bring those results to them and start to iron out which program topics should be included. Depending on what your member base consists of you may want to segment the event. Target personal development topics by specific jobs, or career stages to best serve the needs of each member.
It is important to also weigh which education programs that your association is planning to offer. Whether your education programs are on-demand or scheduled for live sessions throughout the year, they should fit into the sessions. PD Day programs can also be an opportunity to gauge the interest of a certain topic, based on attendance and engagement.
Curating the sessions throughout the day, should be similar to a small-scale conference. You maybe have a general session with a headliner, speaking about personal development that is applicable to most members. Then like a conference, breakout into specialty sessions. While you may want to look outside of your internal subject matter experts (SME’s) for emerging topics, it is ideal to have the instructors and speakers of your other courses included with this event.
Getting members excited for PD Day
Once the heavy lifting of coordinate the event is over, now is the time to announce and promote to your membership. First and foremost, this event is targeted to improve your members’ careers, and ought to be presented in that light. While conferences and events are often aimed to stay relevant with your industry and focus on emerging trends, Professional Development Day is for your members to build habits and routines that improve their quality of work. Then work to get the word out through your normal marketing channels such as
- Members newsletter
- One-to-one email invitations
- Social media networks
- Landing page on member site
- PR outlets in your industry
There is not necessarily a magic number for how far in advance you start to promote the event but be sure to drip out details over a period of time, including presentation descriptions, speakers, and communicate the event’s purpose. During the event, highlight the other learning programs that they can use to support their professional development, create incentives during the event for members to sign up. As they are building their schedule to reach their goal, gaining commitment for these programs is crucial.