We recently sat down for a conversation with Holly Amatangelo, Education Director of the Legal Marketing Association, about how LMA approaches professional development and education for members – and, specifically, the role of webinars in fostering such community and connection in the 4,000-strong organization.
ON24: How important is professional development and education to LMA members?
Holly: It is extremely important. Professional development is one of the top reasons members join LMA. We provide formal training via webinars, our annual conference, our certificate programs, online learning, as well as programs offered at the local and regional level. These all offer venues for the sharing of ideas and access to subject-matter experts.
Adult education and learning is changing in every industry, but specifically in the association industry. We live in 24/7 world, and having 24-hour access to learning is really important. While nothing will replace face-to-face learning, our members also want on-demand education at their fingerprints.
Over the last three years, we have increased all our education offerings by 200%, and increased our webinar offerings by more than 300%. In addition to webinars, we launched a podcast channel and new in-person certificate programs. We now record the majority of our conference sessions with audio and video, which are then available to members.
Webinars are ... part of a wider effort to continually improve both the quality of the content, and the delivery of that content.
We are focused on the quality of these programs as well, not just the quantity. We look at the core skills members need to be successful as well as what they need to know to stay current. For example, AI has been a big focus for us in 2017. Our goal is best-in-class programming for our members, regardless of firm size, geography or years of experience.
With that increase in offerings, we’ve seen an increase in attendance in all our programs. With our Body of Knowledge (BoK), we have identified core domains, and the fundamental competencies and skills that are necessary for success in those domains. At our learning store, the member can pull what they need, rather than us pushing programming at them. The learner is in charge of their learning journey. We encourage members to recognize that webinars are part of our many available resources.
So clearly webinars are important in that 24/7, one-click delivery approach to education?
Holly: Webinars are definitely an important part of our education strategy, and part of a wider effort to continually improve both the quality of the content, and the delivery of that content.
We look at our strategy holistically. To me, whether you are speaking at a webinar, our annual meeting or at a certificate program, we need you to be prepared, and encourage using a broad range of engagement strategies. When someone is delivering a virtual program, like a webinar, we want to make sure they are using polling, and asking certain questions as part of registration. We want them to use the online Q&A box, so that lots of voices can be heard during a single program.
Increasingly, we are seeing that stronger online connections lead to stronger and more frequent offline connections and skills. Are you seeing that?
Holly: In many ways, webinars level the playing field. They allow us to connect members across the country and across the regions. And they help solve a lot of hassles in modern life, for example, a terrible commute. If you are in Southern California, a program across town might take 45 minutes to get to. In some areas, it could take three hours, if you are a county or two away from the area. Physically, it’s just not possible to get there. Webinars allow for improved regional programming.
In many ways, webinars level the playing field.
We’ve also seen local groups or regional members come together for “watch parties.” Five to 10 people will get together to watch a webinar, and then talk about it, rather than bring in a speaker. So we’ve been able to blend what are already high-touch webinars with face-to-face education and networking, which we know is so valuable. Or, members will watch it before and then get together and talk about it. It’s a way to make the world a little smaller.
This is especially helpful for smaller local groups that might not have the budget for more regular, robust programming. It helps those members, as well as working parents or others with more burdensome schedules, keep pace with their peers. It impacts their personal results. They can meet the demands of their lives but still be able to learn.
We recently restructured to make sure every member gets a uniform experience, access and support. Webinars are one of the ways that we are able to level the playing field among regions. All members have access to speakers that some regions or local groups might not have easy or ready access to. Additionally, it’s highly cost-effective for speakers, and makes the best use of the time of really in-demand professionals, both speakers and attendees.
We’ve seen an uptick in the use of webinars by LMA’s Shared Interest Groups (SIGs). Tell me about that.
Holly: Our SIGs are the driving force behind many of our webinar programs. They are always bringing in new and exciting cutting-edge, front-of-mind speakers and issues.
Our Small Firm SIG knows the challenges. They are able to book programming that is immediately actionable. Learning is all about applicability to life.
Talk a bit about the various ways in which members learn, their learning styles.
Holly: Not only are we always making sure we are bringing people content, we want to have that breadth of knowledge available in multiple modalities. And, we want to have multiple opportunities to address the same topic from different vantage points. It’s impossible to scale at that level without webinars as part of our program offerings. They also allow us to repurpose the content into other things: blog posts, social media content, articles, etc. These meet the needs of those with a variety of learning styles, in addition to making the most of the amazing content our speakers deliver.
...one of the features that is key with our webinars [is] one-click mobile access.
How is technology changing LMA education programs, and education in general?
Holly: We have a very mobile, technology savvy membership. LMA members expect to be able to go on their phones and get what they need. They demand access to 24/7 education. If that component is not part of an association education strategy, it should be. It is definitely part of ours and is one of the features that is key with our webinars – their one-click mobile access.
Anything to add?
Holly: Anything that helps us make the world a little bit smaller, when we can’t be face to face, is a good thing. Connection is key.
I agree! Thanks for your time. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. I’ll see you at the annual meeting, but until then, I’ll see you online!
[Samantha McKenna is a Regional Vice President, Sales at ON24. Connect with her LinkedIn to learn how webinars can supercharge your firm's content efforts.]