“Just because it’s not optimal, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial.”

“Just because it’s not optimal, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial.”

I’m a big fan of the author James Clear who writes about the formation of habits. I believe (good!) habits are an important element of success (I’ve written about it before.)

In a recent blog post, Clear wrote: “Just because it’s not optimal, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial.” Read another way, this is the old adage of don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Or don’t let perfection be your target, because you’ll always fail.

I see this very commonly when discussing the integration of systems with clients (e.g., AMS and LMS). The optimal situation is a real-time, two-way integration between the two systems so that data is shared immediately.

But this often proves to be very time-consuming and expensive to develop (and sometimes can’t be developed!). So rather than a two-way, real-time integration we opt for a two-way passing of data on a schedule (e.g., once per day). Optimal? No. Beneficial? Absolutely.

So when considering changes to process or technology within your organization, keep in mind that while the change might not be optimal, it can be beneficial, and that’s what we’re looking for.

This guest blog post/article first appeared at www.effectivedatabase.com and is repurposed with permission.


Wes Trochlil is a published author on data management in the association market. He helps organizations move data management from a cost center to a revenue generator.

Extend Your Conference Content

Extend Your Conference Content

For associations, our annual conference is our flagship education product. Naturally we want to maximize our investment and extend the reach of this great content.

Unfortunately, most associations are doing it wrong.

It’s time to forget about repurposing and embrace PURPOSING.

But repurposing is efficient and responsible!

Repurposing suggests we can efficiently reuse components of education that has been delivered (past tense done) for additional meaningful learning opportunities. And we can’t. Example: Captured conference recordings are not good learning opportunities. Why? Because what’s been captured was designed for a learner in a live classroom learning space. Can someone be determined and dig in to learn something from a capture recording? Sure – but they will more likely google the subject than sit through an hour long video of a slide deck. Once removed from the classroom and situated in a virtual learning environment, we have different expectations of how we want to interact with content. Captured lecture is not designed to be chunked out or accessible in online learning environments. Would you ever create a Storyline eLearning course and expect participants at an in-person event should watch you click through it? (same same)

You can’t refold a crisp origami crane into a dragonfly – it won’t work. Each fold is put into place to achieve a particular design. Same with learning.

So you want an origami crane and a dragonfly. What do you do?

Three ideas

If your goal is to extend the learning of your conference, consider these opportunities.

1. Hybrid learning. Extend the reach of your conference to new audiences – perhaps your future live attendees. Craft a meaningful experience that incorporates not only streaming of select sessions, but live chat with those speakers and some hybrid-only content. Partner with solution providers like CommPartners who masterfully facilitate hybrid experiences.

Life cycle: This is an investment in cultivating future live attendees while extending the reach of the present conference. #winwin. You may also consider extending the learning via the desktop portal you create with your vendor partner for additional content drops.

2. Session tools. While attendees may request slide decks, what they really want are tools and resources (that they think they’ll have time to distill from session presentation visuals). Instead of collecting PowerPoints and Prezis, request your speakers submit a tip sheet, job aid, checklist, how-to guide, model, or process distilling their insights into a useful resource attendees can use and share. I call these Transformational Learning Tools because they are easy to deliver and are supremely valuable to participants (see driver #23 in my book Competitive Advantage to learn more).

Life cycle: While these begin as conference session handouts, they become a powerful catalyst for workplace impact. Consider the potential referrals as tools branded to your association are passed around teams because of their value. Imagine the online resource library you could build with these tools that would become indispensable to your members. Think about how you could assess downloads to determine content priorities for future education offerings.

3. Touch points. Let’s free our education from product silos delivering one-offs and deploy learning that touches our members over a period of time through different channels – reaching them where they are. Allow all of your education vehicles to participate in threading your association’s content priorities through learning pathways that beautifully highlight different facets of a subject through a variety of learning experiences. A few examples:

  • Publish an article that leads to a live education session that’s followed up by a webinar punctuated by an email sharing a valuable job aid.
  • Facilitate a social media conversation about a hot topic, host a thought leader session at your conference from which you derive a handy white paper that you can then distribute through your social media channels.
  • Craft an online course that pulls participants together for a live skill-building experience, followed by an eMentorship that leads to a certificate.

The possibilities are endless!

Life cycle: You decide! Your touch points on a topic could be three or could thread throughout an entire year. Extend the learning from your conference by making it a part of a broader education delivery strategy.

A word about the elephant nearby

I don’t mean to beat up on capture products. I’ve produced conference capture products. Members ask for them and we think we need to deliver them. We don’t. This is not how we actively learn on devices. If you’re going to capture content at your conference, capture it with the future mode of delivery in mind.

  • Consider capturing faculty commentary on their session. Pair the recording with an article or use it to stimulate a webinar conversation.
  • Consider capturing hallway insights from attendees – testimonials you can drop throughout the year to build momentum for your next event – but also a formative assessment for your association to see what is resonating with your attendees.
  • Capture how-to’s from your session speakers – brief clips distilled from their presentations that you can use to build a library of insights.
  • Ted Talk style presentations transition well onto devices. If you’re delivering them, capture them for sure.

Extending your conference content is not about repurposing what’s been designed and delivered for the big gathering. It’s about pausing to plan in advance how you can capitalize on the gathering to draw out content you can continue delivering all year long.

Ready to strategically innovate your learning programs? We understand the challenge of change. Our secret weapon is an innovation framework based in psychology and behavioral neuroscience that’s a game changer for our clients. Coordinate a conversation at www.talktotracyking.com

Tracy King, MA, CAE

As CEO & Chief Learning Strategist of InspirEd, Tracy King leverages her more than 20 years in the industry consulting with organizations on education strategy and learning design. Tracy is the author of Competitive Advantage, and she advises associations on growing reliably profitable and sustainable CE programs that transform learners. Tracy specializes in the intersection of learning science and technology; her instructional design team produces engaging, inclusive, and transformational learning experiences. She’s a thought leader, invited speaker, master strategist, award winning learning designer and DELP Scholar. For more information please visit her online at www.inspired-ed.com

Certifications within Your LMS: Three Reasons Why This Makes Perfect Sense

Certifications within Your LMS: Three Reasons Why This Makes Perfect Sense

In the past several years, we have witnessed significant development and expansion in LMS offerings. Today’s platforms provide a wide range of contextual education experiences including formal or curriculum-based education, informal learning, live events, and social learning.  Many of our communities value the opportunity to have a single, central repository that provides different leaning options and formats.

With so much invested in these online learning portals, it makes sense to continue to build and expand on what an LMS is able to provide. Including certifications in your online education strategy helps create a more impactful and recognized standard of achievement.  Certifications are the ideal component to augment and extend the value and the investment you have made in ensuring your LMS becomes a success. In addition, certifications enable education program providers to more effectively validate and reward achievement that is recognized by one’s peers and potential employers.  Essentially, offering certifications within your organizations LMS can extend the platform’s value and help build on your established success.


We have identified three key benefits of offering certification programs within your LMS:

  1. Create of a Pathway towards Achievement

Certification provides organizations the ability to configure a predetermined curriculum or pathway that serves as a navigator or blueprint towards a greater goal.  This added enhancement provides learners a sense of purpose as they can connect their work in the LMS to an overall strategic purpose and mission. Certifications and features of the LMS are an ideal match to present content, validate progress and award achievement.  Gaps in knowledge are easily identified which helps pinpoint areas for improvement.


  1. Leverage Your LMS more effectively

Being certified in something that typically translates into one’s expertise within a specific area of study or work.  It is understood that if you are going to be certified you will typically need to invest a significant amount of time and money to reach your goal. Given this commitment, it only makes sense to leverage these achievements within your current LMS platform by offering certification programs to your learners.  The days of sending learners to a third party site are coming to an end, and now it’s easier than ever to utilize your investment right within your LMS to validate course content and testing components. Bringing these participants to the LMS leverages your investment, increases traffic and avails learners to other opportunities to engage content experts and peers.


  1. Streamline Processes

There is a good chance your LMS is integrated with your ecosystem of applications. You may already have data reporting in place to transfer results from education activities to a third party database or AMS. Offering certifications within your LMS can piggyback on this integration and allow a seamless reporting of results without additional programming.

If you offer or plan to offer certifications to your community, consider an LMS platform that had a feature that supports these programs along with other education offerings.


To learn more about Elevate LMS and CommPartners Certification Module, please contact Meghan Gowen at mgowen@commpartner.com.


Introducing e-Learning to Your Association: An Easy Q&A

Introducing e-Learning to Your Association: An Easy Q&A

Jake Fabbri, Chief Marketing Officer at Fonteva, provides his perspective on prioritizing a well-conceived approach to education design and selecting the ideal LMS for your organization. CommPartners and Fonteva understand to achieve success with one’s learning initiatives, it’s important to have a seamless integration between your AMS and LMS. We appreciate Fonteva’s focus on education as a component of an organization’s online presence and value their contributions to the field of online education.  

Your association’s favorite job is providing value to your members in a variety of different ways. Some associations hold conferences, others hold networking nights, and others do both. But one new technology makes it easier to engage your members and provide value to them in an engaging and exciting way.

That way is through e-learning! Like with any new technology, implementing a learning management system (LMS) into your association’s member engagement strategy can be a complex process. That’s why we’ve created a list of some of the most common questions that your staff or members may ask:

  1. How does a learning management system work?
  2. What are the differences between an LMS, an LCMS, and a CMS?
  3. What features does our staff need in an LMS?
  4. What features do our members need in an LMS?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you’ll be more prepared to integrate your new e-learning software into your association’s strategies and help your members further their careers.

1. How does a learning management system work?

When you first introduce a learning management system into your association’s offerings, you’ll likely be met with a lot of questions. The first is, “How does this work?”

A learning management system works by creating an interface where instructors and members can both log on to watch webinars, read articles, submit their own work, and interact with other members and instructors.

There are usually three different types of logins:

  • Student or member logins. This level of access allows members to pick courses they want to complete, view their learning history and transcript, and work towards completing their coursework.
  • Instructor logins. This level of access allows instructors to view their learners’ work, grade assignments, upload or edit course documents, and post videos or host webinars.
  • Administrator logins. This level of access is for those who create the courses. In this position, your staffers can create and edit courses and view trends in attendance, popularity, and more.

Your learning management software should integrate with your association management software, so that the LMS acts as an extension of your AMS and your member data can flow easily between the two systems.

2. What are the differences between an LMS, an LCMS, and a CMS?

These three acronyms, while all important to the learning management industry, vary between their functionalities and their target users.

  1. An LMS is a learning management system. It is primarily used in professional training and higher education settings. An LMS is focused on providing training for certain topics while empowering the administrator to track progress, completion, deadlines, and objectives.
  2. An LCMS is a learning content management system. The main difference between this and an LMS is that the primary user of an LCMS is the course creator. An LCMS is used primarily to create, save, and organize different e-learning courses. It allows multiple authors to work together to create one course that is then available in a variety of formats.
  3. A CMS is a content management system. This system is less specifically geared towards e-learning and more towards information publication and distribution. CMS platforms allow the administrator to decide what is private and public information while allowing you to tailor access to both, but it is not focused on learning. WordPress and Hubspot are popular CMS platforms.

Your association should focus on finding and introducing the right LMS to your members.

3. What features does our staff need in an LMS?

When introducing a learning management system into your association’s strategy, you need to ensure that you’ve chosen one that can help your staff create the most effective and engaging courses possible. Simply put, you need to be able to track data and empower students.

In short, you need to have features that allow your staff to do what needs to be done easily and effectively. The most important features for your LMS are:

  • Custom design capabilities.
  • Brand matching capabilities.
  • Seamless integrations.
  • Comprehensive reporting.
  • Customer support.

When purchasing an LMS, make a list of features that your individual association requires. Depending on your own members, industry, or size, you’ll have different needs than other groups, so make sure that you get the right LMS for you.

4. What features do our members need in an LMS?

The needs of your members will be different than the needs of your staffers because they’ll be interacting with your LMS in a different way! Keep these needs in mind when searching for the right set of features.

Your members will be more invested in the courses that your LMS offers if it allows them the freedom to do three things:

  1. Learn in the ways that are best for them.
  2. Interact with their peers.
  3. Gain something valuable towards their careers.

These three things are crucial to creating a strong e-learning strategy for your association. If your LMS doesn’t click with your members, they will be less likely to stick it out to the end of the course. In order to offer all of these options, look for the following features from your LMS provider:

  • A personalized learner dashboard.
  • Recommended content based on previous history.
  • User profiles with interests and professions.
  • Forums and discussion boards.
  • Webinar and web conferencing options.
  • SCORM compliance and CLE/CME/CE/CPE credits.

When your LMS encourages members to get involved, work alongside like-minded individuals, and further their own careers and ambitions, it will be far easier to introduce and implement an e-learning strategy into your association.

Author Bio: Jake Fabbri is the Chief Marketing Officer at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.

Making Marketing Simple for Associations

Making Marketing Simple for Associations

Guest blog by Sheri L. Singer, Singer Communications. 

Marketing can be confusing and overwhelming. Why? Because marketing encompasses everything your association does.  No wonder it’s overwhelming.

Here are some tips to break marketing down into bite-sized pieces.

1. Understand the difference between objective, strategy, and tactic.

A good marketing program starts with a strategic marketing plan. To write this plan you need to recognize the differences between objective, strategy, and tactic. Objective refers to an overarching goal such as grow membership or raise the visibility of the association. Everything in your plan needs to fall under the objective.

Tactics are the activities you undertake to achieve the objective. For example, draft a media list, post to Twitter, or write content for your e-newsletter.

Strategies fall in between your objective and tactics–so if you are going to draft a media list, a strategy may be to reach out to traditional and digital journalists to raise the visibility of your association.

2. Write a SHORT plan

Writing a plan isn’t where we make mistakes. We write beautiful plans that are 5 or even 15 pages long. The problem is that no one is reading a 15-page plan. So it sits on your shelf. Here’s a solution — draft a very brief plan. Use a one-page chart, or an infographic or video. Think about delivering your plan in an innovative way to keep it off the shelf.

3. Create messages that reflect your brand

From your elevator speech to the paragraph that closes your news releases, the way you describe your organization contributes to your brand–or the way people perceive your association. It’s critical to ensure that your leaders, members, staff and everyone else involved in your association talks about your organization with one voice. Creating messages and training your leadership to deliver those messages are a key element in creating a consistent brand.

4. Use compelling information to tell your story

Every association has a story. Figure out what makes your organization different and tell that story in compelling and personal ways. This is where testimonials — either written or through video, and photos come into play. Be sure to tell your story consistently, repetitively and through as many distribution channels as possible.

5. Add the personal touch

Research indicates that we join organizations and keep paying dues because we feel connected. That connection doesn’t stem from a group email that starts with “Dear Member.” Return to basics. At the very least, address members by name in your emails. Better yet, choose a small group of leaders and members and write them a personal email to see if you get an improved open rate or response. Make sure that every member gets a call from you once a year to touch base.

6. Know your members

Market research provides valuable insight into your members. But most associations believe they can’t afford market research. First, if you conduct a membership survey, you can get a great deal of member information if you ask the right questions on a survey you are already conducting. Second, market research can be conducted for $50,000 or  $20,000. If you adjust the scope of the research project, you can learn more about your members in a cost-effective way.

7. Focus on more than 1 distribution channel

Today, many associations are stuck between members that didn’t grow up using computers, mobile phones or social media and those who did. This technology gap is a challenge because we need to reach our members where they are — AND they are all over the place. That’s why most of us need to leverage several distribution channels (email, mail, video, website, digital media, etc.)

8. Engage your audience

Be honest. How many reading this post social media messages such as, “Join us at our annual meeting on April 12-15 in Denver.” These messages have a zero engagement component. What about asking a question or conducting a poll such as “How many of you are looking forward to hearing our annual meeting keynote and how many are more excited to participate in our first volunteer charity event?”

9. Be consistent.

Consistency is the way to build a strong, recognizable brand. Among your association’s targeted audience — leaders, members, potential and lapsed members, elected officials, journalists, related organizations, and other stakeholders — be consistent in the way you represent, describe and talk about your association.

10. Monitor your brand

Once you consider these marketing tips, you need to monitor your brand for relevance, consistency, and perception. There are countless ways to do this both qualitatively and quantitatively. With most association leaders asking for more and more result measurements, report to them using both hard numbers and successful anecdotes.

Sheri L. Singer helps associations solve their communications, marketing, and public relations challenges. She is president of Singer Communications, Chair of ASAE’s Healthcare Community Committee, and founder/organizer of the D.C. Idea Swap. She speaks and writes extensively on communications topics affecting associations. sheri@singercomm.com @sherisinger wwwsingercomm.com

5 Books to Inspire Leadership and Innovation

5 Books to Inspire Leadership and Innovation

In the spirit of today being World Book Day, we have compiled a list of some of our staff’s top book recommendations for e-learning leaders. These books fulfill different needs in our lives, whether it is to inspire or inform.

Through reading, we can learn skills, adopt new perspectives, and experience personal growth. Books embody themes that translate to our everyday lives, and additionally, convey new ways of thinking that can strengthen organizations. The five books we listed provide core strategies for empowering leadership and inspiring innovation.

I hope you enjoy our recommendations and learn something new!


CP Recommended Reads:
Competitive Advantage – Tracy King, CAE

In her debut book, Tracy highlights common mistakes associations make with their learning programs, and also provides a strategy that will take your association to the next level.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box – The Arbinger Institute

Is your leadership style effective? Are you inspiring those around you? This book forces an interpersonal examination to combat self-deception and encourage an environment of trust, teamwork, and enthusiasm.

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs is an icon and an inspiration whose drive for perfection revolutionized the technology sector with an emphasis on user experience. His life and work are a source of inspiration for not just those in the technology sector, but also those who aspire to pursue innovation, push boundaries, and lead a purpose-driven life.

Mastering Leadership – Robert Anderson and William Adams

Unlike other leadership books, this one provides a comprehensive model for leadership development, not just for yourself, but for the entire organization. By recognizing leadership is a collective effort, the authors outline strategies to become a mindful leader who can drive personal growth within the entire organization.

Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug

For those who work in web design, this book is a must-read for developing a common sense approach to web design and functionality. The author argues good web design begins with understanding the instincts of the user and should be so simple that users barely need to think to operate it. This is an excellent book to encourage approaching design in new ways.