The 2018 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Virtual Forum, Opioid Crisis: No Community is Immune, was live streamed from the NASW national office in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, November 14, and Thursday, November 15, 2018.
Now, before we dive deeper into details about the event itself, did you know that 85% of opioids are used by US citizens? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day nearly 200 people in the United States die from overdosing on opioids. The addiction to opioids has become a serious national public health crisis that affects people of all walks of life and is a very real and relevant topic impacting the social work community.
For our clients at NASW, it was critical to reach and engage with their members to discuss how social workers are an integral part of the collaborative multidisciplinary approach in working to respond to the current opioid epidemic.
So you might be thinking, how? How can the largest membership organization of professional social workers, with over 120,000 members nationwide, reach and engage with their community from remote locations? Well, here is where the wonderful world of live streaming and virtual forums came into play for NASW.
We had the opportunity to speak with two key players from the association, Richard Loomis, Conference & Event Planning Manager, and Rafaele Vitelli, Director of Professional and Workplace Development, each weighing in on their virtual conference experience and the relationship that has evolved between NASW and CommPartners.
To start off the conversation, we wanted to get some background information on why the association chose to take the virtual route and how this type of event fit strategically within their organization.
“As an association that is committed to positioning as the premiere source for social work and related health care profession, NASW saw the live streaming of virtual forums and conferences as a key component in providing our community with high quality content while also allowing the association itself to extend its reach and footprint,” said Loomis.
They also spoke on the fact that not only does live streaming allow the association to extend its reach, but it shows the members that they are taking innovative approaches to provide both flexibility and value to their membership. Audiences can tune in from their phone, work, or even their own home office. This provides a great advantage for the members because they are able to save costs on travel and hotel, but still receive the same high quality content as a site based conference.
The virtual forum itself consisted of 4 plenary sessions and 8 breakout sessions where the audience had the opportunity to engage and ask questions through a live chat. In preparation for the event, NASW handled the content side and CommPartners handled the operation and technical side. This was the fourth event that NASW and CommPartners have collaborated on and the relationship continues to grow.
Loomis shared his thoughts on the partnership and how CommPartners contributes to the success of the programs, “The partnership with CommPartners has been phenomenal and in place for a long time. We have worked with the team on multiple events and the company does not fail to deliver. Over the years, we have formed friendships with the colleagues at CommPartners and when you have that relationship and trust in each other it contributes to a successful program.” said Loomis.
To conclude the conversation we touched on a few highlights from the forum, one being the remarks from the President and CEO of Addiction and Policy forum which provided outstanding context to what was being addressed, said Loomis. Overall, both Loomis and Vitelli agreed that putting together a virtual event takes time and effort to ensure success. The association received very positive feedback from the attendees with many requests to continue hosting virtual forums. Loomis said that their members can certainly be expecting two more virtual forums in 2019.
About CommPartners Live Stream Services:
CommPartners helps organizations grow their event attendance and revenue and create highly interactive webcast solutions. We’ve produced thousands of webcasts over the past eight years, from small single camera programs to multiple camera, multiple location productions. What separates CommPartners from other providers is we professionally manage every aspect of the event; we do all of the heavy lifting for you. Our team of experienced event planners manage every detail and our experienced multimedia technicians handle all of the technical details. Our webcast platform offers dual encoding, redundant back-up streams, mobile friendly, and offers attendees active engagement opportunities to help them be an active participant.
Click here to find out more about CommPartners live stream services.
A year ago we made the decision to host our first User Conference. Since this was our initial event, we had some trepidation about whether our community would embrace the opportunity to join us for several days of education, training and networking. Our decision to move forward was quickly validated as we reached the maximum number of attendees we could accommodate in the venue.
When the first day of the conference arrived, we were excited to see in-person the people we interact with on a daily basis. As I began the initial welcome, I mentioned to the group that this felt more like a social function as opposed to a business event. There was a warm feeling that comes when relationships evolve over time and there is continuity of working with the same team to share opportunities and solve problems. For our team, this conference was an important barometer of where we stand. It’s one thing to have one on one interactions, however it’s an entirely different situation to see many of your clients in one setting. We feel extremely blessed to have had this opportunity.
There are three insights that we walked away with from the event:
Click to view photos from Peak 2018.
- We have a vibrant community that has evolved organically with us over a long period of time. There are no shortcuts in getting to this point. CommPartners has an average employee tenure of 8 years with many staff being with us for 12 to 15 years. At times, we don’t think about how important a factor this is in building close client relationships that lead to greater continuity and trust. You could witness this in real time during the conference.
- Peak served an important purpose of facilitating ideas and proving attendees practical applications they can implement today. One of the greatest benefits was the sharing of best practices and hearing how people in the same position overcome day to day challenges of managing professional development within their organizations. We realized we need to keep this conversation going and not wait until we meet again. Therefore, we launched a number of initiatives to give voice to our clients and allow for ongoing engagement. They include:
- Elevate Advisory Board: This is a 13 member panel group made up of mostly clients to provide guidance and feedback on Elevate’s development, provide feedback on our services and share ideas with other Board members.
- CommPartners Mastermind Groups: These groups bring clients together for 4 sessions to engage around topics of leadership, creative thinking and professional growth.
- CP Connect Community: CP Connect is an online community. It will be launching shortly to continue the conversations and sharing of ideas that occurred at Peak.
- CP Cares: We are expanding our altruistic initiatives to support those in need. We are hoping to involve our clients in these efforts.
- We need to continuously come through for our community. You depend on us. This was evident through the passionate conversations that occurred at the conference. We understand this responsibility. In the coming year we have aggressive plans to bring innovation, additional resources and service enhancements to our clients. We’re excited about growing with you and helping you succeed.
If you have any additional feedback or thoughts about Peak or any other items, please contact me.
All the Best,
Last year was a period of great movement with technology providers within our community. There was an increase in merger and acquisition activity as organizations sought to extend their presence and gain strategic advantages and market share. While some may tout that bigger is always better when it comes to technology, there is a flipside to the equation. Some mergers or acquisitions do in fact work out very well for the customer however there are others that primarily benefit the company.
I began thinking about all the examples of where bigger or well-funded is not better. One service I and many others use on a weekly basis is dry cleaning. Several years ago Zips, the well-funded, national cleaners came up with a new pricing plan where they were going to charge the same low fee for every garment and promise same day service. Hearing this, I left my local cleaners, the one I went to for years, whose name literally is “Cleaners” to try this new concept. After all, Zips had a big presence; they were growing and seemed to offer great value.
After being with Zips for six months, I just recently returned to my local option. Zips always had long lines, they damaged some of my clothes, and the staff changed often. I never got to know them or build trust. In the end, it cost me more and I was treated like a number, not a loyal, valued customer. Returning to “Cleaners” I now get in and out quickly and my clothes are nicely cared for and returned in great condition. Not to mention, I am greeted with the same friendly face each time I return.
So what does dry cleaning have to do with technology? Not much really… except that for associations, trust, understanding, and continuity are significant factors when choosing a strategic partner. The best technology option is the company that allows you to successfully meet your objectives.
When considering a new LMS technology partner, be sure to ask meaningful questions such as:
- What percentage of your budget goes into the development of your software or services vs sales, marketing or distribution to shareholders?
- How would you define your company culture? Will the people I am speaking with today, who are making promises, be here tomorrow?
- What challenges are you currently addressing? How does your solution make my organization better?
- Have you recently been involved in a merger or acquisition? Can you describe how this will affect your current product or service offerings?
We have seen examples when mergers occur, the people you built trust with are gone and the platform or solutions you are invested in are no longer evolving. At CommPartners we have grown organically and with a shared purpose with our staff and extended community. We believe strongly in a culture of responsiveness, centered on the client.
Yes, many mergers or acquisitions, when handled well can greatly benefit the client and simply makes sense. However to say in all cases that bigger is better is just not true. Thank you “Cleaners” for always being there. Sorry I was swayed by bigger is always better.
A recent article in The New York Times presented a simple yet bold statement, empathy is a choice. The article, prepared by researchers in the field of cognitive science, and viewable here, shared a multitude of studies that suggest that a lack of empathy to the problems of others is not an inherent “shortcoming” or “permanent flaw,” but rather a malleable emotion that can change “depending on what we want to feel.”
Here at CommPartners, developing a culture of empathy is a principle we take very seriously, and the acknowledgement that empathy can be malleable is an important pillar of that culture. This is because we know it is important to maintain a consistently high level of customer service regardless of other pressures or distractions.
Our business philosophy is based around our clients’ success, driven through a collaborative partnership with our team. We understand that true partnerships do not arise automatically, but are only built through understanding our clients’ goals, pressures, and vision of success.
Professional development is an important tool in our efforts to maintain a culture of empathy here in CommPartners. This fall, CommPartners staff will participant is a series of workshops based around the principles of cognitive and positive psychology, that are designed to further strengthen our staff’s ability to consistently provide the highest level of customer service to our clients and partners.