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News: Associations News

3 Essential skills for membership organisation learning offices

25 April 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Katie Spackman
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As a learning project manager in a membership organisation or association, you are often working with subject matter experts (SME’s) whose experience of teaching can be somewhat out of date. It can often come down to you to direct, guide and support them. It’s not about the technology, it’s about facilitating the SME’s to teach in an “inclusive way”; extending the learning experience outside of the classroom and joining in with your organisation’s preferred digital learning solutions, be it virtual classrooms, webinar, online community, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Twitter or chats.

After extensively researching many publications, it became very clear that three essential skills are required to design, develop and manage modern and impactful learning. The good news is that all of these skills can be developed to a basic proficiency level through self-study and practice and it’s relatively easy.

1. Curation

Curators are no longer limited to museums and galleries. The skill of curation is the art of finding the relevant information for your audience, interpreting it and giving it context in just a few words or sentences. However in the age of over loaded internet information, content creation is an expensive luxury.

Association and membership organisation are ideally placed to be amazing curators where A) existing content can be reused B) fellow members’ publications can be showcased. This serves two purposes, namely sharing good quality information and bringing exposure to members work.

As an association or membership organisation, the challenge with curation is to only use articles from reliable sources. In an educational context, it is the responsibility of the experts delivering the course, programme or virtual training to endorse a piece of content. Your role is to search for it, draft the contextual wording and get THE expert to validate it.

If you only have 5 minutes and want to learn how to deliver good quality curated content, here are 5 ways curators can improve user experience] and if you have a bit more time, this is a free MOOC course you could take [add this link under “MOOC course” -

2. Images and Videos

We have all heard the phrase “a picture speaks a thousand words” - in a world of “fake news” that is now debatable! It still stands though, that when you are trying to capture the attention of learners, the use of visuals is essential and, creating your own is an extremely useful skill to have.


I personally love using Canva, a free, extremely intuitive tool that has a lot of different templates and videos with step-by-step instructions to help you get started.

A few tips:

-        Sometimes it is essential to work within branding constraints. As we are talking about a learning experience and not a marketing exercise, do try to get as much freedom as you can. As an example, one of my clients, a well-established membership organisation, was constrained to creating all their slides on white background, with text and imagery in black and white as well, using a bank of about 150 images. As you can imagine, it got slightly monotonous by the end of the programme!

-        Be aware of copyright issues. Never use images you googled, always be mindful of the small print. A good site you can source free photos from is Unsplash.


Now more than ever, it is very unlikely you will get a budget for multiple, professionally made videos for training courses. Many topics are susceptible to change; taxes fluctuate, laws change, trends come and go’ the trainers’ videos have to be updated on a regular basis.  Once again it is not about technology or equipment, the award winning film Tangerine  was shot with an iPhone 4.

How about, next time a board member demands a professional to shoot their three-minute introductory video for a new programme, you confidently step up with your Samsung Galaxy 6 or any video recording tool you can put your hand on and..

  • Keep it clear and brief as it is best to avoid editing a video - this is where it becomes both technical and time consuming. Aim to shoot in one stretch.
  • Make sure there is a script and the presenter is well rehearsed.
  • Light is the one thing that you really need to have, either natural light or artificial.
  • Use a tripod or some very steady hands
  • Good audio is indispensable and these days it is possible to find lapel mics for mobile phones, so there are no excuses for background noise and muffle voices.

There are many resources available to teach you how to do some basic yet professional videos. A quick visit to Youtube will provide you with ample material.  If you are not sure where to start, try “LearningNow”, this is a good series about making videos and has MANY other resources!

3. Digital Facilitation

Most trainers or SMEs are absolutely brilliant in the classroom but can be way less brilliant when using digital tools. Digital facilitation includes webinars, virtual training and any “off line” activities where learners post questions and comments.

Live Online Facilitation

Whether it’s for short webinars or full on, virtual instructor led trainings, make sure you get the right support with a producer or a host who is able to take the edge off the technology management. That way the presenter can focus solely on delivering the content. 

If you are new to this, here are a few tips to get you started and show you how to host your first webinar like a pro:

  • Use a corded internet connection – WiFi can be unstable and can affect the audio or image quality
  • Open the session 60 minutes before start – Give yourself time to solve any unforeseen issues
  • Ensure your material is set correctly – check everything – slides, pools, sound, breakout rooms
  • Have your reception slides ready – these slides are the main tool, they are part of webinar etiquette and they are great to display if you need to sort out sound issues
  • he presenter joins 45 minutes before the start of the webinar
  • Always welcome the attendees with a smile

Here are some resources before you start doing a webinar or virtual classroom training. 

If your role is really moving towards facilitating webinars or virtual training, an excellent programme covering both course design and facilitation is COLF from the LPI - it is not free, but it is well worth it.

Quick tip for anyone really swamped: webinar production can be easily outsource so you don’t have to source the technology, prepare the template or brief the participants about technical requirements. Here is an example of service scope.  

Offline facilitation, Peer learning & Social learning

Learning outside the classroom by commenting on learning application in the workplace, asking follow-up questions, sharing tips, best practice and rating tools and so on are hugely powerful. However with small group training (average size course between 12 and 50 people) it is something to purposely develop and manage. Engaging a group in peer to peer activities and social learning is much more about good facilitation skills than technology. Facilitation does not only rely on the charisma of the presenter, but also instructions and expectations. Some learners are naturally prone to starting conversations and posting questions but most people will need to understand:

  • The purpose - clear benefits
  • How to - instructions
  • Who - there is very little chance of inspiring conversations blossoming if there is no information about the group members (instruction to set up profile )
  • Formal commitment and/or regular requirement to post assignments - to encourage your learners to engage with the group.

Note: a fun and user friendly way to cover the four points above is to create infographics and/or short videos as it is more “digestible” and more entertaining than a long list of instructions.

From learning programmes to campaigns, from graduate courses to leadership, whatever the type of learning to be developed in the coming months and years these three skills are THE essential ones to grasp. My very best advice is to practice them all you can. A good tip is to pick a topic of interest, either personal or professional, and try to learn as much as you can by following relevant experts on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook.

Digital technology has transformed learning at a deep level and even traditional face to face courses are being transformed. Learners expect more practical activities and less information dumps and of course much more multi-media simulation (videos, comics, reading, e-learning, simulation, case-studies - you name it)

Lastly if you are interested in planning and developing digital learning for your members here is a method for you to try! 

Gaëlle Delmas-Watson, Virtual Classroom Specialist & Founder

Gaëlle is a certified online facilitator and coach whose work for RICS received an E-learning Award in 2014 in the category “Best use of synchronous online learning/Virtual Classroom”.  Gaëlle founded SyncSkills to provide hosting and production services for Virtual Classroom and webinars. Gaelle works with both British and International clients to design and implement unique, innovative learning strategies for commercial training organisations and membership bodies. 

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