October 17, 2011
Time to Take a Velvet Chainsaw to AALL's Less Than Comprehensive But Official Review of Annual Meeting Programming
I doubt I was the only AALL member to hear that our association had retained Velvet Chainsaw Consulting to conduct a "comprehensive review of the Annual Meeting educational programming" and that a Velvet Chainsaw representative "attended the 2011 Annual Meeting and also conducted interviews with meeting attendees during the conference. In addition, VCC will conduct phone interviews with other members, including first-time and long-time meeting attendees, special interest section leaders, former Annual Meeting Program Committee chairs, and others who have been involved in educational program planning." Quoting from the Septemeber AALL e-Newsletter issue. In fact, I know I wasn't the only AALL member; at least one member of AMPC responsible for Philly 2011 never heard of it; meaning, of course, wasn't interviewed by Velvet Chainsaw in Philly.
The larger question is one of scope. Can there really be a "comprehensive review" of annual meeting educational programming without Velvet Chainsaw finding out why many former attendee members have given up on attending annual meetings? I don't think so.
The reasons AALL members are not attending annual meetings for professional development and education are at least as valid as those who do attend. I think they may be much more enlightening if the intent of this review is to (1) improve educational programming which in turn (2) may increase participation in and attendance at our professional association's annual meeting. Considering how much of our association's time and efforts focus on annual meetings every year, I have a hunch that the membership dues expended to hire Velvet Chainsaw won't have a very high return on investment without the constructive feedback non-attending members could make.
I also have a hunch that a fair number of non-attending members once volunteered their time and efforts to association activities like the annual meeting but have now just given up. Here's an opportunity to find out why and to craft necessary correctives before more members question the value of the annual meetings, even question the value of belonging to AALL because so much of our association's focus has been and remains on annual meetings at the expensive of other activities that need concerted engagement assuming we really do belong to an association of law libraries, not an association of law librarians.
Don't know who to ask? Besides being plenty of discussion on AALL lists over the years, all it would take is a mass email to the membership asking those who do not attend annual meetings to (1) take a survey and (2) be willing to take a phone call from Velvet Chainsaw for an interview. Absent that won't the majority of AALL members are being excluded from helping improve annual meeting programming?
Supposedly Velvet Chainsaw Consulting will be submitting a report wiht recommendations to the Executive Board for its consideration at the Board's November 4-5 meeting. Will the report present what the Executive Board wants to hear or needs to hear?; Do the review over to find out why members do not attend annual meetings: too expensive? programs not relevant? other associations' programs more valuable? [JH]
Joe, one of the things that was very apparent during our discovery and research phase of AALL is the passion of members like you. Thanks for taking the time to put your opinion out there! My name is Dave Lutz and I headed this consulting project for Velvet Chainsaw.
In addition to speaking one-on-one with quite a few people, AALL did share an incredible amount of member input. The research and discovery process included reviews of survey comments and ratings from past meetings, session, exhibitor and membership surveys. Your point about having the input of past attendees (or from those that never attended) is good, but I do believe we captured that intelligence.
While our recommendations have been delivered to AALL, I would welcome an email or call from anyone willing to share their opinion. Here's my contact details - firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (330) 474-1047
The AALL leadership cares a ton about the value you receive for your time and financial investment in the Annual Meeting. I can't stress enough how important it is to complete surveys and session evaluations. The more you can share about the speakers or sessions that rocked vs. the ones that bombed, the better. Individual member input on the education and networking value is the #1 most critical input for any organization that desires continuous improvement.
Posted by: Dave Lutz | Oct 23, 2011 5:41:27 AM
This very question is part of the 2011 membership survey. Along with several sections on the Annual Meeting specifically, there are two open text questions at the end:
39. Considering the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis in your job, if AALL could provide you with a service that would help you do your job better, what would it be?
40. Please list any suggestions you have for making your AALL membership more valuable.
I gather VCC had access to previous member surveys. If you don't like what is going on, express your opinions now. If you don't answer the survey, how can we know what you think and compare those responses to those who do respond to the survey?
Not to get into a back and forth, but for most expressed opinions there is another side to the issue. For every person who wants more programming, there is someone who says the meeting is already too spread out to attend. For every member who wants rigid tracks, there is another member who wants a smorgasbord of programming.
In cases where there is not disagreement, for example, when the issue of the program deadline for 2012 was raised, AALL created a way to have a later date for those affected by the weather.
I'm not saying everything is perfect or even always great, but there is more to this than black and white.
Posted by: Jonathan | Oct 17, 2011 2:42:17 PM
This might work. AALL never listens to its members who provide free and expert advice on any number of things. They only feel they should listen to advice that they pay for. So, if VCC is legit, it may payoff for us!
Posted by: vicki | Oct 17, 2011 1:21:17 AM