Lessons from the Night’s Watch

No Wildlings or White Walkers were spotted at the 2018 Pool & Spa Show, but the crowds gathered along “The Wall” were sometimes 30-40 people deep and they came with questions. Creative and educational, the “Water in Motion” interactive wall provided conference attendees with six different active learning opportunities ranging from energy efficiency to priming speed.

In support of the Penn Jersey Pool and Spa Association, a chapter of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA), we had the opportunity to see professionals from across the industry come together at the dynamic conference and interact with the professional expertise and “eyes on” opportunities “the Wall” provided.

Providing access to useful, timely professional training and insights is a critical role of industry associations. The brainstormed idea of NESPA’s Trish McCormick and Paulette Pitrak to create “the Wall” with association partners demonstrates the creative, impactful added value that can be generated when industry partners team up to benefit the field as a whole.

Having walked countless industry show floors, we are all familiar with the static displays and hunt for good tchotchke. Often, these events aide our awareness of the latest offerings by manufacturers, service providers, and other industry leaders and innovators. They are powerful opportunities for reconnecting with our professional network or expanding it.

Hands-on, technical education, and discussion around hydraulics ignited attendees at the Pool & Spa Show because it took common issues that pool builders address in real-time for their clients and gave them the luxury of space, time, and technology to unpack and examine the issues.

This idea is translatable across industries and fields. What issues in your professional arena would benefit from some unpacking, creativity, and reframing? In considering the success of “the Wall” there are several key elements that we believe contributed to its success that applicable to other associations and nonprofits.

  • Flexibility – the ability for conference planners to really “blue sky” brainstorm around the offerings at the show gave them the space to think of something on this scale or “out of the box.”
  • Expertise – identifying an expert in this area that could help them flesh out the educational and demonstration aspects of this idea.
  • Partners – Bringing industry leaders together to make the idea a reality brought both resources and additional idea refinement to the table.
  • Hosted – Having a real person to bring an activity/display to life helps to draw people to an experience, keep them engaged, and derive greater value from the offering.
  • Playful – Infusing a sense of humor into your offerings makes it more accessible, while not compromising the quality and usefulness of the information you are providing.
  • Experiential – More than a buzz term, give real consideration to how people will physically interact with the offering. The more senses you activate, the more engaging and memorable the experience will be for your attendees.
  • Iterative – Successful offerings should still be evaluated for improvement and evolution. Something fresh and inspiring quickly becomes staid if repeated repeatedly.

Cross-industry learning is one of the great values of association networking. You may not be tracking who is vying for the Iron Throne, but we know you are thinking about how to better capture your member’s attention.

Demonstrating your value as an association can be deeply rooted in your educational offerings to your members. What can you learn from “the Wall”? Engagement and creativity are possible in every industry. Innovation is not reserved for the Mother of Dragons.

 Todd VonDeak is the Founder and President of TVD Associates, dedicated to providing strategy and management for associations and nonprofits. He has over 20 years experience in nonprofits across industries. He volunteers with the American Society of Association Executives and regional Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives and regularly presents at industry conferences.