Lesson for the Teacher: Be the Most Interesting Thing in the Room
In my former life as a middle school band director (another story for another day), I struggled with classroom management. Kids like to talk even more than they love playing instruments, which is really saying something.
When I was venting to a fellow teacher with decades more experience than me about the students’ wavering attention, he stopped me in my tracks with a provocative question: “When the kids start talking, is your lesson the most interesting thing happening in the room?”
Huh. Probably not. Conversations between 8th grade girls are far more relevant to other 8th grade girls than trill fingerings and the finer points of ensemble balance. Beyond insisting their chats belong in another place and time, I could grab their attention by offering more compelling information, or at least a fun approach. As long as they’ve got their flutes out anyway, it might be more fun to play than talk about that cute guy from gym class.
Far be it from me to suggest that your association members have the attention span of an 8th grade flute player. But I bet they’re not be as fully engaged as you’d like. Is your association the source of the most interesting email in their inbox? Or website in their browser history? Is your conference the most exciting event on their calendar?
Steve Drake addresses these issues, especially in terms of association resources like websites and conference programs, in his recent blog post, “Are You Boring Your Association’s Members?” Don’t be afraid to change things up a little. You’ll catch the attention of long-time members who were waiting for updates as well as professionals new to your field.
So what does that look like? In terms of your event content or publications, it can take many forms. You could introduce a mobile event app before your next conference. Take your monthly magazines online. Streamline your abstract collection process to make it easier for submitters and reviewers.
Invest in sprucing up your association’s content and instead of shrugging when they get their renewal notice email, members will click the link, submit the payment, and text a colleague about it. Have you seen the Association for Being Awesome’s new app? It’s really cool. This year’s conference is going to be amazing!
Hey, it’s possible. Even 8th grade flute players manage to pay attention sometimes, if you give them a good enough reason to. Change can be scary, but good change leads to major improvements. It’s worth the risk.