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Where to Start When Taking a Meeting Program Global

The process one organization used to decide which of its many educational offerings to take overseas, and where in the world to take them.

The American Society of Civil Engineers offers education—a lot of education—to its members. In addition to publications and certification, ASCE provides webinars, guided online courses, live and on-demand seminars, on-site training, and conferences. So when the organization decided to start globalizing its meetings program, it had to figure out which of the myriad programs, products, and services it offers would have the best chance to succeed.

And, with members in 177 countries, global agreements with 86 civil engineering groups worldwide, dozens of international sections and groups, and international alliances with other civil engineering organizations, it had a large number of geographical choices to launch a pilot program.

Meggan Maughan-Brown, CAE, CMP, ASCE’s director of global programs, outlined the decision process her team went through when deciding what to launch, and where, during a session at the American Society for Association Executives this summer.

1. Collect the Data
ASCE partnered with global professional conference organizer and strategic management consultant MCI LINK https://www.mci-group.com/ to explore the markets in countries where ASCE had members. They looked at technology availability and usage, rules and regulations, the sophistication level on the ground in the various countries. 

Based on the trends they identified, they narrowed it down to 10 countries to present to the board. The board decided the association would have the best chance for success in India and China, so they focused on those two countries to do a more in-depth market analysis. Based on all they learned, they decided to start with India.

ASCE leadership and staff then traveled to India to get a better feel for what local members need by visiting their Indian sections and talking with local members to find out which of the many webinars and workshops ASCE offered would be most relevant to civil engineers in that country.

2. Develop and Implement a Pilot Program
Maughan-Brown said they then developed a training course, and found local partners to work with. They also activated local members to facilitate contacts. 

3. Review the Results
ASCE then looked at the results of the pilot to see what was working and what needed more tweaking.

They found that the training was more advanced than what the locals required—India does not require continuing professional development certification as the U.S. does—so the courses needed to be rewritten to provide more of the basics. And, while using U.S.–based instructors would be cost-prohibitive; in-person training is preferred over on-demand in India.

4. Adjust the Program
The organization decided some remediation was needed to ensure the program’s success in India. They decided to offer recorded webinars instead of live, due to the constraints involved with working across a vast time difference. To keep the live instructor element, they decided to bring in local facilitators and experts to run the webinars so they could stop at key intervals to provide further explanation, and translate what the information means on the local level. 

These adjustments mean they will need to train these local experts on how to set up and host webinars, and they’ll need to address connectivity and other technical issues. While revenues weren’t a factor for the pilot program, ASCE also will need to develop a cost structure that the local market can bear.

Maughan-Brown stressed the importance of developing local partners who can help refine future offerings, help with delivering the training, and drive attendance. It can help, she said, to incentivize partners to encourage broader involvement.

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