Many reading this column are leaders of organizations and responsible for planning educational events. To them, thank you for your time and commitment, and hopefully this provides some food for thought.
In recent years, agricultural lenders, agribusinesses and various associations are seeing the positive impact of sponsoring events. Many call the concept of educating attendees while marketing products, services, people or institution “edu-marketing.” During a recent banker’s conference, a banker asked, “What are the top four topics that you feel are important to cover in a half-day meeting?”
In commodity-based agriculture, commodity marketing is high on my list of preferred topics. Marketing and overall risk management are difference makers, specifically with the younger generation and female attendees.
For value-added producers, a session on marketing these niche products and services is essential. In some cases, using a panel composed of practitioners or successful individuals can be a good avenue for this presentation.
Of course, global and national economics with a dose of trend data can be an eye-catching topic. However, it is critical to bring the 50,000-foot view back down to a local level.
Another one of my favorite subjects for a half-day meeting is weather. Again, the speaker must be pragmatic and make weather come to life. The challenge here is to design the presentation to cover not only local and regional weather issues, but global weather patterns. This can be a challenge even for the best meteorologist.
The latest in technology, equipment, and crop, livestock and agronomy practices can be a draw for attendees. In some cases, inviting these companies to bring displays for attendees to peruse during timely breaks can accomplish the task by killing two birds with one stone. In addition to bringing attendees, these companies may provide sponsorship and commitment.
Finally, transition planning, family business communications, personal finance and investments can all be great topics for an educational meeting. Some of my fellow speakers do great work in these areas.
In addition to having relevant topics, my advice is to have a good presenter with the right presentation style for your audience. In my opinion, this is just as important as the topic! Material and speakers must be up to date and relevant, and have an edge to challenge the group. However, do not go over the edge! Remember, four hours is a maximum commitment to expect for the total program.
P.S. Do not forget to invite 4-H, FFA and other youth groups. I find that these individuals add energy to the sessions and their attendance builds loyalty for the future. For example, it was impressive to see the commitment by young people engaged with older participants at a recent Chamber of Commerce event in Manchester, Iowa.
Best wishes for a successful event!
Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA, and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension, and other popular publications.