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Practical Suggestions for Generating New Program Content

Practical Suggestions for Generating New Program Content

“We need something different!”

“This flier needs some fresh copy!”

“Is this any different from last year’s calendar?”

Sound familiar? Sourcing new program ideas and content is probably one of the biggest challenges CLE providers face. The more programs you provide, the more frustrating it can become that nothing seems to change. Some people believe that good ideas just happen. Others think creativity is an aptitude that some people have and some people don’t. I don’t subscribe to either of those theories. I think idea generation and creativity is a skill that anyone can cultivate simply by being on the lookout for new ideas. It’s 100% unscientific, but my own approach is to ditch the annual, insular, gray conference room brainstorming session in favour of regular rituals that invite new approaches. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Subscribe to and read as many legal publications as your budget will allow.
  • Make a list of your favourite legal blogs and regularly read them.
  • Monitor professional development, continuing legal education, law school curriculum, legal education, legal marketing, executive education, association management and relevant not-for-profit websites and blogs.
  • Identify comparable organizations in other jurisdictions. Visit their website regularly and subscribe to their PD notices.
  • Make sure you or someone else in your organization is on the mailing list of every provider offering programs in your market. Set aside time each week – even 15 minutes – to go through fliers, brochures and calendars, and circle interesting program ideas, delivery methods, marketing copy, and program titles.
  • Subscribe to law firm newsletters and email updates about internal programming. Ask PD Directors and CLE contacts in firms to keep you up to date on what they are doing. Sometimes a truly excellent in-house program can very easily be rolled out into an open enrolment program.
  • Join as many relevant professional associations as your budget will allow – ACLE, ALA, LMA, CSAE, etc. Attend conferences and use list serves to stay in touch with colleagues, share ideas, and generate private, side-bar dialogues. Review all conference and PD materials for ideas that may translate well into the CLE market.
  • Ask fellow staff to keep their eyes and ears open through their own professional associations, list serves and networks for interesting ideas. If you are like most CLE providers, you have more than just ACLEA members in your office. Publications from all of those groups can be gold mines for fresh program ideas.
  • Set Google alerts in areas or on topics that interest you.
  • Be open to inspiration from anywhere – don’t restrict yourself to the legal and PD markets. You’d be surprised where great ideas come from. I have seen excellent new CLE programs that started with a phrase or slogan borrowed from an accounting industry initiative, a podcast for entrepreneurs, even a home decorating magazine.
  • Constantly impress upon faculty and committee members that you are always looking for new program ideas. Most lawyers are members of multiple professional associations, list serves and mailing lists. Encourage them to forward interesting programs, title, marketing copy, etc. to you for future consideration and possible development. Some of the best gems come from other jurisdictions.
  • Be diligent about collecting program feedback. Review program evaluations for suggestions from attendees about what they would like to see in future programs.
  • Once or twice a year consider surveying your membership or discrete constituencies in your membership about what they would like to see in terms of future programs. Let them know that their feedback will help shape future calendars and construct the survey so that it will generate a lot of responses.
  • Always keep and add to a running list of new program, content and marketing ideas, including suggestions from participants at past programs. Put it some place you will see it every day.

Everyone can come up with fresh, new ideas – you just need to create methods for finding inspiration. Happy hunting!

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