If you build it (a good program) they will come

The oft misquoted line from the legendary film Field of Dreams “If you build it they will come” (Ray Kinsella actually hears “if you build it, he will come” in the movie) is appropriate when discussing attendance to newspaper, specifically circulation staff development, training programs.

My travels to, and discussions with, circulation and audience development professionals have  convinced me that the primary reasons attendance is declining or flat at these events are the following:

  1. Time and staffing constraints: “I cannot leave the office for a day or two as there will be too much work piling up as my staff is much smaller than it used to be.”
  2. Budget: “Training and travel budgets are non-existent”

     Ok, while both of those reasons have validity, I sincerely believe that if a program is strong enough, folks will be willing to work a little harder to compensate for time missed and somehow find the funds to attend. The true professionals realize the value of learning and exposure to ideas that may, indeed, help grow their business.

Case in point: The circulation committee of the Ohio Newspaper Association (ONA) recently hosted a single copy seminar: “Retail Revenue & Sales Strategies” at Ohio University, Pickerington. Due to the efforts of that committee and specifically Gannett’s Valecia Quinn and ONA’s Sue Bazzoli, the program was very well attended with 40 media professionals in attendance. Because of Quinn’s effort in building a “home run” program these professionals were motivated to register and attend; thus overcoming the aforementioned objections.

Not only did Quinn’s program and Bazzoli’s organizational skills inspire members of the Ohio Newspaper Association to attend, but newspapers from the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia were also represented.

Additionally, an Ohio University representative commented stating, “this is the most crowded I have seen a newspaper training session in a long time.”

The jam packed room of attendees was treated to presentations throughout the morning, forged ahead during a working lunch while participating in a lively discussion, and finished the afternoon strong with three additional presentations.

Tweets throughout the day and post-conference comments confirmed those in attendance found value in the day-long event.

In addition to the programming, participants also networked with peers and gained contacts they can call on in the future to share ideas, problems and solutions. Another invaluable benefit of attendance at similar events.

So consider this the next time you are part of a planning committee or a professional considering attending: Quinn and Bazzoli built it and they came.

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