Thursday, July 7, 2022

Key Take-Aways from the 2022 AAFCS Annual Conference

I recently attended and presented at the 2022 annual meeting of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), a professional association whose members help individuals, families, and communities achieve an optimal quality of life.


Below are ten of my key take-aways from this meeting:


Customer-Focused Education- Educators must always prepare content with the “customer” (i.e., student) in mind. Information provided must be realistic and relevant to the lives of audiences. The best way to teach others is to “meet them where they are” and co-create content with them. Information, no matter how helpful, can never be “force fed” to people. Educators, themselves, can also never stop learning about the topics that they teach to others.


Social Media Influencers- People connect with people- not brands, companies, or organizations. Therefore, content creators must be real and relatable, and their materials must look “fun” with attractive photos, graphics, and other visuals. Effective methods to reach people electronically are podcasts, videos, and social media. Two Cooperative Extension educators described how they dropped their academic personas and increased outreach by showing their “personal side.”


Language Make-Overs- A workshop about substance abuse recovery described an 8-unit financial education course called Recovering Your Finances. The speaker described the proper “language of addiction.” Instead of words like “addict,” “alcoholic,” “drunk,” and “user,” more positive terms are “person with a substance abuse (or alcohol) disorder” and “person in recovery.” By reframing descriptions this way, the focus is on people rather than their problems.


An Amazing Non-Profit- The Orlando, FL-based nonprofit, Clean the World, has a truly life-changing mission. This social enterprise organization recycles discarded soap and toiletries from hotels that generate large volumes of solid waste. In addition to helping the environment by keeping waste out of landfills, they assemble hygiene kits for distribution through charities worldwide, which saves lives. Clean the World also provides mobile showers for homeless people.


Advocacy Basics- Advocacy is speaking up for others and identifying, embracing, and promoting a cause. It can happen at many levels: social settings, meetings and events, workplaces, and with policymakers. Sometimes, even one person can make a difference in decisions made by companies and lawmakers. In other situations, positive action on an issue takes a collective voice with others. The three stages of grassroots advocacy are real people, real stories, and real impact.


The Power of Story-Telling- To persuade people, you need to know where they are coming from and engage with them through listening and empathy. The best way to do this is through powerful stories. Good advocacy stories captivate the hearts and minds of others and successful storytelling for the purpose of advocacy includes setting the stage (background), describing a conflict or struggle and a successful resolution, and making a short and simple “ask” (i.e., the specific outcome that an advocate wants to have happen or a simple “we need your help” request).


Focused Messaging- Successful advocacy for anything (a cause, social justice, a new job, a promotion, new clients) is best done with three key messages of nine words or less for a total of 27 seconds. The three key messages are 1. Who you are, 2. What you do, and 3. What you want. The AAFCS conference audience was given time to develop a personal advocacy pitch, so I decided to write one for my business: 1. I’m a financial education entrepreneur and Money Talk owner/CEO. 2. I write, speak about, and review personal finance content. and 3. Reach out to me if I can assist you.


Adjectives Have Power- The advocacy presentation encouraged the audience to use words like “experienced” and “seasoned” to sell themselves as an advocate. For example, “I am a seasoned financial educator” or “I am an experienced online instructor.” Just one extra word can make a difference and convey a person’s competence to others.

When Helpful Becomes Harmful- Prescription drugs that are given for a good reason (e.g., pain relief after surgery) can sometimes become addictive. Opioid addiction increases the likelihood of mental health issues. Individuals, families, employers, and governments (taxpayers) bear the cost of addiction, the greatest of which is lost productivity. Family members of a person with a substance abuse problem need to guard money and medications. Other strategies are third party monitoring of financial accounts, cutting off online access to financial accounts, and cash-only transactions.

Nutritional Trends- Scientific techniques used to predict future consumer culinary trends were described. One in particular, called chaos analytics, identifies today’s “parents” that give birth to tomorrow’s trends. Example: interest in weight control and obesity is growing as workers return to offices and can’t fit into pre-COVID wardrobes. Interest is also high in simplification. People want food that is quick to prepare, healthy, and full of nutrients. That said, flavor is still a much stronger driver of food purchases than health. Consumers have become increasingly skeptical of health claims.


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