CU Water Cooler

Why Are YOU Here?

Andy JanningComment

I love the CU Water Cooler Symposium. The connections. The innovations. The party on Thursday night. All of it, coated in cooperative splendidness.

I’ve attended the event ever since its humble beginnings as the FORUM Solutions Symposium, even adding my own small voice in an ominously-titled 2008 talk called “Fire Your Trainers.” I love looking around the room each year and seeing the real-life faces of folks I follow, and in some cases quietly idolize, on the social media LinkFaceTweetBlogosphere. 

Many of those faces are usually peering intently into their iTool of choice, pressing their own commentary through their own personal set of tubes along the internets. Still others are on stage, exhorting and teaching and inspiring the room to fully live out the credit union philosophy. 

I sit in the back, chuckling and retweeting and ruminating over the real-time recaps and reactions spilling, Matrix-like, down my CUWCS Tweetdeck column. I’m fully engaged in this process, lobbing my own tweets as the spirit moves me. And according to this graphic, I’m apparently fairly vigorous in this activity. I can’t help it.

I also can’t help but notice the varying degrees of incredulity from some attendees about my continued presence at the Symposium, especially when they find out who I am and what I do. Let’s face it: I’m a confirmed training and development nerd, attending (and now a member of the editorial board for) a national social media/marketing/state of the CU industry event. At first glance, attendees may think I’ve gathered around the wrong water cooler, as have the less-than-a-handful of trainers in attendance annually. More often than not, their overt or subtle reactions show they think either:

  • I’m in the room only because my office is 221 feet from the FORUM Conference Center and I have nothing better to do,
  • I’m there just to walk around purposely to fiddle with various recording devices, and provide the most amateur level of a/v and tech support possible to the attendees before returning to the shadows to lurk and giggle, or
  • I really shouldn’t be there because I’m not a marketer, that I should leave marketing insights to the adults at the grown-up tables, and I should instead stay in my nice little credit union HR/Training box. 

Their reactions don’t bother me at all and are, in fact, perfectly understandable. After all, if a dyed-in-the-wool marketer showed up at a typical credit union HR or Training conference, I’d react no differently. Neither would many of my followers on Twitter, some of whom pepper me with various “why are you pumping out this SM/marketing-flavored stuff, trainer-boy?” DMs when they see #CUWCS in every single tweet for a week. Others just unfollow me outright because I’m not blasting out a steady stream of training/adult learning/e-learning/instructional design hoo-hah.

So why am I here?

I’m a trainer by trade, choice, and design. I’m paid, moved, and motivated to help my co-workers and clients change their behavior, hit their goals, and improve the financial lives of the members who make all of our jobs possible. I don’t see how this professional bent is in any way at odds with marketing. 

If you’re a credit union trainer, know this: your job and career has changed. You can’t afford to hide behind the same ineffective, classroom-based, instructor-led, bullet-riddled PowerPoint deathpunch approach to training to which too many in our industry still desperately cling. Continue to regard training as something that happens only in a room in which you’re the star and you’ll find yourself unceremoniously ushered out of that room by a CEO, CFO, and staff weary of your one-note symphony.

Marketers have had to fundamentally change virtually every aspect of their approach to what they do. The realities of a sputtering economy and growing social media universe, both of which gave edge and color to the CUWCS agenda, have also taken a blowtorch to the face of traditional marketing. Direct mail, billboards, TV advertising, and many of the old ways of interacting with members are now cautionary tales wrapped in crime scene tape, succeeding only by accident and not intent. Marketers and credit union leaders know member loyalty can no longer be won through coercion, bribery, or by half-heartedly mumbling a “CU’s are different!” rallying cry that is falling on deaf ears.

A tangible sense of urgency permeates the world of credit union marketing – a very real desire to fulfill a member’s financial dreams and create more members, all the while doing their part to sustain a credit union movement struggling to define itself. Fall short in these areas and these marketers know they will be out on the street next to the trainers who chose inertia over effectiveness.

The energy, creativity, passion, and imagination at CUWCS forces me to question everything I do, every approach I take to positively change the behavior of another. It turns me on my head, and then promptly removes me from it to think with ones far bigger and smarter than mine. It challenges me to define training success by the value it brings to the member, and not by a meaningless post-class survey or quiz.  

That’s why I’m here.

And trainers – it’s why you should be, too.


The president and founder of NO NET Solutions, Andy Janning is an eight-time state and national award winner for overall excellence in organizational development, a popular speaker at conferences and events across the country, writer, and voiceover artist. He delivers proven leadership consulting results through the “Leader Effectiveness Training” program and offers a wide variety of workshops and webinars to improve your parenting, speaking, serving, training, communication, and leadership skills. To learn more, and to find out why he occasionally runs with scissors, visit and follow him on Twitter at @andyjanning.