Wednesday, October 2, 2013

3 things that make me crazy at banquet events ...

Not only do I plan events, but I attend a large number of events. Here are three things that make me crazy:

1. Centerpieces that block the view of half the table: What's the point of being seated with 8 or 10 people if you can't even see half of them because of the centerpiece, much less be able to engage them through the centerpiece? There are plenty of nice ways to decorate a table that won't block the view of others at the table.

2. Those stretchy chair covers that totally cover the chair legs: Remember when our legs didn't bounce off the chair covers at events? Whoever created those stretchy covers has turned already uncomfortable event chairs into ones that require you to stretch your legs out in front of you at a table. And forget about being able to put anything under the chair. While I know it makes the space look nicer to have covered chairs ... UGH!

3. The band that plays loudly during dinner: I was recently at an event where I spent the dinner either screaming at the person directly next to me so he could hear me or we both were saying over and over, "what did you say, what did you say" ... Whatever happened to nice, quiet background music at banquets that accommodates conversations?

Events should strive to encourage conversation at the banquet tables; and be as comfortable as possible.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

6 Words that Stop Change at Associations

There are 6 words that routinely stop change at Associations: "But that will set a precedent."  With a precedent of course being assumed to be a bad thing.

Here are a few thoughts on getting past the dreaded precedent-setting:

1.  Call it a pilot program.  Then it is clear it's a test and may or may not ever apply again.

2.  Make it clear why it's one-time in an explanatory to a decision. "Due to the current market conditions ...", "due to an unexpected overage in the fund balance," or whatever provides explanation to do something even if it's never been done before or may not be an option again. Or make it clear what it would take for that same type of approval to happen again.  Seriously, doing something once does not mean you have to do it twice or a hundred times.  I also think if you do something a hundred times, you should also be able to never do that again.

3.  Let it set a precedent.  What if the precedent-setting option is actually the best approach?  If the fear is that it might be popular, evaluate the concern about doing something that might be popular.

There are clearly situations where it may not be at all appropriate to set precedents, such as with personnel policies.  But with many association programs and general association policies, maybe taking a leap of faith by trying something once won't be such a bad idea.  At least don't kill an idea just by saying it will set a precedent.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Return to Blogging - and "Most Obvious Lessons"

The past few months have been filled with personal and professional transitions - left a job (and membership) I loved after 24 years due to a relocation, changed states, consulted, participated in a lot of association executives meetings, interviewed for a new job, facilitated a search for a new CEO, started a new job, bought a new house, and more.  Which means I have lots of association management blog topic content; so it's time to return to blogging.

My first post has to be a highlight of my good friend Judith Lindenau's blog about what she learned as an Interim Association Executive.

Here are Judith's top 6 "most obvious lessons" for association execs:

1.  It's not 'them or us.' (Cindy adds: that includes treating boards and their staff like partners!)
2.  It's also the AEs job to provide perspective.
3.  Have a good, memorable (by everyone) mission statement.
4.  Only spend money on things that enable the mission statement.  Notable quote: "Be brutal about eliminating the programs and services which don’t serve the members. One heads up trick is to divide the total expense of a program or service by the number of real, live members who actually paid money to get it." (Cindy adds: Amen!)
5.  Get the association governing docs together.
6.  Teach leadership skills.  Notable quote: "Unfortunately, most 'Leadership Conferences' don’t teach the practical aspects of leadership ... The techniques of managing meetings, setting work goals, forming communities - those essential skills are often neglected and volunteers are left untrained and uninformed."

And ... "what a wealth of knowledge and support Realtor AEs are to each other."  Judith is a wealth of knowledge and support!

Read her entire blog post here.

What I know for sure is there are hundreds of things to learn or know as an association executive.  Judith's "most obvious lessons" are crucial ones.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

3 Association Questions found at a Yard Sale

Prior to selling our house this week, we had a yard sale.  There are three questions we were asked by yard sale attendees that I believe are really relevant to association management too:

1.  Are the prices firm or flexible?  Clearly regular yard sale attendees like to know if there is flexibility in pricing.  I thought it was actually really easy for them to find out, just by asking.  Anytime you get a quote for anything, ask if it's "firm or flexible."  You might get a lower price just by asking.

2.  Do you have (fill in the blank)?  Several asked for very specific things they collect - such as glassware, vinyl records, and buttons.  It makes sense to always ask if someone has (fill in the blank) if you don't see it.  The best example is in meeting planning - if there is a special dessert, a type of sandwich, a buffet item, or even certain centerpieces you don't see anywhere in the meeting planner kit or banquet menus - ask if the facility has it or can do it.

3.  Would you sell (fill in the blank) for (fill in the blank)?  Someone asked to buy the lawnmower in our garage for a specific price.  We had not considered selling our lawnmower, but might have at a particular price.  If there is something you want to buy, make an offer to whoever has it - they might just say yes.  Or at least you'll know what price it would take for them to say yes.  For example, if you're at an event and would like to use or own something that organization has, offer to buy it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sample Invocation Policy for Associations

An association exec recently posted a sample ecumenical Invocation Policy on a listserve, that could be useful for others. Here it is:

"It is the policy of (insert association name) that if a prayer is used to open a (insert association name) meeting or event that it be a broad, inclusive invocation of faith that unifies rather than divides on the basis of religion and does not express a preference for one religion over another."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ice Breaker: AE (Association Executives) Bingo

At an event today, there was a fun ice breaker event:  AE (Association Executives) Bingo.  There are 5 squares across, 5 squares down, and each indicates something that could apply to those attending - plus a free space in the middle (for your name.)  Attendees could only include a person's name ONCE on the grid - and the first to get a bingo was the winner.  Could also be done with black-out of entire grid to extend the game.

A great way to get to know something about others in the room.

Here is what the squares for this particular bingo game included: (applicable to REALTOR associations, but could easily be modified for others):

* Has increased their affiliate membership this year
* Has attended at least 10 AE workshops
* Is a REALTOR and an AE
* Has been an AE less than 2 years
* Has less than 200 members
* Had increased their non-dues revenue
* Has a president under 30 years old
* Is attending the NAR leadership summit
* Has their RCE
* Lived in more than 3 states
* Knows the name of The Landing mascot (I think this is an association website?)
* Has an indoor pet
* Free space - your name
* Has grandchildren
* Is attending the NAR Convention in Orlando
* Owns a boat or RV
* Has their EPro designation
* Sends thank you notes weekly
* Has uploaded their picture to The Landing
* Has more than 600 members
* Has an association that crosses a state border
* Is an RPAC Major Donor
* Office is located in the same town as the state association building
* Has taken an online course
* Has used a My REALTOR Party Resource

(Thanks to Missouri REALTOR Association Execs!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Association thoughts on returning to the gym

I haven't gone to a gym regularly in years, maybe decades. But now I am going regularly.  A few thoughts on associations reflected through my gym ...

1. You have to improve. If you want results, whether it's with exercise or with association management, you really have to make the decision to improve.  Even if you only turn up the notch a little, turn it up.

2.  Success is painful.  The biggest accomplishments can take a lot of sweat and a lot of work.  Decide to own that at the outset, so when you start to sweat and you see it's a lot of work, you're really just confirming what you thought it would be like all along.

3. If there's something members need, put that right out front.  Often associations over-analyze why their members joined or they put the things the members aren't looking for in more prominent locations than what they are looking for.  My gym has a giant case of bottled water right out front - and it only costs $1.  Every time I walk in or leave I see exactly what appeals to me - the water.  Why spend valuable web or newsletter space overly promoting programs no one wants to attend when you could instead focus on or promote the things they all want?  And everything does not have to have a profit.  Sometimes if they're paying dues let them have something for a low price. 

4.  When you're interacting, look like you enjoy it.  Everyone at the front desk is cheerful all the time.  Enthusiastic greetings, waving goodbye.  Do you ever listen to staff complain while a member might be able to hear them - or bring gloomy attitudes into an interaction with a paid member?  That has to stop.  As the customer, I frown my way all the way to treadmill - but I do smile on the way in and on the way out.  Because gym staff still tried to make it cheerful.

5.  You really might not know how to do everything - take the time to ask.   All the things you do that you never actually ever had instruction to do - it's not too late.  Find out how to do something you do all the time the correct way.  Maybe there's a way to do it better, or save time, or get better results.  Your teacher might be another association executive who can help if you just take the time to ask, a personal trainer, or someone teaching a class.

6.  Hydrate.  Over a year ago I learned a big lesson about coffee and dehydration (note: if you don't already know this, coffee will dehydrate you.)  Drink more water and less coffee and see if you feel better.  You just might find you skin, your hair and your sleep patterns change too.  When you work, or you work out, be sure you hydrate.  I know someone who sets their phone alarm to remember to take a hydration break during the day.

7.  Don't take for granted that membership is really optional and it's an expense.  Whether it's a gym or an association, a member pays for membership.  You have to keep them interested or they can just walk away.  The long economic downturn keeps many people really predisposed to considering all their costs.  Don't take any membership for granted.