Friday, August 31, 2007

Your Picture as Your Image

A picture taken by a professional photographer may cost $100 and an hour of time, ensuring a professional image. After all, a professional picture will be needed for brochures when you're the speaker, in print magazines next to articles you author, web presence for your association or other boards serving on, and more. A sizable number of association executives who likely hate having their picture taken have used passport/discount photos, quickly-snapped digital pictures, or cropped family photos (that even show other people's shoulders) for professional purposes. There's an expression "your picture is your image" ...

But times are changing ... Participants on social networking sites seem to embrace more interesting pictures, and teenagers may change their images hourly on their personal sites. With nearly universal expansion of camera phones and digital cameras we're all more documented than ever before. Pictures can show daily moods. What used to be pictures reflecting low-effort are now that way on purpose - and replacing the standard suit and backdrop pic. They can be friendlier and more reflective. As example, here are two pictures of a colleague/friend who now uses a digital picture her staff took instead of the one taken professionally. She looks great in both -- but there really is a difference.
One is more reflective of the times, and her.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Centerpieces - Contain costs, gain interest

After decades of attending and holding banquets, centerpieces are always notable for their expense, distraction, interest or absence.

Focused on centerpieces at banquets since it was an office discussion today. Dilemma of what can hold up the Beatles CDs that will be our convention banquet centerpieces. Routinely try to do unique things around a theme ... for a low expense ... all $4-$12/table. (Would rather spend money on instructors or the food.) Inexpensive things we've found: a) going off season to a souvenir shop in that area and buying discount items related to the location (toy lobsters, carved/painted sea figures, lanterns) ; b) medium-sized potted plants such as cactus with something painted on pots; c) glass jars/vases from a dollar store filled with Oreo cookies and black/white ribbon tied around the top (black/white event); d) unique boxes of different designs/shapes; e) carved animal figures; f) small state or U.S. flag on holder; g) dollar store, party or craft store items; h) pottery on clearance - various sizes and types. Battery-operated flowers that danced every time someone made noise was not the best idea (loud) but attendees really enjoyed them. Ask the facility if they have anything no cost to use - sometimes other groups leave things behind. (We don't bring anything back.) Whatever you select needs to be large enough to look like a centerpiece.

Things to consider about flowers, candles, or doing nothing:
1. How much flowers cost
2. With increases in allergies, that "allergic-free flowers" becoming necessary

3. Floral display overkill -- Shocking how many events have extravagant displays where it's impossible to see others at the table
4. Candles equal fire. Learned not to mix banquet attendees, candles and wine
5. If you want flowers or candles anyway, look at wedding sites for inexpensive ideas
6. Anything is better than nothing. A fifty-cents plastic beach pail or putting lemons in a glass container is better than only having salt and pepper in the middle of the table

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Great Advice from ASAE's Tom Dolan

During the closing session at their conference, incoming ASAE Chairman Tom Dolan had only a few minutes to thank people and talk about his vision for the coming year -- but notably chose to use time to end his remarks with personal words to the thousands of association executives listening. Tom said, "I think we could do a better job with each other" -- and highlighted three areas.

1. Urged us to talk with at least one student about our profession, to build the future.
2. Encouraged each of us to mentor other association executives, and not make excuses.
3. Reminded us to help other association executives who are in job transitions.

I couldn't agree with him more, and appreciated that ASAE elects leaders who believe that association executives also need to have responsibility for the future of our profession, and the future of each other.

Here are a few of many examples I've seen of those three thoughts:
1. Watching a colleague's (Gar's) daughter grow from a little kid into an extraordinary young woman - and learning she's now studying association management. Was in a program break-out session with her recently, and amazed at her insights and ideas.
2. Ways I was helped/mentored -- local association execs telling me the "car talk" after Directors meetings (to learn what to fix), being invited to dinners/functions by an AE to get to know "important people", AEs volunteering time to facilitate or teach programs that helped my members (and me), having presentations critiqued, ideas from talented new AEs, etc. Should there be efforts to mentor other AEs even when you have no time? Absolutely.
3. AEs leave positions for many reasons - happens all the time to even the best and brightest. Two things I've found they talk about first - how they were terminated, and who reached out afterwards. Even those prepared for a termination still find it's a huge blow, then instantly concerned about ever being hired again. Calls of support from other AEs, offers to be a reference or to review a resume, suggestions for where to look, giving their name to headhunters who call you, opportunities for consulting projects at your association or others, having lunch to talk, inviting to dinner with groups of colleagues when they're trying to network - can help them both professionally and personally.

So even though I've never met Tom Dolan, I found in the audience of thousands that he had great advice - and focused on the right things.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Going Global - While U R Sleeping

My friend/colleague Judith is in Sarajevo establishing an association management corporation to help real estate communities in emerging economies. It's part of the effort of the International Real Property Foundation (IRPF), and its CEO Norm Flynn. Doing it through sponsored funding of a professional management corporation in each country which will manage several different groups of real estate professionals under one roof, or umbrella. Gives professional staff without the initial expense. Ultimate goal is to grow the management company so the associations own it and it's self sustaining. Judith's job is to go in, set up the corporation, hire the AE, train that person, and be the mentor. Already found clients too.

Many businesses routinely use global partners to solve staffing or timing issues - such as a consortium of International radiologists - where a radiologist in the U.S. reads x-rays for doctors in other countries, and a radiologist in Europe or India will read x-rays for doctors in the U.S. Difference in time zones works to the advantage - ensures faster response time for doctors and patients who don't want to wait. There may be any number of professional global sources - with shared expertise - who could finish certain association tasks while we sleep -- and we can finish their tasks while they sleep.

Can someone anywhere on the globe please process my professional standards complaint materials while I sleep?

Monday, August 27, 2007

What's an Association Exec like You doing on Facebook?

My teenage daughter thinks it's “hilarious” that I joined Facebook. I’m fairly certain it’s going to be mentioned to her friends in the category “my embarrassing mother” instead of using it as an example of my progressiveness.

Why did I join Facebook? Because at ASAE2007 I attended an excellent Learning Lab named “The Situation Room” and learned creative things associations are doing with it. One is setting up a Facebook group for a segment of their state association membership (targeting younger members); another is setting up an “alumni” group for former employees of a national association - as many had gone on to notable positions – and thought it was a good way to stay in touch, recruit, find known talent for projects, etc. Check out this article on the Ohio CPA site. To learn how Facebook can work, I'm trying it.

Got email notification that my first friend request on Facebook was accepted - a colleague in SC (pic). [Note - I assured my daughter she wouldn't have to identify me as a friend.] Are other associations doing anything interesting on Facebook?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Robert in Robert's Rules

Did you ever wonder who the Robert is in Robert's Rules of Order? Some trivia (from this source) ...

1. Full name: Henry Martyn Robert (1837-1923)
2. Graduated fourth in his class at West Point. Army Engineer.
3. Embarrassment at losing control of chairing a church meeting led to his study of parliamentary guidance.
4. Found that church rules such as "love and be kind to one another" didn't work; in fact, even added to conflicts.
5. Expected to create a 16-page guide that grew to a 176-page "Pocket Manual".
6. First edition of 4,000 copies printed in 1876 - at his own expense by private publisher.
7. His professional career included engineering oversight of various U.S. waterway/other fortifications. Served as Chief of Engineers in the Army. Retired as a brigadier general.

I once started a parliamentary procedure presentation with a "Guess the Robert" game to see if the class could guess which of three people created Robert's Rules. Those with an engineer in their family often guess the engineer.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Office Voice Mail by Email ...

Learned our office voice mail system has a (free) option to send voice mail messages by email. Can set it up for individual staff without needing to activate for everyone. Very convenient.

NAR's Center for Real Estate Technology has a techie blog article about converting wav to mp3.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Avatar Alert - People will say we're in love

A relative mentioned a WSJ article indicating that 53% of women (and 40% of men) who use online games believe their online friendships are “equal or better than” their real-life friends. The article focused on Second Life.

My response “Oh, I have an avatar on Second Life” then instantly required explanation and defense. Each social networking option has its own aura of concern about impact on “real” relationships. There’s no question social networking sites have led to romance for an enormous number; but to paraphrase my favorite quote from the ASAE2007 conference, those sites can often be an extension of real life conversations, by people who already know each other or share a common organization. Business relationships happen online too. Real-life friends can be the same people as online friends.

I’m better at thinking about how to apply technologies to my own association when personally trying it. So I tried Second Life. In real-life I constantly multi-task – so it was easy to sit (as an avatar) in a virtual world outdoor theater watching a real-time television show and simultaneously talk about it with others (chat).

Associations can show videos in that same type theater while an instructor/expert answers student (avatar) questions via chat as it airs. Book clubs meet in Second Life. A facilitated discussion in the virtual world is an option for an association whose members want to participate without having to travel further than their computer. Communication via avatar is a fun way to talk and collaborate. Creating a basic avatar is free, but the quote to professionally customize an association office and video viewing center in Second Life is expensive.

By the way - although Second Life makes every avatar appear the same age - the avatar I customized (pic) has red hair, dresses like me, and carries coffee all the time – so what’s real and what’s not?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

4COL - Another Language to Learn!

Looking at my Blackberry a few days ago I realized I had a text message from a local president (see pic) stranded on a flight on a runway in NYC. I responded to his text and got the immediate response: “RU new 2 this”. Apparently, it is not correct text etiquette to respond using full words, as I had done. I routinely use full words with Instant Messages too. Decided it was time to learn the new language of text messaging.

Here is a text messaging abbreviations “dictionary I found online (although I have no way to know if these are accurate).

BTW, 4COL is text meaning “For crying out loud”.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tips for Association Consumer Sites - Response to Adult Literacy Rates

I spent the entire day watching presentations about consumer websites. Especially interesting as my own association is deciding how to change our consumer site. Presenters discussed what drives design development of corporate and government sites that have heavy consumer applications and traffic -- Noted that while accessibility and ADA on sites are givens, that consideration of adult literacy is often overlooked. In fact, up to half of the adult U.S. population has low literacy rates – a detail that never occurred to me in thinking about our consumer site. Check out these literacy statistics.

Here are a few tips I learned today:
1. Whatever is placed at the top left side will get the most/first attention
2. Pictures, especially of faces, draws attention [note what I added to this post]
3. Use as few (easy) words as possible to assist consumers in finding information
4. Low literacy means many want to limit how much they’ll need to read – so using words like “initiatives” will get only higher literacy visitors
5. Add a “kids’ page” to the site, which will be more than just a site of interest for students or kids – that page can supply good information in the easiest possible terms for adults too
6. Link the kids’ pages of other related organizations to your kids’ page section - to provide additional simplified info (without requiring more work/development from you).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Technology Nostalgia - My TI is older than some of my members

Twenty four years ago NAR had a program named "Leadernet" to facilitate electronic communications with associations -- and I used to work with that program. Used the same "dumb terminals" that were used for MLS at the time -- the TI 707, which also required owning cases of quickly-fading thermal paper to read messages. The TI terminals initially moved at 300 baud which was a lot faster than waiting for the next MLS book to be printed and delivered; and faster than updates by mail. (Fax wasn't affordable yet.)

It wasn't remotely easy getting everyone to use that "new" technology/information service (many never did), but every decade seems to bring much faster adapting. Let's see what happens with membership adoption of texting, twittering and social media sites .... We know consumers are using them ...

Monday, August 20, 2007

30 Association Management Tips I Learned at the ASAE2007 Conference (in very random order)

[UPDATE: links noted no longer active]

1. The word "invitation" in an email Subject Line makes more respond (to Calls to Action, other requests)
2. There are many free tools available online - check out this conference handout.

3. Can do free conference calls online for up to 10 people, and low cost for up to 100
4. Use Twitter to send out notices to your members attending national meetings - say where you are or news to their cell phones
5. "Contact a Friend" features on site can be easily misused/overtaken by spammers (but there are tools to fight that)
6. Programming your association name, your name, officer names into sites like Google Alerts and Technorati (click Watchlist) generates emails alerting you if names posted on web for any reason
7. Many ways to improve blogs - this summary of a blogger's conference by NAR's Hilary Marsh.

8. "Google is forever" - once something is posted on the web, it will be found forever
9. 87% of the public research online before buying
10. Set up an advisory board of younger members to review your ideas from their perspective
11. Keeping information in front of passwords, and welcoming negative comments, can
add to credibility
12. Potential "fun" events - Family Feud or Pictionary using industry topics
13. If you make the letter "o" with thumb and index finger of each hand and extend other fingers - it shows the letter b on left hand, and the letter d on the right hand. This reminds where your bread plate is, and where your water is placed at a table setting.
14. Worst practice with calls to action - sending out a negative message to someone already supporting you
15. Brevity is rewarded online, especially calls to action
16. Principles for Gen Y - let them co-create (give up control), Issue a challenge, invite content generation, put their peers in power, let them teach you
17. Ways to sell younger member involvement - will put name on site (will show up in Google), good for their resume/credentials
18. Facebook is a continuation of conversations by individuals who often already know each other - can be applied in associations
19. Need to be "multilingual" - understand texting, blogs, SecondLife, MySpace, Facebook, other social networking - speak in THEIR language
20. Gen Y can have 7 jobs in 10 years - want to do something different, not reflective of happiness in current positions - challenge for employers
21. Handwritten notes still powerful since so unique now
22. "Unconferences" are where discussions evolve without planned agenda; "ungovernance" is where control is given up -- both appear to have effective application to both meetings and decisions
23. Many great tips for communicating with members in this conference handout.

24. Diversity programs/marketing can include gay/lesbian focus - see this handout.
25. Send thank you email to reporters when they write something positive/accurate about your industry
26. Try separating spouses at banquet events - and assign table "hosts" to keep conversation active
27. It's okay to assign an intentional "provocateur" for specific purpose of generating lively discussion, debates and questions
28. Asking meeting attendees to print out their own handouts does work (and saves wasted paper)
29. Put all conference handouts on a zip drive for a low fee ($29 at ASAE)
30. It doesn't matter what the association, or what the event, a free buffet always works. But don't forget the desserts.

Things I learned that ASAE could improve: no more dancing girls in go-go boots at professional social events, put directional signs everywhere in enormous facilities, don't shut down the education too long just to improve trade show attendance, never eliminate the dessert. Great things about ASAE conference: tremendous networking everywhere (on shuttle buses, at tables before meetings start), shorter education sessions on wide variety of current topics, leaving online handouts up long after conference, including all courses on DVD and all handouts on zip drive for low fees, casual really can mean shorts. I also believe we are very fortunate that we don't have the typical membership recruitment and retention experiences of most associations. It's really, really hard for most groups.