Monday, December 31, 2007

6 tips for enjoying your incoming president

So far, 20 great years with association presidents, and I don't plan to start having bad years.

Here are 6 tips for enjoying your incoming president ... and your next year ...

1. Decide you're going to enjoy the president and the year. Seriously, making the decision to be happy is a big step towards figuring out how. I've seen association executives with absolute certainty that it's hopeless and miserable even before the first day with the new president - at least try to figure it out. Starting a
gratitude journal might make you feel better. It can be really easy to overlook the great parts if you aren't trying to identify them. I strongly believe it is our job to ensure the President doesn't leave a year wishing they hadn't done it or worse, hating their year (and mentioning it to everyone). And I don't want to hate the year either.

2. Say thank you. It's a big commitment to be president of any organization. Appreciate that volunteering their time and expertise. Associations have elected leaders - it's the way this profession works. Presidents are human too - they appreciate knowing that at least one person is noticing what they're giving up or what they've managed to accomplish -- and the person who knows is likely you. Each of my presidents has made their own set of accomplishments -- and if I'm the one who sees it and knows it the least I can do is say thanks.

3. Say yes. Early in my career I decided not to say no to the president unless there's a really good reason to say no (i.e., like a legal reason or one that couldn't be remotely supported with association budget/policy). Chances are good you'll end up doing whatever it is you want to say no to anyway - so you can spare both of you the baggage of going through the disagreement phase as it leads to the same outcome anyway. Or you may regret how that new ill-will can snowball. Most of the time what some say no to is fairly inconsequential from time or management standpoint - some new ideas are really good ideas, some things you may believe are ridiculous could turn out to be really great. The one way to find out is try. Then you'll both find out. [Note: this concept really can co-exist with strong budget and strategic/business plans.]

4. Be clear about what you need, what you want or what you are concerned about. At least give your president the opportunity to help you. If you have absolute lines in the sand, explain clearly and early. If you believe your benefits are not equitable to what your position should provide - tell them (as one of my past presidents noted, "how would WE know?") If you have a feeling you have a reason to be concerned, then share it - one year I was extremely concerned being chairman of a large national committee would make me appear less committed to my own association - and because I told my president that concern, I found he'd sit in the audience among many hundreds of association executives while I chaired national meetings because he wanted me to know I was supported. Being a strong association exec does not mean you can't have a weakness or problem your president can help solve.

5. Communicate. I have an incoming president checklist for identifying (by directly asking) communications preferences. Even little things like who notifies people of appointments, signing name on letters, what timing is off limits can harm the relationship because there are such varying info needs, approval needs, and personal needs. Let your president be an individual, respect communications wishes - and you'll improve your own life.

6. You are not a practitioner, so decide you could be wrong. No matter how brilliant any association exec may be, if you're not out there in the field practicing in that world, you don't get to be the expert - because how could you be. The members live with the outcomes of association decisions on their industry - staff often can just move on to the next issue. If your members don't want something, let it go.

As I transition to the next president, I'd like to personally thank my 2007 President E. Pat Foster (pic) on this last day of 2007. A few notes how Pat exemplifies the above tips:

1. Knew at the outset we'd like working together. And we did.
2. I thank her, she thanks me. We do understand what each of us had to do this year to make the organization move.
3. She had several new ways of doing things - including scheduling proactive listening to company owners in large forum settings. Listening and asking questions is what she does. The more she listened, the more everyone talked ... the more we both learned.
4. I never regretted sharing concerns - even the times it made me look weak. She even commented on each of my first blog postings so I wouldn't feel friendless in the blog world. It's nice to be supported.
5. Good news for me when President prefers email and loves to read.
6. When your president has clients and customers every day, and is living a life too - opinion and insight into the industry are real.

Best wishes to all association executives for a happy 2008 ....

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best non-iron shirt

I believe anyone who buys a Brooks Brothers non-iron cotton shirt becomes a believer. Doesn't wrinkle, the crease you won't need to iron stays, machine washable, less trips to the dry cleaner. For men, women and boys. Order one. You'll see.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Shun the non-believers!

My 9-year old nephew has several hundred songs on his iPod (Jimmy Buffett, Univ of Alabama fight song, etc.) that he hooks up to his new iDog (pic) ... a robotic dog that lights up, wags tail and ears with music. Nephew also insisted I watch a YouTube video called "Charlie Candy Mountain". Asked him how learned about it - from other kids in 4th grade class.

"Charlie Candy Mountain" is worth the 3:44 of time it takes to watch. Though you may be tempted to quit the first 10 seconds, as I was. Some classic lines, including "shun the non-believer". Definitely odd and thought-provoking.

Think members can't embrace podcasts, social media and YouTube? Shun the non-believers!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Annoyance and exclusion - the free hat

TripAdvisor, my favorite travel website, emailed today to say in appreciation for posting travel comments, they're sending me a free TripAdvisor hat (pic). I post comments and pictures of hotels on their site, plus consider opinions of other travelers/forums. So click button in email, enter my email address and get response: "Sorry, you don't qualify for our hat".

Emailed them asking why in the world they would send that email and make me dislike them when I love them. Got an oops there was a technology glitch response, and hat is on the way. Imagine if they just totally turned me off, when there was no reason for them to do that?

Seth Godin has great post about exclusion - that's good message for association executives. Think about what programs succeed by fact appear exclusionary (like convention hotel selling out in one day so if late, can't get in). What activities might be unnecessarily exclusionary and need to open. What awards programs might turn off significantly more people than turn on, especially if care and confidentiality aren't given?There's such a human element in so many things we all administer. How do we show appreciation for participation?

Side note: No, I don't typically go for gimmicky things (like hats), especially via email - but will help promote TripAdvisor. Forums have users saying they plan to wear hat when check into hotels to see if any reaction or better rooms. Many already have backpacks, t-shirts and luggage tags from them (for posting). Rewarding for posting, while also getting fans promoting to others a good idea.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Are we the real problem with delays?

Received these among comments to my "How to Break 6 Association Habits" post. Questions where the real problem may be in ensuring speakers end their presentations on time ...

"Cindy, I'm going push back a little bit on #1. As someone who has been on both sides of the challenge you're describing, I think a more flexible approach is in the best interest of the learner. With short breaks, unrealistic travel times and in-room announcements, sessions often end up shortened through no fault of the speaker. And, if a session goes five minutes beyond the appointed time because the participants are engaged in a good conversation, I don't see anything wrong that.

I agree that speakers who allow sessions to drag far beyond scheduled end times aren't doing their jobs. But the goal of our meetings is (or should be) to support learning, and that is not an outcome that conforms to our preset schedules."

From speaker who gives large volume of presentations to associations:

"Your recent blog described how association executives need to control speakers who go over the time alloted. As a professional speaker I offer you another view. In my experience associations are poor at presentation time management. Sessions do not start on time. When I am told to make a one hour presentation I rarely actually get one hour. The President wants to 'say a few words', or the lobbyist wants to 'briefly cover a pressing political issue', or the person introducing me decides to wax eloquently on a personal topic while at the podium, or a dignitary is introduced (who says a few words), or there is a drawing, etc. I had one Association break into my presentation for 15 minutes for 'surprise treats' that were not scheduled. So an hour quickly becomes 45 minutes or less, a two hour presentation becomes an hour and a half, etc.

As a result I do not give detailed outlines in advance to distribute as I am not sure how much material I will have time to cover. My outlines are brief and screen slides are few among many blanks so I can adjust on the fly. I have two or three presentations on my computer screen before I start so when I am actually introduced I can launch the correct presentation length.

The for-profit world is much more precise by starting on time, one minute allowed for introductions, five minutes set aside at the end for Q&A, etc. So I have learned to be prepared depending on the type of organization that is sponsoring the presentation. That way we both are satisfied with the result."

My additional comments:

1. I speak frequently too and agree speaker's time is often shortened. Huge problem when 20 minute presentation needs to shorten by 10 minutes, so in that case, yes may need to go over 3 or 4 minutes. Bigger situation when speaker has 3 hours and distributes 40 pages of handouts; then with 15 minutes and 20 pages to go announces "we may need to run over". 30 vs. 3 minutes. I really will cut them off. Some try to cram in too much material or get hung up on complicated questions. Need to plan/manage speaking time.

2. Ability to go 5 minutes over depends on format. Conferences may only have 15-30 minutes between classes, and need that time. Room can't get refreshed and next speaker can't set-up in time if prior speaker and class don't leave.

3. Agree moderator, president or staff can kill the speaker's time with extra agenda items or not setting aside time correctly. "This will only take a minute" - doesn't. Another example is live check presentations where recipient gets to "say a few words". Don't let them talk or plan 10 minutes per receipient - they'll talk. Waiting to let the buffet start until everyone seated huge delay issue too. If any table seated, let them start.

4. It's such a lose-lose. If program runs over, people may not sign up again because they can't trust organization to respect their time schedule; if a speaker is short-changed with time attendees may be disappointed they didn't get what they came for. And we wonder why people don't attend meetings?

Will be at retreat with group of local presidents in a few weeks. Now adding "This will only take a minute (not)" to their discussion agenda. Thanks so much for commenting!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

4 random technology tips

A few random technology tips ...

1. Carry alcohol wipes. Apparently stealing GPS systems is growing in frequency. One way they can tell a portable GPS in the car: the suction cup rings on the windshield. I have those. Now have to remove marks on windshield each stop?

2. Get a receipt at gas stations (so you're not arrested). I usually do, but not always. Swiped a credit card, followed instructions, pumped gas, then waited for receipt to print. Saw the message: Go inside to pay. What if I wasn't getting a receipt - would have driven away assuming I WAS paid. Kid at cash register told me he would have called police if didn't come in. Association execs can't get arrested. He didn't care.

3. Twitter has more uses. I don't use Twitter, but read this post and assume these are more ways to use it. Examples: local weather forecasts, track fuel economy, promote a blog, get daily bible verses.

4. Take credit cards. Churches getting ATMs and "digital collection baskets" - finally. Realizing people don't carry cash and checks anymore. When I was a church trustee there was no way they'd consider electronic payments due to credit card fees. Instead everyone fretted about how to get snowbirds to mail collection envelopes from Florida. I hope all associations offer credit cards -- the fee discussion doesn't recognize the reality of need for convenience; plus potential increase in participation you may otherwise miss.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

10 Popular Posts - Did you miss any?

10 of my most popular early posts in 2007:

1. 30 Association Management Tips /ASAE2007
2. Zoomerang Survey Tips and Tricks
4 Reasons to Hire a Personal Coach
Inexpensive Banquet Centerpieces
5. How to Apologize
6. Disaster Plan: When the Emergency is You Died
4COL: Another Language to Learn - text messaging
8. Married to an Association Executive
9. 11 Random Meeting Tips
10. New Word - Googleganger

Note: From Aug - Oct 2007 only (my first months) anticipating newer subscribers didn't go back to read early posts. Maybe you did?

Tell a Friend:
If you like my blog articles, subscribe and/or encourage a friend/colleague to subscribe by email or RSS. Thanks!

Monday, December 24, 2007

2 Characteristics of Great AE Quarterbacks

Association Executives are quarterbacks. We plan, we execute, many times we have to win, we have teammates, we need to motivate, we're accountable to others, we prove our worth, and on and on. We're in these positions due to skill and a lot of hard work. So I was fascinated by these comments from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on a "60 Minutes" interview last night, because it highlights 2 characteristics I've seen in quarterbacks in my own profession I've admired most:

1. an unsettled feeling there's more; and
2. that no matter what the past accomplishments, the biggest and best accomplishment is the one ahead.

When's your next Super Bowl ring?

From Tom Brady interview on "60 Minutes": [verbatim]

But with all [Tom] Brady's fame and career accomplishments, [Steve] Kroft was surprised to hear this from him: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘God, it's got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn't, this can't be what it's all cracked up to be.”

What's the answer?

“I wish I knew. I wish I knew,” says Brady. "I love playing football and I love being quarterback for this team. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of other parts about me that I'm trying to find."

With three Super Bowl rings, he already has Hall of Fame credentials, even if he never played another game. But he's only 30 and just entering his prime.

“Which of the rings do you like the best? What's your favorite ring?” Kroft asks Brady.

My favorite ring? I've always said, you know, I always said the next one. The next one is the best,” Brady says.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

How to Break 6 Association Habits

A local AE told me something I found shocking: she and her husband don't have their own side of the bed. Any given night either might sleep on either side. Are they the only couple in history with this approach? Is the only reason some of us can sleep at night because of habits, including the ones in our own associations? Or is a reason some can't sleep at night because of habits?

Many association activities, programs and schedules are not driven by bylaws or policies, but rather driven by habit and culture. Officers, members and particularly staff can get very accustomed to the same routines, without thought to value or alternatives.

6 Association Habits to break and how to do it:

1. Don't allow any speaker to speak beyond a scheduled time. I tell all speakers in advance we're strict with time schedules. Then literally move to the front of room 3 minutes before deadline and will end it on time, period. The audience is grateful. No one attending a program should have to suffer with an extended program because speaker doesn't manage time correctly.

2. Eliminate the personnel committee if you have volunteers "helping" you manage or evaluate staff. I believe this is one of the top two issues that determines if you really are a CEO or not. Do you go to their office and evaluate their support staff? That's the reason to give. I would not have accepted my position if I didn't have full authority for staff decisions. That committee is not one of those things that has to continue forever because it's always been there. And the truth is the only reason they may be doing it is because it started years ago, and no one ever suggested stopping it -- not because the officers necessarily think it's the best system either.

3. Look at how much time you give to governance and see if you're meeting anyone's needs with it. Try filed reports instead of verbal reports, and if you file a report for god's sake don't give it verbally too. Time commitment a key reason some of the most talented will not participate. Try emailing the entire membership updates, rather than require those attending live meetings to hear reports. Historically, my association had an annual membership meeting during our annual convention that took more than an hour - mainly due to numerous verbal reports. I learned other associations had that same meeting in 15 minutes by consolidating into written reports or adding bullets to a sole president's report. We tried it and then surveyed attendees. 98% liked the shorter format. We could have gone to eternity scheduling the same long meeting the same way.

4. Stop forcing president to be spokesperson on every association topic. Reporters call all the time on many topics and never once have they insisted "I must talk with the president of the association", they just want SOMEONE to talk with who knows the topic. The president as spokesperson is not media driven, it's internal association driven. One thing we've learned from media consultants is the public doesn't know what "association president" means but it doesn't sound like a practitioner. Consider giving president the option to interact with the media or not - and identify issues spokespeople, regional spokespeople, and those excellent in front of a camera/microphone to speak. Is the intent to have message delivered best manner possible or to help build skills of one person in front of everyone?

5. Have more doing than planning. Last year I facilitated a strategic planning meeting where the entire association staff was exhausted and the volunteers frustrated. One thing I found was there were 4 staff and 240 meetings - mostly monthly committee meetings. One committee reviewed several hundred awards applications but no one wanted to show up for the awards ceremony except the recipients. Serious meetings mania. Of course staff had no time to implement, they were constantly involved with committee meetings. Try changing monthly meetings to quarterly meetings, replace multi-month deliberations for "one day" deliberations. Reasons to try it: gasoline prices, many volunteers don't want to commit that kind of time so will never attract a portion of membership, better decisions, there needs to be time to implement.

6. If attendance at meetings is dropping, start reducing frequency. Number of meetings scheduled may be driven by the need to secure facility space in advance so rather than discuss if there's a different way to do something, or eliminate entirely, the facility contract is already signed and it's a go without thought. Before you sign all those contracts, try removing one ... then maybe two ... then maybe three. If your members want those meetings, they'll be there and you wouldn't be discussing how to get them there. If they're not showing up they're not going to miss the meeting you never hold. And you'll have time to implement things the members MIGHT care about.

How many habits are never broken because no one thinks to change or desire to avoid the potential discomfort change brings?

If afraid to try any of the above, here's an assurance you can give: if it doesn't work out, we can always change back. Because you can.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Interferon and other holiday gifts

A favorite colleague is ending his month of the high-dose cancer treatment drug Interferon a few days after Christmas. He's grateful and reflective that in spite of the painful side effects that there is a strong treatment. And I'm grateful he has that drug too. I'm sure my lack of interest in getting holiday gifts is because what I really want is for Interferon to work for anyone taking it, especially my pal. Cancer sucks.

Recently in group discussion about times of less worry - what wanted for Christmas when kids. I mentioned a rock tumbler and no idea why never got one. An AE friend sent link to a page in the 1971 Sears Wishbook that featured it. Each Wishbook page is on Flickr - so able to find others once thought to be great gifts - a View-Master, the game Masterpiece, and Malibu Barbie.

This holiday appreciate the gift of other association execs - send a note, send a link, say a prayer.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Social media, popularity and connections

Social media sites sometimes ask you to give what your connection is, but I couldn't find the choice to indicate "I love him" or "he's my brother".

Linkedin recently surprised me by having my stepbrother on a list of people they "suggested" I might have a connection with, and I truly can't imagine how they connected us. I clicked his name and it didn't have a reason for anticipating where we were connected. I have a small group of association colleagues on my list, and he has gigantic list of business school and other colleagues on his. We've never had the same last name, never lived in the same city at the same time, don't have any colleagues connected to each other, not in same industry. But the database gods know it anyway. Just like Facebook knew to connect my personal and professional info when displaying a purchase.

So I indicated we're in a "group" together, since no box for love.

I keep finding that if have a social media site, even with intent just to learn, it's really important to keep checking to see what's evolving with it. And don't start adding people unless you know why you're doing it (there are privacy and display settings worth investigating too - some require proactive steps.)

What's your social media "connections" strategy:
1. As many as you can get (like Tila - what's "popularity")
2. Those you know
3. Those you know and sort of know

4. Never adding name to any social media site

Thursday, December 20, 2007

ASAE: 3 Weird and 3 Extraordinary things

Attended my first American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) conference in August; but ASAE member and CAE for years.

Here are 3 things I find weird about ASAE:

1. Number of times they announce things related to merger (ASAE & The Center) before, during and after it happened. I'm sure it's huge deal for those close to it, but for some it's possible tedious governance reporting overkill. Many organizations forget members don't want years of governance news.

2. Lack of representation from rural America and/or small organizations on ASAE governance Board. Heavy if not exclusive weight towards national associations, those in DC/VA, and large states/cities. Don't like that at all. Joint Leadership Committee (group that recommends) needs serious look at better balancing their Board; but they say: "The Joint Leadership Committee develops a slate of candidates for board service that best exemplifies ASAE & The Center’s membership profile and is representative of the organizations’ diversity – including geography, size, gender, ethnic balance, skill sets and areas of experience. " WHAT?! Explain that geography and size part ....

3. There's an ASAE designation called "Fellow" for members identified as "thought leaders". Love the concept. Met 3 Fellows at ASAE who were truly superb. But includes "once a Fellow, always a Fellow". It's unlikely EVERYONE selected is a thought leader FOREVER. Someone from 10 or 20 years ago not active in association management (or who froze in time from involvement or progressiveness) may get to continue the title? I'd call it an Award, or establish criteria to maintain the designation if it's called a designation.

Here are 3 things I find extraordinary about ASAE:

1. The continuous quality and value of their print magazine - I'm one of those people who would join even if the only benefit was the magazine.

2. Responsiveness of leadership and staff. I have no historical relationship with anyone at ASAE but was really mad about something once and heard back from CEO John Graham within a day (didn't change his position but excellent speed of response/explanation). Emailed Tom Dolan the current President because I loved a speech he gave and wanted a copy - received same day. Having CEO and President quickly communicate with an unknown rank and file member is ASAE response. And ASAE's Lisa Junker made me feel welcome to the association blog world, even though didn't know me.

3. Willingness to get negative feedback - and display it. The first time I read the ASAE blog and saw the open environment for member disagreement or complaint was shocking/impressive. I don't know how many organizations openly invite (and display) feedback/comments.

What do you identify as extraordinary in organizations?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cindy the dinosaur tromps over to MTV

Association planning an ad campaign aimed at the 18-34 demographic. Television buy will include MTV and Bravo shows. Decided to watch MTV to prepare for meeting today with concepts for potential commercials.

Watched MTV's 2nd highest rated program (1st with demographic): "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila". Final episode has bisexual Tila deciding between a man and a woman (dating reality show). Bikinis, tattoos, bleeped out words, lots of ... I don't even know how to describe it ... um, suggestive kissing, and moments such as having family members of both potential love-partners over and after dinner they take turns pole-dancing (yes, including the mothers who I was calculating were around my age - my official dinosaur moment).

So who is Tila .... She's 26, has 1.7 MILLION friends on MySpace, 50M personal page views, past #1 video download (and song) on iTunes, in numerous magazines, raps, models, blogs ... and I've never heard of her. And I read a lot. I thought. Today I find her in Time Magazine, Washington Post, NY Times ...

Things to think about:
1. When associations want to appeal to members and/or consumers in a younger demographic, are we ready for ... what?
2. Guess how dull the commercials can seem?

3. Is it safe to make really safe choices?

I have a feeling the next few months will get very interesting ....

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is vacation really just working at home?

I'm depressed how my much-needed vacation time is shaping up. My office tells everyone who calls I'm on vacation so much of the email I'm receiving starts with, "I know you're on vacation, but ... ". I clearly created and continue to enable this situation because I'm answering all the work email. The email then creates in my mind more work-related things I should be doing instead of taking time off.

1. When you take vacation time, does it really mean vacation OR continuing to work at home?

2. Is it better to keep checking email, see what's there but not open it (and imagine what it might say), or let it wait a week and be surprised later?

So where am I headed this afternoon - the second day of time off? The office. I hope no one else does this. In the category do as I say, not as I do: Take vacation time as vacation time.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Forks in the Road

There's likely a time in an association management career (and a life) where you're absolutely going to be at a fork in the road. One of mine was deciding whether to move to an association's DC office, or stay in Chicago. These Dan Fogelberg lyrics (Nether Lands) helped:

"Once in a vision I came on some woods
And stood at a fork in the road
My choices were clear
Yet I froze with the fear
Of not knowing which way to go
One road was simple
Acceptance of life
The other road offered sweet peace
When I made my decision
My vision became my release."

In college (in DC), my roommate and I had tickets to a Dan Fogelberg concert; and weeks before she wrote him a letter saying how much his songs meant in her life, gave our phone number, and said she hoped he'd come to our dorm for dinner. And tells me she signed my name instead of hers. She was sure he'd call, but wanted me to handle it. Every time our phone rang I'd say, "think that's Dan Fogelberg?"

Years later I'm at the fork in the road in Chicago, hear Nether Lands, move back to DC ... which eventually led to Maine.

Dan Fogelberg died today, at age 56 - in Maine, where he owned a home. Until today I had no idea he was here or his battle with cancer. I would have written him a letter. And signed my own name.

Here's Nether Lands on YouTube. And for all men over 40 not having annual prostate exams, read this message from Dan Fogelberg.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Fantasy Football Life on Facebook

My colleague/pal Susie sent me a message on Facebook, so signed on for 5th time in my life to respond .... and boy was I surprised about my own page. Had read about the big flap of the Facebook marketing relationships (here and here) that put personal purchases on Facebook pages - but somehow never made the connection that I too had a Facebook presence and make online purchases.

First thing I see is a t-shirt I ordered for my teenage son about Fantasy Football. Able to click to see the exact image of what I bought along with the online store. Any "friend" who may have been to my Facebook page might now believe that I'm into Fantasy Football -- including god knows who from my past who might just be checking to see what I've been doing the past 20 or 30 years or anyone from my present just randomly reading.

Immediately went to the privacy settings to turn off the feature that displays purchases. What's really incredible is I don't use the same email address for personal purchases and social media; and I don't recall giving my home address or credit card information to Facebook. So how in the world did they have such confidence in an accurate match that it led to linking my purchase and Facebook page?

1. If you have a Facebook page (or other social media), but don't go there - check it regularly;
2. If you make online purchases imagine them being displayed on a social media site next to your picture;
3. Might want to read the small print on future online purchases;
4. If your kids use your credit card for online purchases (like music or Fandango movie tickets) - think about those products potentially attaching to your identity.

So in addition to Fantasy Football, what if it later displays rap music and horror movies too - because my son orders it? Why do I like social media way less today than I did yesterday?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Google's Top 10 Fastest Rising Search Terms

Google recently mined billions of search queries to discover what rises to the top. Report includes top 10 fastest rising search terms during 2007 for the U.S. Under the theory that associations should look at trends and consumer interest to identify if application to association activities, here they are .... [I'm linking to ones that might need more explanation]

1. iphone
2. webkinz
3. tmz
4. transformers
5. youtube
6. club penguin
7. myspace
8. heroes
9. facebook
10. anna nicole smith

Five on the top 10 international search term list not on the top 10 U.S. list: 2. badoo, 4. dailymotion, 7. ebuddy, 8. second life, 9. hi5

Separately, these are the top 4 "How to" searches on Google during 2007 ... 1. kiss; 2. draw; 3. knit and 4. hack. I'm not remotely happy about #4.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guide my sleigh, Rudolph

Weren't we all traumatized by some aspect of exclusion portrayed in the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" holiday cartoon? From Rudolph not fitting in with his nose, Hermey told to forget dentist goals and act like other elves, stereotyping the snow-creature, to the Island of Misfit Toys. In a half hour we learn differences can be embraced, let goals change your direction, help can come from many sources, and different does not mean misfit. Big lesson: reaching out to embrace differences makes things better for everyone.

Sue Pelletier of Association Meetings magazine and blog wrote 17 Ways to be More Inclusive with association meetings, including:

"1. Send the right message. Make it obvious on your conference program, your Web site, and in all your other materials that your organization does not discriminate ...
9. Be inclusive in your language. Instead of a spouse program, offer a partner or guest program. Say “international and U.S. attendees” instead of “foreign and domestic.” Use “different abilities” instead of “disabilities."
10. Ensure that your speaker lineup mirrors the diversity of your membership, including the younger members you want to attract ..
11. Consult a world calendar before booking meetings to ensure that they don't conflict with an important religious or cultural holiday ...
17. Consider including tracks on diversity and and inclusion issues in your attendees' professional arena in the conference ... "

Inclusion needs to happen throughout association activities ... from meetings through leadership. When you see Rudolph this holiday season, remember he can guide your sleigh.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Intellectual and Unexpected

Colleague at dinner asked "what did you think about the TV inside the bathroom mirror". Um, hadn't noticed that.

Often can't differentiate hotel rooms at meeting locations as so many are so similar ... but this is unexpected ... The Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA. Noticed flat screen TV and that no wireless in room ( ... wireless lobby doesn't work for me.) Checked the bathroom, and there it is -- the inside the mirror TV (pic) -- Reminds me of Haunted Mansion ride at Disney with moving images inside inanimate object.

Then found other unexpected things ....

1. A lollipop on top of a bathrobe on the bed - Chupa Chups; googled and learned logo designed by Dali
2. Bose sound system
3. A little paper booklet (6 pages) on the bed called "Testify" - opens with, "Welcome. We hope you are enjoying your stay. Now is the time to sit back, relax and reflect. We are pleased to provide this true story. Perhaps after reading this piece you will want to pick up the pen and write your own life story. A story that shaped and embraced you .... " The story named "The Rain King" starts with this: "I'm fifty. I'm supposed to be wandering through the green hills of the best years of my best life. But a grown child who has already moved away to make the usual mistakes needs me, and the old fears of failing him descend again". Four pages long, and was crying by the end of it.
4. Clearly I had to check the mini-bar list ... cordials, champagne ... stuffed martini olives and an "intimacy kit". THAT made me rifle around the mini-bar to find out what "kit" includes ... condoms.

According to hotel's website ... The Charles' reputation is "Cambridge's most intellectual property" ....

This hotel found expensive, inexpensive and artistic ways to be unexpected and memorable. How much effort do associations put into changing things up enough that members pay attention and start to think more?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Your Association: Crucial facts on why members don't want your programs

Today I had the same conversation I've had a million times in my career: about the importance or need to increase attendance at meetings. A chapter is concerned because holiday party attendance, charitable donations and education program attendance are declining. They're going to discuss how to increase attendance (being categorized as involvement) -- which is a different conversation than discussing either adjusting expectations or finding alternatives.

My biased view on this topic is because I personally belong to many organizations because I support what they stand for, get value from membership, or both. My membership or decision to join is not based on attending holiday parties, membership/networking meetings, or donating to all causes they might be involved with. I already go to many functions, attend lots of professional development programs, and give considerable amounts to various charitable and political groups.

I don't want my happiness or perceived member value to be judged on whether or not I show up at programs.

So I understand when some members in my own organization believe we're really valuable even if they don't ever want to attend meetings/programs. Organizations can use these among barometers to show if meeting member needs:
1. Do they renew;
2. Do they tell you they're unhappy.

If I have extra hours there are already many wanting that time. Organizations need to understand their members first to twentieth priorities any given day (or given month, or given year) may not include a lunch meeting with a random speaker that takes both time and money. Location, cost, time, value of speakers can influence - but for some there is nothing that will influence attendance. Accept it.

If members renew, chances are good you're doing something right. People have busy lives and involved in tremendous number of things - sometimes the best way to show appreciation for their membership is to let them enjoy it without telling them they're doing something wrong by not showing up.

My thoughts:
1. Participation can mean answering surveys or joining in online discussions/meetings. It can also mean they read your magazine and then implement a new idea or make a change as a result.
2. Education can mean members like what's included in electronic communications or web - or what do politically and with legal issues. Everyone doesn't want every class scheduled. If competition for education, free alternatives or those not requiring travel may win the customer.
3. Charitable activity is personal -- some want to donate time, some donate money, some want to focus on specific charitable purposes. Don't underestimate how many already give to many groups.

They aren't lousy members when making other decisions about time or money - people prioritize. Provide range of ways to be involved without minimizing importance of electronic participation. If relying on non-dues revenue, rethink why you can't sell dues level on own merits, or evaluate what it really takes to secure non-dues revenue.

The future success of organizations must include counting success other ways than chairs that are filled at programs or volume of non-dues revenue. Maybe you're already successful by your membership's standards .... and counting the wrong things?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Associations: Learning from College Marketing

Tony Rossell has thoughts about what association executives can learn by looking at what motivates teenagers considering vast number of college options. These impacted his college-bound son's decisions:

1. Consistent mailings
2. Personal contact by individuals
3. Enthusiasm of students, tour guide

These things impacted ME as an association exec as colleges have marketed to my daughter, or she has marketed to them: [note - leaving out the obvious academics, sports, and reputation]

1. Personalization. One marketing postcard that landed on our refrigerator was a college in FL that had my daughter's name spelled out in sand on a beach. Contacted the company and had them make postcards on a legislative issue - with individual legislator's name spelled out on snowy car windshield. Postcards with personalized images did get a lot of attention. [Can't find site, but will link later if do]

2. More personalization. Definitely noticed which colleges used her nickname after visits versus those that didn't. As associations, if we ask for nickname, do we still print labels and other things with their formal names?

3. Asking for interaction. Many colleges set up sites for each applicant. One college sent handwritten postcard same day as tour, the student guide gave business card for any follow-up questions, and admissions director sent us postcard -- all encouraging interaction. Do associations encourage interaction from the start?

4. Easier than ever to apply - the common application. Teenagers definitely appreciate that many schools share a common application - while some require supplemental information and many charge different fees. How hard would it be to have local/state/national on common application - with supplemental information by organization and ability to assess fee based on where applying? Do associations make it easy to apply?

5. Most important thing on earth is to make you successful. My favorites are ones that give feeling that nothing matters more to them than my daughter's success. Some schools in their talks have more of a "you'll be lucky if you're here" approach or completely factual "hey we give this to a hundred a day" presentation. Do associations communicate that nothing matters more to us than our members success, that it's no big deal they joined, or just hand over a bunch of material and say goodbye?

6. The website matters. In touring colleges this weekend, interested my daughter and her friend compare website to what they saw. If dull virtual tour, bad pictures, no demographics, no details of college life - in some cases, they were ready to rule out less well-known schools from what they found or didn't find on the site alone. If someone was making a decision to join based on your association web site, would they?

7. The voice matters. Made absolute judgements based on who gave the talk and tour. One kid at a prominent university never lived in dorms and couldn't answer questions about dorms or food. That mattered. One admissions director told us how hard she worked to get a student from South Dakota so all states represented. Students as geographic statistics. Huge plus when student enthusiasm, expertise and honesty. Whoever talks about your association - do they know it well enough to answer questions and do they treat members like more than a statistic?

Is it time to pay more attention to what organizations competing for talent (or increases in numbers) do? Do they get that "I belong here" feeling?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Paying Respects Online

A colleague of a member who died called and asked me to post a comment on an online guest book on a funeral home/newspaper web site. Said it would mean a lot to the family who knows how much volunteer service meant during his life. Often write note to family, include notice in association e-newsletter, but didn't think about posting memories/respects online (representing organization). But now I do.

I appreciate reading posted memories and condolences when close to person who passed away -- so understand why it's meaningful.

When a past president or member passes away, consider paying respects on the online guest book.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Garmin Nuvi 680: Getting there from here

A Maine expression is “you can’t get there from here” … I can’t get anywhere without a GPS. Former GPS died with message it was “dangerously cold” (in Sept.)

With 10 minutes of research easily decided on the Garmin Nuvi 660. Guy at Circuit City talked me into the Garmin Nuvi 680 since it had more memory and on sale – cost $549.

I’m in love. Used on 6-hour drive yesterday.

1. Took minutes to do initial set-up.
2. Size of a Blackberry; and comes with a sleeve to carry around.
3. Sharp images.
4. Shows even minor side street names on display; and also names/says the exit to take.
5. Found satellite for first time in 2 minutes; instantly in car (this was huge issue with my old model that could take 5 or 10 minutes to locate the satellite).
6. Included free year of traffic updates – apparently indicates when traffic jam ahead and gives reroute info.
7. Says other features (I likely won’t use) – like book downloads, bluetooth, mp3.

Wish I knew GPS technology upgraded this much a long time ago …

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Political, religious and sexually suggestive taglines in Association email

Ben Martin's post relays discussion of association policy about whether or not employees should be able to add personal political or religious comments in a tagline with their association email. Says provides self-expression by staff and members get to know them as real people. Gives example of association allowing favorite quotes in a tagline along with association info.

I'd have to vote no on complete freedom of expression in association email taglines ... not just for employees but any representative of an association - including volunteer leaders. Reasons:

1. Associations often take political positions. Authorized political positions would be fine to include, but not personal political opinions. Would give members and the public the impression the association has a position on a political issue they may not have. Employees and officers should not be able to contradict or appear to create political positions using association's name.

2. Having religious quotes or positions next to the association's name in email is going to relay "this is the association's position too". Certain religious positions can be political positions.

Post didn't mention sexually suggestive taglines. Employees may not realize what appears to be "innocent fun" (e.g., suggestive messages on clothing or tagline quotes) can quickly turn into a huge legal problem for the association; in addition to being demeaning to many who view it.

Allowing favorite quotes with taglines easily accommodates a large volume of potential topics .... while providing reasonable concern about allowing religion, sex and politics among choices. Even "Yankees Suck" can't be the tag-line (even if favorite quote of an employee), where "Go Sox" could ....

Don't associations have enough liability?--
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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The 22 Best Winter Meeting Tips Ever

Often not feasible to cancel a meeting due to snow, especially when attendees travel distances to attend, already there, national speakers, or when multiple days involved. Parts of the country (like mine) routinely have snow, so snow/ice plays role in many meetings.

22 Winter Meeting Tips:

1. Give specific details on registration form and website on how will find out if meetings delayed or canceled due to weather

2. Have speakers flight info - alert them if winter storm conditions approaching to adjust plans
3. Hire service or facility to remove snow from attendee cars, if heavy snow during meeting (they'll love you for it)
4. Set up txtmob to communicate changes directly with attendee cell phones (collect on registration forms)
5. Prepare speaker back-up plan in event speaker can't get to facility
6. Enjoy the bad weather - from adding skiing or snowshoeing (if available) to adding snowman or snowball throwing (distance) contests
7. Determine if possible to bring in remote attendance options - such as webcam, slides/audio, conference call attendance
8. Ensure enough coat racks
9. If possible to get specific "snow date", do in advance
10. If sponsors or partners for meeting, ensure details in writing - including if one wants to cancel due to weather
11. Negotiate lower room rate for additional "snow nights" sleeping rooms
12. Ask/contract if parking area will be sanded/plowed during meeting
13. Ensure attendees get regular updates about reported driving conditions
14. Add hot apple cider, if possible - makes snow conditions seem friendlier
15. Know what can accommodate if attendees cancel (refunds, discounts, alternatives - or none)
16. Have snow scrapers/brushes sponsored and give as gift to attendees
17. Get 24-hour emergency contact numbers for all facility key staff when bad weather approaching - catering, sales manager, audio visual
18. Ask facility what's gone right/wrong during past storms - learn from it

19. Keep large bag of kitty litter in your car -- can help cars back out or turn wheels if stuck on ice/snow (shovel also can be helpful to have)
20. If weather definitely impacting attendance onsite, ask facility if anything can be negotiated - may be very understanding
21. Play up fireside chats, midnight or early morning "snow swim" (in outdoor heated pool or hot tub), bring in a DJ - if can't leave, get creative
22. Keep good attitude - many attendees will be grateful you don't cancel when they already spent money and time to get there

Do you have other tips?
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Monday, December 3, 2007

Association pre-nups and weathered relationships

An association holds holiday function with an affiliated organization. Association signs contract guaranteeing space and food payment for event. Snow raises attendance concern, but significant number already at facility. Affiliated organization cancels though event only few hours away. Says will pay limited portion of agreed amount, cancels DJ they contracted, and sends email to their attendees saying not to attend (due to weather) without including mention function still happening. What happens when parties differ on whether or not to cancel?

Because of historic relationship, the organizations didn't have a written agreement stating terms for either party to cancel, especially when only one signs facility contract.

It's extremely easy to decide a long-standing relationship might not need formal agreement. They do - especially when thousands of dollars and facility agreement involved.

Yes Virginia, there can be a scrooge.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Awards Pet Peeve

Why are there glass awards with white/etched lettering? Usually can't read it. It's like .... glass.

Plus, breakable and requires surface to display versus a wall. Have table that looks like bunch of odd-shaped glass on it, because not obvious they're awards. Although certain glass can be beautiful to display.

Have you found an interesting award design?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Fundraising: Kiss the pig

Gave to fundraising activity for local group today. For every dollar donated it's a vote towards having one of 3 people have to kiss a pig. That is, $5 is 5 votes, $20 is 20 votes. Since one choice is unpopular local political figure, the image/anticipation worth the contribution. All it takes is a bunch of ballots, a pig, and a few who would inspire contributions. And camera to tape/post video clip of "the winning moment."

Seems like easy way to raise funds?