Friday, February 29, 2008

8 Ways to Solve Business Travel Problems

Business travel is sometimes only one night; and even when not checking anything, there can still be problems. A few ideas, based on unfortunate experiences:

1. If you forget to bring something you must have - like pants - there's likely an all-night Wal-Mart option. Other alternative is to wear business clothes on the flight, but so much less comfortable especially if 5-8 hours on planes each way.

2. Always email your entire presentation to yourself; or email work you do in the hotel room to yourself. Too many things can go wrong with files and laptops.

3. Research the hotel before you land, and print directions from the airport. Good to know time and distance to expect. Arriving in the middle of the night due to schedule or delays makes details like room service hours matter.

4. If your rent a car (or hotel) shuttle bus doesn't show up, ask another brand to drop you off. Even if they say they can't, for $10 or $20 they can.

5. If something an absolute nuisance for you (like city sounds, not having a bathtub) be sure to mention it at check-in rather than getting to your room and calling to move. And one call to move is a solution.

6. It's worth the 20 seconds to look at the chart to identify nearest fire exit/stairs.

7. Bring your own headset if you watch the movie or in-air television. Otherwise you can potentially need to wrestle with the hook to the ear plastic versions.

8. Don't leave your hotel key in the room (in case you find you forgot something); and if you're at an airport hotel, and if still time on room, consider not even checking out until you're at the airport and somewhat confident your flight is leaving (especially if very early morning flight).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Must Do" Journal

A thirtysomething on a flight said she's penned a "Must Do" Journal since she was a teenager. It's not a list of things to do, but rather a list of things she wants to remember she liked and/or "Must Do" when an occasion arises.

If she goes to a dinner party, wedding, baptism, conference, meeting, etc. and sees something unique that could be a "must do" in her own future, she writes it down in a "Must Do" Journal. Also includes memorable toasts, wording on invitations, notes of encouragement or other expressed/written thoughts for potential future use. Example is going to a wedding year ago where bride had baskets of different size slippers for the guests - heels and dress shoes went off and everyone could dance for hours in comfort. She's engaged and that "Must Do" will come into play.

Putting it in a specific journal (even an online one) a great idea. How many great ideas do we never use because we forget when the occasion or opportunity comes up in the future?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Association Matchmaking

I could point to trying to be distracted from my fear of flying, and Jet Blue having television sets; but there's no getting around the fact I watched 3 episodes (3 hours) of "Millionaire Matchmaker" in the last 2 days when there were 35 other channels on the flights. The show on Bravo features a professional matchmaker (pic) and her efforts to find a match for millionaires.

Revelations from the show could apply to association management:

1. Mini-date a good start. Often starts with mini-dates to best identify who to include on longer dates. Same is true with volunteer organizations. Might want to have someone serve on a work group, chair a committee, have a one year term in a key position before immediately giving them the long date -- i.e., a 2 or 3 year appointment, a Board of Directors position, right into officer position.

2. What they say they want, and what they really want are two different things. Men on the show seem to be very clear about what they want "I want a professional woman", "someone in her thirties", etc. but one mini-date later, not the case, "did I say professional woman, I meant professional model". Sometimes associations work on what they think the members want, when it might not be what they really want. When we use the statement, "we need to do what the members want", do we really find out what that is and did we give them something new to consider too?

3. Trust the matchmaker, at least try it. Sometimes the matchmaker has a gut feeling about a certain woman for a date. Often volunteers have a specific area of interest - government affairs, convention, contracts, etc. But staff or the officer may have a gut feeling they could be an interesting match to a different area. One of my best appointments was to a Mold Work Group - not exactly what I'd have envisioned, but someone else did.

4. Work on skills, instill confidence. Areas for social improvement are identified quickly by the matchmaker and she works hard on both their skills, and in building their confidence. Associations need to provide training for staff and for volunteers because knowing you have good skills, including social skills, helps many areas. When someone does a good job, tell them. They deserve to have their confidence built when job well done, or they need to get the right coaching to build the skill.

5. If you don't have the time to find you own match, pay someone to do it. Each of the millionaires has a tale of woe about why they can't or haven't found a match - so they pay someone neutral to help them figure it out. Paying someone to do it frequently a solution for associations too. And could be cheaper in the long run and or deliver a quicker result. And that applies to personal lives too (e.g., if you don't already have a house cleaner, consider it. )

6. They hate having rules, until the rules work, then they like them. The matchmaker has a big list of rules she insists on with her clients. And from the get-go people start complaining about it, "you're treating me like a kid", "WHAT?!", etc. But ultimately they find the reasons certain rules there because they've been tried and work. Members who "hate rules" may arrive and try to lead that way. And find chaos doesn't beget order or success. So they try order and it's a better date - figure out meetings run smoother, fewer potential problems, clearer understanding among everyone involved - and success.

7. When it's a bad date, there is no second date. The show actually tries really hard to make the bad date be a learning experience, but if it didn't work out there is no second date. Associations are notorious for not only allowing the bad date to have a second date -- but they may have a third, fourth, fifth and on and on date. If a Board member keeps others from wanting to serve in leadership position due to negative energy, or if a committee stays stagnant because the same people are reappointed because no one has the heart (or the nerve) to remove the bad dates from continuing into another year/term, then how will associations ever be able to find love - positive energy, forward momentum, innovation, new volunteers?

What would you try for love?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Time after time

Advice I got from a past president, that proves true over and over:

Groups use whatever amount of time you give them to make a decision.

If it's a year to decide, it takes a year;
If a month, it takes a month;
If two meetings, it takes two meetings;
If five hours, it takes five hours.

Friday, February 22, 2008

10 Ways to Improve Call to Action Response

Try these:

1. Educate in advance. Educate a lot. Why they need to respond, how easy it is, what the importance of the issue is. Doing it all at once much harder.

2. Always identify the sender. Your association acronym should be in every subject line so it's clear who it's from. This alone is continuously screwed up by organizations.

3. Use a return email that is known by users. The first occurrence of an email address should not be the Call to Action.

4. Tell them it's coming. Preferably a day or two in advance. Then when it arrives they'll recall it's what they were anticipating.

5. Activate the other messengers. If you have other communications vehicles -- be sure to use to inform Call to Action is out -- e-newsletters, MLS sign-on, web site, RSS, meetings, local presidents who will email others, legislative committee who will email others, asking company owners to send under their name (again, the known sender factor).

6. What's in it for me? If you aren't clear in both the Subject Line and the first two sentences what's in it for the end user, don't count on them to go much further. If promoting someone else's Call to Action (like national association), then you need to sell it your way -- and hope that works. Do not get overly technical or many will stop reading. The text of the email could still contain technical details, or a "for detailed information" link.

7. Tell them you're watching. Call to Action software exposes who does and does not respond. There's a degree of influence in saying - half of you responded, and we know who you are.

8. Do not use something goofy in the Subject Line. One organization used "Santa or Scrooge" as the start to a Call to Action message. Which meant we had to educate everyone to hunt it down in quarantine, spam, and recently deleted folders.

9. Do not use "spam" words and punctuation in Subject Lines that spam filters will trap -- like Alert, Urgent or multiple exclamation marks.

10. Consider engaging the public - ask your members to email their friends, families, clients, etc. Consider running print ads, radio ads, web placement. But if you send public to a site, make the domain short and easy to remember.

Any other tips that have worked for you?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Social media is not an exception

A lead story in today's local newspaper is a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a law passed in Maine, while having significant public health benefit, is invalid. In a unanimous decision, they stated "Despite the importance of the public health objective .... [federal law] says nothing about a public health exception ..."

I've read with interest, but not agreement, commentary by a handful of (non-CEO) association community bloggers that social media needs to have space with minimal (if any) conversational restriction, minimal thought of continued value/relevance of brands (including trademarks), and association staff need more freedom to express individuality without significant CEO concern of legal issues, particularly potential liability. Hmm ...

The headline could read, "Despite the importance of the social media objective .... the law says nothing about a social media exception ..."

It's difficult to debate utopian ideas when it's not about the merits of utopia, but rather the unpopular yet very real aspect of liability created by social media. Or as the legal community says, another word for social media is "evidence". It's more reasonable to anticipate any investigation will surely review all association communications, including social media, than to believe it's not going to matter or not be found. If association hard drives, servers and email have been subpoenaed for a very long time, why would any investigation skip the blog, text messages, Twitters, employee online rant, or Facebook site?

Of course social media needs to be subject to the same consideration of every other association program or way to communicate - the risk, liability, staff time, expense, interest of membership, etc. If it can't be printed in an association magazine, can't be discussed at an association meeting, can't be said to a member on the phone, can't be the subject of an association program ... then it really doesn't matter how much someone might want to rant it online instead or express their individual thoughts ... there are still conversations that qualify as "can't". And frankly, many of those laws are there for all the right reasons. They seek to protect the public from harm.

And as long as laws exist, then we have a job to do that recognizes the laws. Association integration of social media is necessary, but it's not an exception.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2 Ways to Make Road Travel Easier

1. Buy EZ Pass (or local equivalent). Constantly amazed how many people don't have it. Takes one online visit and removes waiting in the toll lines and trying to hunt down money at each stop. State after state, so many people without EZ Pass waiting in those lines.

2. Try the alarm clock feature on the BlackBerry or cell phone. Easy to set up, works great. Wake-up calls and in-room alarm clocks just aren't always reliable.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rescuing each other ...

I don't know if the relationship among colleagues and even members in my industry is unique, as I've never worked in others; but there's definitely something special in our "association family." I believe we're always prepared to rescue each other - whether it's with advice, instruction or just random assistance and friendship.

For example, the teenage son of a colleague in NH once had a connecting flight from UT to WY cancelled, and a former national president picked his son up at the airport, took him on a hike with his kids, then drove him to WY the next day, rather than schedule another flight.

So when my teenage son was flying to FL this weekend and asked what he should do if flight got diverted, I told him not to worry that a colleague would come get him. Now I was including EVERY city and it could be any one of hundreds that I might need to call - but really believe that we'd all do that for each other. And there's one of us in at least every city where there's an airport. Tonight I'm in PA and stopped at a local association where a colleague/friend works, and even though I didn't call in advance (how disruptive is THAT?) because I really had planned to just say hello ... I learned a dozen things she's working on, and she took me to dinner.

Separately, since I'm on a taking pictures of portable banners kick, they use banners in their classrooms for their major sponsors each year. Said great price, easy to move to multiple events, and professional recognition.

To think about:
1. Appreciate your national network of colleagues and members - they are there for you;
2. Check out portable banners for use with major sponsor recognition

Any interesting reason you've used a portable banner?

Monday, February 18, 2008

The message and the meeting room ...

Have you ever thought to decorate a space when only using one or two meeting rooms?

At a hotel in Boston today noticed a group handling registration from an antique cart, benches with painted messages outside the meeting rooms, and a portable banner with what appeared to be a mission statement.

These are the (very random) messages painted on the benches:
1. Natural energy is the thing that fuels the lighthouse;
2. Engage your imagination;
3. Violate expectations.

Thought it a very creative way to make even a small meeting "get the message".

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Caring and CaringBridge

A colleague recovering from a serious car accident in mid-January has a site on The site includes journal entries about patients, and allows friends/family to post messages. His wife Dianne updates a daily online journal about his progress, set-backs, and reflections. I receive an email daily with the link to the latest journal posting.

She always ends a post with comments like this, and gratitude his life was spared:

"Many of you have told me that this experience is leading you to be closer to your family and friends and to not take anything for granted. A lot of good has already come from (name)'s accident and it will continue too. None of us know what is in our future. That's why today is so important. God Bless, have a wonderful weekend and thank you for your prayers."

"He is so humbled and thankful for your e-mail messages, love, support, and prayers. I see the power of prayer every day."

"Today, again, confirmed how good God is and how precious life is. We will never take for granted our health from head to little toe. We also will never forget each of you."

In the spirit of so many of Dianne's messages ...
1. Don't take your health for granted;
2. Today is important - we don't know our future - including tomorrow;
3. An important part of healing is sending messages, love, support and prayer;

4. Giving thanks is important - for good and for help given by others.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wisdom of the Group ... which group?

There's a concept of wisdom of the group ... but which group would that be? Two recent decisions by groups actually aren't entirely uncommon, but can to a degree indicate how associations can work. A member survey indicates huge preference for one approach; the committee authorized to make the decision goes the opposite direction. A decline in attendance at a function, combined with many decision-makers saying "I can't go but it's really important to continue to have it because others need to go" makes a program continue anyway.

Of course an essential part of deliberations is opportunity for more insight during discussion than a survey or attendance numbers can show -- but at what point should huge survey response or declining attendance continue to be considered interesting, but not influencing?

1. Being able to validate lack of attendance is a sign it's time for something to go, versus something that needs to be fixed, is an ongoing challenge. There are times criticism placed on marketing (wrong type, not enough) - when it was marketed, but it didn't make the sale. Our association members still act like consumers - they aren't going to buy what they don't want. Or they will, and then stop using it. Consumers are consumers.

2. When can we formally declare that acceptance is too low to move forward or to continue? Question exists for long-standing programs and new programs. Limited staff and other association resources should always drive need for actual proof that members actually do WANT something -- but it's easy to operate from a standpoint of SHOULD want versus DO want. Much of what associations do are not pure widget sales or income versus expense debates, but rather best use of resources, optimizing satisfaction, moving industry forward, building relationships debates. Way harder to benchmark or quantify.
3. Too many things last forever (or don't decrease in frequency) because the ones who continue programs keep voting yes, even though they personally know they aren't going to do it. I sometimes wish we could take two votes - the what's your answer as a fiduciary vote - and the what's your answer as the potential end-user or adopter? And if those two answers don't match, then why was the first vote the right answer and not the second?

4. Do we get nostalgic or wistful for the way things used to be, and try to recreate that magic, when actually the magic is dead? One reason new members can inject such a dose of reality into decision-making is because they don't have the dream of what used to be burdening them. And used to be doesn't need to mean decades ago, it can mean two or three years ago. Times change, and we can't change time.
Am I wrong?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Aftermath of "I Wuv You"

My mother was in charge of my fourth grade class Valentine's Day party. Those were the days before it was politically correct or required that everyone give everyone a valentine - so a valentine meant that someone actually intended it. She made red construction paper placements with white glued paper hearts and the wrote the words "I Wuv You" on each. I was mortified and certain it looked like a message from me to each in my class (when in fact my "wuv" was entirely restricted to David Cassidy and the Spanish teacher). My mother doesn't use baby-talk so not sure I've recovered from that detail either.

I was the speaker at a lunch meeting today. An attendee who I've known a really long time walked up, thanked me for being there and said "and since it's Valentine's Day, want you to know that I really love you". And I said "I love you too". Because we all really do get to love whoever it is we want to love. And love can mean so many different things, and affection can be spoken as easily as just understood.

Or there's the communicate by placemat approach.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Check it out - eBook learning tool

The Mission to Learn blog includes a really interesting way to present association information - creating an eBook using Microsoft Office and Adobe. Allows illustrations, large type, live links to other sources, easy way to navigate and distribute. (May be alternate way to do online Board of Director materials, explain travel and financial policies, etc.)

The particular eBook topic is teaching basic understanding of Web 2.0 technology, with real-life examples of how implemented in associations. Includes basic info on podcasts, blogs, video on demand, etc. Even saw a picture of my pal Joel Singer who's on an association update video hosted on an association's Second Life site.

Check it out. It's free. Might find something to adopt. Like the eBook concept.

Monday, February 11, 2008

5 New Creative Course Pricing Methods

Here are 5 creative ways to potentially price courses/programs:

1. The Radiohead model - "pay if you want." Popular band Radiohead offered a new album download option with customers deciding what to pay. Statistics show around 2/3 didn't pay, the rest did. And Radiohead made more profit than if they had gone a traditional route. Could we do that with courses? Give the real price for reference, and tell attendees they can pay what and if they want.

2. Free unless no show, then cost. Free courses often have problem of a much larger volume of no-shows than paid programs. An option, attendees agree to pay if they cancel the last day or don't show up (such as $25). Also puts idea of value in minds of students who could have that free means might not have the same value as paid.

3. The escalating fee - with first seats exceedingly cheap. If 200 seats available, could have first sign ups pay low price (say $1) and it increase up to the final amount ($200) before it sells out. Might encourage early sign-up and heighten interest. Isn't this why shoppers stand in line outside stores for the first 10 of something the day after Thanksgiving? (Thanks to Sue Pelletier for mentioning Seth Godin post with this idea.)

4. When membership meeting and course combined, course is free only if attend low-cost membership meeting too. If skip meeting, then course much more expensive than meeting/course combo (e.g., $10 lunch/course free, or course only is $25). If attending meeting only don't get additional discount.

5. Bring a friend free. Someone signs up and pays, they can bring a friend free. Like companion fares on airlines, or guest passes at gyms.

Early registration discounts, group discounts, member/non-member, one fee for any courses all year more familiar options. Anyone doing something else creative with pricing to drive course or meeting attendance?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Regardless of the outcome ...

Early in my career I flew to New Jersey because an association was having a really controversial discussion that was going to be happening at my own association too. Wanted to watch and learn so I'd be ready. My counterpart sat and listened to a hugely heated debate without an ounce of apparent anxiety and I wondered how he did that.

As years go by, with the continous changes, issues, controversies, and questions, there is much more calm acceptance in just dealing with and managing whatever the next big issue happens to be. Not as much anxiety.

While watching "60 Minutes" tonight, Sen. Hillary Clinton's interview ends with this quote: "You know, I have a very clear sense that this is gonna work out the way it's supposed to work out. And I'm happy with that. Maybe it's because I'm a little older, I'm not so, you know, panting and anxious and all of that."


Saturday, February 9, 2008

There is no time. Or is there?

I had my laptop out at a spa today. Surrounded by people awaiting treatments in their robes and slippers, Had notes from committee meetings to type minutes. Thought I might be killing the atmosphere since fireplace going and little feng shui rakes in sand on the table, so tried to find a place that was inconspicuous.

Ended up having a middle school girl (maybe age 10) who had her nails newly painted maroon with little fake diamonds (like the RPAC pin) under an electric dryer sit next to me. She was going to a father/daughter dance and spending whole day getting ready for it. Told me her mother works too.

A woman couldn't find her husband whose treatment person was ready for him. Turns out he was hiding in the spa bathroom answering pages from patients since cell phones aren't allowed at the spa.

Today's thoughts:
1. Is anything so exciting you'd spend an entire day getting ready for it?
2. Will multi-taskers eventually end up in glass rooms like airport smokers?
3. A conversation on other blogs is why don't CEOs blog. Now the answer there is no time is never popular, but really, there is no time. There isn't time for minutes either. Or time to fly to Louisiana for a day to help a colleague whose facilitator had to cancel. Or time to go back through hundreds of emails to see if forgot anything when whipping through Blackberry messages while in DC. Or time to spend four hours in one store helping my daughter find the perfect dress. Or time to throw my dog's toy a hundred times to make him happy.

We all pick what we want to do or can do with our finite individual time. And the more you add (like social media) the greater the opportunity to get to type at a spa. When else is there?

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Word: e-pretending

Found this new word and definition on a post on the ASAE blog:

"e-pretending" - using web forms to generate emails which are
then hand-entered into your database.
Not that any of us actually do that ...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Winners can learn from winners

Twenty five years ago I had a boss with a sign on his wall reading "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser". At the time, I thought it was terrible and just bad sportmanship from a guy who routinely competed in triathalons. Running with him and his bad attitude towards losing made me a significantly better runner. But later I learned, it's really important to win.

There are some issues - especially legal, legislative and regulatory ones - that are so big that losing can't be an option. There are other contests that are competitive for the sake of improving performance. A recent example was winning a competition that involved percentage of member involvement in measurable legislative participation.

It was hard to win. And virtually unrecognized. And when a group was formed to improve the performance of others in that same arena, the person mainly responsible for the win wasn't included. Now back when I was a runner with Mr. Show Me a Good Loser I learned the way to improve is to always run against someone faster than you.

Today's advice: Show me a good winner and I'll show you a winner. When putting together a winning strategy, might be helpful to include the input of those who win?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Effective Straw Polling

It's sometimes difficult to do straw polls on opinion in groups with several hundred people. At a forum recently yellow and pink papers (8-1/2 X 11) were distributed to each participant. Raising yellow paper meant support an issue; pink meant not in favor of an issue. Definitely helped entire crowd visualize group opinion and division.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Um, not to interrupt, but we're watching

Picture this: you're sitting in a meeting room enabled for participants in multiple cities to video conference. Problem is, one city location activates camera/video towards the end of the meeting, and it's an accident. And it's a couple. And they go too far. And the meeting attendees are watching because it's on the split screen along with the real meeting, and not connected to what controls technology in that other city.

Today's thoughts are for those who forget that technology may mean you're not alone in that conference room:
1. If the meeting room is wired, you could be on audio, video or both.
2. If you can watch, chances are good they can watch you too.
3. If your room is enabled to connect to other cities, find out how to disconnect - just in case.

Are any meetings, or spaces, free from potential problems anymore?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Taking time to build friendships

My former colleague Judith, who continues to recover in a nursing home, makes this observation on a blog post: "I usually have a couple of visitors every day - some regular and cherished ones, and some surprises .... The joy of all of this is the companionship, of course - the time spent in the luxury of one-on-one conversation and caring. I am reminded of how poor my life has been because I have scheduled too little time for human relations and building friendships which are one of the great enrichments of life."

Association management can involve interacting with thousands of people, and there's no question there are hundreds of personal and professional things to schedule any given year. Judith's posts on what she's learning now that she's away from association management often result in reflection ...

Are you making or even scheduling time for building friendships too? Is one of the most rewarding parts of life short-changed while everything else is getting done?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Making a difference, one association at a time

Was hugely encouraged by a New York Times article indicating that a 33 cents tax on plastic shopping bags in Ireland reduced use by 94% in a few weeks. Not years, but weeks. And Ireland ensured couldn't just switch to paper, which had other environmental concerns. So next they're going after chewing gum, ATM receipts and types of light bulbs.

There are many ways associations make a difference, and approaches internally and externally towards reducing paper can encourage members to look at what they're doing with paper too.

Just considering paper alone:
1. Electronic directory instead of print directory;
2. E-newsletters instead of print newsletters;
3. Online dues billing instead of mailed invoices;
4. Materials sent in advance by PDF - may never be printed;
5. Limit number of handout pages by instructors; have students print what need;
6. Give committees and board of directors information by email, do not print same material for meeting.

My association is going to post convention course material this year, to print in advance, and then sell copies of the printed handouts in notebooks. Hope it avoids a lot of the waste. Like Ireland, it takes leadership to move change forward, and a population willing to accept it. Can members give up more paper?

Here are more environmentally friendly ideas for associations.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Noisy music at meetings

An association blog post suggests music throughout conferences and meetings can lead towards appealing to all of the senses. I find it more appealing to be able to hear than to have musical selections in every room. Plus, with the exception of most Beatles songs and maybe "New York, New York", how much music really has universal appeal - especially to various generations?

The theory of cranking up the volume before education programs start, or during networking receptions can be unbearable - and makes it difficult to catch up on business calls or have discussions. For dances or with videos, loud music works. For meal functions, light and forgettable background music works. Everywhere else, let us talk.

One commenter said one networking reception had such loud music that attendees standing next to each other were texting.

So no, I don't believe we need to appeal to every sense at conferences. Although plugging in bread machines in classrooms might be a good sensory experiment?