Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wrong way to get to know someone better

An advantage to being at a conference with 1300 peers is there's always some story that makes other association management situations seem not so bad.

We all know hotels from time to time accidentally assign a room when someone else already occupies it. And the room key can open the door.

At a recent conference a male association executive had taken a shower, and was shaving in the bathroom - nude. His room was accidentally assigned to someone else, who opened the door, walked in with her luggage - and had complete view of bathroom. Notable detail: it was his female president elect.

Today's tip: It can be worthwhile to put out the "do not disturb" sign anytime you're in the room.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What's with the mystery? Put it up.

If anyone else has a high school senior, it's likely this time period consumed with wonder and worry about college admissions decision notifications. And it's painful not solely because of the wait, but also due to lack of info about notification date and process from MANY top-notch colleges. [Note: MANY colleges do have online info and give clear details about admissions notification timing] ... BUT....

1. Many do not even post the actual date they're releasing/mailing decisions OR if going to send decision by email or letter. What's up with that? That's a secret? Guess what that turns parents into? Lunatics. (Is that a nice way to treat someone who's going to pay $48,000 A YEAR?) Something vague like "by April 1" is often used -- without even explaining if "by" means you'll have it by then or we'll send it by then. My favorite example of the right way to do it (MIT admissions) has full transparency of the entire process, clearly gives the date and time of decision (online), and provides forums for communicating. Sure, it's great to get the surprise email or letter much earlier than anticipated - but makes every day that follows a potential "surprise notification date" of the ones not heard from yet.

2. Because of a decision to not tell applicants (or post) the actual date of notification, there's a site where parents (or students) can go so anyone who actually spots/gets an admission notification by email or by mail can post that breaking news. It's ridiculous. Put up the date, time and process. There's also the infamous envelope situation. Some colleges put acceptance letters in small envelopes, others put rejections in oddly bulky envelopes -- so the site also has the "describe the envelope" thing. Why should anyone need to rely on a third-party site for info as basic as "it's in the mail"?

3. One college sent a press release giving statistical profile of admitted students BEFORE emailing applicants (or waiting long enough for them to get letters). So International students not seeing their country on list of where admitted from realized they're rejected (or in college terms "not admitted").

What does this have to do with associations?

1. If you have information, for god's sake put it online.

2. If you need to communicate something that someone is waiting for, why in the world would it ever need to go by mail only? That's how I waited for college admissions decisions 25 years ago. I can't believe that's still the process for many colleges now. This is 2008.

3. If you think you're not judged by your site, you are. The numbers who don't visit or apply to colleges based on what they saw on the site alone a notable detail from this whole experience. And if you're telling me you're a social media expert/advocate and I go to your ASSOCIATION site, I better see the social media evidence. Or stop talking and start doing. If you're not doing it, of course it's not there.

4. Treat the people who will be paying you a lot of money the way you would want to be treated.

5. You should be the source of your association's announcements or updates. Not reporters from industry media or others. Don't we have the most credibility if we're the ones who tell them what we're doing?

6. Don't let anyone read the bad news in a press release if they could hear it from you directly.

By the way, I just arrived in Boston for the NAR Association Executives Institute, so will be blogging from here the next 5 days. And the last of the college notifications arriving while I'm gone. I think.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

Something old: An article I wrote for the REALTOR AE Magazine in 2004 (when AE Committee Chairman) explaining how being a Sambo's breakfast waitress prepared me for association management.

Something new: After his thoughts on my Twitter post, Kevin Holland's take on what drives the social media disconnect; i.e., how finding the upside to social media (it's specific and direct value) is the approach that can work in getting or expanding association adoption of it.

Something borrowed: NAR's online guidelines/policies for their education and conference speakers. Obviously policies vary from organization to organization, but think how easy to be really specific about details that may drive you, your attendees, and even speakers crazy when not communicated clearly? (such as, to do list, mandatory requirements for handouts, handling promotional materials, bio length, the audience, etc.)

Something blue: Willie Nelson - You Tube. Wishful thinking lyrics: "Blue days, all of them gone - Nothin' but blue skies from now on. Blue skies smilin' at me. Nothin' but blue skies do I see."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Finally, a new way to provide meaningful volunteer recognition

A hugely positive reason to have an association blog is the ability to recognize volunteer participation, accomplishments, and writing skills in a way the public can actually find. Also, by adding an "In Memory" section you can provide a lasting memory for families, friends, colleagues, and future generations to find. The public routinely Google-searches business people (and friends/family), and your officers, volunteers and staff will show up on Google if they're on your blog. Tips:

1. Include their town/city location as many searches start with name and town (as I've noticed in analytics);
2. Take their picture during the meeting and TELL volunteers they'll find it on the blog. Some will forward to others. Everyone likes pictures;
3. Use the name they are commonly known by - for example, I'm found by Cindy, but rarely Cynthia. Assume those searching will use their commonly known name too;
4. "In Memory" is an especially nice and important way to provide a final tribute to a volunteer. Let their family know you cared about them and the role they played for your association and industry. Again, I can tell by analytics that our "In Memory" sections have a worldwide reach - likely link forwards;
5. The reach of a Google search is far more relevant than only a local newspaper recognition (if those even get published);

6. Add a Blogroll to link to your member blogs. Helps those with blogs (by having another way to be found); and provides easy to find example of those blogging within your association;
7. Note via other association communications (such as e-newsletter to members) you have new blog postings (with overview of subjects) - as internal promotion of accomplishments still matters too. Blog reading is new to many members so good way to get them started.

Volunteers contribute a lot. Let's recognize them. Forever. Association blog placement does what a few words on a plaque can't do. Tell their story - and have it found.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

If you're not asking you may not be getting

How I know I'm in sales: I travel around with a tub of coated paper clips to urge contributions to our political action committee (PAC) anytime I speak with members or affiliates. PAC success is nearly entirely direct asking still - and paper clips for every seat so members can attach money, checks, business card to record contributions correctly (also sheets for credit card contributions). And since I still need another 500 member contributions to reach goal, it's the 500 size tub of paper clips.

But it's not just selling PAC contributions .... association executives are continuously selling many things:
1. Ideas
2. Programs
3. Products
4. Elimination of programs or products
5. Decisions of the Board of Directors
6. Change
7. Participation
8. Opportunities
9. Value

Even if you're naturally good at sales, some of it takes experience and training. Consider courses in sales, negotiations, public speaking to improve your sales skills. You're likely already selling every day, so consider the potential advantages to getting better at it.

And while I'm thinking about it, have you given to your PAC?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Favorite technology reminder

A key legislator once wore a garage door opener remote control on his belt. Said he wanted to show off his portable technology too.

Regardless of what technology we hook to us, good reminder associations and advocacy are still fundamentally business of people.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Is Twitter the ultimate in boredom and interruption?

The Twitter site describes its service this way: "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

One word in response: Why?

Seriously, is there any reason to continuously communicate to anyone (including family, friends and co-workers) exactly what they're doing at the time? A colleague who suggested Twitter last year told me one week after he suggested it he was pulling the plug because people started telling him what they were having for lunch, when they were leaving the office, what their mood is, what the weather is, and any other entirely trivial detail of their lives they wanted to share. With lots of people. On their cell phones. Yuck. Is it the ultimate in ego or ultimate in boredom that anyone even wants to share that much detail about their daily lives? Some even post their "what are you doing" Twitters on their blogs in the event those not in their direct Twitter world want to read what they had for lunch, when they leave the office, etc.

I became interested in Twitter again when I read this (hilarious) article in the NY Times about a middle-aged woman who tries to convince her husband and teenagers to use Twitter. She figured it would cut down on individual text messages among family members. Her social media teenagers had never heard of it and refused to use it. Rationale: seemed like surveillance and a monologue. Told their mother maybe time she "got out more". Apparently, as the article also indicates, Twitter is used by an older demographic, not embraced by the teenage world (which I confirmed with my thousands-of-texts teens too). I just can't figure out why it's appealing.

It's clear Twitter could be used in very specific (isolated) situations with specific topics such as during a conference to share thoughts/locations with others who are there (as we used to/still do with email, text and voice mail messages) or for disaster planning - but WOW - not all the time. I'm an absolute multi-tasker, and can't fathom what it would do to my productivity if "frequent answers to one simple question - what are you doing?" and other Twitter interruptions. A common Twitter post is "I should be working" .... well, think about that.

As one person quoted in this
WSJ article about the "mundane updates" of Twitter says, "Like I didn't have enough information flowing my way every day."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Conference banquet seating - the bad tables

Seth Godin has great post about being seated at a bad table and made to feel like a second-rate customer. Suggests that something needs to be done so there's some sort of special treatment for those tables - such as chef visiting, different menu, special wine list.

I believe that's a serious problem with conference banquet seating too, especially if there's a program as part of the banquet. The back of the room is absolutely disconnected from the front of the room; a detail that wasn't as clear to me until my group once seated at the worst table at a national conference (banquet had 1200, our seats back row, by the kitchen). As a staff person I absolutely understand the reality that at sold-out banquets some group has to have the bad seats. However, if paid $150 for a ticket and in formal dress it's embarrassing to have to explain how ended up with the worst seats. I know groups at my own conference banquet end up with bad seats more than one year too - as I do the table assignments (for 550).

Seth is right. If there's no way those with the "worst" seats can enjoy the program as much as those with better seats, maybe it is up to us to ensure that we can provide a different experience for them. But I can't think of what that would be ... maybe a specialty drink with a special name? Any ideas?

Friday, March 21, 2008

3 "How to" Staff Training Ideas

Looking for practical training to add to staff meetings, that doesn't take all day and is actually helpful? My daughter just completed volunteer training at a hospital and learned a few things I've never thought to include ...

1. How to operate a fire extinguisher. My office has them. Not sure any on staff actually know how to operate it or the most efficient/correct way to put a fire out. At my daughter's training they had to operate one - into a garbage can.

2 How to sneeze. Here's link to a video made by Maine Medical Association (click type of player to start). May be helpful to have someone at local hospital talk about how illness spreads and what to do to prevent workplace illness.

3. How to interview. After my daughter's interview, the head of HR department gave tremendous amount of practical advice on interviewing techniques. He interviews hundreds. Might be good to have staff practice with a professional. Even some volunteer positions include interview requirement.

Anything interesting/helpful you've included with staff meetings or training?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

So you think it's easy being CEO?

Here's a decades old "what it takes" job description of an association chief executive officer position ... slightly modernized by an AE who found it posted on the wall of his new position. No idea who the orginal author is or was. This is actually only a portion of the document ...

The Association Executive

"The AE must be a person of wisdom, vision, innovation and ambition, an after dinner speaker and a night owl, but able to travel all day and make reports out at night and never fail to appear fresh and happy the next day.

The AE must be a 'man’s man' (even if the AE is a woman), a model person, a Plutocrat, a Democrat, a Republican, a New-Dealer, an Old-Dealer, and a Fast Dealer, an information technology specialist, a politician, a mathematician, an economist, an airplane and auto mechanic and an authority of construction ware, codes, laws and marketing techniques along with being an Internet guru.

The AE must be competent as a steno and typist, able to write 150 words a minute or type 300 words per minute while making sure the audio/visual equipment is working, leading all discussions and keeping interest and order without rolling their eyes or in some other way disclosing how they really feel about the discussion.

The AE must be able to give their staff the attention they want and the best advice on work, children’s diseases, home financing and in-law problems and be prepared to make allowances for emergencies but never look too serious or hurt when asking them why they were late, went over budget, or why their basic assignment for which they were hired wasn’t done correctly the first time or even the last time. And all of this must be done in accordance with all applicable employment laws, good taste, discretion, and an understanding they won’t appreciate any of it during a performance review.

The AE must attend all meetings, conventions, funerals, baptisms, weddings, visit hospitals and jails, contact and soothe the feelings of all members, prospective members and former members in the AE’s territory and take time out for good-will work on their own personal time with the local and national chapters along with peer chapters around the nation and region.

The AE must keep the building clean, know the Governor, and own a vehicle that is neither larger than any member’s nor smaller. Must be able to compute mileage, drift, ground speed, gas consumption per block per minute, wear and tear on tires and depreciation on the paint job. The AE’s vehicle must be new enough to create respect in all who see it but old enough to avoid charges of “putting on the dog” or having a member ask why the AE is paid too much.

The AE must know about labor law, intellectual property law, tax law and criminal law, but never venture an opinion if a lawyer is around. The AE must know the law of supply and demand and how to make an expense account and voucher stick the first time it is submitted especially if it is from a member of association leadership and counter to association policy.

The AE must have unlimited endurance and be adept at frequent over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages, unhealthy banquet food, wind, and gab. The AE must be an expert talker, liar, dancer, traveler, Bridge, golf, and poker player, authority on palmistry, upcoming elections, physiology, psychology, hydraulics, hunting, pop culture, sports scores and standing, and world politics.

The AE must be plain enough to be trusted by the spouses of members but still attractive enough to be interesting to those same spouses ... in spite of all this ... be the picture of the person on the go!"

And by the way, what do you mean you don't have time to blog?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Stop working on your Mission Statement

When I facilitate strategic planning (or vision, or thinking, or whatever someone wants to call them) retreats, the first thing I announce is that we are NOT going to spend an entire day (or even an entire 10 minutes) debating their mission and vision statements. Typically the room bursts into applause. It's probably the biggest turn-off of an entire planning session because it's the ultimate in tedious word micro-management and rarely results in something better than what existed before the whole discussion started. [Note: I don't surprise the organization - so staff/president consent in advance - i.e., before I agree to facilitate.]

I've collected many mission and vision statements in the past and find that most could be accomplished with one of those little boxes of refrigerator word magnets where a thousand organizations just rearrange exactly the same words to describe very general directions in what they are and what they want to be anyway - so just about anything in the plan can fit into those regardless of what "this versus that" words are used.

These are the most common debates (regardless of industry) - should we use the word consumer or public; should we say partner or advocate; should we say innovative or state-of-the-art and add we're visionary too; how to do we word our legislative/regulatory involvement to show we're balanced and proactive; etc. etc. etc. Those were the same debates 20 years ago too. It's very likely your bylaws starts with your purpose for existence, and that's what was filed with the IRS, so if you're unclear about the general reason for existence, how about using that. Or assuming most already have mission and vision statements how about just letting them be? Did either ever really stop your organization from being able to do something at any point in time? If not, then stop the unnecessary word-play.

Instead, start out by talking about the business of your members, their challenges, where believe the world is headed for industry, and then move into what role the association should play or not play in response. That will give you the answers you need.

Your organization's mission and vision should not be so unstable that they require annual or bi-annual scrutiny or over-haul. The plan itself absolutely needs constant scrutiny, but not a mission. If you have to have the mission/vision wording debate at least add the thought that it should stand some test of time (or how valid are they really if not good enough to last a year) -- say 5 years or 10 years before "needing" to revisit? And then let the time pass. Please. Let your planning committee work on real issues.

This is what associations need to do: "Find out what needs to be done. Then do it."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Don't take these for granted. Seriously.

I've been following the personal and serious journeys of 3 colleagues - one with cancer, one with a hip replacement/broken leg/staph infection, another recovering from a serious car accident. With so many important things we work on in associations, it's easy to take things for granted. Like ....

1. The ability to walk. One recent email message from a favorite colleague who struggles every day to return to walking: "Don't ever take walking for granted. " So on vacation I walked for miles, ran, and even rode one of those banana raft things hooked to motorboat (with assortment of relatives) in the ocean. Don't take it for granted. And go on vacation.

2. The gift of blogs. I appreciate that some blogs are just communicating a journey. They inspire and tell personal stories. All blogs don't have to be outspoken this and outspoken that. Some allow you to change as a person too.

3. The association family. Yes, I know associations are supposed to be all business (blah, blah). But many of us don't have to look very far to find deep friendships with those we have the honor and opportunity to work with. And if in the end some of it seems entirely illusory I'll still be glad I was a believer. I once had a president sit with me in an emergency room as my then infant daughter was having a spinal tap (he drove me from a convention late at night), another I saw sitting among many hundreds of AEs while I chaired a meeting so I'd feel "supported", ... you get the idea. This recent posting by a colleague's wife about a recent Board meeting reminded me how important it is that we remember what is given to us too:

"With over 340 REALTORS in town for the Board meeting and REALTOR DAY, (name) insisted on going. He paced himself the last 3 days and kept his foot elevated so the swelling would go away. Today he was able to attend the meeting of the Executive Committee and it truly helped him. He stayed for the Board meeting and got to speak to members from across the state. [The] President began the meeting by welcoming (name) back and her warm words brought a standing ovation. It was an important meeting of the Board because it approved beginning the work to build a 6 story Association building. I was so proud (name) could be there .... Everyone made both of us have a special day as they spoke to us individually and told us they have been praying for us. The REALTOR Family is an extension of our own family."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stopping by MIT Admissions: Social Media, Rejection and Technology

There are so many opportunities to use social media better at associations, and it's exciting to see how those outside of the association world are figuring it out .... like the MIT Admissions office ....

Check these out:

1. The right philosophy: "At MIT, we try to be as transparent as possible - so if you have a question, just ask." They are very clear about their entire admissions process, and encourage interaction with applicants. Associations need to figure out this same type of transparency.

2 "50 things" to learn while experiencing college. Really great advice -- even decades after college. My favorites - "5. Adjust your schedule around when you are most productive and creative. If you're nocturnal and do your best work late at night, embrace that. 7. At least a few times in your college career, do something fun and irresponsible when you should be studying. 17. Working things out between friends is best done in person, not over email. (IM does not count as 'in person.') Often someone's facial expressions will tell you more than his/her words. 21. Welcome failure into your lives. It's how we grow. What matters is not that you failed, but that you recovered."

3. Use your own voice. Always.

4. Give everyone a voice. MIT has sites for those who are accepted, wait listed and not accepted to post their thoughts. This one kid's response to receiving a rejection is classic:

"Dear MIT Committee Members:
Thanks for your notification of March 15th. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.
This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of schools, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals. Despite your outstanding record and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my current career needs.
Consequently, I will begin taking classes as a undergraduate student in your electrical engineering department. I look forward to seeing you then.
Best of luck in rejecting future applicants. Sincerely Yours, Anonymous #2"

5. There are creative ways to use technology. Look at questions one MIT alum said he'd like to ask prospective or newly admitted students. Can't we figure out how to integrate social media and technologies more too?

"Imagine you could have amazingly good interactive college content on your cell phone that guides you around where you go to school or are looking to go to college. What would that content be like? Who would be speaking? Where would it take you? (Research facility tours, architecture, nightlife guides, Greek system guides, dorm room tours, famous hacks?) What is your preferred way to the get the tour: on your smartphone (video streaming), Ipod (iTunes), rental device (information office), etc.? What do you think of the concept of the business? What specifically is good/bad about it from your perspective? "

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Towel People

A common feature of beach resorts and cruises are the towel people. Those are people who get up extra early to put their towels or random personal items across every great location - such as under huts or on chaise lounges right by the pool - so they're sure to have several together when they want it during the day. Sometimes they only show up for an hour mid-afternoon, while those spending the entire day at the pool or beach can't use that location since it's "taken" ... all day.

That can happen in associations too:

1. People accept positions on committee or Directors just in case there's an issue they want to weigh in on. But only appear when they want to show up.
2. People accept appointments, but cancel the day of the meeting due to an unexpected conflict. Too late to give anyone else the space.
3. Some associations have issues that may need real-time deliberations that might require an afternoon, not just an hour; or not just weighing in online.

Everyone wants what they want. But if there are limited resources - whether it be volunteer positions or chairs in the best positions - it's helpful to think about what might be fair to everyone at the pool. Or is it all about getting the best hour in? Is it selfish, or is it ensuring the best possible personal trip to claim our space for when we want it?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Quote for the Day

Sending this from Caribbean with limited Internet .... Quote for the Day ...

"When faced with a choice, choose happy."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What does your technology say about you?

This is one of those weeks where office technology decided to simultaneously stop working ... the copier won't duplex (takes "days" to get parts), the office digital camera is holding pictures hostage, the coffee pot exploded, and our ancient television (pic) needed to play a DVD but couldn't. So HAD to get new ....

I sometimes don't easily want to replace equipment that still works (thus the 20 year old TV) - but now that the TV replaced by a $349 flatscreen version, it's embarrassing to have the old one in the room.

Does old (but working) equipment make an association look out-dated too, or does it look fiscally responsible?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Bad Behavior or Wake Up Call?

Read on various blogs that attendees at a conference decided they didn't need to limit their comments about a keynote interview to their twitter and text messages, but instead extended their outrage and frustration at the program not being what they wanted it to be by collectively deciding to talk over the interviewer. They didn't walk out -- instead reacted and distrupted the program.

The speaker, the Gen Y founder of Facebook, apparently known to not be the best public speaker but with deep technical knowledge and creativity; and the interviewer, a journalist who didn't make it interesting.

Comments are definitely in 2 distinct camps. So which one is it?

1. If it's a conference with bloggers, twitterers and social media techy types then has to include audience engagement, and they should have known that. In the future, needs to be more consideration of the "demands" of engagement by those accustomed to it.

2. There comes a time when bloggers, twitterers and social media techy types need to step away from their devices and return to a more mannered approach -- even if personal boredom or desire for something else compels otherwise. The world might need a little less mean engagement and technology should not enable bad behavior.

I already routinely text message during meetings to others in the meeting; and comment (by text) impressions of what hearing to other people while it's happening. Engagement can happen without directly engaging the presenter (especially in large audiences). But what happens when the person the audience wants to engage is the presenter - and gets that now or never feeling? Are sitting still or walking out the only choices?

What do you think ... is it bad behavior or a wake-up call? What if an audience "demanded" more direct engagement - are you ready for that? What would you do if your audience surprised your presenters in this manner?

Picture from Brian Solis site - about the interview

Monday, March 10, 2008

Association Management: An Art, not just Skills

An interesting facet of association management is how many aren't cut out for it - and leave or burn out quickly. The range of areas to be involved with, the volume of people and personalities, membership desire for instant success and free, and the numerous ways to get into trouble from hurt feelings to legal issues to financial challenges is not just for the skilled, but also for the artist. It's possible to do everything in your job description, and still appear to be doing nothing. That's because there's a huge degree of creativity that can't be quantified or easily described, but necessary in creating association success.
Having spent the past few days chaperoning tours with high school students, nearly entirely in French-language (and I stopped being fluent around 25 years ago), I likely spent much time focused on English descriptions at an art museum if for no other reason than glee to find English.

This AHA quote by painter Leon Bellefleur: "During the process, no reasoning. Only eyes and heart with exaltation and spontaneity. I don't believe you can leave a message without those two essentials. The rest is a matter of work, research, unhurried effort, sincerity and passion."

So much of what we do involves work, research, effort, sincerity and passion ....
but possible the part that sends and leaves the message, and makes us artists, is without reason - involving exaltation and spontaneity.
What are you creating? Are you using your eyes and heart too?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Another Reason to Blog

Another reason to blog: because when you know how to set one up, and how to post, it's really easy to do it for other purposes too. I'm currently out of the country chaperoning. In one hour I was able to set up a blog, post pictures/reports from the day, link to places visited - and emailed the link to the blog to parents who aren't on the trip.

If you're a parent you can likely guess how interested they are in regular updates and pictures about what students are doing.

It's so easy. There are numerous skills we develop as association executives; and other ways we can use those skills in the rest of our lives.

Wouldn't you like to develop another skill? Try blogging.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


So many sports analogies are used without realizing a portion of the audience likely has no idea what they mean while others understand exactly what it means. Recently each in a group was asked to describe their work style in a one sentence or few words sports analogy -- so I said I still have my fastball.

What's yours?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How can I empower you today?

In calling an association in another part of the country, was surprised to hear the receptionist answer the phone, "Hello, this is (name), how can I empower you today?"

I'm rarely speechless, but my "can I speak with (another name)" response seemed insufficient. As the day goes by I've thought about how she could empower me - send me a Wonder Woman outfit; give me whatever the list would be of how she believes she could empower me; ask what makes me sound un-empowered; etc. I can't even picture what the potential answers might be if we answered the phone that way.

In any event, if I ever contact that association again I'm asking for a copy of their strategic plan and latest issue of their publication. That question gives the sense they're out there doing something unique; and at a minimum challenging the thinking of every caller, regardless of the purpose of the call.

1. What question does your association ask when answering the phone?
2. How can I empower you today?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

6 Answers for those with no time to volunteer

A panel of future national leaders was asked what they would say to a member who says they don't have time to volunteer. Here's the range of answers:

1. I don't have the time either - and then explain finding balance and time. The busiest people can be the best volunteers.
2. What would you have time for - try to narrow the ask if other options with less commitment. Or they may do community service or golf tournament.
3. It will only take you a few minutes to write a check to our PAC - some will give money if won't give time.
4. Let me tell you the business success I've had as a result of volunteering - and give examples.
5. Don't think of it as a burden, think of what professional opportunities and friendships you may miss.

6. I'm not going to give up, I know you'll be a great volunteer. Sometimes no could mean ask me again later.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Table Buzz

Now that apparently everyone has either a text-enabled cell phone, BlackBerry or Treo, meeting room tables are always abuzz with the sound of, well, buzzing. Numerous people put their phone/device on the table, on vibrate, and they buzz, buzz, buzz. Sometimes people pick it up from the table to see what call/message is causing the buzz (only to put it down and it starts buzzing again later); other times the device/phone just buzzes away and it's ignored as if there's no sound whatsoever happening. But there is sound.

Is the thought that no one can hear it?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Great Explanation about Business of Free

A must-read Wired magazine article for all association executives: "Free - Why $0 is the Future of Business". Written by Wired magazine editor in chief Chris Anderson. It's long, but stick with it because it explains 6 broad business models continuing to emerge around the concept and business of free:

1. "Freemium" - free basic service, then pay for additional features (like Flickr);
2. Advertising - free content, others pay premium for getting to them (like lead generation);
3. Cross-subsidies - free products subsidized by other costs (like free phone with a calling plan);
4. Zero marginal costs - freely distributed content to grow interest in paid services (like free music creating interest in paid concerts);
5. Free labor exchange - allowing free participation creates results of value to others (like rating service results);
6. Gift economy - free because content or other value generated by altruism (like Wikipedia)

Also has notable quotes to put into your organizational thinking, including: "The winners made their stuff free first.";"Free shifts the economy from a focus on only that which can be quantified in dollars and cents to a more realistic accounting of all the things we truly value today."; and "Because free is what you want - and free, increasingly, is what you're going to get."

A common mantra in associations is that members want it now and want it free ... so more ways to get to free.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Social Networking's Icky Factor

Bestselling author and blogger Seth Godin gives his involvement with social networking sites: "I was talking today in a teleconference about how 'friends' aren't really friends, at least not in most social graphs. I'm not much inclined to do a heroic favor for a friend of a friend of a friend. As a result, because it feels icky to say 'no', I don't hang out in the networking sites."

Many frequently use the term "social media" like it's a singular when in reality there are a vast array of potential tools to be used inside that term, and a section of social media that is for social networking. Social networking sites include MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn ... and others.

Seth Godin isn't alone in finding the icky factor in some of these sites. I recently facilitated a focus group related to social media experiences, and there's plenty that has turned people off from wanting to adopt aspects of it. Notable quote from a very tech-savvy person in a focus group, "I didn't want to go back to junior high".

Advance warning: if you get offended that people both have and are entitled to opinions that may be separate from your own, or if you don't believe that perception can be reality, then stop reading.

Here's feedback on why some who checked out social networking sites may have rejected it:

1. The friends request, but they're not my friend, and I don't know them. Either have to send someone requesting to be a "friend" an accept, rejection or ignore it. That's out of comfort zone for people as they aren't accustomed to having to accept someone they hardly know (or don't know) as a "friend" or reject them. Or they don't want to increase the volume of people asking for favors or introductions (like Seth Godin). The "counts" are somewhat of a farce too as it can just be a numbers game (i.e., how many can I collect, even if barely know them) versus a legitimate display of professional or personal relationships.

2. If your pre-teen or teen is there, it doesn't seem like it's a serious professional networking site. Many indicated their first experience with social networking was looking at the sites of their kids and friends of their kids. It was more than enough to turn them off from wanting to use it personally or for a professional interaction. Meaning, it's not lack of knowledge - but rather having knowledge that led to reject the professional use.

3. The communication can be rude, crude and certain employee images unprofessional. There are professional people who still embrace the idea of professionalism in public displays and communications. Real life professional interaction often wouldn't accept what social networking might accept - sniping back at someone publicly versus handling privately, routine use of crude language, personal pictures with extremely low-cut clothing or shirts with suggestive comments, flirting in posts among married professionals, etc. I'm not sure how many associations have eliminated dress codes and conduct codes from their employee manuals or expectations, but social networking might start with skin-baring attire and crude language.

4. Grow up already. Imagine pulling up to the office and finding middle-aged male employees having a snowball fight or wrestling each other. On one site, everyone notified when those in your "network" are throwing virtual snowballs at each other. If a perception is it's ridiculous or juvenile in real life, it might actually looks that way online too. Tools initially built for teenagers are being used by adults, which doesn't necessarily make everyone believe it's adult.

5. Peer networking has to involve peers. The most common answer I hear to the question "why don't you" is that peers aren't there, and that's often the point of networking. When any tool isn't being widely used even after years of existence, chance it just won't. That's how word of mouth and viral marketing work. If not getting buzz by peers, or enough success stories, then no big surprise not being widely used organizationally.

6. Networking is always a personal preference. Each of us has our own ways to network. Some go to happy hours, others to book clubs. Some join country clubs, others join service organizations. Some like membership meetings, others like online interaction. The odd distinction is on social networking sites associations execs might say "if you don't network and interact my way you have no future." Huh? It's ONE way to network and communicate, but not the only way. Just like every other networking opportunity isn't the only way.

7. We don't have to control everything. Sometimes the easiest way to kill momentum is to try to force it under an association umbrella when not a valid reason to. Conversations can happen without associations trying to control it or get their name associated with it. Established social networking sites can generate conversation, and associations can watch, participate and/or learn. Let sites and users be responsible for their own liability, actions and words. Just like hall talk, bar talk and the discussion from the car ride home from a meeting are hugely valuable, so is other conversation held away from the association control. Associations are not just leaders of conversation - it's how we turn conversations into actions that benefit the industry that ultimately matters.

Whether we want to believe it or not, many will find icky factors on social networking sites. What makes any of us feel icky (or not) is personal. But surely a possible factor in why not being used or adopted.

Note: I personally use and see value in networking sites, and my association will soon have a major campaign for the public (versus just internal) integrating social media, including social networking. But clearly many associations don't find enough value to decide to do it, especially if members not requesting/widely using it too. Selling the specific benefits by giving examples of success (on the action side, not just the conversation side) could lead to greater adoption by other associations.

Can we find examples of how social networking impacted an industry outcome?