Sunday, December 27, 2009

Digital Picture Reminders

In earlier blog posts, I've noted you can use your camera phone to create digital reminders:

1. Where you parked your car in a parking lot (or on a street)
2. Your hotel room number
3. Name badge when someone doesn't have a business card

Recently read another use: to keep track of what you eat, if dieting. It's easy to forget if you don't record it; and photos can help you keep track. If you start to build up numerous pictures, you'll at least have digital reminders - to count it all. Even if you wish you didn't.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2 Fundraising Techniques that Work

This email arrived today: "An anonymous donor has agreed to match your online donation dollar-for-dollar - as long as it is made before December 31. Inspired by the work of (organization), she has pledged up to $250,000 in additional funding!"

You can take this concept to a smaller scale too with even a $1,000 contributor.

Here are 2 fundraising techniques that can work ... geared towards the $100 to $1000 contributor but could be other amounts.

1. "An anonymous donor will match your contribution if you contribute by (date in near future)": Ask someone to donate $1000 as matching contribution, send a message to others saying that up to 10 contributions of $100 will be matched if contributed by a specific date. Or just say "up to $1000" and see if you get lots of little contributions or one big contribution. If you go over, it might be easy to find someone to match amounts that you received over the initial $1000.

2. "Make (fill in the blank) pay": If a staff person, the president of the association, or someone else who is well known is willing to donate $1000 .... Send a soliciation (maybe with a picture of them holding $1000) saying that individual will give $1000 if five other people also give $1000 by a specific date.

Why they work ...

1. Asking someone to provide the matching funds or to be the person to "make pay" gives you the potential for that $1000 up front.

2. People often pay extra attention to a request if their money can be matched or can result in a larger amount for the organization.

And of course, make it easy to give - like online payments.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Form of the Day: Speaker's Guidelines Form

It only takes one experience with a speaker telling off-color and offensive jokes to your association audience to realize it can happen at any time. Best to address it up front, with any speaker.

Here's an excellent form by Jeff Hurt that covers a range of potential speaker issues, including selling from the podium. It's on a blog post that has LOTS of great info for anyone who hires speakers (e.g., sample A/V requirements form, A/V recording authorization form, speaker travel/lodging form.)

Jeff explains, "A Speaker’s Guidelines Form (includes information about using non-sexist and non-discriminatory language, the use of intellectual property, as well as a non-sales from the podium) This is an important form that protects you, the conference organizer and lets the speaker know you expect professionalism."

Thanks, Jeff. Great info!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Customizing Association gift bags

I attend a lot of meetings, so notice when an association does something unique or customized. Check out the ribbon on this (otherwise plain) gift bag, left in my hotel room, that has the association name spelled out in lettering on the ribbon. Customizing does stand out.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adding expiration dates to association coupons

In response to my blog post on expiration dates, David Patt posted this comment:

"Add discount coupons to your list. Always print an expiration date on them. Members (or former members) may want to use them years after they were expected to be out of circulation."

That is an excellent reminder! Here are a few thoughts on association coupons:

1. Discount coupons: If you provide coupons for discounts at bookstore, for membership dues, or for events be sure to be extremely specific - including the expiration date and if it's transferable to others. Be very specific with drink coupons too - either in your printed materials or on the tickets themselves.

2. Raffle tickets and other fundraising events: If you need to raise a certain amount of money for a fundraising activity to be viable, be sure to include a statement that indicates what would trigger it not happening, and how contributed funds will be returned. Also consider the potential for a staff or electronic error. If an entry is not properly received and accounted for by your e-commerce system and/or staff be sure to include that you can only return their contribution (and not compensate for a lost opportunity).

3. Association Prizes: If you give a prize, such as entry to a convention or "free dues", be sure it's very specific as to the year, along with its value. If it's an event, what is specifically covered in the prize and the exact location. And if it's transferable. And if there's any potential for cash value instead. So there's no confusion later. For example, if someone wins "free dues" and already doesn't have to pay dues, what happens?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Check your expiration dates

It's not just food that has expiration dates. Check out these association expiration dates, so you don't learn them the hard way ....

1. Conference call dial-in numbers: Found out my "use anytime" dial in and passcodes expired when I didn't use for 6 months. Learned it when dialing in 2 minutes before everyone else. If you use the same conference call numbers all the time, find out if something makes it expire.

2. Batteries on smoke/carbon monoxide detectors: Change them as often as you'd change the ones at home.

3. Vendor contracts: Especially if you inherit contracts you didn't execute, might want to check all of them to see what makes them expire - a date, a change of ownership, an action .... (or what makes a price increase).

4. Lease agreements: If your copier or other equipment has a date where you have to notify to either purchase or a new term start - find out what that is. Your option to buy or cancel contracts might expire at a date you don't expect (i.e., well before the end of the term).

5. Certificates of Deposits: Financial institutions will alert you of maturity of a CD; along with the terms you presently have. If you allow it to roll-over it may not do it anywhere near the rate you initially had - and also may not renew at the highest rate they offer. You may have to ask to get a higher renewal interest rate. Be sure to check the maturity dates so you aren't renewed well below an interest rate amount you'd want.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Buying your way into a community (aka, tweets for sale)

Just about everything in the meeting biz is open for sponsorship. But should Tweets be for sale?

I've been reading about "sponsored tweets" - where someone on Twitter will "sell" their willingness to talk about your product to their own community - that is, to their own blog and/or Twitter readers/followers. May just be for personal financial profit (or to get what they "talk about" free) - or may be part of a sponsorship package like getting paid to put a company's name on a sign. Trouble is, does the reader know it's a paid advertisement or endorsement? SHOULD the reader (also known as "the community") know?

The FTC has said yes - that anyone getting something free to tweet or blog about; or anyone getting paid to tweet about them should disclose it.

Some in the blogging community don't like that idea. I don't understand the problem with disclosing when you're getting paid to talk about a product - traditional media discloses with the word "advertisement". At meetings, we use the words "sponsored by" along with corporate or individual names - which tells everyone in attendance that they paid to fund something in particular.

Couldn't tweets just add the letters ADV to any sponsored tweet so the community of readers/followers knows that the person mentioning it got paid to do that advertisement? Paid tweets, or tweets based on getting free products, should not be confused with a genuine unpaid personal endorsement.

It's all about transparency, authenticity and ethics. If you get paid to "talk" about something, disclose that payment or freebie to your readers/community.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Conferences: A Helpful Ribbon

Ever go to a conference and not know how to easily identify members from your own state? A colleague has ribbons made with the state name that he sends to state attendees in advance (to insert in conference badges). He can identify them, they can identify each other, and it lets others know where they're from.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Building Leaders: 6 Skills to Develop (or Have)

Can an engineering school also build leaders? A Boston Globe article relays the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has added leadership training to its undergraduate engineering curriculum - to help its students with superior technical skills succeed in the workplace environment.

MIT takes engineering students who may be introverted and/or acutely aware of their analytical/technical excellence - and teaches them leadership and management skills aren't "silly", time-wasting or out of reach.

MIT's engineering leadership program identifies the following skills, among others, to develop:

"* Ability to assess risk and take initiative.
* Willingness to make decisions in the face of uncertainty.
* Urgency and the will to deliver objectives on time in the face of constraints or obstacles.
* Resourcefulness and flexibility.
* Trust and loyalty in a team setting.
* Relating to others."

I believe these are the same skills needed for association leaders (volunteers and staff). MIT got it right. Even for non-engineers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How to Not Ruin Black Pants

As someone who doesn't like to travel with more than just a computer bag, it's a sad situation to completely ruin a favorite pair of black pants that didn't wrinkle and fit better than any others.

Real Simple magazine (Nov. '09) has these tips for black pants: (for those who don't want the time and cost of eternally dry cleaning)

1. Don't wash them as much. Wear 4-5 times between washings.
2. Turn pants inside out to minimize color loss.
3. Choose a short, delicate cycle.
4. Use specialized detergent for cold water loads, such as Tide Coldwater. Chlorine in tap water is apparently "color-sucking."
5. Hang or lay the pants flat to dry. Don't throw them in the dryer.
6. Buy pants with fabrics that hold dark dyes well - washable wool blend or nylon.

RIP, favorite black pants.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tips to Running Better Meetings

Kudos to Judith Lindenau who created this SlideShare presentation with great meeting management tips. All Boards and committee chairmen need to learn (and use) these basics.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

9 Ways to Find Association Member Twitter Users

I've decided this is like the beginning days of email, where associations need to find their member Twitter users and not just expect them to find us.

Nine ways to find your own members using Twitter:

1. Add a line/space for Twitter name on all membership applications and registration forms - online and paper
2. Add a line for Twitter name on all course verification forms
3. Continuously include info in e-newsletter about some of what you're posting on Twitter so it's clear to members there might be something valuable and unique out there (note: if you're just using Twitter to rehash the exact same info in your newsletter and Facebook - they aren't going to be happy to see the exact same content three times. HAVE to have something unique in EACH place if you want members to use ALL of your various media) - and include link to follow you when you do that
4. Add Follow Us on Twitter to Association blog, e-newsletters, Facebook, business cards, email, printed materials - needs to be part of culture
5. Add columns on TweetDeck that would include what your Association members may be tweeting about - for example, I have columns for Maine, Maine home, Maine real estate, Maine Association of REALTORS, Maine Realtors - and immediately Follow and Retweet something they've posted (if it applies)
6. Have special seating for Twitter users at your conferences and meetings (and be sure there's extension cords and wireless) - and then find out who they are
7. Promote a hashtag and/or tweet-up to coincide with an association event and see who shows up
8. If you offer a social media class that includes how to set up Twitter, follow-up with students by email to see if they did it - and what they're using on Twitter (note: if you're not offering classes - start offering classes)
9. Pay attention to your members who are friends and fans on Facebook - if it's clear from their posts they're also writing for a Twitter handle, connect with them that way too. Such as tweeting "Glad to find these members on Twitter: (@ names)"

Follow me on Twitter.
Follow my Association on Twitter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Associations Can Learn from Blog Action Day

Each year many thousands of bloggers around the world focus on a single topic for one day. This year the Blog Action Day focus is climate change.

You can play a role in climate change professionally and personally:

How we use energy plays a significant role in what happens with the climate in the future. A bad economy made many people, businesses and families take a strong look at how we use energy. There are money-saving and energy-saving steps such as reducing number of live meetings, encouraging car-pooling, turning down the thermostat in your building, setting timers on your office and home thermostats (to ensure they go down), and really researching what else may lower energy use and related costs. As associations, we can also engage in the public policy debates and decisions that will impact climate change - even if it means additional burden or cost to implement. We're also able to continuously educate about tax incentives, energy programs, and details related to our specific industries.

The success of the concept of Blog Action Day can also be applied within Associations:

1. Polling bloggers and members to see what topic they'd like for focus;
2. Creating your own Blog Action Day on that topic;
3. Ask related industries, media bloggers, others to participate too - and promote their involvement;
4. Designing a badge for use on blogs and web sites that promote the topic;
5. Bringing together those who blog and twitter to work together on that topic by having the one day blog and twitter focus;
6. Adding a call to action and fundraising component, if it applies - if it's a topic worth writing about, readers may want to actually do something - including contribute - show them how;
7. Keep the communication lines open with those who participate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Helpful Tip: How to Not Cry

Got this tip on Twitter (@christytj), but had to be sure it worked before posting. It works:

Who knew: If you're tearing up at a bad moment, just clear your throat. Then lift your tongue to the roof of your mouth - makes you unable to cry.

Monday, September 28, 2009

8 Things Associations Should Think About: H1N1

At a recent meeting of association execs, an infectious disease professional gave us really good advice to guide our association activities, policies and meetings - related to H1N1 virus.

1. Proactive respiratory etiquette. Stay home if sick, cough correctly, wash hands.

2. Put reminders on all agendas and meeting materials. Stay home if sick, wash hands.

3. Be lenient with refund rules. Even if just for a year, reconsider no refund policies if it means sick may attend because don't want to lose what they paid.

4. Clean shared surfaces. Don't share computers or phones. Wipe down chairs, tables and desks.

5. Be equipped. Have hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol) and tissues available. Have pens at registration desk. Do not share your pen with anyone.

6. No more candy dishes and think about buffets. Don't dig for M&Ms. If salad bar and buffet meals, have hand gel available at start and end of the lines. Especially if having dozens of servers at buffets for every item doesn't make sense for either time or cost.

7. Prepare for time when live meetings may not be an option. Experiment with webinars, phone meetings, and other remote options in the event a pandemic rules out live group meetings. Look at your meeting contracts and discuss pandemic potential for contract guarantees.

8. Look at office documentation and staff cross-training. Imagine if 40% of your staff was out. Can someone else perform necessary or important functions? Have a plan. Now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Travel Tips: When Bringing Your Own GPS

If you take your own GPS to use with rental cars, here are 2 tips:

1. Program in all possible addresses as destinations before you leave home. That includes the airport, the rental car return location, your hotel, meetings, restaurants, etc. So much easier than fumbling with papers every time you get in the car (as I have been doing).

2. Bring directions to everywhere anyway. Never know when satellite might not pick up quickly.

Any other tips?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Listserv Traps and Annoyances

I serve on many groups, committees and boards, so invariably someone will suggest that a listserv be set up for everyone to communicate. And the same things seem to go wrong:

1. The moderator of the group adds on people others don't know are there. And someone will totally offend someone they didn't know is included on the list.

2. Group members misuse it like "Reply to All" and all of a sudden swarms of "yes", "I agree", "see you there", etc. messages, along with "out of office" auto-responders, start arriving. Or worse, someone believes he/she is personally replying to the sender only, but the entire group gets a message intended for one. And it's usually something that should not have been in an email.

3. Moderator decides to turn on the feature to moderate posts before they're distributed. Maybe it's to weed out the one word responses, auto-responders, mistakes. Or maybe it's to control what is "allowed" to be distributed. Plus, moderation of listserv posts nearly always delays distribution of the email.

My thoughts:

1. If a listserv is said to be a specific group - such as all state association executives, all local presidents, only those serving on a committee or board of directors - then the moderator of the list should be required to also announce or list anyone else who is added so participants are aware.

2. If a listserv is a huge group - which I'll define as over 100 (and sometimes it can be a few thousand) then no one should really expect that to be confidential. May as well be saying it into a microphone, because you are saying it into a microphone. Actually any email could be further distributed, which can be forgotten regardless of who is/is not included.

3. From time to time the moderator needs to remind everyone of "rules", whatever those may be, so users don't get completely annoyed. For example, can't market yourself/services, or be sure to include what you're replying to in the subject line, or please reply directly to the poster and not the group on certain requests.

4. Always set the response default to the sender, and not the group (but still have a group response option). Some listservs one person asks for info to be sent directly to them - and then several in the group will completely ignore it and respond to everyone.

5. Sometimes they just don't (or won't) learn. I have some on committees who absolutely can't resist "Reply to All" so they get their own email with everyone else getting it via a list.

6. What is your real role as a listserv moderator? Is it to add commentary to posts (which some do, and I like), to ensure users aren't getting overwhelmed with noise (i.e., error messages, auto-responders, and one-word responses), or are you using it to control what goes out? Have to admit I'm writing this post because yesterday I sent a post to a group of 20 on a listserv, it got delayed with a "moderator will have to approve" message, then 3 hours later the moderator sent my message out to the group under her own name, and I got an auto-notification rejection saying my message was rejected for "no reason given". Think that completely annoyed me?

7. How timely is timely? Sometimes listservs are set up with the thought that they expedite communications. That is true provided no one is moderating. There are listservs where I've had time-sensitive communications that end up not being sent until 2-4 days later. I don't even like 2-4 hour delays, much less 2-4 days. Therefore, depending on what my role is with any given group, may still maintain my own address book group if think I might ever need something to be "immediate" - knowing the listserv moderator may not be constantly available to "okay" a message. Be sure the moderator of a listserv is aware of the expectations of the group if all messages aren't going to be authorized for immediate sending.

Did I leave anything out? : ) [Note: No clue if spelling listserv or listserve is correct, or if both are correct]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

12 more ways to cut expenses ... like colleges

Time Magazine has a list of creative ways colleges are finding to cut significant expenses. Some of these could apply to associations and similar things we do ....

1. Cut back on frequency of trash removal, lawn mowing, window/sidewalk washing
2. Cut programs and unpopular courses
3. Identify few days of unpaid leave for faculty and staff; hiring freeze
4. Eliminate breakfasts
5. Use tap water at events
6. Skip shrimp and wine at parties
7. Hold virtual instead of live (e.g., swim meet - each team's swimmers race in their home pool, and then they compare times to declare winners)
8. Eliminate one day of orientation
9. Cut-back or eliminate certain free programs/services (e.g., printing, laundry)
10. Disconnect landlines in some departments
11. Don’t update land-line voice-mail systems “in this era of cell phones”
12. Go digital – move some publications online

Friday, September 11, 2009

Define "Daily"

Sitting at O'Hare, and just overheard a business guy discussing an upset client. And I quote: "Our contract says that we'll accept the data daily. We do accept it daily, and we process it overnight, but we don't publish it or make it available for sometimes 2-3 days. We're living up to the agreement - we do accept it daily." Was immediately tempted to tap him on the shoulder and say that thinking is exactly what gets people who sign contracts into trouble.

The word "daily" can be problematic when not better defined:

1. Does the vendor understand your timing needs for what happens with data, not just when you're going to provide it to them? Be clear about any vendor timing requirement too.

2. Does "daily" mean every 24 hour time period, calendar days, business days ... what about holidays (and then what are those)? Be specific.

3. What if something might need an immediate change, and really can't wait 24 hours? Is it available for an extra fee, if the vendor wants to be nice, or just not possible at all? Find out.

Attorneys and staff who don't deal with data management issues may not realize that your frequency of sending data may not translate to the timing of what you need to happen with that data. Like the poor client of the guy on the phone.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Your association's logo in social media

A recent announcement of a redesign of an association's corporate logo said they plan to use it in social media. But in social media most of their name is cut off because the logo design doesn't fit into the Facebook logo space for the News Feed. If designing for social media, shouldn't it fit? (Note: this pictured logo was only thing we had that stacked our name so at least the 2 key words in our name would show up in social media - the middle part, not so much)

Here are a few lessons learned (the hard way) about logos and names in social media:

1. Shrink it before you pick it. Many logos are initially designed for letterhead and web sites ... or potentially even a Page on Facebook. Those can easily accommodate various sized logos. Facebook isn't going to let you use that big logo in a thumbnail- and when it shrinks it smaller than a stamp you might just find you're only getting part of your logo. Same with Twitter.

Before adopting a corporate logo, especially if you plan to use it in social media, check out what it looks like in a News Feed on Facebook (note: your Fans aren't visiting your page, they're reading your association updates when they read about their family, colleagues and friends in the feed); and check out what your logo looks like on TweetDeck (for Twitter - the type of format that is the actual view of your logo). If half your lettering or logo is missing, you may need a bit of a redesign; or a complete do-over.

2. Ask your logo designer if he/she uses social media - and see what their own logo looks like there. Unfortunately you may be working from the outset with someone who isn't thinking how small a space is really involved. Ask your designer to give you the version that can fit in the actual minuscule space on TweetDeck and Facebook News Feed. And give those dimensions if necessary.

3. Fax it and photocopy it before you pick it. I know, some believe that faxes are dinosaurs and no one uses them anymore in the days of social media. Well, in our office we get plenty of faxes (and send plenty too). We once had to scrap a logo (after it had been selected, of course) because it turned into a big blob when it faxed or photocopied. Even looked terrible when it lost its color on a typical computer printer. Not pretty. Not our image.

4. Think about a person's face vs. logo as the corporate image/brand. A company we work with all the time has a definite logo. But out of the blue a woman started appearing as the corporate image instead of their logo. I assume the woman in the picture really is the person tweeting. But it's awkward because I'm not connecting her to the corporation - and my interest stopped because I wasn't trying to follow an employee; I wanted to know what the company was up to, even if it's people in the company doing the updating. That is not to be confused with companies having employees tweet under their own personal names and pictures. This is a scenario where it's the company's name and a woman's picture. I never had a clue if she had a name.

5. Your Twitter name is HOW many characters? My association's Twitter name is 14 characters long (including the @). That's actually fairly lengthy as names go on Twitter, but it does reflect our membership. A big point of the whole social media thing is the hope that people will retweet (forward) association info you post to their own followers. So anything I post needs to leave space for others to include, in my instance, 17 characters (for the letters RT then a space then the 14 character name) JUST for including us as the source. That's a lot when only have 140 characters to work with AND others may want to add a few characters of commentary ... so need to leave space for that too. So an initial post you make should have way less than 140 characters if you'd like it to go somewhere. Try not to fill up the whole 140 yourself unless you want everyone to just read and not send.

6. Your hashtag is HOW many characters? With each additional character an organization might add onto a hashtag it decides to use, it's one less character those using Twitter have to work with. Be kind. Be short. (Note: a hashtag is the symbol # followed by a few characters that will catalogue info from multiple sources on Twitter)

Social media brings plenty of challenges to associations - including what our logo, name and image literally look like in communications.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Interesting topic for business dinners

A topic that I found interesting at two recent business dinners (which I brought up, thus the fact it happened twice) is what's on your bucket list. Bucket list being what you'd really like to do or accomplish before you die (a.k.a., "kick the bucket"). And what you've already done that might have been on that list.

It's really fascinating what people want to do. And it never seems to involve a job (current or future).

Also ... here's an earlier post on other conversation starters.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

3 Blog Posts to Think About

Here are 3 blog posts that made me think:

1. The Incoming Chairman Speech. Do we want to hear about their passion for the association or their passion for the industry? When they're introduced, what are we saying about our incoming chairman? Interesting insight from Kevin Holland, who has clearly heard a lot of annual meeting speeches.

2. Why CEOs Don't Blog. Can a CEO really write an Op-Ed on any controversial topic (not connected to their position) and claim it's just personal opinion? When are we "not" considered the CEO in our thoughts or actions from the standpoint of association leadership and membership? Maggie McGary questions how the "personal brand" applies.

3. 7 Ways the Internet is Improving our Writing. That's right, Jeff Cobb says social media and the Internet are improving our writing skills, not ruining them: We're writing more, writing for an actual audience, learning to be concise, blending with other media, and more. Are we becoming improved writers because we have no choice with the expansion of needing to write in so many formats?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

18 tips for association execs - picked up virtually (from ASAE09)

Here's an assortment of tips that I picked up on Twitter and other social media during the ASAE conference (that I did not attend in person.) Note: tried to credit the original person who posted a tweet, picture, or post. Info in brackets is my additional comment.

1. When permanent marker accidentally gets on whiteboard, write over it with fresh whiteboard marker and wipe off (@cindyhugg)

2. 10-20-30 rule for effective presentations: 10 slides, speak 20 minutes max, allow 30 minutes for questions (@PBBsRealm

3. How are you recognizing the virtual volunteer? Special web badge, or signature on their web page to recognize time (in months, not years) (@christyj)

4. Do you track member twitter accounts, blogs, etc. in your AMS? Should you? (@cardcat)

5. Do you know about Check it out. You register your name across many social media platforms. (@carolvangorp)

6. Need job description for staff with social media roles - and volunteers; plus code of conduct for how members interact with each other. (@christyj

7. When calling lapsed members, don't say "we haven't seen you lately" - Just reminds them! Ask to participate in survey, etc. [I think alternate approach like this needed for conference attendees who have not registered yet too] (@christyj

8. Mobile marketing has potential for dues reminders, voting, special offers, news, more [Need to come up with "special offers"] (@MemberClicks

9. Email annoyances: reply all, distribution lists, "thank you," forwards, subject lines, buried action, logo attachments, etc. [Sometimes I will send 1 or 2 in a group their own individual email instead of group email if they are serial reply to all peeps] (@aaronwoloweic

10. FYI is the vaguest subject line most overused in the world. [FYI - I am big offender on this one] (@aaronwoloweic

11. Use Build-a-Bear someway, somehow [Apparently long lines for in in St. Louis booth at trade show - "even Candy Spelling" stood in line for one] (@msazuri - guessing this pic is the infamous Build-a-Bear?)

12. Do something creative with camera phone postcards - post on Twitter (@msazuri)

13. Consider creating a twibbon for an association cause. [But less is more - need room for person's pic]

14. Time for all presenters to get some training on news-style TV reporting. It will help with virtual talks [such as using Ustream and interacting with virtual audience too] (@jeffhurt)

15. Use "the Favorite Game" as an interesting way to create an online interview for blog or website post (Kristin Clarke)

16. Ask attendees what they'd like for the next year's conference, and post them on your association site. At a minimum, shows you heard them. (@ljunker)

17. Think about why and how you use "celebrities" - Candy Spelling at an association executives conference? At the trade show? On a stage? [I don't even want to talk about my experiences with Fabio and Erik Estrada at NAR meetings - or how surreal it was to hear Florence Henderson stop by a National Directors meet to sing "God Bless America"]

18. Last tip: Read attendee blog summaries to see what they learned ... or call an attendee and ask!

Thanks to all who presented and posted!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

15 Thoughts from a Virtual Attendee (ASAE09)

First, the acronym: ASAE09 is the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) 2009 Meeting & Expo - held in Toronto the past few days. This year I was a virtual attendee. Meaning, I didn't go to Toronto - but tried to see what I could learn through social media, while it was happening; along with seeing what to possibly incorporate into my own organization and/or presentations.

What I learned about conference sites, materials, and preparing for social media users:

1. Conference site needs to change before, during and after a conference to reach changing audience needs.
2. Post handouts early. Helps attendees decide what to attend. Great for virtual attendees too. [Note: Great handouts posted anyone can look at now too!]
3. Keep schedule and speaker bios posted so virtual attendees know what/who in the world the Twitter users are talking about when they shorten session and speaker names to "Li" and "Jeff DC".
4. Don't over-complicate it. Those attending virtually likely already use social media.
5. Live-stream when can, and if on video post on YouTube as soon as possible. Loved those.
6. Try UStream for individual sessions. It's free and it worked. One speaker, Jeff De Cagna, totally engaged virtual attendees by conversing with us on UStream and taking twitter questions while live audience did group exercises. [Note: fast forward at least 15 min if you watch the video]
7. Have your meeting rooms prepared for attendees with electronics - wireless, extension cords, outlets.
8. Surveying attendees. Live attendees got an electronic survey. Virtual should too.
9. Consider prize drawing. Trade show and live attendees had prize drawings, announced on Twitter. Maybe there should have been one for virtual attendees? (and NOT for "most tweets")
10. Add Twitter to announcement options - ASAE announced range of lost & found items on Twitter. Also posts with links to names of award recipients and names of prize winners. That's easy to do.

If you are tweeting a conference: (and want to be nice to virtual attendees)

1. Use your camera phone more. I was dying to see what the Build-A-Bears that created huge lines in the ASAE trade show actually looked like (the bears themselves, not the line); the "cool" business cards mentioned; and who Velma is (the incoming chair of ASAE). No pics. Although I did find Velma [Hart] on ASAE site.

2. Thank you for using the hashtag and adding links. Found so much info due to the correct use of hashtags by attendees using Twitter. There were 500+ who sent at least one tweet. Many were likely tweeting for their own followers - but all virtual attendees could benefit from their use of links to handouts, etc.

3. Be careful with big twibbon (or adjust your photo accordingly). [Sorry: new word alert - click and you'll recognize a twibbon] Noticed Livestrong, anti-Michael Vick helmets, a planet-theme globe/ball and words Yap and Star image across an opaque gray bar. Virtual attendees may not know you, so don't obstruct your face [Note: on TweetDeck twibboned image can look like a star is coming out of your nose or a ball coming out of your mouth.] A clear unobstructed photo or avatar will help virtual attendees see you.

Lesson: Twibbons can be a great way to show a cause. But try them out for size. Less is more when dealing with extremely small images that display.

4. Keep showing us tips. Really appreciated when tweets included very specific tips - that's what we hope to leave any conference with - even virtually. Will post my favorite tips in separate post tomorrow.

5. Teach by example. A few attendees announced on Twitter they wanted to share a cab from/to airport. Good idea. I'm always scanning cab lines seeing if any chance someone at same conference to share a cab with. Will try a "who's in line at O'Hare" tweet. As we watch how ASAE and its attendees use so many communications methods, it's helpful in learning what to do (or not do or change) in our own associations.

Thanks to all involved!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Snappy Video about AE Connecting ...

Check out this music video ASAE did for their Annual Meeting & Expo in Toronto ...

1. Singers and musicians from various associations;
2. The messages: "connect with me," "reaching out a hand to hold," "when you want some understanding," "an ear to lend," etc.
3. On YouTube the same day it played at the meeting.

This profession would be less enjoyable and far more difficult without AE connections.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Those Cartoon Avatars on Twitter and Facebook

I've been noticing cute and fairly accurate cartoon avatars of people I know on Facebook and Twitter. Asked a colleague where she created hers. Here's the answer:

"It was something AMC did to promote the upcoming season of Mad Men. Here's the link."

Not a red enough hair color option for me though!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Affirmation of the Day

The original version of this quote is in a post on a real estate agent site (AgentGenius) - but I believe by switching one word [in brackets], can apply to association execs. While granting that there are those things beyond repair and strengthening [see Serenity Prayer for that].

Today's affirmation:

"I am in a constant state of evaluation - I will repair only what is broken, strengthen what is weak, revitalize what is worn, and will always be open-minded to change and the desires of my [members] - they are what matter most."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Team building idea for a challenging economy

With association line items on the chopping block in a challenging economy, team-building efforts and planning sessions can be restructured, downsized or entirely eliminated. I recently attended a session that had limited actual issues discussion or training, and instead focused on all of us getting to know each other and working together on random things. Because the session was in a destination known for arts, the focus was art.

The activities: arts and crafts. Materials are easily found in many homes or available at low costs from many stores: Colored chalk, watercolor paint, magazines (for cutting out pictures), magic markers, glitter, yarn, pipe cleaners, canvas, etc. Facilitators, if needed, can be local art teachers (from schools, camps, studios, youth programs, churches).

In one activity we worked in groups to define the coming year on giant canvases. Did individual drawings on notebook paper, then discussed what a design would look like on a flip chart, then put the image on a canvas (the size of a queen-sized bed) using variety of art supplies. Bonus: We discussed the coming year.

In another activity, we went to an art studio (could just as easily have been a large garage, barn or school/church activity room) and worked in small groups to do self-portraits. One group of 6 did watercolors, another did "Picassos" of themselves with chalk, another had materials for 3-dimension "sculptures", the last did collages using magazine pictures. It was stuff I used to do in vacation bible school when a tween - except without the religion. Then we judged pictures on "best in show", "looks most like the artist", "most likely to sell commercially." Bonus: We discovered real artistic talents in the group.

1. Team-building can be creative and inexpensive. There is value in fun group activities.
2. Think about the types of activities youth groups do - how about a whiffle ball or kickball game? With room for cheerleaders for those who'd rather support from the sidelines. Even pizza and bowling could be lower cost then big dinner events. Or remember doing paper mache with a certain theme on coke bottles?
3. Have you considered facilities like school buildings and art studios for your session?
4. Shorten the update part. Session ended with a 45-minute summary of what happening and expected in each area of organizational focus. Presenters had two-minutes each to give highlights for their area of focus. That was actually plenty of time and participants still managed to get overview of scope of everything needing to be accomplished in the coming year. Does association staff traditionally spend too much time on the "update" sections thinking leaders have to get lots and lots of details about everything? What happens if they get 2 minutes each?

A bonus to participation in association activities is often characterized as "the people I met." Give them a shared experience that doesn't have anything to do with debating issues or listening to updates the entire time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Modern Grammar Rules?

It was bad enough that my daughter had a "talk" with me about some unwritten rule about frequency of posting pictures with status on Facebook ... but then I found this in my Twitter feed (via @joerominiecki):

"Want to show everyone how freakin' old you are? Keep putting two spaces after periods when you type." Which then points to a Grammar Girl article.

Uh oh, no two spaces? Read the article and you can learn the difference between monospaced fonts on typewriters and proportional fonts on computers. With the latter leading to the "logical" use of one space after a period.

I've been typing (quickly, I might add) since 8th grade typing class. Not sure this can be unlearned.

Separately, the same article also differentiates when an animal is a "who" and not a "that." And agrees the beloved family pet gets to be a who, while you can consider anyone else's pet or random animal a that.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Outdoor events: that sinking feeling

Nothing like outdoor events ... that can include sinking into the grass if wearing heels. Here's a solution. Only $10. The other solution is flat heels.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Taking Questions from the Crowd

I was just on a webinar that included 110 people. When questions were opened to the attendees there was a choice of either asking a question via chat, or saying it into the phone. Leaving phone lines open for 110 people meant we also heard dogs barking, phones ringing, people being greeted, and lots of coughing.

When taking questions from the crowd on a webinar, I believe all should have to submit questions via chat, submit questions in advance, or some method where a question can be asked without 110 phone lines open "for sound". It was remarkably difficult to hear until they muted all the lines to hear the answer.

The same is true with live forums involving larger groups. When the floor is open for anyone to ask anything 3 things are nearly always guaranteed to happen: a) a huge amount of time spent with people giving random thoughts on any topic whatsoever (may not even involve a question)- which frankly can waste everyone's time; b) an emcee might be running around the room with a microphone which also takes a huge amount of time with everyone watching the person run around; c) those in the audience start yelling out questions thinking they are "loud enough" (when they aren't) and everyone sits staring and not hearing the question, which then has to be repeated. Or not repeated, then attendees in the back start openly yelling "use the mike, use the mike, repeat the question, repeat the question."

The better way to handle crowd questions, in my opinion:

1. Distribute index cards and have someone other than the main emcee collect them during the presentation and during question/answer period;
2. Set up microphones and require all to go to them. Instruct at the start of the Q&A that time is for questions, and to please refrain from additional comments not directly related to the topic;
3. If webinar, as mentioned above, require use of submitted questions, chat, or a service feature that blocks out any sounds other than the phone line of the person notifying that he/she wants to ask a voice question on an individual line.

And I've already blogged about my personal pet peeve on any conference call: no talking about the weather when you're using other people's business time. Start the call, conference or webinar on time without extraneous openings or time-wasters.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Awkward Social Media Moment: My Un-Friend

Facebook suggested a friend for me today, complete with picture of a colleague. Furrowing my brow, I thought it weird as we're already Facebook Friends. OR SO I THOUGHT. Checked my Friends list: Gone. This could mean: Un-Friended! So then comes the awkward social media moment:

1. Do I send a Facebook message and ask what's up with this directly?
2. Do I just glare at him from afar at conferences knowing he's a new Un-Friend?
3. Do I pull a grade-school move and have someone snoop around about it?
4. Should I introduce him as my UFF (Un-Friend Forever) at business events? You know, the social media version of having an "Ex".

My daughter who was forced to listen to my Facebook tale of woe tells me she's been re-friended because friends have had their sites hacked and then needed to start all over again. So maybe that's it.

I recently read an article about how "painful" the Facebook "Friend Suggestions" can be as they sometimes pull up the last person someone wants to see - like a stalker, or the person who broke up their marriage, or someone they seriously dislike. And there are surely people on any given list who you wouldn't mind Un-Friending you (at all) ...

Does social media now create new awkward relationships? Should I print out the list of my Facebook Friends so I can start sadly drawing red X's through their pictures if they leave me? [Note: I don't think the Un-Friend thing should matter at all if you don't actually know the "Friend" in real life.]

So, for those who keep me, thanks so much for being my Friend. I'd notice if you were gone.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reconnecting with Meeting Invitees who Declined

As mentioned before, I really love the FREE online program MeetingWizard. Use it to identify meeting dates that could work for a group, to confirm meetings, create attendance rosters, and more. One feature it has is sending a meeting reminder to attendees. What I didn't realize until this week is that it also sends an email to those who indicated they could not attend. Here's the text:

"This is an automated reminder for the following meeting event: [details listed]

You have indicated that you are unavailable for this meeting event. If you wish to change your response, please e-mail the organizer. You may view more details by clicking the following link: [link to original meeting notice.]"

As a result, three people who had initially indicated conflicts with meetings this week responded their plans changed and emailed they can now attend.

In the past I've assumed if someone says they can't attend that it made sense to stop sending meeting reminders. It may make sense to check in with those indicating they can't attend a meeting with their own special message 2-3 days before the meeting, like MeetingWizard. I don't think sending the same message to all attendees is as effective as this.

Monday, July 20, 2009

6 Random Career Tips

Ripped these out of a magazine I brought on a flight - Marie Claire (July 2009)

Tips for Personal Business Cards (by Leslie Barrie):

1. Use your last job title. Never anything "cutsie" like Chief Idea Officer.
2. Don't list more than one phone number.
3. Stick with simple cards. But not the free ones that give away they're free.

Don't Twitter Yourself Out of a Job (by Mina Shaghaghi):

1. Keep your politics private.
2. Never Twitter or update a status to criticize your job.
3. If not part of your job, only Twitter at lunch. Work ethic might be questioned with frequent updates during workday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Example of small thing that makes difference

Noticed an association keeps their extra rolls of toilet paper stacked in a fabric-lined basket. Looks much better than just leaving a stack of rolls visible in its original plastic wrap (like my association.)

Small things can make a difference.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Um, because we don't have weekend, holiday, evening hours

For the second time in 10 days I've noticed members using social media to solve problems or answer other user questions because our office is closed. One wanted to know if system was down on a holiday (and asked other Facebook users who immediately responded it was up); another didn't know how to get access when device lost (including #$% symbols about it on Twitter) - and got a fast answer from another member .... on a Sunday.

1. If the association/office help-desk isn't open on weekends, holidays and evenings - how do we expect users to get answers on weekends, holidays and evenings? The website may have FAQ section and training videos, but user may be on Blackberry or other device not wanting to fumble with site; or the site may not feature a perceived immediate problem. Such as, is the program having a problem?

2. Asking the crowd is new way for answers on everything from what restaraunt should I go to though what the (expletive) is wrong with my association's program. How much do YOU love going to any site or manual to find an answer to an immediate problem versus seeing if you can find anyone quickly who can just answer it?

3. If users are helping each other, it's a good thing. Well, unless they give the wrong answer ... or unless it stirs up trouble when no real problem. But if I'm not there on the sites (nor any other staff person) when this is happening, at a minimum it's worth thanking those who are trying to eliminate frustrations for others by giving assistance via social media.

4. Those who aren't our members on these sites get to find out about the problems (or perceived problems) too. Love it or hate it, there's no denying that your association and its programs will be discussed on social media - and the sphere is not just other members.

Note to self: You can't control this.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reality TV: Your Association

At a recent meeting a woman was talking about her "brilliant and innovative" association executive ... so I was all ears ... And turns out she was talking about my pal Carol Van Gorp. Because ...

Carol has her 600-member association on "TV" ... Specifically:

1. Bought the domain name with her association acronym and extension .tv
2. Signed up for free video-service Ustream
3. Purchased a $350 Sony Handycam (because digital cameras don't live stream well)
4. Started live-streaming association meetings, info and courses

Then I found an article about it, and Carol is quoted: “no matter what fabulous program the association offered live, members said they’re too busy, there’s too much traffic, too much something to attend. So now we take our association to their desktop.” The service also enables the association to password-protect content and saves a copy of the live broadcast to be viewed later.

Results included converting some online watchers to live meeting participants; and having much larger numbers see association programming and discussions.

Remember, this is a small association doing this with a $350 camera! Reality TV, association style.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

10 Tips for Older Job Applicants

Well it's fairly shocking the definition of "older" as it relates to employment ... and recent news articles have stories (and comments sections) with tips for "older" job applicants embedded in them ... Including these 10 tips:

1. Delete year of college graduation from resume
2. Reduce number of years resume covers
3. Switch from a mainly chronological/experience resume to one with heavy focus on skills
4. If downsizing position - remove awards and advanced degree/s (i.e., reduce it reading "you're way overqualified")
5. Know latest software programs, technologies and social networking
6. Include Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook on resume ... and use them
7. Have gmail domain - apparently it's more "modern" than AOL
8. Focus on recent accomplishments in interviews - not what you accomplished a long time ago
9. Networking is crucial - consider everyone a contact (in one article - the dog-walker knew of job)
10. (Hate these ... but ... ) ... hair dye, Botox, how you dress ... yes, those apparently on the list ...

And all who are employed should be really, really grateful for the opportunity to work.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Three decades ago? Yikes.

Something happened today that made me feel old: the Sony Walkman turned 30. I think I can mark time by what technology I was using ..... my Smith Corona typewriter with the correctable cartridge, FORTRAN (IF THEN GO TO) and the Walkman in college ... Wang with Lotus 1-2-3 and my very first so-called "portable" Mac (a carrying case does not mean easy to carry) in the early eighties at NAR ... the exciting moments of explaining how to put thermal paper in a dumb terminal for electronic communication in the mid-eighties (yes, I was your first online MLS instructor) ... and on and on ... and on.

Happy birthday, Sony Walkman. You make me feel old.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

9 Thoughts after 2 Months on Twitter

9 more thoughts after 2 months on Twitter (in no particular order) ...

1. Maintaining 2 identities: There's difference of opinion about whether it's good or bad to have two separate identities on Twitter - and the challenge of doing that. My opinion is that if it's an "organization" using Twitter but a staff person has personal opinion on other topics - it's not the same. Now that news media, legislators, the Governor, Members of Congress, business groups may follow (or just watch) an association on Twitter, the organization's "name" should likely be mindful of that. It is, however, difficult to remember to switch back and forth depending on if you're speaking as the organization, or as you.

2. More lingo to learn: There are Twitter abbreviations and acronyms to learn. Here's a dictionary.

3. Should you care what's said? (Yes) Mark Cuban has interesting blog post saying maybe no one should care what people write about them because in reality there are not many listening (and potentially no one listening). I think it matters because of Google. They may not be listening the day something is written or even the year it's written ... but if it can be found in Google, then one of these days it may have an impact you won't realize.

4. Learn TweetDeck: Wished I had set-up and learned TweetDeck at the outset. Allows you to set up columns to only watch what you want to watch, to follow hashtags easily, to add pictures easily, to shorten URLs, Re-Tweet instantly, and to watch search terms. I've found it valuable to have a search column with the word Maine - although there's a ton of tweets out there about a band named The Maine, a Mets player with the last name Maine, and Maine coon cats.

5. Why buy the cow: The best thing about social media training is it's either free or close to free (the most expensive social media program I know about is $75). The community of participants using social media like Twitter openly share info, even in live settings. Many livestream or post video so you can watch (free) without attending. And it's incorporated into most conferences you're likely attending. If you need advanced training, call a few people and teach each other. This is the best deal going in a bad economy.

6. Joys of uses less characters than (to reduce long URLs). And if you have an account it will keep analytics on how many people click your link. Like everything else, it's free too.

7. Authentic deceit: A few days before the truth came out about South Carolina Governor being in Argentina, I read a tweet from someone saying they just saw the SC Gov on the Appalachian Trail. So when the Appalachian Trail info came out it made me think that maybe Twitter did have inside scoop. But it wasn't truth. If you want to be deceitful, Twitter's an easy tool for that too. Who really knows what's authentic? It's not obvious. As the saying goes: Trust, then verify. Even on Twitter.

8. Etiquette and engagement: I bet everyone has opinion about what is or isn't etiquette on Twitter - and there's no right or wrong (only definite personal opinion about it.) Sending auto-responders to those who follow you may seem less personal to the recipient than if you sent nothing. Deciding not to respond to every question is like not answering every email, taking every call, responding to a news story, or meeting everyone who wants to meet with you. We each have finite amounts of time, and for better or worse the decision about how much time there is to engage is the same on Twitter (and all social media) as it is in real life.

9. Need to facilitate Twitter: Much association info that may have a consumer component should be in Twitter-ready format to encourage it's redistribution. Need to figure out when and how to do that.

Here are earlier Twitter posts: my first 15 thoughts, and 5 (Bad) Lessons.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why not pick what many people like?

I'm not sure if this is stating the obvious - but is a reason certain foods are typically available and selected because there are a lot of people who like them?

At a recent conference an attendee handed out single-packs of Reese's peanut butter cups - with a sticker with his Twitter name. I've also received weird candy in the past that maybe other attendees may find they really like ... or they'd ignore it, or dislike it.

Recently I checked into a hotel after midnight after traveling for many hours. Awaiting me in my room was a note from the manager - and a chalkboard with a display of mole salami, a jar of roasted tomatoes and crackers tied in twine - along with the explanation of what I was looking at. I didn't expect anything in my room, but when there was something there I starting dreaming of "typical" stuff - cheese/crackers (sans twine), grapes, chocolate dipped strawberries or even chocolate chip cookies. Not tomatoes in a jar. (Although it was really nice of them.)

Is a quirky pick a good idea to show uniqueness, or is there a reason to go with a likely sure thing? Maybe conferences have a lot of chicken and beef, but do you really want to see if lamb is popular or not? Or why pick two weird salad dressing choices instead of fan favorites?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Annoying: Cancelled vs. Canceled

I'm deeply into my career and still don't have certainty about if the correct spelling is "cancelled" or "canceled". I could link to all the conflicting info, but won't.

Today I cancelled a meeting. And spell check rejected it. Checked numerous sources as I've done numerous times and kept as cancelled (not canceled) because it looks wrong the other way.

Spell check on this blog program didn't flag either spelling. Maybe they're both right?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

5 (Bad) Twitter Lessons

This online story has some classic examples of Twitter gone bad, compliments of singer Usher's soon-to-be ex-wife Tameka. And since I don't personally know Usher and never followed either of them on Twitter - I can't even tell you if the reported story is remotely true - but think the lessons apply to all Twitter users regardless of the circumstances.

1. Watch out for the Direct Messages. I learned my first week on Twitter how easy it is to accidentally send a direct message (DM) meant for one person out to everyone. Story says Tameka thought she was sending a Direct (private) Message to Star Jones complaining about how "horrible" her divorce attorney is - but instead sent it to everyone. So people learned they were in fact getting a divorce and she created a little issue with a very public criticism. Lesson: Don't send anything out on Direct Message you wouldn't want the world to see. They probably will see it if you handle the D or DM wrong - and it turns into a Reply (to all). You're one space away from that typing mistake.

2. Follow You, Follow Me? Twitter users apparently noticed that Tameka was following Usher on Twitter, but he wasn't following her. Ouch. And she got really defensive about the accusations. So, if you don't follow someone, it means you have a relationship issue with them - or it's a one-way relationship? No wonder Twitter is full of thousands of people following thousands people they surely aren't really following (reading). Perception.

3. Being defined (negatively) by the types of things you post. The article has this description, "One would think that [Tameka] would have Twitter mastered by now, as she regularly uses the social networking site to misquote Bible verses and inspirational affirmations lifted from various spiri
tual gurus." Don't we all get defined by what we're blogging or twittering about too? What would you say about me - "she regularly complains about how much she hates to fly which is probably because it means she's missing today's Oprah." I remember reading blog posts by a new association exec and based on the content all I could think is that I'd be surprised if she lasted two years in day-to-day association management. She didn't.

4. Authenticity is as fake as you want to make it. Although apparently separated for a year, she's accused of disguising their non-relationship by tweeting love notes and giving random reports - such as saying Usher was at the grocery store. The famous New Yorker cartoon (of a dog typing at a computer) "on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog" applies to Twitter too. Anyone can create and report any kind of fake life and fake info. The word authentic is included every other word in the way evangelists describe Twitter. Please, how do any of us know what is and is not authentic - especially on Twitter? How can people really call someone out for a post if they have absolutely no idea about that person's real life? Maybe Tameka was reporting real things. How would anyone else really know? Comedian Kathy Griffin tweets that she's involved with Larry King and Sanjaya - I think it makes a point.

5. Another way for a direct attack. Whether celebrity or association, Twitter provides yet another way for a direct attack by gossipers, enemies or anyone wishing to "create" a story. And it's an easy way to spread any info put out there. Really, really easy. Whether we like it or not.

Coming soon: What I've learned my second month on Twitter.