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.