Sunday, February 28, 2010

4 Life Lessons for an AE - From the Helm

My colleague Susie writes a column, "From the Helm," in her association magazine. A recent issue includes advice that she says sticks in her head ...

1. "You don't even know me" - when visiting a member (at a prior association) he informed her that his company is 15% of the membership, but she didn't spend much time with him or know him well. She did after that. Her message: You need to know where your business comes from too - just like your members do.

2. "When someone is looking for a fight, don't give in to them" - a disgruntled former employee sent retaliatory and accusatory email out. Her response: none. He went away as it's difficult to fight with someone who won't fight you back. Her message: "some things are worth fighting for, but sometimes you just have to let it go."

3. "Wear something befitting your position in the community" - At an association "night" at a large basketball arena, she was selected to shoot a free throw at halftime - and made it! Was very glad she didn't just wear jeans and a t-shirt because 100 members were there, and the picture was in the local newspaper. Her message: You represent your association when you walk out the door.

4. "Put on your lipstick, Susie" - At a chaotic event, a member leaned over to her and said "put on your lipstick, Susie." The message: Even if everything around you is falling apart, it is important to have the appearance of having it together.

Susie says these 4 lessons help "present a good knowledge of members, a calm demeanor, a decent presentation of myself and self-assuredness."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Best Definition of Transparency in Associations

Finally ... a great definition about transparency in associations ... by Dave Phillips, in his Chairman's article in REALTOR AE magazine (Winter 2010): [emphasis mine]

"The first step is to understand what transparency means in an organizational context. In the past transparency simply meant that you freely shared information with your members, but today it means much more.

More than telling the simple truth about what you did, transparency is the act of making known your intentions - what you are thinking about doing, how you are planning to think about it, who is going to be involved, and why you are thinking about doing it.

Then, after you have completed whatever it is you set out to do, you have to tell members what you did and why. The new transparency is no longer just about allowing members to see what the association has done; it's about inviting them to observe the process, and even to get involved."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can association executives ever skate to perfection?

How perfect are we at our best?

Two recent blog posts on the ASAE site got my attention … One, where the writer says if association executives casually discuss problems at their association with other association executives it's some sort of a breach of professionalism; then another that says it "sucks" to try to be perfect when perfectionism is what we believe is expected of us. My thoughts:

1. We can't be perfect. Even if all association executives did was ten things instead of hundreds of things, perfectionism is an impossible standard. If we delegate to any degree internally then we have to rely on staff. If we hire outside experts we have to rely on them. If we do it ourselves, we either need to convince ourselves that it's possible to be an expert at everything; or believe that humans and/or computer systems don't inherently have the potential to be fallible, and then somehow rise above that to be perfect. It's not possible.

2. The best place to learn is from each other. I can't imagine how many potential problems I was able to avoid in my career because another association executive shared something that went wrong at his/her own association -- and I either immediately thought "uh, oh" or when a similar situation arose I had already given some thought to that potential problem. Because a big part of what we do in association management includes volunteers, yes, sometimes a problem could have a "people" aspect to it. When I do programs for new association executives I believe they actually learn more from how many things have gone wrong in my career compared with the very vast number of things that have gone right.
And if you don't tell me what went wrong at your association, how will I know how to avoid doing that exact same thing too?

I was inspired by a back story on Olympic speed skater Apolo Ono where in discussing his training said that he approaches every day thinking "is this the best I can be." Then I think of the short track speed skating races where there are false starts, disqualifications, legs cut on blades, pushing, getting outmatched, mental roadblocks, high expectations - and that's just for an athlete doing one thing over and over. And where the ice conditions and distance are predictable.

We can wake up each morning with a dream of being the best we can be, and we can train, and consider ourselves an elite professional - but like speed skating we absolutely cannot control all the variables that impact our runs. We can watch the tapes, we can be coached, we can train, we can do the same races over and over. But part of our professional legacy has to be allowing ourselves to be part of those tapes - the ones with "the agony of defeat" that serve to warn and help others. And, unfortunately, we can't will ourselves to be perfect. Because regardless of our sport or our career, there's a human element.

Monday, February 15, 2010

One must-have (at all times) for Association CEOs

What item does an association CEO need to have available at all times: A blazer.

Here are 4 reasons (special thanks to colleague Ginger Downs who relays this to groups of new association execs) ....

1. Media: Any number of events or tragedies could cause you to need to be on-camera with a statement from your association with very little notice. You may not have time to either quickly shop or go home to change.

2. Angry Members: If an angry member arrives at your office, and you need to address the situation, put on your blazer. A blazer does give a show of authority that is often necessary when resolving problems.

3. Unexpected testimony and meetings: If you are called to testify before any governmental group because an unexpected development occurred that you need to address in person, or find you have a meeting scheduled you weren't anticipating, you'll likely wish you had business attire. Casual offices doesn't mean everyone else's office is casual, or that your members will hope to find you dressed casually. A blazer can make a big difference.

4. The Wrong Dress Code: Ever show up to speak at an event and find the audience interpreted the dress code differently from what you were expecting? Or, the room could be a million times colder than you were expecting. Always bring a blazer along to any speaking engagement ... just in case.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Associations can learn from "Blind Side" marketing

How do we as associations engage our base, and grow it?

I'm fascinated with an article in the New York Times about the movie "The Blind Side" that includes a description about how they built an audience base. Such as:

"In this case Grace Hill [Media] took the unusual step of offering online sermon outlines based on 'The Blind Side,' with clips that could be used in churches equipped with video screens. According to Mr. Johnson and Mr. Kosove, about 23,000 churches downloaded the sermons, laying an exceptionally strong base for the film."


1. Online outlines and clips. How good are we (really) at giving outlines and clips to be downloaded and delivered?
2. Where's your possible audience? Some of what we do might be completely appropriate for discussion in a sermon - do we ever think to work outside of our traditional audiences for messages for our respective industries?
3. Relate to me. How much thought is given to who is delivering the message to draw in the audience? The article says real football coaches appealed to sports fans, Tim McGraw to country fans, and others to other demographics. Do associations change up its messengers for its various audiences?

And speaking of that movie: Go Sandra Bullock. Hope she wins the Academy Award.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

6 tips for a less chaotic webinar or conference call

If you're hosting a webinar (or conference call), be sure to do these 6 things:

1. On the same email you send to participants with dial-in/log-in instructions, include: a) how to mute the call when listening; b) how to un-mute the call; c) how to ask a question during the call

2. Go over those 3 details again at the START of the call (remind them it's on their email too), AND when it's time to take questions. If you only have instructions on a slide, and then REMOVE that slide from view, the Participants might not remember how to un-mute or ask a question when it's time.

3. If you have a feature where attendees can "raise their hand" to ask a question, be sure to maintain control of that as the process. If dozens of people can just start asking questions at any time, by speaking into the phone, while others are "raising their hands" using the web system, it gets chaotic.

4. Have the list of email addresses and phone numbers of attendees. If a participant does something wrong during the call, and you can figure out who it is - you'll have three ways to TRY to track them down to correct it -- that is, email, text and phone. (For example, when an attendee takes another call in the middle of your webinar without muting - and no one can hear anything but that phone conversation; or they put the call on hold and everyone gets to her their hold music/message). OR, if you don't know who it is, send an email out to everyone saying THIS IS YOUR WEBINAR HOST - PLEASE DISCONNECT IF YOU ARE TAKING ANOTHER CALL OR PLACED THE CALL ON HOLD.

Better yet, find out in advance if you as the host have the ability, and then how, to mute everyone on the call - especially if that happens.

5. Respect everyone's time. Do not say over and over "who's here? who's here?" especially if you're just going to do a roll call at the start of the call anyway. Ask your call or web provider HOW you can tell who is there. You SHOULD have a process to have the attendee names appear as "present" or require them to "sign in" as part of the log-in process.

6. And my pet peeve: can we ever escape from the "how's the weather" discussion while we wait to start on any conference call or webinar? Some calls I try to arrive exactly at the start time just to avoid the host going on and on about weather everywhere. Pick ANY topic but that one - or just say "I know you're all multi-tasking so we'll wait for the roll-call to start talking".