Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Don't have these 4 Association Conversations in Public

Why do business people risk private conversations in public settings?

Taking the morning off, I had breakfast by myself at a restaurant. I was a forgettable presence in my jeans, fleece, Oprah magazine and reading glasses.

In walked two people who were seated at a table next to me, who I knew, but they did not know me. And it was a job interview. Clearly they must have thought that I was disinterested in what they had to say, along with others there, because the conversation was happening as if it was private. In the middle of a restaurant. Could I do damage with the information from that discussion? Could others?

A few weeks ago a very annoying executive spent close to 30 minutes going over his entire strategy for a case that was happening, while we both waited for our cars to be repaired. I was trying to work and he was loud and arrogant. He was blatantly unconcerned about the fact that my blackberry could have taped his conversation, and he had no way of knowing if I was an attorney for the other side of the situation. Did I know who he was when his car was ready and his name was called?

For as much is said about revealing too much online, there is way too much revealed by having private conversations in very public settings. If you underestimate those sitting near you, it's possible the one who hopes the conversation is confidential may find it wasn't.

Here are 4 association conversations that should not be done in a restaurant or other public location: (includes conversation on cell phone in public location)

1. A job interview
2. An employee evaluation
3. Legal strategy
4. Legislative strategy

Others present are likely under no obligation to keep your public discussion private. If there is someone sitting a few feet away from you, it's not private.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New word: Thank-a-thon

I learned a new word: thank-a-thon. Last week, two association execs participating in a twitter chat used the term in reference to efforts to thank members.

What I understood it to mean is staff setting aside a specific date/time to churn out a large volume of thank yous to members; or a designated event where the purpose is to do specific thank you outreach to volunteers (which could be volunteers and/or staff).

Thank-a-thons do not have to be about making phone calls (and some, like me, may not want to get phone calls) - it could be writing email, sending personal cards or personal notes.

Naturally, I also had to Google it - and found an organization that has scripted phone calls as part of its thank-a-thon, with varied purposes for the effort besides just saying thanks:

1. Cultivating donors: Saying thanks and explaining where their money went and/or brief updates
2. Feedback: Saying thanks and asking if they have input, suggestions or questions (then be sure to follow-up if they do)
3. Participation: Saying thanks and asking if they have interest in participating in events or activities; and learn from their response
4. Leads: Say thanks and ask if they know of others who may be interested in joining the organization, attend events or being more involved

That organization also indicated thank-a-thons should not be about asking for money, but if someone offers to contribute, to be prepared to take their donation.

For more on giving thanks, check out this excellent blog post on the importance of setting aside time to give thanks, and the importance of keeping track of who deserves to be thanked.

You could likely list people just from today to thank. So thank them, and thank-a-thon.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Say it in 90 Seconds

What if you needed to describe what matters most in 90 seconds?

Yesterday, 28 associations met with our Governor-Elect to give ideas about what could improve the business climate in Maine. Organized by two association execs, each participating association got 90 seconds to highlight its top concern(s); with the option to provide further detail and/or additional concerns in writing. Each association had one member (could not be association staff) "at the table"; and could have up to 3 additional (max) attending in the audience (CEO, lobbyist, other member/staff.)

A huge amount of info was communicated, including significant time at the end for Q&A, in about 90 minutes. An accomplishment that would seem unlikely when getting direct input and involvement of 28 groups.

The AE moderating the session had a yellow card to indicate that 60 seconds were up; and a red card to indicate time was up (30 seconds later). It worked amazingly well, and here's why:

1. All participating were told the time limit at the outset invitation to the meeting.
2. The 2 time-used cards were very visible to all, and she was sitting directly next to the Governor-Elect so speaker could not miss it.
3. If only 90 seconds, there is no choice but to be very specific and focused.

Note: The first speaker spent time explaining the size and purpose of that association, and ran out of time before even getting to an issue. Everyone following only said their name, business, and association - and got instantly into the issue.

4. Encouraging delivery of additional comments in writing ensured all knew they would have their entire message and issues delivered too.

Also, the media was invited and sufficient space was provided around the table for the photographers and news cameras to move around during the discussion. Which is another kudo to the AE organizing the function - the meeting was positively set up to facilitate media interaction - from a lobby area for media interviews, to place cards with names of attendees/organizations, to having it able to be live-streamed.

Lesson: Say it in 90 seconds. It's enough time to deliver what is most important, has no choice but to include relevant sound bites, and keeps the meeting moving.

It was a great format for delivering info from a large number of associations.