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May 31, 2007

Second Life marches on

As another entry in the annals of “look who’s on Second Life now,” this article caught my eye: Swedes open embassy in Second Life.

Apparently the new digital embassy will include an art exhibition, pictures of Sweden, fact sheets, and radio news via iPod—but no consular services.


A variety of voices

The May issue of Associations Now featured a column from Bruce Butterfield and Susan Fox urging readers to educate themselves about the perspectives and needs of the millennial generation. We received an interesting e-mail in response from Brynn Grumstrup Slate, which I’m posting here with Brynn’s permission:

As an engaged ASAE member and a member of the Millennial generation, I appreciated the column “Preparing for the Millennial Tsunami” in the May issue of Associations Now. The article would have been even more effective, however, if it had integrated the voice of a Millennial in addition to the experienced views of Bruce Butterfield and Susan Fox and shared a first person perspective on the work habits and career goals of this emerging group.

Although much of our generation is still in school, a sizeable number have already joined the workforce and are striving to make a difference as members of association staffs. One third of the staff at my AMC is made up of Millennials and we are hardworking, dedicated, and keenly interested in both learning from more experienced peers and sharing our own ideas and strategies.

To truly keep abreast of the evolving association workforce,
Associations Now needs to feature articles not just about Millennials, but by them. As Butterfield and Fox mention in their column, Millennials are eager to connect and to collaborate. I urge you to feature voices from across generations, allowing association professionals of all ages the opportunity to be enriched by one another.

I certainly agree with Brynn that Associations Now (and other ASAE & The Center publications) should feature writers from all generations. As an editor, I want to encourage a richness of dialogue and content that’s only possible when writers come from all walks of life. Dominance by a few generational groups (or ethnic groups, or socioeconomic groups …) immediately dilutes that richness, and keeps us from hearing things we need to hear to keep the association community cutting edge and relevant.

But at the same time, I always get nervous about the possibility of tokenism—picking authors like ingredients in a recipe, focusing more on who they are than what they have to say.

Clearly there’s a balance here, and it’s one that any editor is used to aiming for. But I’d be curious to hear what Acronym readers think. What ideas would you suggest for increasing the diversity of authors in an association publication (not just at ASAE & The Center, but at any association)? What about increasing the diversity of involvement in all decisions an association makes?

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May 21, 2007

It's time to blog!

It is with great excitement that I write my very first post on the Acronym blog! As I have for the last couple of years, I am helping ASAE & The Center with the blogging effort for the Annual Meeting in Chicago this August. Rather than launch a separate meeting blog, however, we all agreed that it made more sense to simply blog Chicago right here on Acronym, and I'm delighted to be a part of the effort. In the months ahead, I'll share many ideas, insights and questions that will help you prepare for the Annual Meeting, and perhaps look at the experience through a slightly different lens.

To get things started, here is my first question for you: would you like to blog with us?

That's right, we're looking for some enthusiastic want-to-be bloggers to join the Annual Meeting crew. If you think you'd like to work with us, I hope you will put up a sample blog post as a comment below. Please do that no later than next Tuesday, May 29. We'll take a look at all of the sample posts and announce the selected bloggers by June 1.

Don't worry if you've never blogged before. While previous blogging experience is a plus, it is much more important that your writing brings a fresh perspective to our conversation on associations, explores provocative ideas that will push our thinking and demonstrates a good sense of humor and a willingness to poke fun, especially at yourself.

Does that sound like you? If so, we can't wait to read your sample post. Dazzle us!

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May 17, 2007

Episode 2: CEO Agreements: 5 Things to Get In Writing!

Association Management: Interesting Things No One Tells You

Association management is wild and whacky—there’s so much that no one tells you. Like walking into a glass door, some of the learning experiences can be unexpectedly jarring.

Episode 2: CEO Agreements: 5 Things to Get In Writing!

Want to be a CEO? Already a CEO and switching jobs? There are five components of your employment agreement that may be the most important to consider.

Keep in mind that there’s no silver bullet. As a CEO, you have to decide for yourself what’s most important for you and for your organization. Forget preprinted checklists-- every association situation and culture is different. There’s no substitute for personal discussions with your association’s leadership, in order to explore and arrive at (and sustain) mutually agreeable terms. That said, here’s a brief look at the five key components:

1. Duties: What are the roles, duties and authority of the CEO? Is it clear the CEO is singularly responsible for staff, budgets, contracts, and other essentials? Can these duties be changed, and if so, by whom and how? Are changes (change of duties, change of role or authority, reorganization, merger, acquisition, cessation of operations, etc) considered as termination for good reason?
2. Compensation & benefits: What is the base compensation? What are the types of variable compensation, i.e., bonus, commission, etc.? Are additional types of compensation appropriate, i.e., one-time (moving, relocation, etc.) and/or recurring (car, travel, business club, etc)? Will compensation be established and maintained as “market rate”? How will that be determined annually? Who participates in the decisions? Do the association’s standard benefits packages apply to the CEO? How is annual performance planning and evaluation conducted?
3. Term & renewal: Is there a reasonable initial term of employment? When and how will the initial term be extended or renewed? Who participates in the decisions? What if there is no formal action to renew the term—does it renew automatically, or is it considered involuntary termination?
4. Termination: How will (unfavorable) “termination for cause” be defined? How will other types of (favorable) voluntary, involuntary and for good reason terminations be identified and defined? How are the termination definitions linked to compensation, benefits and any special termination pay-outs, i.e., termination in first year of employment, termination after first year, involuntary termination, for good reason, etc.?
5. Restrictions: Are there personal or professional restrictions on the CEO while employed, and/or upon termination? For example, can the CEO teach, write, do research or other similar activities, while employed? Upon termination, can the CEO immediately work for another association in the same geographical area? Can the CEO immediately approach employees of her/his former organization about career changes?

Thinking about these key parts of your CEO employment agreement and reaching mutually agreeable resolution with your volunteer leaders will help to establish your credibility as a senior executive. It will also make your life a lot more enjoyable. Good luck!


May 11, 2007

Googling for awareness

If you spend any time playing with Google Earth (as, I will admit, I do), you may have noticed a small icon appearing in North Africa. The icon’s label reads “Crisis in Darfur.” And if you click on it, you can zoom in on more than satellite imagery—you’ll see in-depth information on damaged villages, destroyed schools, and displaced families in the region.

Working with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Google Earth is bringing the desperate situation in Darfur to the attention of its 200 million users. That’s powerful outreach—and I would think the interactivity of the Google Earth interface will have much more impact on users than just reading a news article about the situation in Sudan.

To see what Google Earth users will see when they zoom in on Darfur, you can check out this graphic from CNN.


May 10, 2007

Data gives picture of the experience - live blogging

As promised, here's the follow up on Ralph Nappi's panel presentation at ECEF. Nappi is president of the Graphic Arts Show Company. He gave a pretty frank look at his large show, Graph Expo, which is held annually in Chicago's McCormick Place. He actually revealed things I'm sure he wouldn't want shared too broadly, but I hope I'm safe by sharing these points.

These are lessons he learned are based on data he partnered with ethnoMETRICS to obtain, including extensive videotaping of the show floor, and other more traditional meetings quantifiable data, such as electronic leads generated.

We found the back of the hall does get good traffic.

People enter and go straight or turn right. Much fewer turn left.

Learned needed space at the front of the hall so that attendees can get their bearings when they enter the hall.

Learned we need an extra entry aisle.

Attendees are not necessarily stopping and engaging at the front of the hall when they first enter.

Big, large booths did not necessarily attract attendees. In fact, in study of five large, important exhibitors, the attraction rate -- the number of people who stopped at a booth divided by the number who walked by -- was less than the average booth at their show. More important is what the exhibiting companies did to attract people.


What your exhibitors say about you - live blogging

The after lunch session at ECEF (see the previous posts for what ECEF is) features a couple of frequent exhibitors to different tradeshows who are giving their perspectives on what it is like working with show management. Here's a couple of their points:

I wouldn't look at selling the exhibit space, I'd look at how they can maximize exposure and value. It needs to be a strategic pitch -- it's not about smiling and shaking hands. It's about how they're going to drive people to talk to us and what strategies they're going to use to do that. --Frank Amoruso, CEO Tower Case Technology.

One thing that's important to us is the media. It would be helpful if there was a set time to talk to the media, different from when buyers may be coming by the booth. Maybe the show floor could be open only to media for a short time before other attendees. It's important for us to talk to the media, but I hate to have to worry about losing a potential sale because I'm with a member of the media. --Monica Ash, chief operating officer, EAT IT!

Update: posted 20 minutes after the original post: Amoruso made an interesting comment that his company isn't old enough to have been to a tradeshow for 10 straight years. He says he's seen how long-time exhibitors are rewarded with attention and perhaps perks at some shows. He notes that show organizations would do well to actively take steps to welcome new and new-ish exhibitors.


Trials and tribulations of international attendees

Reporting again from the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum (ECEF), I wanted to relate some of the Q&A that followed a session presented by three people from the federal government, who addressed the difficulties and challenges of international travel into the U.S. The panelists were:

Helen Marano, Director, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel & Tourism Industries
Tony Edson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Department, Consular Affairs
Tara Riordan, Business Liaison Director, Department of Homeland Security

(The following is paraphrased, so it is not intended to be direct quotations unless quotes are used.)

Q. - What can we do when we seem to continually have trouble getting expedited visas for someone -- say for example, a speaker cancels and we find a last-minute replacement?

A. - The State Dept. has set up a business visa center, and you should email businessvisa@state.gov with problems. They may not always be able to help with the particular issue at hand, but it helps them know if they have areas that have particular problems. Edson said they have set processes that their visa offices are supposed to be following. He also noted that "letters to your events are widely forged throughout the world." He noted that attendee lists from associations can help. Also, advance notice, again to that email, could help if there is a large contingent expected from a particular location.

Q. - Is there a way for attendees who come every year not to have to go through the long, tedious process every year.

A. - Edson said that some of that is a function of the countries involved. China for example, puts significant restrictions on U.S. travelers, so the U.S. reciprocates, meaning visas are only good for 12 months, whereas with a country like India, where the U.S. does grant 5- and 10-year visas. There are also new technologies and procedures being implemented that will expedite the reissuing of visas.

Q. - The experience of a noncitizen entering the U.S. is abysmal. Is there any effort to make the entrance process more welcoming?

A. - Riordan reported that customs experience at two U.S. airports are being given a thorough examination and testing to see how this experience can be improved while continuing to be vigilant about security issues. The airports -- Houston and Dulles (Washington, DC) -- were chosen because they are significantly different from each other and lessons from them can be applied to other airports. There are currently proposals to expand the process to 30 airports, though results are ongoing.


The complexity of designing simple experiences

I'm at the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum today, and thought I'd take the lunch break to give a couple of tidbits about the sessions so far.

(FYI - the forum is the brainchild of Sam Lippman, president of integrated show management & marketing, and is not affiliated with ASAE & The Center, except Associations Now is a publication sponsor of the event.)

The first keynote was delivered by Mickey McManus, president & CEO of MAYA Design. The message was simple. And by that, I mean the actual message was "simple." McManus took attendees through a quick tour of the experience design process. What is the experience design process you might ask? It sounds pretty simple, until you dive into, and it gets pretty complex. The simplicity of it is this: if you're in charge of a meeting, for example, your job is to create an experience where your users can easily find the answers to the questions they have.

He had one terrific slide that I will try to get and place up here for you. McManus' mantra is to study the user experience from their perspective. A poorly designed meeting (or website or product or anything) leaves the user confused, feeling dumb, and even apologetic. We're in membership organizations, so you can add to that things like frustrated, angry, and looking for somebody to blame. A good design, makes your users feel empowered and even, as McManus puts it "smug" as they discover for themselves where they need to go and how to get the information they need.

This isn't especially groundbreaking stuff. But McManus shared the story of taking his son to the emergency after he had basically run over his own foot with the lawn mower. McManus dropped him off at emergency and then parked the car. Going back into the hospital was a maze of corridors and elevators and signs with no discernable direction to the emergency rooms. Being a design consultant, McManus went back later with a map and a camera and showed just how impossible the situation was -- and add to that the stress of trying to find a son who had just mowed over his foot.

The point is, even if you think you've designed a user-friendly experience, you should look again. Go at from the perspective of someone who has no familiarity of your meeting or your organization. There should be no compromise in which complexity wins over simplicity.

I'll post on this topic a little bit later as one of my favorite association execs -- Ralph Nappi, president of the Graphic Arts Show Company, talks about what he learned about his large tradeshows by videotaping how attendees got into and around the show.

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May 9, 2007

Legal stuff for association blogs

Via David Gammel, I came across a helpful and wide-ranging look at the major legal issues surrounding blogging today—and what U.S. laws and regulations currently apply. If your association is considering jumping into the blogging pool, “12 Important Laws Every U.S. Blogger Needs to Know” will be a very interesting read.


Shackleton vs. Buckingham & Coffman

I recently had the opportunity to read Shackleton’s Way (thank you, Ann!), an excellent and engaging study of leadership lessons gleaned from the experience of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. There’s a ton to learn in this book—and a lot more drama than you’ll see in most business books.

At the end of each chapter, the authors summarize lessons for leaders and managers based on Shackleton’s successful methods. I was struck by one in particular: “Keep your malcontents close to you. Resist your instinct to avoid them and instead try to win them over and gain their support.”

In contrast, one of my favorite management books, First, Break All the Rules, says, “Investing in your strugglers appears shrewd, yet the most effective managers do the opposite. … They spend the most time with their most proactive employees. They invest in their best.”

I’m not arguing that one of these is right and the other is wrong—I don’t think it’s that black and white. But I’m curious to hear what Acronym readers think. Should leaders and managers focus their time on bringing “malcontents” around, or should they be focused on investing in their best employees? Which approach makes the most sense to you, and why?

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May 1, 2007

"Ladder" your social media marketing efforts

Forrester Research recently released a report, Social Technographics, which is a must-read for associations ramping up social media marketing efforts. Charlene Li of Forrester writes:

"Many companies approach social computing as a list of technologies to be deployed as needed – a blog here, a podcast there – to achieve a marketing goal. But a more coherent approach is to start with your target audience and determine what kind of relationship you want to build with them, based on what they are ready for."

The report recommends a ladder approach to social media.
Consumers are grouped into six different groups: Inactives, Spectators, Joiners, Collectors, Critics and Creators. Associations can use the ladder to see which media marketing tools should be deployed first. (Or poll your members and see where they fall on the ladder - your "consumers" might be very different than the national average.)

Even if you don't poll your own members, the research here is a great resource to show others at your association why social media marketing efforts are needed. After all, if 52% are inactive, that still leaves 48% who are active at some level. (Pretty big numbers)

[ Thanks to Sally Falkow of The Leading Edge blog for information on the report ]

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