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April 30, 2008

Stories as Influencers for Socially Responsible Behavior

Compelling stories have emerged as potent tools in forwarding discussions about what values members gain when their associations are involved in socially responsible practices, programs, and goals. At both my morning and afternoon tables at the Global Summit on Social Responsibility, association professionals barely took a breath between sharing and commenting on each other’s stories, whether they had to do with an organization’s actions or an individual’s choices. Frankly, it’s a challenge to capture every anecdote for later thought or follow up, but one colleague told me that he had taken almost 25 pages of notes in less than six hours!

I’m feeling especially attuned to the power of storytelling today because I’m halfway through the excellent book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, which I thought would be good prep for the summit. Also, co-author Joseph Grenny—whose last best-seller, Crucial Conversations, was referenced several times at my table today-- is speaking August 19 at ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting and Expo.

According to Influencer, “people will attempt to change their behavior if (1) they believe it will be worth it, and (2) they can do what is required.” Stories that guide people to those conclusions must contain both “a clear link between the current behaviors and existing (or possibly future) negative results” and “positive replacement behaviors that yield new and better results.”

Those of us at the summit today heard such “high-point stories” recounted on the stage, in the coffee line, and from attendees at some of the 14 connected sites across America. I liked the examples given by CEO Scott Steen of the American Ceramic Society. First, Scott described the rapid membership growth achieved by the National Association of Counties after it cleverly arranged a deal with a corporation that allowed the association to provide prescription discount cards to members for free distribution in every county in America.

Second, he cited the National Academy of Engineers’ inspiring work with members to identify 14 “grand challenges” such as making solar energy affordable and reverse-engineering the brain. The organization then spotlights research and grant money focused on those topics. “They’re saying to their members, ‘Here is where to go to make a difference as an engineer,” explained Scott, adding that the organization is using the initiative to “define their mission in the world and show how engineers and their industry are making huge differences.” I can’t wait to hear what comes out of Thursday’s “dream” process….


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August 31, 2007

Post ASAE-07 "Report"

Like many conference attendees, I scribble notes into a notepad during sessions. As these notes are easily lost/forgotten, I've more recently developed the habit of transferring them into digital form. (Feel free to grab the pdf of my session notes from the 2007 ASAE annual conference.)

In part, this helps to further digest and learn the material. It also provides a better historical/searchable record for when your brain faintly remembers that there was a great book reference during a lecture session last year...

Also, this style of report helps with internal learning and sharing between those who did (and did not!) attend the conference. In fact, we make it contingent that anyone who goes needs to write up a report.

Finally, I send a copy to my board of directors. I don't expect them to actually read it, but hope that they at least open the file and scroll down to the bottom making a quick visual scan of titles, keywords, etc, and make the mental note that their executive director is out there trying to gain new knowledge and insight to run the association better.

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August 23, 2007

Annual Meeting 2007 Roundup: The Threequel

Thanks to some links on Ben Martin’s blog, I came across several Annual Meeting posts by relatively new association bloggers, and I wanted to make sure to point Acronym readers their way. I hope all of them are enjoying their blogging experiences so far!

The AE on the Verge blog lists 30 association management tips learned at Annual (in no particular order)

The CAE: Am I Crazy? blog provides a detailed rundown of some sessions that the blogger (a CAE candidate) found to be interesting

Maddie Grant was inspired to launch a blog herself after Annual

Jeff Cobb’s Mission to Learn blog has a post on e-learning at Annual and another on Web 2.0 at Annual

(Ben and Jeff aren't new bloggers, but I didn’t want to leave these posts out:)

Jeff De Cagna’s lessons learned at Annual 2007

Ben Martin's final Annual Meeting podcast: Part I and Part II

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August 20, 2007

Annual Meeting 2007 Roundup: The Sequel

Various bloggers are still posting reactions to Annual Meeting 2007; I've collected the posts I've found below. If there are any I've missed, feel free to link to them in comments.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the thoughtful guest bloggers who joined us here and posted so diligently during Annual: Jason Della Rocca and Kristi Donovan. Thanks also to Jeff De Cagna, who coordinated the guest bloggers for Annual this year as he has before. All of you did a fabulous job and added a lot to Acronym in a relatively short time.

Now, to the roundup of other bloggers' posts:

Peter Turner’s detailed thoughts on thought leader sessions he attended and other experiences: Part I and Part II, plus David Gammel’s response to some of what Peter had to say

More from Sue Pelletier:

- The emergency preparedness session
- Thought Leader Robyn Waters
- Designing better RFPs
- Response to the bloggercon

Dave Sabol’s lessons learned from the conference

Jamie Notter’s lessons learned from the conference

An exhibitor’s perspective on the meeting and a chef’s perspective on the Food and Wine Classic

ETA: Cecilia Sepp's view of the conference

Matt Baehr's list of the ideas he took away from the meeting

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August 17, 2007

Constructive Criticisms for ASAE 2007

Let me start by saying that, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ASAE 2007 and got a tremendous amount of value from attending. In fact, my brain was hurting from taking in so much new knowledge, info and insight!

In the vein of Jackie Huba's comment that often your biggest critics are also your biggest evangelists (ie, they want/help you to get better), here's my short list of constructive criticisms:

1 - Kill the Fluff

Despite their best efforts to make the song-and-dance elements enjoyable (and, they were kinda funny and well done), I just kept repeating to myself "shoot me now, please just shoot me now". Over 1 hour of each 1.5 hour general session was spent on all the singing, dancing, back patting, clapping, etc, etc. All zero value to the attendee, and mostly painful to watch (especially at 8:30 on Sunday morning!).

My understanding is that much of those elements used to take place during a dedicated awards ceremony - but nobody showed up. Great, so instead of making the ceremony more interesting and compelling to attend, some genius decided to stuff it all into the general sessions so that attendees would be forced to watch it all. Ya, that sounds very customer/member focused to me. Please, dump that all into a ceremony again and work to make that ceremony worthwhile to attend. If only x% show up, then fine, those are the people who are interested and want to do/see that. Don't force it on the rest of us.

Also, in terms of social responsibility, how much money went into producing the show elements? What if we had not bothered, and instead wrote a check to org(s) working on social responsibility???

2 - Need More Coaching/Context

2/3 of the general session speakers were slick, but had no relevance/value to attendees (beyond very meta level messages of perseverance, commitment, etc). The other 1/3 tied into the ASAE, but was surprisingly clumsy in his delivery. Overall a big disappointment over the general sessions last year in Boston.

Most of the thought leader sessions were well delivered, and some of them made the effort to relate their material to the association world. ASAE needs to do more to get thought leaders to take that extra step. A great example of this is comparing Jackie Huba's member evangelists session with Robyn Waters talk on trend paradoxes. Waters' was slick, well prepared and gave good insight, but it was a 100% canned presentation that she's probably given dozens of times without changing a single word. In contrast, Huba covered material from the ASAE's Decision to Join research/book, referenced past ASAE sessions, talked about her personal association experiences, and gave examples from the association world - all in addition to her usual non-association material. Waters was good/valuable, but Huba took it to a whole other level. Every thought leader should do the same!

In terms of the learning labs, I'm sad to say most association professionals suck at presenting. With few exceptions (eg, Jeff De Cagna, Richard O'Sullivan, Ben Martin), the learning lab speakers need a massive amount of support - a group conference call is not enough. Both in terms of their delivery, and more importantly how they structure their content. The labs are important, but are still so hit or miss.

3 - Need New Lab Format

The format of the learning labs is broken. One may actually be a "lab" with group discussion and tasks. Next time, it is just one guy giving a lecture and taking some audience Q&A at the end. Another, you may get more of a panel of experts. Etc. Worse is that the room setup of banquet rounds does not match in every case. For example, in the final "60 tips" marketing session, the room was packed wall-to-wall and out the door, for what was, in essence a straight lecture from three speakers. There was zero value/use in having the room setup with rounds. If the room was set classroom or theater style, many more members would have been able to sit to enjoy the session.

Further, you never know ahead of time if the lab you want to attend is going to be more lecture oriented or more group/discussion oriented. Knowing this would impact decisions based on learning style, energy level, etc. Ditto for listing the level of expertize.

Instead, the labs should be split in two. Keep the "learning labs" for those sessions that are more group/discussion oriented and that require banquet seating for small teams. Additionally create a lecture series (or some other fancy label) for sessions that are essentially lectures by one or more speakers. Also, add a "level" rating for each session.

4 - More Content Slots

Despite all the learning, I'm hungry for me. I don't like how they shut down the conference portion as a way to direct traffic to the expo floor. I got bored of the expo floor after wandering around all the CVBs, hotels, etc, for about 30 minutes. Fine, take a lunch break, but content sessions should be running all day long. Also, there's no reason why the expo floor can't be open along side the conference sessions. Folks can then choose whether they want/need to spend more time on the expo floor, or go to more learning sessions. Again, leave it up to attendees to decide what they want instead of limiting available choices at any given time.


Well, there you have it, my major criticisms and some suggestions for improvement. Again, let me say that ASAE 2007 was massively valuable. And I'll certainly be back next year!

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My scorecard

I'm going to take Virgil up on his invitation... and I'm creating a new post to initiate conversation on a few items I haven't read about or heard much about.

Venue: Gorgeous new building. The waste generated by the food and beverage service alone was awful (individual-serving plastic cups? really?). The city of Chicago is always fabulous. Transportation between hotels was rough - for the first two days, I'm pretty certain my bus didn't take the same route twice. Grade: C

General Sessions: Unremarkable. I didn't get anything out of Woodward's or Cooperrider's presentations, and while Gardner was an exceptional and engaging speaker, I didn't hear anything new beyond what I had already seen in the media. (Keep in mind, both Woodward and Gardner made their media rounds last fall and winter... I was home on maternity leave, and saw more of them than I really ever care to see again.) And while the musical format was cheesy, it was effective in communicating many of the must-dos of a general session - acknowledging sponsors and award winners, and communicating upcoming iniitatives. Can I still name the strategic partners... Baltimore, USA Today, Detroit, Canada... 4 of 7 is pretty good, huh? I bet they're happy. Grade: B-

Thought Leader Sessions: Only one of the three I attended was worthwhile... admittedly I didn't pick the ones that most folks blogged about. Pat Mitchell's was terrific. Grade: B

Learning Labs: I think I made some bad choices. I was only able to sit through one entire session - DeCagna's Ungovernance session. I sat through half of the RFP writing session which was useful. And got some great tips on free and almost free web-based tools in the Technology in the Marketing Mix session. Oh, and Robin Lokerman was great in the SR session. But, overall, I still give the labs a C+.

Exhibitions: Geez... I plan conferences and I'd still like to see more vendors NOT of the hospitality/CVB/hotel genre. Grade: C+

Social: This is the reason I come to the conference. Great to see folks, though it would have been helpful to get my hands on that reg list before I left DC. I loved the setup of the opening reception with the lounge areas, but, wow, was I disappointed to see the go-go dancers on catwalks - I expect better than that. Glad to have the 30 min between sessions (though you need it in a place like McCormick). Though I don't expect anyone to actually check badges at the door, I was pretty blown away by the constant stream of folks into the CAE lounge who were not CAEs who appeared to be seeking food - which speaks to another poster's comments on the lack of snacks. Grade: B-

Overall: Worth my time? Absolutely. I found ASAE & The Center staff to be exceptional in particular. Would really like to see the conference greened beyond going paperless. Overall Grade: B+

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August 16, 2007

Annual Meeting 2007 Roundup, Day Three (ish)

Jeffrey Cufaude ponders social responsibility and meetings

Matt Baehr on Douglas Rushkoff’s Thought Leader session

Ben Martin’s final two annual meeting podcasts: August 14 and August 15

Sue Pelletier has a whole bunch of posts on the Face to Face blog, which for some reason weren’t popping up in my Google Alerts before today; my apologies, Sue!

- Opening general session
- General session, day 2
- M&E Days sessions
- Ken Schmidt
- A session on Gen Y: Parts one and two
- A final collection of her impressions from the meeting

The Credentialing Talk blog responds to some posts about the bloggercon meeting

Mickie Rops shares her favorite certification quote from the meeting

Wes Trochlil’s thoughts on the general sessions and the thought leader that impressed him the most

Jamie Notter builds on a point from Stephen M.R. Covey’s session

Lindy Dreyer has a couple of posts about planning for her time at Annual and why sometimes you shouldn’t call a blog a blog (reacting to a tip she heard at the bloggercon meeting)

Dave Sabol's musings on the importance of face-to-face meetings for building relationships

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August 14, 2007

ASAE07-Live: Jason's Tuesday

Wow, I'm pretty exhausted. Tired from late nights. Tired from running across the cavernous McCormick Place. Tired from stuffing my brain with so much new knowledge and insight!

I started Tuesday in Jeff De Cagna's packed session on "ungovernance" (summarized in his Associations Now article). As I told Jeff, I'm already drinking the coolaid, now we just need to figure out how to implement this stuff! Will be interesting to hear of any dissenting feedback post conference...

Robyn Waters

For the final thought leader session I dove into Robyn Water's Hummer/Mini session. It was a slick lecture on leveraging paradoxes born from our increasingly complex world. It was a good session, but Robyn should have made the extra effort to better relate her body of work/research to the association world.

jam 1

For the last learning lab, I jumped into the jam packed "60 marketing tips in 75 minutes" session. It was surprisingly entertaining and chock full of great tips. Though, after tip #4, I realized that the pace would not allow the presenters to do much more than read each tip verbatim from the slides. So I made a note to get the slides and bailed. Then I tried to get into the data driven session...

jam 2

...which was standing room only, with folks peering in from the doors. Now sure why these two sessions were not slotted into bigger rooms. The "situation room" session barely had two dozen people and it was in a massive room. Anyway.

I finally settled into the demand-driven strategies session, which was quite valuable (hint, don't just study your members, look at your members' customers and anyone is benefits from your members' success).

show 3

Oh boy, here it comes... barf....

Chris Gardner

The closing general session with Chris Gardner was entertaining/colorful, and inspiring. Lots of personal/human takeaway - though, once again, zero professional value (other than meta lessons of perseverance and commitment).

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Chris Gardner speaks

General session speaker Chris Gardner says that he’s often asked how he became homeless. Was it drugs? Was it alcohol? No, he says, “It was life. Which is often just as lethal.”

But life wasn’t enough to keep him down, as you know if you've read his book or seen the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness." He gives the credit to his mother, who, he says, told him he could be or do anything he wanted. She told him once, “Baby, if you want to, someday you could make a million dollars.” He says that before she said it, it never crossed his mind that he could earn that much money. After she said it, he absolutely believed he could. It was just a question, he says, of “finding the right venue.”

It’s amazing how much we close ourselves off from possibilities without even realizing it. Chris Gardner’s story is amazing, but I think one of the most amazing parts is his mother—not just her faith in him, but also her ability to see possibilities and open his mind to them.

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Live blogging: Data driven learning lab

So for my last learning lab of the conference I decided to go to one where I tend to disagree with the basic premise of the title of the session: “Data-driven Strategies: How Remarkable Associations Make Information Work for Them.” Leave it to Reggie Henry and fellow presenter Alan Browning to disappoint me.

The title brings forth the data-driven strategy chapter in 7 Measures of Success. I’m on record—and I think one of the few—who think this chapter needs to be treated gingerly. I’m in favor of data, I just don’t see it as a problem in associations. I think a far more insidious problem in associations is overreliance on data to make decisions.

I’m going to have to go back and re-read that chapter, because I remember it being about all the traditional association data sets: butts in seats, retention, membership growth, advertising sales, member satisfaction surveys, etc. I remember the book saying remarkable associations use these things to make decisions. It’s part of decision making, and should only be part of it. If the data says do one thing but your heart says do another… well, I’d try to figure out why, but my guess is that going with the heart will give a better chance for wild success.

So how did Reggie disappoint me?

Well, he talked about all the traditional measures, but he said we’re not thinking about recording and quantifying and using nontraditional transactions: blog posts, discussion participation, wiki posts, “other web wanderings,” etc. These things measure community involvement. As Reggie notes, recent research notes that younger generations are just as apt to join organizations as preceding generations, but their expectations are different. They expect a membership experience that is centered around community involvement. “What we need to get good at measuring is less and less about money, and more and more about engagement.”

I’m becoming a bigger and bigger believer in the necessity for associations to build an engagement index and then make that the central point of every activity they do, from how they attract new members to how they serve each member.

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The critical element of membership

Great (and very true) quote, from the “60 Tips in 75 Minutes” session:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

How are you making your members feel?

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Supercharging member communication

I’m in the “60 Tips in 75 Minutes” session on communicating with members, and it’s not just standing room only—there are people filling every chair and most of the floor. I think I see someone hanging from the ceiling.

Tons of great tips are being shared; here are just a few:

- If you have an e-newsletter with a feature article, use the title of the article as your subject line, not “ABC Association E-newsletter” or something similar.

- Immediately deliver recent back issues of your publications when a member joins. Make them feel welcome; don’t make them wait for these important member benefits.

- Develop local level template press releases. Local media attention is relatively easy to get in small- to mid-size cities, and you can help your local members connect with their local papers with customizable template releases on topics important to your association.

- Acknowledgment cards for members who appear in national, state, or local media. Set up a Google alert for keywords related to your association so you can easily find stories that appear about you and then take the time to follow up with a personalized cards (signed by your president or executive director).

- Offer a money-back guarantee on your education programs. It builds trust and shows your belief in your product. (And if a lot of people take you up on it, it shows you that you have a problem.)

- Re-survey conference attendees 90 days after an event to see if the content of your conference is still relevant and helpful to them.

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Health politics session underway

In the Health Politics session with Mike Magee, MD. He’s talking about where healthcare is heading. First, a look at megatrends impacting healthcare:

1. Aging – Moving from a 3 generation family to a 4-5 generation family. It will be more and more complex to hold families together; impacts elder and pediatric care. Emergence of an informal caregiver population – mostly women aged 45-65.
2. Health Consumer Movement
3. Changes in Caregiver Relationships – moving from paternalistic approaches to partnership approaches; defined by early trust to prevent later. Unfortunately the current system only rewards the paternalistic approach.
4. Internet – Lends a voice to people; removes boundaries for practice; destabilized market that affects pricing
5. Emergence of new sectors – technology, finance and entertainment.

Check out his web site.

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Form 990 debate

Jim Clarke of ASAE & The Center is talking about the changes to the Form 990.

Clarke says that an update to the form certainly is needed—things have changed since 1979, when the form was created—but ASAE is arguing that a 90-day comment period, mostly during the summer months, isn’t long enough for a real discussion of the changes. ASAE is requesting that the comment period be extended (right now it ends on September 14).

In addition, ASAE has concerns about several specific aspects of the new form. Clarke noted that the first summary page of the new form asks for calculations of executive compensation and fundraising contributions as a percentage of total revenues. He said that a lot of readers won’t get past the first page of the form when looking at an organization, so these ratios could have an impact that would be disproportionate to their value as indicators of an organization’s success in pursuing its mission.

He also noted concerns about the disclosures of activities outside of the United States. The new form would require associations to file additional schedules disclosing expenses and revenue for every country in which they do business. For a lot of associations, this information isn’t broken out by country in their financial systems, and it could be extremely time consuming and difficult to break it out annually for tax purposes (especially for international associations doing business in many different countries).

There’s a fairly energetic discussion going on in the room here, with lots of questions about the details of the new form, what its implications will be, and how it defines certain terms.

ASAE has posted additional information online if you’d like to know more.


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Speaker prep

Another thought from yesterday's “Diamonds in the Rough: Turning Speakers into Exceptional Content Leaders" session Jan Ferri-Reed and Gail Swanson: one of the audience questions was on how to prepare a conference of, say, 100 speakers. My immediate thought was of a webinar or teleseminar. Thinking myself pretty smart, that was one of the options given, and, noted Swanson, it's something that ASAE & The Center did for this conference. Ok, so I'm not so revolutionary smart--but I do have access, so I caught up with Senior Manager, Learning Megan Denhardt, who pulls together the Learning Labs for the annual meeting.

She said there are more than 250 speakers in the labs. This year, ASAE & The Center did a conference call only, in previous years, they've integrated the Web into it. She estimated that 50 to 60 percent of speakers participated, and noted that they record the session and send it to all speakers on CD.

Gary Rifkin, himself a speaker at many ASAE & The Center events and someone who trains speakers as part of his work, facilitated the discussion with Denhardt. The session covers all the basics--the room sets, the demographics, how to tailor a presentation to the audience, and just basic tips on delivering a strong presentation from a variety of different settings (single-person presenter to facilitated discussion to panel discussion).

They also open it up so that anyone can share their own tips and tricks. She also noted that the Speaker Orientation session is only one of several ways they prepare speakers for the annual meeting.

A final note: the 3 general session speakers and the 20 thought leader sessions receive more one-on-one care and handling.

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Finding strategic thinkers for your board

Someone in the audience in the ungovernance session asked how to find strategic thinkers within a membership that could eventually be good strategic thinkers on your board. Jeff De Cagna threw out a few ideas as a starting point:

- What books do they read? Their reading lists reflect their interests, and if they’re reading books on strategy, history, or chess (not an exclusive list) that could be a good indicator that strategy is an interest of theirs.
- Who do they talk to? We are drawn to those who share our interests.
- Are they gamers? Gamers use a lot of nonlinear strategic thinking.

What questions or ideas would you add to this list?

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A few questions from the “ungovernance” session

Some food for thought from Jeff De Cagna’s Learning Lab on ungovernance (where he’s offering his thoughts on creating an entirely new approach to association governance):

- The value we create as association is based on relationships and access to information, Jeff says. But technology is creating new and often more direct ways to build relationships and access information—so, he asks, why do people need to “pay bucks to a centralized bureaucracy?”
- How many of your members go to Google to search for information before they come to you?
- In Wikipedia, if there’s an error, someone can go in and fix it immediately. If there’s an error in information your association provides, how many committees have to weigh in before you can fix it?
- Do you spend more time worrying about the details of governance and hierarchy (will the nominating committee report be turned in by June 22?) than about the value your association’s governance model is supposed to be creating?
- Using the resources and capabilities we have now, how can we build business models for associations that will be sustainable and inclusive of all stakeholders?

(For more of Jeff’s thoughts on ungovernance, check out his article in the August 2007 issue of Associations Now.)

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Tech tips for small associations

A few tips from the Learning Lab going on now about “Technology on a Shoestring”:

- A lot of software manufacturers will provide “charity licensing” deals to 501(c)(3)s that provide substantial discounts on most software packages you would need to use in the office. For associations related to education, some software producers offer discounts for “educational licensing” as well (but be sure to read the end-user licensing agreement to make sure your organization qualifies).
- www.npower.org and www.techsoup.org provide other conduits for discount licensing on certain products.
- Audacity is an open source voice recorder and mixer for associations that want to try podcasting without investing in any expensive tools.
- Speaking of podcasting, www.how-to-podcast-tutorial.com provides a great and easy to follow lessons to get your started (including information on using Audacity).
- www.wordpress.com provides an inexpensive, professional, feature-rich blogging platform.
- Spybot Search and Destroy and Spyware Blaster are good anti-spyware tools with a strong community supporting them.
- Postini is “unbelievably effective” (says a member of the audience) as an anti-spam solution.

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ASAE07-Live: Jason's Monday

Ugh, I'm just getting back to my hotel room, and it's past 11pm! Where did the day go? Once again, opting for the condensed summary...

day2 show

Day 2 of the "big show". Shoot me now. Please, just shoot me.

opening show

David Cooperider had a lot of important/inspiring stuff to say. Odd, though, his delivery was off. He was visibly nervous, lost his thoughts several times, fumbled with the clicker, etc. It was a real disconnect for someone involved in such important and far reaching work. Aside from all the social good bits, I'm going to do some research on his appreciative inquiry model purely as a large group facilitation process...

big red chair

After the general session, I hit the expo floor. What the heck is the crazy big red chair all about? Had a nice lunch chat with Ben Martin, who ate the cheese steak sandwiches kindly provided by the Philly booth. And, had to run off the floor to do a quick interview on game industry career prospects with the Wall Street Journal...

Douglass Rushkoff

As noted earlier, Douglass Rushkoff's thought leader session was amazingly awesome. Oddly, his anti-corporate angle was in complete contrast to Cooperider's "business will save the world" message. I even got up and asked him to comment on the corporate social responsibility mega-trend. He quickly replied that it was all BS and that corporations are programmed to make profit and it is unethical for them to do anything but.

Despite Rushkoff's overly negative tone, I still found his words/ideas more inspiring (and much better delivered) than Cooperider, as a association executive. The whole idea that associations have to be the place were the geeks can be geeks and love "the thing", and as a place that generates and rewards social capital, etc, was particularly meaningful.

For the afternoon's learning labs, I attended the session on chapter conflict and another on creating fierce volunteers. The conflict session was more theoretical than expected, but still very useful/helpful. The case format of the volunteer session fell flat and didn't provide much take-away value.

After the day full of sessions, I bailed on all the ASAE activities and connected with a handful of local members (ie, game developers) running the IGDA's chapter in Chicago:

IGDA chapter 1

Here's a shot of Alexander Seropian (Wideload Games) and Denny Thorley (Day 1 Studios). Trivia snippet: Alexander is the founder of Bungie Studios, the creators of the massive hit Halo. After selling his studio to Microsoft a few years ago he moved back to Chicago.

IGDA chapter 2

Carrie Fowler (Electronic Arts) and Eugene Jarvis (Raw Thrills). Trivia snippet: Eugene is one of the elder statesmen of the game industry, having created such arcade classics as Defender, Robotron and Smash TV. The IGDA presented him with a lifetime achievement award a few years back.

Admittedly, it was nice to break loose from McCormick Place and connect with some of my peeps :)

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August 13, 2007

Leadership: Considering a New Flight Plan

After sharing stunning Imax photos, dramatic video of flight lift-offs and passionate descriptions of what he believes leadership means today, former NASA space shuttle pilot and astronaut Charles Bolden got a standing ovation today at the Annual Meeting & Expo.

It was an unusual, sometimes emotional presentation with such compelling imagery in the background, and Bolden used that majesty to urge leaders to develop their skills so that they could take even small steps toward making the world a better place.

“Earth is unbelievable; it’s breathtaking,” he said. “It goes in 45-minute spurts--17,500 miles per hour—so it takes 90 minutes to go around one time. Every 45 minutes you see a sunset or a sunrise.”

His favorite photo of the thousands he has taken is a spaceship view of the Middle East because “it’s so peaceful looking and organized.” Can you imagine seeing such sights and not feeling protective of the planet we occupy?

Although Bolden’s presentation hadn’t been scheduled with any particular tie-in to ASAE & The Center’s new Social Responsibility Initiative, I thought that this recent Astronaut Hall of Famer may have made one of the most inspiring appeals of the day for association leaders to “do what is right,” to use their business and leadership savvy in much broader, more powerful ways toward positive world change.

Much of what Bolden said about leadership was not necessarily new to regular attendees of ASAE & The Center programs. But he did a good job reinforcing the most important elements and then concluded with the startling power behind the words of 12-year-old Nikosi Johnson, who at the time of his death in 2001 had been the longest-living AIDS patient: “Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place that you are. … If we just live by Nikosi’s philosophy, we can make a difference.”

Probably 50 people crowded around Bolden when he finished, just to shake his hand, compliment him and get a quick photo. Others headed straight to the BrightSight Group rep who handles Bolden’s speaking engagements. Me? I thought of exactly the right spot to put Nikosi’s quote on my office wall.

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Annual Meeting 2007 Roundup, Day Two

Here’s another collection of Annual Meeting blogging from around the web:

Another podcast on the meeting from Ben Martin (previous podcasts can be found on the main page of his blog)

Fred Simmons on Steven S. Little’s Thought Leader session

Jeffrey Cufaude on David Cooperrider’s keynote

Matt Baehr on his experience so far

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Dishing with the White House Chef

I’m not sure that many meeting planners would want to serve one of President Bush’s favorite lunches at their next event, but they might secretly smile as they munch them in private: peanut butter and honey, BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato), grilled cheese (white bread with a single slice of Kraft American cheese) or a nice burger.

Walter Scheib made a lot of those during his four years as White House chef to the Bush family, but he created plenty of fancier foods as well, of course. Hired away from the Greenbriar resort by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1994, Scheib was charged with bringing “what’s best about American food, wine and entertaining to the White House.”

To Scheib, that meant food that was flavor-driven, not technique-driven, and meals that reflected the changed ethnic landscape of the country with its resulting influence on regional and local cuisines. It meant more unusual flavor combinations and cooking approaches, an emphasis on seasonal and local produce, greater attention to origin and nutritional value, and incorporation of new and emerging organic and sustainably produced food options.

If you’re in Chicago at ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting & Expo, you’ll be tasting a few of Scheib’s memorable recipes, seasoned with some stories behind their inspiration. The man himself is featured chef for Monday night’s Food & Wine Classic at Chicago’s Navy Pier from 7 to 9:30 p.m., and frankly, I’m so psyched to be going that I read Scheib’s new cookbook, White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen (Wiley, 2007), in one night.

His emphasis on healthy cooking is clear, and Scheib readily agrees that chefs and other food professionals have become more attuned to the obesity epidemic and other public health issues—and adjusted their cooking accordingly. “It comes from two directions,” he says. “Obviously, chefs--while they are artists of a sort--also are business people, so as demand for these sorts of [socially conscious menus] increases from clients, they are more apt to fill that need. Also, many forward-looking chefs are trying to do these things ahead of the market….

“That’s got two benefits—it’s responsible to the client in terms of nutrition and flavor, but more importantly, it allows chefs to do what they do best…. If a chef uses that style of locally produced, tremendously fresh and seasonal product, he’s 50% toward a great dish before even putting the first grain of salt on it. It makes common sense to use that style of product, and on top of that he can talk about how it’s better for his guests.”

“… The biggest dilemma as we try to dine healthier is that we have a tendency to get preachy,” he continues. “The last thing you want to do is lecture somebody.… The secret is to change the style of dining very subtly. You can still have a piece of steak. It’s the accompaniments that go with it [that could change]. Instead of a baked potato, for instance, you might have a peach and ginger chutney, a Malaysian peanut sauce, a spice rub or a corn and chipotle sauce.”

Scheib notes that in addition to the trend toward healthier dining, taste preferences of businesspeople have been changing because they’re traveling more, especially abroad, making them “more aware of all the wonderful flavors and cooking styles that are available to them.” That presents a challenge to meeting planners who want to wow members.

“For meeting planners, they need to be a little bit brave,” he advises. “I do a lot of event planning and cooking for associations and other private clients, and I always tell them, ‘Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t always fall back on the standard 4-ounce filet, a chicken breast, a piece of salmon or these mix-and-match plates. Pick a theme and stick with it. Break the rut.

“Meeting planners have as much influence as just about anyone in the country in terms of exposing great numbers of people to great kinds of foods if they just challenge the chef….” he continues. “I think they will find that their clients are a lot more open to that kind of thing than they might suspect.”

Scheib also supports the concept of food as an important element of community-building, a key goal of many planners: “Dining isn’t about food--it’s about socialization…. Anything we can do to get people conversing is really good, whether it’s a new type of food, a new type of service, a tasting, family-style [serving] or something that takes action or involves participation at the tables.”

One recent event he attended started with a Korean-style first course of a dozen components, including a small, steaming pot of broth, raw beef and vegetables that everyone assembled to their personal taste under the instruction of a waiter.

“It really broke the ice!” Scheib enthuses. “We were a table of 10 strangers, but by the time we were done with the first course, we at least knew something about the other people because you had to show something of yourself as you assembled your own first course. These sorts of things really work, and people like them. Everybody’s had enough salads or shrimp cocktails put down in front of them for life, and that’s tedious and boring. They want to try something new and a bit more fun.” Sounds like four-star dining to me! Special thanks to Leading Authorities for arranging this special guest visit.


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Bare-knuckle branding

The concept of “branding” sounds very academic, but as the Special Libraries Association can tell you, it can rouse deep feeling in members. As Thomas Calcagni of SLA said in the “Changing Your Association’s Brand” Learning Lab today, “I’m going to tell you a story that involves bare-knuckle politics, separation of families, deep concern … I’m talking about SLA’s previous effort to brand itself.”

He shared a few lessons from their experience:

- There needs to be a loud, vocal commitment on the part of the board. Branding can be very emotional and political, and they need to be fully committed for the process to succeed.
- Involve your members’ customers. What do they think about your members? What do they want from them?
- Focus on a broad strategy rather than just a single component—not just the name, the logo, and other things that are building blocks of the overall brand and overall brand promise. One of Calcagni’s board members described it as a “game change, not a name change.”

I do wonder what Ken Schmidt of Harley-Davidson, one of today’s thought leaders, would think of the idea of “changing a brand.” Schmidt described your brand as your “noise”—what your customers say about you when you’re not there. Is there any direct way to change “noise” that can be voted on? Or does it need to develop organically over time?

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Talking about open access

I’m sitting in the “Open Access” Learning Lab, and Susan Fox is sharing some interesting thoughts on how you should handle the question of open access in your association. She says that the first question to ask your board is “What role do you think the journal plays in the association?” She recalled having problems with a board discussion in the past where a conversation about open access went south … only to discover that the root of the problem was that the board didn’t agree on what the journal really was.

Next, she says to ask (in this order):

- “How does the journal support our mission?”
- “How broadly do we want our journal distributed?”
- “What is our position on open access?”

And then: “What impact would converting to open access have on the association, economically, politically, and culturally?”

It’s worth noting something Fox said: “The business model is changing whether you want it to or not.” If your association has a journal, this is probably a conversation you should be having.

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The 7-question method

In their learning lab “Diamonds in the Rough: Turning Speakers into Exceptional Content Leaders," Jan Ferri-Reed and Gail Swanson described a simple method to set speakers up for making an excellent presentation at your conference or event: the 7-question metiod.

The last thing you want your presenters to think about, they said, is what you want to say to your audience. Instead, they should be asking what your audience needs to hear. In fact, they say, you and the presenter should jointly come up with seven questions you want their presentation to answer. From there, they can build out their presentation.

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The session worth the admission price

I saw Jeffrey Cufaude after the Thought Leader session led by Douglass Rushkoff ("Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out"). He called it worth the price of admission, and I agree.

I saw some other bloggers in the session, so I'll let them chime in, but I now have fodder for several posts. Here's the one I want to put up now.

One of the things that Rushkoff said that is a nice way to think about things is that people are looking for a safe haven--for a place to care. "People want to be geeks for the things they care about."

Are you letting your members get geeky? What can you do to encourage the geeks to get even more into it? What can you do bring some lurkers into the geeking fold?

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You can’t fool me

Ken Schmidt said something else that stuck with me during his session: “The way we treat each other permeates out into the marketplace.” In other words, you can’t fool your customers. If staff treat each other well and are positive and helpful within the office, that will come through loud and clear to members who interact with them. And if you have a negative, crabby, unsupportive culture, your customers will be sure to see that, no matter what efforts you make to treat members differently.

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Got cards?

During his session “Make Some Noise,” Ken Schmidt of Harley-Davidson showed a photo of the Harley-Davidson president working the crowd at a motorcycle rally, which apparently is something he does on a regular basis. The president had a pocket crammed full of index cards, on which he was writing customer feedback as he received it. Schmidt drew several lessons out of that photo for the audience:

- Make people feel special. If a customer sees you smile and nod in response to their complaint, they may feel heard, but if they see you writing it down (and even better, if they hear back with constructive followup later) they’ll feel catered to.
- If you’re an exec, you must make time to talk directly with customers. Nothing has the same impact as hearing a complaint directly from the disgruntled member; hearing it secondhand from line staff won’t have the same effect and won’t spur the same response from you.
- Staff watch what you do. In the photo, another Harley staffer was standing near the president—and the staffer had his own pocket full of notecards. The president’s positive behavior was being picked up and modeled by staff—and what great behavior to pass along.

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More on Jackie Huba

Jackie Huba's session on creating member evangelists yesterday was both well-attended and well-received. Given the level of interest and enthusiasm around her work, I thought I would point people to a podcast interview I did with her earlier this year for my blog.

During the session, Jackie asked the audience how many of their associations had blogs. I think I saw about six hands go up. Frankly, I was appalled. We need to do more to encourage and challenge associations to embrace social media for their own benefit. As others have pointed out, she did mention the Association Social Media Wiki, which I hope you will visit and add resources to if you are able.

I'm a little late getting this post up. It's been much crazier than expected, but the other bloggers are doing a fantastic job!

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Cooperider's 5 things associations can do

Five things you can do

1. Never take your eye off your mission – never stop serving your members as effective learning catalysts.

2. Adopt a solution focus—every industry and profession wants to see themselves as part of a solution.

3. Master the business case for sustainable value creation—it’s not a burden or a compliance issue. You need to adopt an entrepreneurial posture that turns the situation into an opportunity.

4. Design whole systems in large group cooperation—learn to work at the scale of the whole.

5. To dare—to discover the unprecedented power of the association of associations.

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More on The World Inquiry

If you’re interested in more case studies like the ones David Cooperrider shared this morning, The World Inquiry’s website is a good place to start. Their Innovation Bank of business innovations that create societal good can be searched by region, by company, by industry, and more.

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Act II Review

Today's general session... I have to say I really appreciate the creative approach to handling the recognitions, awards, etc., that need to be made. For example, the recognition of the corporate partners was entertaining, believe it or not. Using a broadway tune and actress, they managed to keep the audience engaged and amused through it all. I could actually recite the names of the 7 partners recognized. How often does that happen?

The overriding theme of the session was social responsibiltiy. Admittedly, this is a topic I can talk about for hours. I love it. I was giddy when I saw that David Cooperrider would be presenting. About 5 minutes into his presentation, I thought someone might have to restrain me from jumping up and shouting, "Count me in!" The concept of associations as a community that can create global change is why I have continued to work in associations - the powerful opportunity that we have as groups that bring every industry together is energizing.

Unfortunately, Cooperrider's delivery was a bit lacking. Lots of "we must come together" and "turning global issues into business strategy." But not much substance. ASAE & The Center is embarking on this initiative, which sounds as though it will begin with a global summit late next spring. I came away with the belief that ASAE & The Center intend to be the catalyst that will spur associations to mobilize their own initiatives. I love the idea, but I'm not clear how it will happen - and I wonder how many folks feel the same way? I want to help; I just don't know how.

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A few more Sunday thoughts

I liked this thought from Jay Frey from Rush University Medical Center in the session on fundraising: “Money Talks… Make It Talk to You: He said that fundraising is not like sales. He said consumers want bargains; donors want vision, impact, connection, and being a part of a community with a higher purpose.

Both are about building relationships, but the way in which they are built is much different, because the end goal is different.

I also attended the Thought Leader session by Larraine Segil on partnerships. One of the takeaways was her idea of different risk levels of partnership. The least risk is joint marketing, going up to licensing to joint research and development, then up to joint venture and finally mergers and acquisitions.

She notes that it is far too common to ignore the lower level risk partnerships; that organizations tend to want to do something big and they the think to do that they have to form a joint venture. Her advice is to explore all the options before making that decision.

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ASAE07-Live: Jason's Sunday

Was hoping to do multiple posts for each session/activity today, but with limited wifi access and the Hilton carrier crashing, was hard to get connected today. So, here's a quick dump of my Sunday...

opening show

The opening musical act was well done and made me laugh a few times, but I hate this stuff. Not sure why the ASAE feels the need to put on a big show at 8:30 in the morning. High cheese factor. Zero value. Dump it already. Anyway.

Woodruffs

The general session with the Woodruffs was touching and inspiring on a personal level. Simply amazing. However, there was zero takeaway. This was a major step back from Jim Collins' opening in Boston. He kicked major ass and I walked out of there pumped (and bought both his books and the 7 Measures book). Lots of value. I guess it is nice to have the compelling human stories (and I enjoyed the Woodruffs), but it was kind of a waste. Oh well.

Bloggercon 3.0

After the general session, I jumped over to the informal Bloggercon gathering. Was great fun to share tips and stories with other bloggers and wannabes. Lisa Junker and Hilary Marsh have posted a bunch of notes from that session. (In the photo, organizer Ben Martin has the stripped shirt, and JNot is in red.)

Jackie Huba

Here's Jackie Huba engaging the audience regarding member evangelists. Was a great session! Must buy her books now. And, best of all, she popped in a slide giving props to the IGDA's wiki (and referenced Jeff de Cagna's great AssociationSocialMedia.com resource). Nice suprise :)

After Jackie, I jumped into the CEO/Insanity session, but it was mainly about legal counsel stuff, so I bailed and jumped into the learning lab on growing membership. Was informative, but presenters were pretty flat with the delivery...

Finally, since I hail all the way up from Canada, I was invited to the international reception. Was a nice chance to connect with many of the foreign attendees. Surprisingly, there's only ~200 attendees out of 7000 that are here from outside the US. Seems like there should be more...

Zambia

Here, Paul from Zambia is working the room.

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"See" what's happening in Chicago

Check out the Flickr photostream of pictures taken by attendees at ASAE & The Center's 2007 Annual Meeting in Chicago.

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August 12, 2007

Why bad things happen to good leaders (and good organizations)

Author (and blogger) Michael Watkins discussed “predictable surprises”—disasters you should have, and probably did in some way, see coming—in his session on “Critical Success Strategies for Leaders at All Levels.” As Watkins described it, when a predictable surprise takes place, “you’re shocked and you’re saddened but you’re not really surprised.” You probably saw the signs, but felt it wasn’t possible or wasn’t feasible to take action—or planned to take action someday but didn’t put it high on your priority list.

According to Watkins, leaders miss predictable surprises in part because they have blinders on—preconceived notions, static assumptions, and overconfidence block their vision. And those blinders can become more rigid under stress. But he urged leaders in his audience to overcome these handicaps and instead have the courage to become a “problem finder” and “change mobilizer” who looks reality straight in the eye.

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Annual Meeting 2007 Roundup

For your reading (and viewing) pleasure, a few posts and such we’ve found about the 2007 Annual Meeting on other blogs:

An attendee’s thoughts on his first day at the conference (with a link to a nice Flickr set of photos he’s taken)

A review of the “Ultimate Member Experience” Thought Leader Super Session

The top 5 things not overheard at the meeting

A series of podcasts on the meeting

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What is exceptional?

I got to pop in to the “Exceptional Learning Experiences” Learning Lab, and wow—what an engaged group of learners. People were up, moving around, talking intensely—I wish I had been there from the beginning of the session.

People were talking about the ingredients that make up an exceptional learning experience. A few things I heard mentioned:

• Entertaining
• Novel
• Practical
• Includes personal stories
• Interactive
• Memorable
• Sensory
• Energetic

Presenter Jon Hockman noted that, for a truly exceptional learning experience, location doesn’t matter. Don’t worry that you’re speaking in a small room on a hot day and the AV is on the fritz. If you have energy and involve your audience, you can overcome that.

Hockman also asked a question that I thought was important: “What responsibility do we have as learners to make the most of the learning sessions we attend?” Something to think about as we hit tomorrow’s education sessions; what can we be doing to add to the experience for everyone?

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Hang out with the best

Interesting takeaway from the Learning Lab “The Battle for the Best”: Dennis Mankin said that in his experience, the way to learn about what your organization needs to do to hire and retain the best talent is to hang out with the great performers you already have—“you learn tons in a short period of time,” he said. These exceptional staff can tell you exactly what they have to do to get to those great outcomes they’re known for (and what challenges they overcome in the process).

From that information, you can determine the workplace elements influencing them (are they receiving the right learning and development opportunities? the right management? the right motivation) and fix what needs fixing.

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More blogging tips from smart association bloggers

  • Keep up with other blog posts that mention your association (through Google Alerts, Technorati, etc.) and comment on those posts. The bloggers will be honored by your presence and will become your allies.
  • Decide on a posting schedule, and stick to it. Choose a schedule that's manageable -- quality is better than quantity.
  • Reinforce the idea that your blog is a discussion: If there is a smart comment, paste it into its own post, which will invite more interactivity.
  • To be an effective blog writer, read many blogs -- not just in your own area of interest, but more broadly as well.
  • Choose a voice and a topic, and stick to it. Your blog might be a personal reflection, or a news sharing vehicle, but it's hard for it to be both -- and your readers will notice when the voice isn't consistent.
  • Read your own archives – you might be surprised at what you find.
  • Your blog could include more than just text -- video, audio, photos. A great source for audio interviews are authors promoting their new books. And if you shoot photos of an event, send a link to the post with those photos to the people pictured in them. They are likely to send the link to others, and to comment.
  • Post idea: Read what your readers what to read and summarize it.
  • Know how many people come to your blog, and where they are coming from.
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"Customer experience" in associations

"Customer experience" is clearly a catchword at this year's conference. Author Joseph Michelli used the analogy of Starbucks as an example of a company that has used customer experience as the way to differentiate itself from other companies selling coffee as a commodity. While the presentation offered some points of value, Michelli's delivery leaned more toward the slick and less on the actual information. As far as I could tell, the points were:
- You can't survive on commoditized products or services
- The experience is what turns something from a commodity to something exceptional
- People make decisions based on emotions, so use that to your advantage
- We think our products and services are much better than our customers/members do
- In order to figure out what kind of experience to offer your customers/members, ask them what they want. Make them feel like co-owners of the association
- Understand how your members experience your association, at all touchpoints

(I attended this session because I figured that there would be many bloggers attending the "Creating Member Evangelists" session led by the fabulous Jackie Huba. Can't wait to see some posts about that session!)

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More from bloggercon: Consider an ombudsman

During the bloggercon, David Gammel threw out an idea that I thought was fantastic: Why not launch a blog at your association that is the home of the ombudsman? Much like the ombudsman at the New York Times or Washington Post, it would be this person’s job (David recommended that it be a member, to maximize the trust other members would feel for the ombudsman position) to listen to member criticisms, investigate, and report back on what he or she found out. What a great way to increase transparency.

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Be bold!

During the association bloggercon today (organized by Ben Martin and kindly hosted by the Association Forum of Chicagoland) there was a lot of discussion about overcoming the fears of association execs who are afraid that a blog will open them up to criticism. One thing we all seemed to agree on: The criticism will happen, whether you have a blog or not. No association makes all of its members happy all of time. And with today’s technology, they can broadcast that criticism as widely as they wish to in a very short time.

So sure, your association blog could be a vehicle for someone to criticize you in comments. But I would submit that by having a blog and allowing that criticism in a forum sponsored by your association, you’re increasing the respect your members have for you. They’re seeing that you can take the heat.

Even better: If you hear their criticism with an open mind and use it to help increase their engagement and move your association forward …

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No Free Wi-Fi in McCormick?

I realize that convention centers and hotels are looking for revenue, but can we please, please, please get past charging guests for access? I find it ironic that many associations have figured out that charging for access to information isn’t working, but many of our partner venues still charge folks to get on the ‘net to begin with. There’s got to be a better way to make a dime. I’d make it a point to patronize properties that provided free internet access to guests.

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Against All Odds

So my annual meeting experience has had a rough start. My badge never showed up in the mail. My shuttle bus to the convention center seemed to get lost, stopping at my hotel to pick up guests twice. I didn’t get a CAE ribbon when I checked in (and I’m a new one!).

Am I upset? Not one bit.

You see, despite my pestering of ASAE staff, they continue to answer every question with a smile. The level of service I’ve experienced in the last few months has been truly exceptional. Things go wrong, yes. The mail service isn’t perfect; the shuttle bus driver has to drive the route for the first time, the person who checked me in had no idea I was a new CAE. But every time I have asked someone at ASAE for something in the last few months, I’ve received a pleasant response and terrific follow through. They’ve got so much in the bank (of my goodwill, that is) that quite a few more things could go wrong and I wouldn’t care one bit.

It’s an important lesson I’d like to take home. Consistent good service can go a long way toward customer loyalty. It reminds me just how far that personal touch goes.

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What we don’t know

Several times during their general session talk this morning, Lee and Bob Woodruff mentioned everything that isn’t known about traumatic brain injury. They don’t know why Bob healed as well as he did; they don’t know why he heard certain things while he was in a coma but not others; they don’t know why some words come back to him while other still remain frustratingly absent.

They provide a powerful example of how important it is to remember that we don’t know everything. When going about our day to day work, we need to remember that we don’t know what will happen. When it does happen, we won’t know all the reasons why. If we forget that and fall into the trap of thinking we do know it all … we close our minds to possibilities and will eventually fall into some kind of hole that we didn’t anticipate.

It reminds me a favorite quote of mine, from Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech thee … consider that ye may be mistaken.”

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Bruce the healer - live at the general session

My favorite story from the Bob Woodruff general session was the story of Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen had heard he was a fan, so he sent a bunch of CDs when Woodruff was still in a coma.

Lee Woodruff, Bob's wife, told the story that she had read the letter to Bob, adding a few embellishments--incentives if you will, to entice him to wake. She read in the letter that when he wakes up, the Boss will come down to Bethesda, Maryland to see him.

A couple of days after we woke up, speech still hard to come by, made a motion that he needed to get a guitar. When they figured out what he was saying, they asked him why he wanted a guitar and he said he needed it for when "the boss man comes to visit."

"We're all telling him we love him all the time," Lee says, "and this is what he remembers when he wakes up."

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ASAE07-Live: Richard O’Sullivan Delivers First Aha!

Sometimes, a conference ends and you've barely scraped up a few nuggets to take home. On occasion, you walk away with a major aha! that delivers such insight that it "pays" for the conference altogether.

Well, bang, right there in my first session, nearly the first slide, I get my aha! from ASAE 2007.

In opening his session on globalization, Richard O’Sullivan emphasized that going global is not about what's best for the association (re: new members, more revenue opportunities, expansion, etc). Rather, it is about what's good for the members. Duh! Of course, it is about the members and what they have to benefit from their association being (more) international, etc. This is so obvious, but it's one of those things that's easy to miss as we are so focused on the operations of the org itself day-to-day. Indeed, it is a subtle shift that allows you to take a totally different perspective on international efforts.

The session also covered how to assess foreign markets in a formal manner, and what aspects could be most interesting to members, etc. The slides are online.

Unfortunately, Richard didn't take the time to get into more of the governance issues and structural models...

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August 11, 2007

ASAE07-Live: At the Opening Reception

ASAE07 Opening Reception

Wow, that was good brisket! Actually, there was a ton of different meats to be had during the "fusion" themed opening reception. And, as you can see from the photo, many attendees came out to connect.

Personally, I preferred the museum setting from last year's conference in Boston. Despite the overall quality and polish of the reception, a ballroom in a convention center doesn't quite have the same cultural depth...

Regardless, it was nice to bump into, and catch up with, a few folks I knew (like Wes Trochlil, Bill Drohan, Jeff de Cagna and Reggie Henry).

Though, what was the deal with not having desserts?!

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Breaking down the audience-panel wall

One more post from “Building Effective Senior Management Teams”: I have to say, I loved the structure of the session. The session revolved around a group of folks playing the role of a senior management team having a meeting; the audience was asked to observe and then, after the roleplayers “froze” their meeting, comment on what was going on.

I particularly liked that the session began with a request for members of the audience to volunteer to play the last three roles in the imaginary management team. The effect was to break down the wall between audience and speaker immediately; if audience members could be called up to be part of the panel (and potentially for other roles later in the session), it meant that the audience was, to all intents and purposes, part of the panel. Certainly the attendees were extremely engaged as soon as the meeting froze and they had the chance to share their thoughts.

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Board book follies

During today’s session “Building Effective Senior Management Teams,” Kerry Stackpole, CAE, mentioned a survey he had done at a past organization. His group surveyed the board, and among the questions asked was “When do you read the board book?” Ninety-seven percent—yes, 97 percent—of the board responded that they read it on the plane.

I bet this isn’t uncommon. But how can a board really have a strategic, informed discussion about materials they hadn’t even looked at 10 hours before a meeting? What can be done to get boards more engaged—and what can be done to the board book itself to draw them in before the plane takes off?

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The Business of Saving the World

In her widely praised book The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape, trendmaster Robyn Waters devotes an entire chapter to so-called social capitalism, the “doing-well-by-doing-good” business strategy that grounds the social responsibility (SR) movement. After reading it, I wondered if she would consider SR to be a trend or—as some business media terms it—“a tidal change” in how business does business.

“Social responsibility is not just a trend,” explains Waters. “It's a savvy business practice that has been around for many years in many different forms. In the past, businesses seldom advertised what they did to give back, and most of their efforts were within their local communities. Today's version of what I call social capitalism is a global practice and is considered 'business as usual' by many companies.

“Many companies now realize that the best way to make money just might have something to do with saving the world. I am constantly amazed at the creative ways that visionary leaders find to give back. The manner in which they choose to give back will continue to evolve as today's increasingly socially responsible consumers continue to vote with their pocketbooks.”

Waters thinks some of the heightened customer expectations regarding business and social responsibility are natural evolutions of consumer interest in living simpler, finding more value in their lives and redefining “the good life.”

“The claustrophobia of abundance that surrounds our busy lives contributes greatly to our growing frustration and our desire to simplify our lives,” she says. “Let's face it. There's really very little that any of us really need. We've been programmed to chase the holy grail of ‘the next big thing,’ but when we get there, there's always something else that's next. That's why I want to reframe the concept of trend. Trends are signposts and indicators pointing to what's going on in the hearts and minds of consumers. These days, if you want to be ‘on trend,’ it's more important to figure out what's important, not just what's next. When [we do that], we move in the direction of finding more meaning in our lives and in our transactions, not just acquiring more stuff….”

I asked whether international expansion by American organizations with international customers, employees and partners also has been driving momentum toward increased social responsibility.

Waters, now president of RW Trend, agrees: “The Europeans are definitely ahead of us in many regards when it comes to social responsibility. In the United Kingdom, they call it ethical consumption. As the world flattens, and more companies become international, they will have to find new creative ways to address their social responsibilities.

“What's really interesting to me is that in order to be a better global citizen, many companies will choose to do their give back on a local level. It's a paradox I call glocal…. In order to be successful in today's business environment, companies have to think global, but act local, in a socially responsible manner.”

Association leaders can hear more about trends and non-trends at Waters’ Thought Leader session Tuesday, August 14 at 12:30 p.m. during ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting & Expo.

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Steal this article

“Open access,” in publishing, refers to immediate, free online access to content—scholarly journal articles, in particular. The open access movement is the subject of an upcoming article in the fall 2007 issue of the Journal of Association Leadership, and it’s also discussed in the August 2007 issue of Associations Now, through an interview with open access evangelist Patrick Brown.

While I was sitting in on today’s meeting of the Journal Editorial Board, Ann Oliveri talked about the ways that open access can expand the influence of your association—just by allowing your members to disseminate your materials to their colleagues and contacts. That’s one thing I personally find attractive about open access, aside from the various (and sometimes thorny) questions of economics. By opening things up, you broaden the conversation to people who might not belong to your association but could have a lot to add.

If you’re interested in open access, check out the Monday Learning Lab “Open Access: Digital, Online, Free-of-Charge Publication Models” at 4:30 p.m. in room N426C.


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ASAE07-Live: In Transit

Just now siting in the airport lounge in Montreal waiting to board my flight to Chicago. Sadly, I'm not as well equipped as Ben Martin, what with his fancy on-the-road podcasting...

I'm kinda cutting it close, though. I'm scheduled to land at 3pm, while the first learning lab is set to start at 4pm. My first choice is the globalization lab, "Why Should I Care About Kuala Lumpur? The Facts and Fiction of Association Globalization". If that starts off slow, I'll bail and go to the "decision to join" session for CEOs.

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The curtain’s about to rise …

I’m waiting for our Daily Now editorial meeting to start at McCormick Place, enjoying the pre-show quiet in the convention center. I’m probably just strange, but I love the last few hours before a conference really kicks off, when most of the building and prep work is done and you can walk around and see the stage set and ready for the play to begin. It’s a nice feeling of anticipation—you’re ready, and you’re excited to start creating a great experience for our members.

It isn’t always that simple, of course. I remember a fun experience at a previous association where our show truck showed up a day late—which clearly threw an enormous wrench into little things like getting our association booth built and stocked, getting signage up, and getting boxes delivered around the convention center. But when most things go as they should, it’s a great feeling to take a deep breath, look around, and enjoy those last few minutes before the show really starts.

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August 10, 2007

Why join?

So on my flight to Chicago for ASAE & The Center's annual meeting, I'm reading the new publication The Decision to Join (yes, I am just that dorky) as it will be featured in several ways at the meeting. Here are my observations:

- I'm a big believer in engagement being the most important measure (maybe the only really meaningful measure) for associations. Chapter 4, which is summarized in a preview Associations Now article from August is as important a chapter as any in the book.

- I'm not a believer in how the book summarizes the findings in Generations and the Future of Association Participation, the research of Arthur C. Brooks, Ph.D., and The William E. Smith Institute for Association Research. The generational research is interesting, but I'm not sold on the conclusion that as Gens X & Y get older, they will join continue to join associations. I think the nature of jobs, careers, networking, joining, dues, and volunteering are all changing rapidly, and more than ever, the same-old, same-old is a sure path to quick obsolescence.

- There's a general info table in the Appendix (Exhibit B.5) that I like and think would have done well to be included in the main report. It asks respondents to select the top challenges that affect their profession and then rate how well associations do them. Some results:

-- Inadequate recognition of of the value of the profession to the larger society was selected by the most respondents, and they rated associations only a 3.16 on average on a 5-point scale.

-- Linked to this, on "lack of public awareness of the field," respondents were on the not-so-good side, with the average rating for associations addressing this a 2.81.

-- The things associations are doing well include "keeping up with new information in the field" (3.87), and "keeping pace with technology" (3.68).

- One very interesting finding was the results to the question "Do you think there will be a greater or lesser need for associations five years from now?" Half of respondents who had never been a member of any association said the need would be greater, compared to 38 percent and 37 percent respectively from current members and former members.

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August 8, 2007

Conference Content Preview?

Is it just me, or is the August issue of Associations Now pretty much a preview of the Annual Meeting conference content? I've only just started reading through, but seems that each article is written by someone who is scheduled to speak. Come to think of it, the past several issues have each had pre-meeting articles from speakers.

Hmm, good or bad? Is the magazine being lazy? Is the value of actually attending the meeting lessened? Or are they wisely leveraging speakers who have already committed to the ASAE? For me, it serves as a good preview that could help me decide to go see (or not see) a specific session/speaker. Also, my guess is that - despite the size of the Annual Meeting - the vast majority of association professional don't get to go. So, gaining some of the conference knowledge via the magazine is certainly valuable to all of them.

Coincidentally, my tech polemic ran in the August issue as well. If you see a bunch of tech vendors beating someone up in a dark corner, it'll probably be me...

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August 7, 2007

Experience Web 2.0 at Annual Meeting

You've heard a lot recently about Web 2.0 and social media and the way that they're transforming human interaction. You've probably also heard the Chicken Littles of the world describing how Web 2.0 could spell the demise of associations. They say that associations are being disintermediated from the very constituents they claim to represent by the evolution of social structures and networks which can now be supported by the Internet. The best way to understand how the social web can transform the way you interact with an association, its members, and its programs is to actually participate in Web 2.0 and experience it for yourself. So, if you're attending ASAE & The Center's 2007 Annual Meeting -- or even if you're not -- here are three ways you can enhance your participation -- or participate virtually -- by tapping into social web things going on next week in Chicago:

1. Subscribe to the ASAE2007 mobile interactive backchannel. The backchannel is like a listserve for your mobile phone. Those who subscribe to the backchannel will be able to both send and receive short text messages about the Annual Meeting. What will the chatter on the backchannel be like? I'll be posting my thoughts on sessions I'm attending. I hope to read the same, find out what special events my friends are attending and discover where the best food is at the receptions. Details on how to sign up for the backchannel.
2. Watch the page at Technorati throughout the annual meeting or if you're hip to RSS, subscribe to this feed: http://feeds.technorati.com/search/asae2007. Why? Watching this page or subscribing to that feed will let you follow blog posts, videos and/or pictures that are tagged with asae2007. Several people will be uploading content about the annual meeting and will be tagging their stuff with asae2007. If you care to upload your own content tagged with asae2007, use Flickr to host and tag your pictures, YouTube to host and tag your videos, and check out Technorati for details on how to tag your blog posts.
3. Attend Association Bloggercon 2007, Sunday, August 12 from 10:30 - Noon in McCormick Place room N230B. Maybe you've heard someone utter the word unconference. Now's your chance to experience something like an unconference, because this informal gathering of association bloggers, now in its third year, is like a miniature unconference. There is no set agenda, and may the conversation take us where ever it pleases. But you can be sure there will be plenty of talk about how to engage members and constituents through blogs, podcasts, wikis and other funny-sounding terms. No need to RSVP. Just show up and join at least 20 others who have said they'll attend.

If you need more information, drop me a line! bkmcae at gmail dot com.

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August 2, 2007

Annual Book Orgy

As I get most of my fiction playing video games, I mostly read non-fiction books (on business, culture, science, etc). Last year's Annual Meeting was like hitting pay dirt for new book recommendations, and often actual new books (ie, that were being given out as promo items). All told, I walked away from - or picked up very soon after - the Annual Meeting with the following books:

The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth
  • Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
  • 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don't
  • Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators: From Idea to Execution
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
  • Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win
  • Sadly, I have yet to read through all of them. The ~1000 page Team of Rivals has been particularly intimidating, despite the fact that Doris Kearns Goodwin nearly brought me to tears during her keynote.

    All the book pimpage shouldn't come as much of a surprise, given that a) many of the general and thought leader sessions are sponsored by speaker bureaus who have clients that write books, and b) writing a book implies some level of expertize and credentials to "qualify" as a general/though leader session speaker.

    Anyway, I'm leaving extra space in my luggage this year!

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    July 30, 2007

    Annual Meeting: What are you looking forward to?

    Okay everybody, the ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting is less than two weeks away, and so it's time to find out what you are looking forward to seeing, doing or experiencing when we gather in Chicago early next month.

    Can't wait to hang with a friend you haven't seen in a long time? Eagerly anticipating a great meal at one of Chicago's fine eating establishments? Thrilled to be attending an especially timely and interesting thought leader session or learning lab?

    It's going to be a great meeting all the way around, but each of us has those specific things we plan (or don't plan!) that get us particularly excited. So tell us what's floating your boat by sharing up to three of your forward-looking thoughts, and let's see if we can get a conversation started!

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    July 22, 2007

    Networking Action

    The July issue of Associations Now had a mini-article with networking tips for those attending conferences. All seemingly obvious stuff that we so readily forget (eg, break the ice, have a smile, stop txting, etc). Among other great resources, Work the Pond!: Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life is a great book that covers the ins/outs of effective networking.

    I often do a pre-event mindset shift on how much I plan to network vs stick to classes/formal sessions. This is a completely unscientific, and often subconscious, calculation based on who I expect the attendees to be, if I know many acquaintances will be there, the quality/relevance of the sessions, etc. Of course, things often change once I actually get to the show, but the mindset does somewhat determine how "aggressively" I approach things.

    Admittedly, my focus for the ASEA Annual Meeting will be on the more formal learning elements. As someone who does not identify as an association professional (despite doing this for nearly seven years), I rarely seek out networking opportunities with other association professionals. Yes, I know that's pretty shallow and naive of me, but hey, I'm just being honest. (So, for example, most evenings during the Annual Meeting, I'm planning to bail and hook up with local game developers and IGDA chapter volunteers.)

    All that said, I do plan to attend the Bloggercon gathering organized by Ben Martin. Oddly enough, I readily identify myself as a blogger!

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    June 28, 2007

    Just Registered

    Finally made it down to "Register for ASAE Annual Meeting" on my to-do list. Despite the heavy dose of vendor related questions, the process was pretty painless overall. Even booked my hotel via the online system!

    Often, I procrastinate to the last minute when registering for an event, and miss out on the usual "early bird" discount. In this case, I got lucky and avoided the $100 bump in fees after July 7th.

    Does make me wonder if there's been any serious research behind the effects of an early bird discount on registration trends. Does it really have an impact? Does it increase attendee count, or not? Does it generate overall more revenue, or not? Or, is it more of a logistics and planning aid? Excuse for another marketing push?

    Not being a meetings/events expert myself, it intuitively seems smart. But, is it? Or, do we do that because it's what's always been done?

    Regardless, I'm sure happy that I saved the hundred bucks this time!

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    June 14, 2007

    Annual Prep Process

    Getting the beefy Annual Meeting print program mailed to your door is a great help, but it is still a pretty overwhelming task to prep for such a large-scale event. Some adventurous folks may just show up in Chicago and let the winds blow them into whatever session/activity seems most interesting at the moment - though, my guess is that most of us are not nearly adventurous.

    As I try to set my own plans (which involves meticulous weighting of session topics and timing, etc), I'm curious to know if others have any tip of tricks to share to help other prep/plan and get the most out of the Annual Meeting. I, for one, need some advice!

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    June 11, 2007

    Introduction from an association blogger

    I've been in the association world for two years, overseeing REALTOR.org, the association site for the National Association of Realtors. I've had a blog for much longer than that, since I spent several years advising organizations about how to communicate effectively online before joining NAR. I've participated in events hosted by Chicago's Association Forum, but this will be my first ASAE conference, and I'm really looking forward to it!

    My personal blog -- not updated often enough, unfortunately -- is Online Content Thoughts and Ideas.

    And I just wrote an article about blogging for Forum Magazine, "Why Blog? Why Not!"

    Anyway, I look forward to meeting lots of you here on Acronym and in person at the conference!

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    June 7, 2007

    Introducing new Annual Meeting bloggers!

    It gives me great pleasure to announce the first three new Annual Meeting bloggers who will be posting in the coming weeks, as well as during the meeting in Chicago in August. In alphabetical order, they are:

    Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association

    Hilary Marsh, managing director, REALTOR.org, National Association of Realtors

    Matt White, director of marketing, Illinois Park and Recreation Association

    I'll give each of our new bloggers the chance to offer their own unique intros. In the meantime, I want to express just how excited we are about these outstanding additions to the crew of Chicago Bloggers. And they won't be the last association community contributors to join the effort, so please keep reading!

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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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