September 3, 2010

Who's responsible for innovation at a tradeshow? 3 (times two) views

At Annual in LA, I had the chance to attend the "industry power session"--a rapidfire discussion about the future of tradeshows facilitated by John Parke and building in part on the results of several focus groups of meeting planners and CEOs held before the conference.

The session was structured around a series of questions. The reactions and comments to each were fascinating to me (I've got a good dozen pages of notes to think about), but one question that particularly stood out was "Who is responsible for bringing innovation to a tradeshow?"

In the discussion that followed, a number of interesting points came up (all of the following are paraphrased):

- Innovative tradeshows need to recruit exhibitors who are on the cutting edge of their industries. Prospective exhibitors look at the list of companies that will be at a show and decide whether to attend based on whether they see other "like" companies.

- How can I expect exhibitors to bring innovation to a tradeshow when my exhibitors won't even read the materials I send them? (from a meeting planner)

- The ultimate responsibility for innovation lies with the ownership of a show, because they are the leaders of the event.

- Meeting planners must be the catalysts for innovation--they need to attend other shows, see what's going on in the industry, educate exhibitors, and sell new ideas to their CEOs. They need to ensure that their own shows are two years ahead of where attendees are.

- Associations would see more innovative ideas from exhibitors if they saw them as more than salespeople looking to do business. Associations need to educate their exhibitors on the needs of members/their market first.

- It's not an association's responsibility to educate exhibitors about their members--it's the exhibitor's responsibility to be engaged with their customer base and know the market they;'re trying to sell too. But associations shouldn't look at exhibitors as ATMs, either. We all need to break free from the direct sales mindset.

Watching this conversation pingpong around the room, there was clearly a passionate interest in the future of tradeshows and events, and consensus that innovation was critical to that future--but significantly less consensus over who needs to take the lead.

I don't know that there is a right answer--each industry and show is different. But I think the ultimate answer is "somebody needs to--and if you're asking the question, it might as well be you." Whether you're an exhibitor or planner or CEO, why not step forward and find others who share your interest in innovation to collaborate with?

What do you think? Is there a particular person or group with ultimate responsibility for innovation in a tradeshow? Would you have advice for someone who wants to help a particular tradeshow find its innovative mojo?

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September 2, 2010

3 Observations for Session Speakers

Rene Shonerd, MEd, CAE, a consultant and a member of ASAE &The Center's Technology Section Council, kindly sent us the following blog post with good advice based on the sessions she attended at Annual:

Because I'm currently planning for an upcoming presentation myself, I found myself jotting down notes about presentation delivery while attending the learning labs at this year's ASAE10 Annual Meeting. After reviewing my notes on the long flight home, I found 3 themes:

When it comes to slides - less is more. We can all learn from the great examples at the Ted Talks. Audiences are no longer in awe of out of the box templates with bulleted lists. Instead repurpose those lists as talking points in your speaker's notes and develop slides that are true visual aids. The best slides contain a key takeaway phrase, a simple chart or a professional image that supports the key point. Garr Reynolds's book and blog also contain useful tips to get you started or spruce up your old slide decks.

Internet Connection - don't count on it. I watched several speakers scramble when the internet connection in the convention center wasn't working or wasn't strong enough to run the multimedia features of their presentations. Keep the multimedia segments, but develop a backup plan ahead of time. Download any video presentations (find tools here) to your laptop and save cached version of web pages you plan to show.

Embrace (or at least acknowledge) the backchannel. Tweets aren't just for the tech types anymore. Even if you don't use Twitter yourself, take time to learn how to acknowledge and incorporate feedback from those who do. Simple things like announcing the session hashtag created by conference organizers and including your twitter id on the title slide are great first steps. Check out How to present with Twitter (and other backchannels) by Olivia Mitchell to learn more.

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Quick Clicks: Not yet our regularly scheduled program

Happy Thursday! I had expected this edition of Quick Clicks to be primarily non-Annual-Meeting related, but people are still posting so much good commentary on the conference that I'm going to focus on Annual after all:

- Mark Bledsoe at AssociationOkie recapped his Annual Meeting experience, and also started a fun game: What are some cities that would be great for Annual Meeting in 2018?

- Brian O'Leary at Magellan Media Partners' blog teases out the major themes he sees in the post-conference discussion about Annual, and shares some of what he experienced there as well.

- Elizabeth Weaver Engel posted her reflections from Annual Meeting. She also started a discussion on the YAP discussion board for suggestions for Annual Meeting 2011 in St. Louis.

- Jeff De Cagna proposed three key questions he hopes to see discussed by the time of next year's conference. (Don't miss the comments on his post--other great questions are proposed in there.)

- Dave Nershi (association executive by day, wine blogger by night) shares his take on the Food & Wine Classic.

- At the Common Thread blog, Jamie Notter worries that lessons learned during Annual might be forgotten in the press of day-to-day work once we're all back in the office.

- Jeff Cobb sees the post-conference discussions as a great learning opportunity (and gives a very kind shout-out to Acronym in the process. Thanks, Jeff!).

- Several posts offer follow-ups and additional information about topics discussed at Annual: Leslie White breaks down antitrust issues and how they relate to social media, and Paul Schneider shares some information on mobile.

- KiKi L'Italien has some suggestions for future presenters based on some AV issues she observed during conference.


August 31, 2010

Three Cool Takeaways from the LA Community Legacy Projects

Wow, we just finished tallying up the total Annual Meeting attendee participation and results from our Community Connections projects, and the numbers blasted previous "legacy project" metrics to smithereens!

The projects--ranging from a 5K fun run to local tours to bike-building and toiletry-kit/school supply stuffing--brought together 487 volunteers and resulted in 125 bikes, several massive boxes of stuffed school backpacks, and more than $17,000--all for the nonprofit Midnight Mission! In previous years, ASAE averaged about 15 volunteers, who would all arrive to donate time on the Saturday before the conference started. Obviously, we've finally found the right formula that will make giving back to the host community fun, accessible, and high-impact.

Here are three cool takeaways that seem to be making the difference:

1. We added far more options. Indeed, the 5K run early on the second day of the meeting hit its limit of 100 sign-ups weeks before folks started landing at LAX airport. Eager tradeshow participants turned a wrench, steadied some screws, and did whatever else was needed to help build the first 100 bikes in the Milwaukee, Travel Portland, and Pittsburgh booths at the Expo. The remaining 25 bikes and all of the backpacks and toiletry kits were completed on Tuesday, the final day of the event. Offering multiple opportunities, pricing, and time commitments ensured that almost all attendees could do at least something to give back....

2. Which led to a happy meet-up between volunteers and the actual recipients of our efforts--the families served by Midnight Mission! Boy, if you could have seen those kids' smiles, and the energy with which they zoomed around the room on their sparkling bikes--well, that will be a strong and positive memory for everyone there. Think those folks will volunteer again? Oh, yeah. They know first-hand that they made a difference in a child's life--and plenty of parents were there to add their warm thanks as well. The same was true on the Saturday when more than 400 people were fed by our attendees at Midnight Mission. Lesson: Try to ensure face-to-face exchanges with the constituency your legacy projects are serving. And lose the polish--focus the exchange on the homeless, the hungry, or the other vulnerable people being helped by your attendees.

3. We learned that our business partners could be real leaders when it comes to good citizenship, and they can teach us a few things in this regard. The Industry Partners group of ASAE was a driving force behind several of the legacy events, such as the bike-building, and others on the tradeshow floor--such as Virginia Beach CVB with its book collection for Midnight Mission, and Rosen Hotels with its continuing donation drive for Haiti earthquake relief--came up with their own ways to help others. Thank you all!

One final point: Chris Wood, director of social responsibility and coordinator of so many of these legacy projects, and the director of Midnight Mission were so inspired by the impact of our attendees that they are working on a case study guide that will 1) help standardize the process of ASAE-charity legacy projects, 2) develop a sample case study that Midnight Mission can use to guide other associations meeting in Los Angeles, and 3) capture the lessons learned by our 2010 experience.

Again, thank you to each of the 487 people who ran, walked, gave time and money, got their hands dirty with bike grease, brought shampoo and soap, and more!

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3 ways my mind was changed at #asae10

Like all of the ASAE Annual Meetings I've been to, the 2010 edition was packed with sights and experiences I won't soon forget. The five-year-old kid that plays air guitar during Journey at Dodger Stadium. A grilled macaroni-and-cheese sandwich. Certain colleagues' karaoke performances. But of course, I have some actual significant and important memories that will stick with me for a long time, too. Call them takeaways, call them lessons, call them what you will, below are the three major ways my personal outlook shifted as a direct result of the Annual Meeting.

Just the right amount of anxiety was a key message during Bob Rosen's Thought Leader session. He explained that not enough anxiety makes employees complacent, and too much anxiety paralyzes them with fear, but just the right amount will motivate them to act. In itself, this wasn't groundbreaking (though he did frame it nicely), but his emphasis on the leader's role in managing anxiety was a new perspective for me. Rosen said a leader of any healthy organization must be comfortable with anxiety and that such a capacity enables him or her to lead in two ways:

  1. The leader can set an example or show others how to live with anxiety;
  2. The leader can work to create anxiety within the organization—just the right amount to drive employees toward success.

[Update: Rosen published a book titled Just Enough Anxiety in 2008. So I guess I'm behind the curve on this one, but that doesn't change how much it I liked hearing it.]

Hyper-focused content. In his session with Sterling Raphael from NFi Studios (sadly under-attended, by the way; you all missed out), Ben Martin, CAE, shared how the Virginia Association of Realtors is using news feeds and shared networks to fill out its web content, allowing it to focus its own content generation more efficiently and effectively. The idea that stuck with me, from Ben: "The bottom line is to be extremely hyper-focused on only the content that you can be the best in the world at."

He said VAR used to produce content on staging homes or building real-estate websites, but now it doesn't. VAR focuses on the Virginia angle and supplements its provisions in other topic areas with feeds from the National Association of Realtors and local associations as well as outside news sources. I'm excited to see an association that is making this sort of content model work. [Update: Ben was kind enough to send along the slides from their presentation. See slides 10-15 for some ideas I particularly liked about content, community, and commerce.]

Social media is just a fact of life now. While there were, by my count, five Learning Labs specifically about social media, I got a general impression that social media is just baked in to all the things associations do now. Not every association is at the same level of expertise, of course, but in several instances I saw social media come up as just one part of a discussion of a bigger topic (communications, fundraising, leadership, etc.) rather than being its own topic.

Perhaps not everyone agrees with my assessment, but it's a thought that's been growing in my mind for a while and was confirmed at the meeting, at least from my vantage point.

For links to thoughts and takeaways from other Annual Meeting attendees, see the various Quick Clicks entries from the past week.


Quick Clicks: Annual Meeting postgame, one more time

Discussion of Annual Meeting continues--and I continue to be floored by the quality and passion of the post-conference commentary. Thank you to all of the bloggers and commenters out there who have been and will be part of this conversation.

(On an administrative note: After this post, we'll probably roll future Annual Meeting-related posts into the regular weekly Quick Clicks rather than breaking them out separately. The next weekly Quick Clicks will be this Thursday.)

- Peggy Hoffman enjoyed seeing a new kind of conference attendee while she was in LA, and she suggests that associations need to get ready for what these new attendees are looking for.

- Jeff Hurt discusses three things he found rewarding at Annual and three things about the conference that need rethinking (plus two bonus items that need reconsideration as well).

- The folks at the Connect blog have 19 takeaways from the conference. (My favorite is probably item 13: "Hire staff who know more than you, and your organization will always excel.")

- At the Splash blog, Elyse Savaki shares her notes from the Learning Lab "Get Your Data Under Control."

- Gary Polmateer of NimbleUser and Lisa Hasen of DAXKO Connect provide their take on the exhibitor experience at Annual.


August 30, 2010

3 Reasons You Should Leave a Session in the Middle

Our association runs a show just like most of you out there...and it has always irritated me the amount of transients who float between sessions, like vagabonds or railroad bums. 'How rude of them to leave a session!' scoffs my inner monologue as I kindly open the door and then let it close softly so as not to disturb our delicate speaker with attention deficit issues.

But, I think I have to admit these folks have figured it out...and the best part of being at someone else's show is you can do whatever the hell you want! I've stayed in sessions before when I wasn't getting much out of the experience; not to say that the speakers weren't giving, I just for whatever reason wasn't taking, but I stayed and frumped (inner monologue only). But this year I'm done with that. I've left two sessions and I'm proud of it! The sessions themselves were fine and I am sure helped many people, but they weren't what I was seeking.

So here are the 3 reasons:

1) You never know who you'll run into in the hall. I had a chance to chat with a web design consultant who looked at our website and told me what is wrong with it, in like 5 minutes! Man, that was huge.

2) You may be missing out in that other session down the hall. ASAE needs to write another 'Decision' book, called the 'Decision to get it together and choose which concurrent session you want to attend'. I normally want to go to 5 or 6 of these things, so if I am getting the sense up front that the session isn't for me, maybe I should bail and go to my next choice. What if it's that one piece of information that will move me from vague awareness to clarity?

3) I am supposed to do these in threes so I made this one up--I really only have 2 reasons you should leave a session in the middle.

See you in the hall!

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Quick Clicks: Annual Meeting postgame, continued again

Responses to Annual Meeting continue to be written (and thanks again to everyone who's taken the time to share their honest and heartfelt input--we're privileged to have members and participants who post such detailed and thoughtful feedback). Here's a roundup of the latest:

- Stefanie Reeves, a new association blogger at Association Advocacy Chick, posted on what the Annual Meeting meant to her.

- Jon Aleckson recaps his time at the conference, including his first meeting as a member of the Professional Development Council.

- The American Bar Association's Behind Bars blog (which gets major points from me for its name) responds to Maddie Grant's "Has ASAE Lost Its Mojo?" post-Annual post with some thoughts on what other associations can learn from what she has to say.

- David Patt responds to some of the post-Annual blogging with thoughts on the importance of providing education that suits a variety of participants' preferences.

- Michelle Butler was inspired by Marshall Goldsmith's talk on mojo and found herself getting her own mojo back.

- Matt Baehr has more thoughts about the Annual Meeting, based in part on comments on his earlier post.

- Maddie Grant shares 10 things that she loved at this year's conference.

- Jamie Notter reflects on the Annual Meeting experience this year, both during the conference and afterward.

- Toni Rae Brotons posts an update from her previous post about her experience in the "Guilt By Association" sitcom.

- Teri Carden says she achieved her goals for the conference, and so much more.

- Some perspectives from the exhibitor side of the conference: Bill Walker shares his view from the DelCor booth, and Dawn Taylor at Nonprofit Staffing Solutions relates a few conversations she had with visitors to her booth.

- Jeff Hurt collected tweets from the "Free: Future of a Radical Price" Learning Lab.

- The SocialFish blog rounds up the liveblogs they did during education sessions at Annual.

- The ConventionPlanit blog recaps the last day of the conference.


August 27, 2010

3 Reasons to Smile after a Committee Meeting

Committee meetings are challenging, sometimes painful. Even here, at the fountain of knowledge for experts in running committees, we struggle and toil together often. Committees have the extraordinary ability to take an idea that once seemed so clear, and confound it with opinion, experience, and yes, a little bit of egoism.

On the flipside, sometimes these meetings move fast and decisions are made rapidly, leaving some feeling content and others feeling left behind.

Either way, we seem to always find that our ideal process doesn't match the actual conglomeration that is a normal committee meeting. But I believe that there's good to be found in most committee meetings, even when they're frustrating. Here are 3 reasons to smile after any committee meeting:

1) Ideas Need to Be New, Even if They are Old: Sometimes we need to feel like our ideas are new...Committee members are seeking some type of fulfillment, we aren't getting paid; our ideas matter in the sense that we are there, in the room, together...of the thousands of other people who could be there, we are the 10 or 20 who showed up.

2) Circles Are More Powerful Than Squares: Our human nature seems to lead us in the direction of creating boxes in which everything has a logical progression and makes sense to us. Truth is, most of what we are trying to manage is as much a product of chaos, luck, and we analyze and re-analyze in circles, shaking our heads at each other. We might forget that the process of renewal and repetition is inherent in all natural things, and when people discuss and plan together we should not discount this process. Sometimes the place where we started is where we need to be, but we need to get everyone there at the same time.

3) People are a Force of Nature: Some of us are strong, we know where we stand and we want others to stand with us; some of us are flexible, we want to develop, cultivate, and contribute; some of us are of the pack, we enjoy communion and shared experience; and some of us builders, we see order and design always.

What point is there in working in such a weird model to make decisions? The point is that we will never truly understand the forces at play when a group of committed, passionate people get together. But we can do our best to ride the wave and harness the energy that we all create, and mold it into a more cohesive and inclusive framework than what we could do alone.

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Quick Clicks: Annual Meeting postgame, continued

As I promised yesterday, I'm continuing to gather reactions to this year's Annual Meeting. (If I've missed any that you know, please leave a comment or email me at, and I'll be happy to include a link in a future post.)

- Maddie Grant has some extensive thoughts about several things that concerned and saddened her at Annual. There's also a great deal of discussion in comments to her post.

- Toni Rae Brotons, one of the participants in the "Guilt by Association" sitcom, was disappointed in the experience.

- It's not available as I write this, but at noon today the Social Media Sweet Spot will be discussing Annual. You can see the live webcast or view it after the fact here.

- Robert Barnes shares learnings, musings, and afterthoughts from the conference. (And thanks to Robert for traveling so far to be with us!)

- Jamie Notter has some thoughts about ways Annual could have been more social, connected, and action-oriented for learners.

- Bruce Hammond explains why a fraternity executive attends Annual.

- Elizabeth Weaver Engel has a new video of the YAP Annual flashmob (or at least new to me).

- Bojan Tercon shares his take on traveling to Annual and Los Angeles.

- The ConventionPlanit blog has two recap posts, one on the weekend and one on Monday.

- The associationTECH blog is seeking notes and summaries from technology-related sessions at Annual.

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August 26, 2010

Annual Meeting in Photos, Day Four

Here are just a few images from the last day of Annual Meeting. Thanks again to our talented staff photographers, Amy Hissrich, Peter Hutchins, and Scott Briscoe, who took these shots; and of course the full pool of photos from Annual is available on Flickr. Thanks to all the participants who made Annual such a great experience, either in person or virtually!


Quick Clicks: Annual Meeting Postgame

Annual Meeting summaries, reflections, and recaps are popping up all over--it's great to read all the different perspectives. Here are the posts I've found so far ... but I'm sure more are being written even as I post this. I'll link to 'em as I find 'em.

- Several bloggers posted takeaways and responses to specific sessions, including Shannon Otto at the Splash blog, who wrote about an interesting ethics session she attended as well as a session on engaging members with mobile.

- Jeff Hurt posted twice about that same mobile session, first with notes and takeaways and then with 18 questions to ask your members about mobile.

- Lynn Morton live-blogged the session on deconstructing social media guidelines.

- The Connect blog posted major themes and ideas from a session on great IT on a tight budget.

- Annual by the numbers: KiKi L'Italien has a list of her top 5 personal highlights from Annual. Matt Baehr posted 10 thoughts on the conference. Thought Leader Carmine Gallo posted 7 secrets from his Annual session (plus some Flip video he took during his talk).

- Shannon Otto shared some great photos her colleague Kevin Patrick took during the meeting.

- Wes Trochlil recapped his Annual Meeting experience. So did Talia Salem at the Smart Meetings blog.

- Thomas Getchius wrote up his learnings from the last day in LA.

- Jeff Cobb wasn't at Annual (for a very good reason!) but he still participated through social media. He shares what the discussions he saw onlinetell him about the future of learning.

- Stephen Nold at the Trade Show News Network shares his impressions (and concerns) from walking the expo floor.

- Maggie McGary riffed off of some discussions going on at Annual to talk about the depth of associations' commitment to social media. In a similar vein, Dave Lutz' preparations for Annual got him thinking about conference websites and how they can fail.


3 things I take home to Belgium from ASAE10

Another post from guest blogger Marc Mestdagh of 2Mpact from, well, from Belgium, obviously:

1. Associations (act) now!
I came to L.A. with practically no expectations other than the hope to learn and see how far ahead association management in the US is in contrast to Belgium. No matter how this would present itself, talking to people, listening to the speakers, the study-tour to two associations, etc. If I look back now at my trip, it surprises me to see that on the one hand there seems to be a greater awareness of the importance of associations (the Power of A) and all issues concerning thoughtful leadership, innovation, social media were omnipresent throughout the conference. But if you talk to attendees and look closer to what is really done in practice, I had the impression that what seems to be perceived as strategically important are foremost rather basic issues of association management (membership issues, dues, education programs, etc.). In that respect the meeting is not merely about how it is done, but to a certain extent about how it could or should be done more successfully.

In one of the sessions David Gammel said "The best technology for success online is what you have access to right now." To me it seems this applies not only to technology but to all aspects of association management. Associations have to act with what knowledge and experience is at hand. As an example I refer to mobile - everybody seems to agree that mobile is becoming big, but many associations are still in the study or planning phase, looking at their first mobile version of the website, considering applications for smartphones in the future, and so on. It does somewhat cast a shadow on what I've been reading about association management in the US on the web, blogs, and Twitter. Nevertheless it strengthens my belief in the importance of associations and associations management.

2. Talk social media to me!
Social media is hot, or at least it is hot to say that you find it hot. Not taking into account of what my heroes like Jamie Notter, Maddie Grant, Jeff De Cagna, David Gammel are doing, I'm not convinced that associations are really into social media. Appointing a staff member social media strategist because he happens to know something about Facebook or Twitter doesn't count. In Belgium, while talking to association executives, I avoid the term social media; I prefer to convince them of the fact that their organizations have to become more social in a sense of being connected, listening, collaborating, adding up value to create unique content--and preferably as soon as possible. Internet technology (including social network sites) has opened up so many opportunities to be in contact with the members and all sorts of stakeholders. Doing a Facebook page for an event may have direct results but is not sustainable. Future associations have to be "social" in everything they do, everywhere and all of the time.
In that respect I'm wondering what ASAE will do with the social media 'capital' (bloggers, posts, tweeps, tweets,...) it raised during the meeting. Who's behind the ASAE-twitters ? Will they answer or follow up on small things like vegetarians prefer meat and veggies on separate plates or big things like how big was the budget for the Guilt by Association movies? Or shall we all just wait until the #asae11 hashtag is released and start all over ?

3. Everyone should write a book!
What I really liked about the conference was the bookstore. Not hidden away in a little corner with books piled up on tables, but a genuine island of knowledge. I love the internet, but frankly I like books even better. You can imagine how awesome it was for me to get free copies from keynote speakers or even being able to buy them and get them signed. Speakers who have written books generally are more interesting than others. They have been straightening things out in their heads for so long in order to get their story right. I don't have to agree with that story or even feel any affection for the writer, the mere fact of the generosity of sharing is sufficient for me. I would advise everyone at one time or another to get in front of a pc and start writing a book. Let it be my 'mojo' from L.A.


3 scenes from "Guilt By Association," day 3

Presented at the Tuesday general session at the 2010 Annual Meeting & Expo, below are parts 7-9 of "Guilt By Association," a sitcom of sorts about a CAE study group. See parts 1-3 here and parts 4-6 here. Or, see all nine parts here.


August 24, 2010

3 tweets from Marshall Goldsmith's general session

Marshall Goldsmith, author of Mojo, offered his advice to association professionals on how to find happiness and meaning in work and life in Tuesday's general session. Below are three (of many, many) tweets that came through on the #asae10 hashtag during the session.

Did I say 5 positive things to myself yesterday? #asae10 my example from Marshall Goldsmith's daily question process suggestionTue Aug 24 20:43:32 via TweetCaster

#asae10 The inner adult: "What can I do to engage myself?" instead of "what can the company do to engage me?"Tue Aug 24 20:57:17 via HootSuite

Our default reaction in life is to not experience happiness or meaning, but rather inertia. #asae10Tue Aug 24 20:54:38 via TweetCaster


3 mental models that could be holding you back

I had the chance to attend a fantastic Learning Lab this morning with Jennifer Baker of the American Physical Therapy Association and Ray Saputelli of the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians. The discussion focused around "mental models"--assumptions and generalizations that influence how we understand the world, make decisions, and act.

Essentially, mental models are the framework we use to sort and interpet things we see, hear, or otherwise experience as we go through life. The plus side is that mental models make it possible for us to get through the day without having to painstakingly analyze every detail; on the negative side, we're often unaware of the way our mental models affect us. We can disregard information that contradicts our mental models--even in the face of overwhelming evidence. As Jennifer and Ray said during their session, unless we surface our mental models, test them, and improve them, we're hemmed in by barriers that we don't even know are there. When you say "Our members will never ..." or "Our members always ..." you're revealing assumptions that can be barriers to your own thinking.

Jennifer and Ray's session was aimed at healthcare executives, so they asked participants to discuss the mental models that could be affecting discussions of healthcare reform among healthcare associations. A lot of the mental models and assumptions discussed were specific to healthcare-related societies, but I heard a few that could impact any association. (Note that the interpretations below are my own).

1. Lack of a common definition (in this case, of healthcare reform). If the players in a dialogue aren't operating under a common definition of terms, they can be having two different conversations without realizing it.

1. "All change is bad, and I'll get hurt." If you assume that change will have a negative outcome, you'll dig in your heels and fight it, avoid it, or spend your energy looking for ways to protect yourself instead of looking for ways to help create a positive outcome.

2. "There will be winners and losers." If you assume that someone has to lose in a particular situation, chances are you'll fight to be a winner, right? Or, potentially, if you think you can't win, you'll give up and disengage from the dialogue rather than waste energy on a situation you've already "lost."

I think I'm going to spend some time on the plane home thinking about my own mental models and how they're shaping my work ...

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3 Reactions to Cameron Herold

Cameron Herold, a Thought Leader at the Annual Meeting, is a straightforward, engaging speaker. As his overflow session filed out, I asked three people to give a single quick thought:

1."I was interested in his ideas about free software being the way to go. If he's right about that, and he makes a convincing case, then there's going to be a whole lot of upheaval to the way organizations run and use software." Len Mafrica with the Oncology Nurses Society.

2. "He has me thinking that maybe I need to get off the bus." Name withheld by request, national trade association executive. (A little context: Herold talks a lot about hiring and firing and employees being in the right places for them.

3. "He was great. The best thing for me, and I took a lot of notes, and he said a lot of things that are worth thinking about and exploring, but the best thing for me is just the thinking I'm doing while I'm taking the notes. He unlocked the creative flow. He gets us to reach and to unlock the executives we all should be." David Trust with the Professional Photographers of America.


3 ideas for association video

Lots of great tips and ideas shared for creating fun, attractive, and useful videos in Tuesday's Learning Lab "It's a YouTube World: Using Video for Communication," presented by Jeff Lenard, VP of communications at National Association of Convenience Stores and Wendy Mann, CAE, director of communications at the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association. Here are three of them:

  1. When you get a camera, get one that films in high definition, even if you don't plan to show it in HD. At the very least, consider the quality for archival purposes.
  2. Don't overscript. Get answers and testimonials from video subjects from the heart, not the head.
  3. Use video to communicate key advocacy or consumer-related questions. Film your board chair or an industry expert answering a common question about your industry and send it to reporters and media outlets. It'll be more likely to resonate than a long article or research report.

The third idea comes from Lenard at NACS. Below is a screen grab of the NACS "So Who Owns All the Gas Stations?" series. The videos aren't embeddable, unfortunately, so just click the image to check them out.

NACS video screenshot

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3 thought-provoking slides from Tuesday's Learning Labs

Third day of the 2010 Annual Meeting & Expo, a third set of interesting slides.

Handouts for today's Thought Leader sessions and Learning Labs are available online. For ones that provided their presentation slides, as well, I've selected three slides that I found interesting. Click each slide to open the full handout PDF.

From "How Google Analytics is Turning the Webstats World and Your Site Upside-Down," presented by Jim Kelly, Dave Martin, and Betty Whitaker (9 a.m., Room 150AB):

Online advertising slide


From "Accountability in Action: Enforcing Board Member Responsibilities," presented by Melanie Lockwood Herman, Jonathan Howe, and Eileen Morgan Johnson (10:45 a.m., Room 501ABC):

Member types slide


From "Consensus Business Strategies for Large Associations," presented by Kirk Pickerel and Dean West (10:45 a.m., Room 404AB):

Strategy slide


3 scenes from "Guilt By Association," day 2

Presented at the Monday general session at the 2010 Annual Meeting & Expo, below are parts 4-6 of "Guilt By Association," a sitcom of sorts about a CAE study group. See parts 1-3 here and stay tuned for parts 6-9 later today or tomorrow. Enjoy.


Annual Meeting in Photos, Day Three

Day three of Annual Meeting was packed full of learning and conversation (and ended in some great parties and receptions). For more photos, be sure to visit the 2010 Annual Meeting Flickr pool.


Quick Clicks: Annual Meeting, Day Three

Welcome to the last day of the Annual Meeting! I hope you enjoyed the Food & Wine Classic, the YAP party, or wherever else your travels took you yesterday.

Here are some blog reactions to the conference so far:

- Cynthia D'Amour attending a truly eye-opening education session and shares her impressions of the experience.

- KiKi L'Italien hosted the Social Media Sweet Spot webcast live from LA yesterday. The archived video and chat are available on the Sweet Spot's UStream page.

- Sue Pelletier rounds up some video from the conference, including the first few segments of "Guilt by Association" and a video of the flashmob from Sunday.

- Lynn Morton and Elizabeth Weaver Engel posted the Prezi (a.k.a., slides) from their session "Plays Well With Others," on engaging members through multiple communications channels. Elizabeth also posted a list of tips from the session and additional resources as well.

- Maggie McGary (who is missed at Annual this year!) posted five things that make her wish she was here at the conference. Joe Sapp, who is also missed, posted some of the sessions he'd be attending if he were here.

- Shannon Otto posted photos from her time at Annual so far at the Splash blog.

- Peter Turner posted the slidedeck and some key points from his session "It's All About What's Locally Relevant" (on entering or expanding global markets through meetings) as well as a link to some additional case studies.


August 23, 2010

3 issues exhibitors were hearing about

Exhibitors at Annual Meeting have their finger on the pulse of the industry. The inquiries they hear on the tradeshow floor can give you a good sense of the worries and ideas that are top of mind for association execs.

Three exhibitors were kind enough to speak with me about what they were hearing and thinking about in response to their clients' concerns:

1. Michelle Boucher at the CommPartners booth told me that they see associations taking a look at the future of virtual events. In particular, CommPartners is interested in how you keep participants engaged for a longer period of time with an event taking place in the virtual space, and with pricing for virtual events.

2. Colette Trohan, CPP-T, PRP, of, says that "efficient use of time" is a key concern for the people she's speaking with. Execs are looking for ways to do more with less, and that includes finding ways to speed up and streamline their board and committee meetings.

3. Duncan McCreery of Memberclicks says that engaging members is top of mind--how to show them the value of membership, how to keep them coming back for more, and how to provide such a great experience that they tell their friends about it. Associations that have lost membership are looking to regrow it, and he sees a lot of execs willing to re-examine their time-tested membership strategies and try new approaches.

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3 scenes from "Guilt By Association," day 1

Presented at the Sunday general session at the Annual Meeting & Expo, below are parts 1-3 of "Guilt By Association," a sitcom of sorts about a CAE study group. Enjoy.

Stay tuned for parts 4-6 and parts 7-9 in the coming days!


3 top questions at the APAC booth

I swung by the APAC booth this morning to see what burning questions they're hearing. Chris Vest and Carla Lochiatto of ASAE's public policy team (who are not pictured above, by the way) were kind enough to fill me in:

1. What's going on with the new 1099 reporting rules? Despite heated debate, the House failed to pass the Small Business Tax Relief Act (which would have eliminated tthe new reporting requirements) before the August Congressional recess. More information is available in a post on the Power of A site.

2. What can I do about the new 1099 rules? As of this morning, more than 400 people from more than 40 states had signed on to ASAE's Form 1099 letter. If you'd like to read the letter, or sign on yourself, it's available online.

3. When is the Summit Awards Dinner? September 29 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. You can get more information on this year's Summit Award winners, as well as the dinner, here.


3 ways to quit annoying your website users

Bruce Hammond, director of communications/editor for Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity sent us these three takeaways from the "Quit Annoying Your Website Users!" session:

1. Presenter Dave Coriale from DelCor said: Things that MUST be tested for usability--registration/sign-up, your search results, e-commerce, and password recovery.

2. Presenter Cecilia Satovich from Results Direct said: Usability for desktop and mobile are NOT the same. For the desktop, content is king. For mobile devices, context is king.

3. Presenter Dina Lewis from Distilled Logic said: Looking at analytics is extremely important. For usability especially, look at the navigation path people are using to get to content they're looking for.

Overall, my favorite session so far.


3 cool slides from Monday's Learning Labs

Another day of the 2010 Annual Meeting & Expo, another selection of interesting slides.

Handouts for today's Thought Leader sessions and Learning Labs are available online. For ones that provided their presentation slides, as well, I've selected three slides that I found interesting. Click each slide to open the full handout PDF.

From "Govern for Growth: Engage Your Nonprofit Board in Effective Governance," presented by Nancy Axelrod (1:30 p.m., Room 402AB):

Strategic Planning slide


From "Generate Nondues Revenues from Alliance Building," presented by Ozair Esmail, Rob Batarla, and John Bell (1:30 p.m., Room 504):

Alliance slide


From "Quit Annoying Your Web Site Users!" presented by David Coriale, Dina Lewis, CAE, and Cecilia Satovich (8:30 a.m., Room 153AB):

Mobile slide


Annual Meeting Day Two in Photos

Day two of Annual Meeting was full of action--from the early-morning 5K to the opening general session and the packed expo floor. For more photos, visit the 2010 Annual Meeting Flickr pool (and you photographers who are with us in LA, don't forget to add your photos to the pool!)


Quick Clicks: Annual Meeting, Day Two

- Carrie Hartin has posted at the Connect blog about her preparatory reading for Annual Meeting.

- Thomas Getchius blogged his takeaways from Bill George's opening general session keynote and from a session on the Decision to Learn study.

- Mike McCurry has questions about the value of the virtual conference.

- Lynn Morton shares some thoughts from her first day at the conference, as well as a commitment to encourage conversation on Twitter over the next few days.

- Maddie Grant liveblogged David Gammel's Learning Lab on making money online.

- Cynthia D'Amour writes about her experience with a new type of name badge.

- If you'd like to check out the sitcom "Guilt by Association" from the opening general session, it's embedded below. (Stay tuned for part 2 in tomorrow's Quick Clicks!)


3 Lessons from an ASAE Committee Meeting

Steve Smyth, VP of marketing for TriStar Publishing, Inc., sent us the following blog post based on his experience with the Healthcare Community Committee on Saturday:

As a long time member of ASAE who more then occasionally wondered "Where'd they come up with that idea?" when ASAE launched an innovative new product or service, I'd like to report that I think I've discovered one source of that genius - ASAE's volunteer-led Committees.

I'm the incoming Chair of the ASAE Healthcare Community Committee (HCC), and on Saturday I had the great good fortune of working with a new group of healthcare association leaders during our afternoon Committee gathering. The mission for the event was to integrate the new folks into the 3 main Working Groups through which most of the Committees work was accomplished, and then to initiate some strategic thinking regarding tasks and goals for each group. What actually transpired during our 3 hours together didn't exactly match my expected outcomes, but instead gave me something much better - a close up look into what can be accomplished when engaged, intuitive professionals who have a passion for their work get together to brainstorm. I can't wait to see what this group spins out to the greater ASAE community in the coming year!

Here's 3 lessons I learned from working with the Healthcare Community Committee on Saturday:

1. Plan a targeted agenda for your committee meeting- but don't plan to be a slave to it. As a neophyte group leader who wanted to make sure I made good use of the time these volunteers were contributing, I went into the meeting thinking tight adherence to the agenda would keep everyone on track, allowing us to meet our stated objectives. What I learned was that creative discussion has it own flow. Sometimes you just need to go with it.

2. Fresh thinking helps build a bigger vision. Having served 3 years on the HCC had me coming into the orientation/planning meeting with a pretty clear vision for what I saw as the Committee's challenges and opportunities for growth. What I learned was fresh ideas can really help bring that vision of the future into sharper focus. It may reveal some previously unknown challenges as well . Challenges that once understood, are much easier to overcome.

3. If your plan for the meeting has "big issue" items - make sure they're presented in the right order. Pointing back to my first lesson - we did have an agenda item that was to be introduced to the whole Committee and lead off the Working Groups' individualized efforts. Because of a scheduling challenge, this order flip-flopped. What could have created some backtracking on goals the Groups had established before hearing of the bigger initiative instead led to some very productive discussion on how the component elements of the Groups' work can function in synch to achieve the larger mission. In hindsight, having the right presentation order would likely get you to the same place - just without the momentary panic!

End result of the meeting - stay tuned, ASAE.....

(Shameless plug: For a fresh example of how ASAE's Healthcare Community Committee is helping provide uniquely targeted executive-level education - make plans now for ASAE's Healthcare Association Conference, November 18-19, 2010 at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago.)


August 22, 2010

3 notes taken in a Learning Lab


I spoke with Shirley Wong (above), council member at the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation, after today's Learning Lab "Fundraising in the New Economy." She was kind enough to share three important notes she wrote down during the session:

  • Giving is competitive. Your organization and other organizations are fighting for the same dollars from donors.
  • People give when they're directly asked—so never be afraid to ask.
  • Challenges or matching gifts are a big motivator for donors.

For more on the topic of fundraising, see the session handout from presenter Chris Looney, operational VP at CCS. And for ideas on taking good notes, see "3 tips for taking notes at a conference." (No, none of the tips in that post was "share your notes with an Acronym blogger," but it certainly couldn't hurt.)


3 questions to ask yourself about your career

I dropped by the Career Connection Lounge today and had the opportunity to talk with June Cline, CSP, CSAC, of Open Heart Communications, who's one of several coaches meeting with Annual Meeting participants during the conference. I asked June what questions were top of mind for the folks she'd met with so far, and she told me the real question everyone is asking her is, "What's next?"

"Most everybody loves what they do, it's not a matter of that," she said, but people do question whether they should continue to invest in their current position or whether it's time to seek something new.

If you're wondering what's next for your career, June has some advice for you:

1. Ask yourself, "Does your job give you joy?" Or, put differently, "Does it give you energy or does it take it away?"

2. Ask yourself, "What's working? Why is it working?" and "What's not working? How is it not working?"

3. Based on those answers, ask, "What do I need to renovate, update, or eliminate in my work?" as well as "What do I want to intentionally create?"

With all of those answers in mind, you may find yourself with a much clearer sense of what's next for you.


3 questions asked in a Thought Leader session

In his Thought Leader session on Sunday, Bob Rosen, Ph.D., chairman and CEO of Healthy Companies International, talked about how leaders create healthy organizations by fostering their human capital and building the capacity to live with anxiety. At the end, audience members asked some thoughtful questions. Below is a sample of three of them, with a bonus. [Note: paraphrasing below, not direct quotes.]

Question: Is there any hope for creating a healthy company despite a leader at the top that casts a shadow instead of showing the light?

Rosen suggestions were to find financial data, if the leader is a financially minded person, that might make a business case for self reflection or to show the leader success stories of great leaders that he or she can follow and benchmark against.

Question: How do effective leaders find the right balance between fearing risk and driving for success?

Rosen said that if you have a philosophy that life has ups and downs and you learn from those ups and downs, then it changes the way you interpret risky situations.

Question: How does inclusion factor into a leader creating a healthy organization? (The questioner noted that Rosen hadn't used the word inclusion during his presentation despite a focus on human management.)

Rosen suggested that success with inclusion depends on very foundational qualities, such as generosity, understanding, and openness. He said, "To get to respect for diversity, you have to start with being a good person."

And a bonus lesson: an audience member asked a follow-up question to the last one above, noting that a fine line exists between striving for inclusiveness and creating a sense of entitlement among stakeholders. Rosen responded with a one-minute version of his lesson about the four choices a leader has for methods to make decisions, which Scott blogged about just last month.


3 bookstore bestsellers

What are association execs thinking about right now? I thought I'd ask in the bookstore. Right now, it looks like education, governance, and social media are fairly top of mind. The three best-selling books so far during Annual include:

1. The Decision to Learn

2. The Will to Govern Well, Second Edition

3. Tie between Association Compensation and Benefits Study, 2010-2011 Edition, and Social Networking for Nonprofits

I'll be curious to see if these are still in the lead at the end of the conference!


3 hidden gems in the George General Session

Bill George at General Session

Three things I got out of Bill George's General Session that you had to be listening closely to catch. His big four leadership qualities are align, empower, serve, collaborate. And, on crisis, the topic of his talk, he had a great line: "At Medtronic, we had plenty of crises, but we never had one that was covered in the crises management plan."

But these were the three semi-hidden things that struck me:

1. Power is not a finite commodity. Too often leaders horde power, feeling like to empower someone else means their own bank of power is somehow lessened. Now, no one would admit doing that, but I know I've seen it. A lot. George's point: empowering others enhances your own power influence rather than diminishing it.

2. Society will hold us accountable for our actions. George didn't spend a sentence on social media. But I read social media into everything about this statement. Of course, society has always held companies accountable, but social media is a game changer. Associations, you are no different. If your members are on the wrong side of an argument, shouldn't part of your job be getting them on the right side of it, rather than try to convince the rest of society that they are wrong?

3. Failing early is important. What a great message for any young professionals reading this. I know I never wanted to admit failure when I was starting out--not even to myself. But understanding that failure is critical to your career development, embracing it, finding the lessons, taking responsibility--if these things don't make you more attractive to a future employer, then you should consider whether or not you actually want to work there.

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Annual Meeting Day One in Photos

Here are just a few of the photos from day one of the Annual Meeting, courtesy of the conference Flickr pool (and our wonderful staff members Amy Hissrich, Scott Briscoe, and Peter Hutchins, all of whom are great photographers):


3 observations from Saturday at ASAE

Scott Oser of Scott Oser Associates sent us a few thoughts from Saturday at Annual Meeting:

1. If you are not volunteering you should be. The people you meet and the things you get to work to accomplish are awesome.

2. The association community is incredible. The connections you make last forever. You can even see people once a year and feel like you just saw them yesterday.

3. Never ever get in a fight with another association member at an opening reception. (Especially if you are a girl).


3 ideas from the CAE breakfast

Shawn Boynes, CAE, senior direction of education for APIC, shared this blog post from this morning's CAE breakfast:

Robert Tucker provided a great start to the morning at the CAE breakfast by sharing thought provoking ideas & smart perspectives on the absolute necessity for innovation:

1. Surely as association execs we appreciate the need to innovate but how many of us really make time to challenge our assumptions and change our organization's culture around innovation? He shared that we should assault our assumptions!

2. Everyone in the organization has the capacity to innovate; it's everyone's business. We've got to nurture and encourage it, though.

3. Associations have the potential, so let's shatter those old and comfortable ways of doing things, rise to the challenge, and make innovation the fabric of our community.


3 things the YAE Committee did differently

Saturdays at the Annual Meeting are traditionally full of committee and council meetings. Depending on their experience, volunteers can leave those meetings feeling energized and excited for the year ahead or they can feel confused, disengaged, or even left out.

Aaron Wolowiec, chair of the recently-renamed Young Association Executive Committee, wanted to try some new approaches during Saturday's YAEC meeting. He and Jamie Notter of Management Solutions Plus, who facilitated the meeting, spoke to me about what they tried and how it worked.

1. Aaron told me, "I have a strong belief that people can't be successful and connected to the goals of a committee without being connected to each other." His major goal for the day was for the group to get to know each other better and build strong connections to sustain their engagement throughout the year. Jamie noted that during the two-and-a-half hours of the meeting that he facilitated, he only spoke for about 30 minutes--primarily to put "exclamation points" on the discoveries the committee members were making by talking with each other.

2. Rather than presenting his thoughts on leadership to the committee, Jamie asked key questions so they could build a model of leadership as a group. "I grow weary of traditional messages on leadership as if it's something that's present 'out there,'" says Jamie. "Leadership is everywhere in the system." He began by asking committee members to pair up and discuss what being on the YAEC means to them. I found it striking that six out of the 10 pairs reported that a major motivation behind their joining the YAEC was "wanting a voice."

3. Leadership, Jamie says, is all about translating "passion into action," so he asked committee members, "If you could put your passion behind one thing in the coming year, what would it be?" Some of the committee members posted the question to Twitter, and it was picked up by members of other councils as well. Aaron was pleased to see that the ideas YAEC members found inspiring were impacting conversations going on in other councils and committees.

Aaron and Jamie agreed that the YAEC's approach to its meeting Saturday has built a very strong foundation for a successful year, but, even more important, it's built a foundation for ongoing learning among the committee. They left the meeting with a homework assignment: How will they know during the year if something isn't working anymore? As Aaron noted, a mechanism for that kind of feedback is critical so they can correct course if need be.

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3 interesting slides from Sunday's Learning Labs

Handouts for today's Thought Leader sessions and Learning Labs are available online. For ones that provided their presentation slides, as well, I've selected three slides that I found interesting. Click each slide to open the full handout PDF.

From "Emotional Intelligence - The Leadership Spark that Ignites Association Excellence," presented by Tom Pierce (1:30 p.m., Room 518):

EQ slide


From "Risky Chapters? Maximize Outcomes & Minimize Liability," presented by Peter Houstle and Leslie White (3:15 p.m., Room 502B):

Risk Mgmt cycle slide


From "Take Your Conferences Online," presented by Jeff Cobb and Tony Ellis, CAE (1:30 p.m., Room 501ABC), data presented from a survey of associations about virtual conferences:

Virtual conference reasons slide


3 (times 2) celebrity sightings at Annual

With Annual Meeting in LA this year, I suppose it's not surprising that participants are seeing a few more celebrities than they have in years past. Here are some sightings captured on Twitter yesterday:

@PeachJC: Incredible night in LA #asae10. Shook Seacrest's hand, drinks with Emmy winners "A History of Us" at their Emmy party! Great.

@thomasgetchius: I am sitting next to @Bill_George on my @delta flight to #asae10. What a great experience! I can't wait for his talk tomorrow morning.

@sgiarde: Holy crap! Just had great conversation with Matthew Winert, creator of Mad Men. Shaking.

@sfeuer: NPH and Robbin Williams!!!!!!!

@nonprofithrconf: Wow came to #asae10 and got to see Seth Green!

@jchurch27: Onboard flight to LA for ASAE conference.So is Melissa Etheridge!She plays for us!See autograph!


Quick Clicks: Annual Meeting, Day One

There hasn't been a ton of blogging from Annual Meeting so far (I think everybody was at the opening reception with Melissa Etheridge instead!). But a few brave souls have posted since yesterday:

- Steffanie Feuer posted a few photos from her travels in California and the Annual Meeting so far.

- Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer will be liveblogging using Cover It Live on the Socialfish blog periodically throughout the conference.

A lot more activity is going on through Twitter, Flickr, and elsewhere--check out the Annual Meeting Hub at (apologies for the lack of a direct link--our blogging software is being cranky for some reason) to see the latest!


August 21, 2010

3 things I learned at the Volunteer Brunch

Volunteer brunch Q&A

1. ASAE is revising its website to make it easier to find what you are looking for.
2. ASAE has developed a free app -- myASAE -- available for your iphone that will allow you to start getting more customized info.
3. I still don't like eggplant. Even if you bury it in lasagna it doesn't work for me.


3 things that struck me preparing for my trip to LA

Good morning! Marc Mestdagh of 2Mpact, an association management company and consultancy in Belgium, has kindly contributed another guest post about his Annual Meeting experience and thoughts so far:

Being not only a foreigner but a newbie as well, and eager to get the most out of my visit to LA, I have been doing some preliminary research. In addition to my endeavors in connecting to my association management heroes, using the powerful instrument of Twitter, I've been trying to figure out what I can expect of the educational program. I dug into to the ASAE Annual meeting website, and it was a long visit. For me, this is so much more than a visit to a conference.

I was astonished by the way the event presents itself. I can imagine that it takes quite some resources and organization skills when you expect more than 4000 professionals. But what surprised me most is how the meeting is presented as not to be missed. Show whoever is responsible for paying the bills that you really have to be there. I refer to the Justification kit. Never seen this before. Begging on bare knees, for sure, but being able to hand over an entire 'dossier' why you are going to have a professionally justified good time...

Another thing that caught my attention was the link to booth prizes. I would expect this to lead to an overview of exhibitors who have received a prize because of their innovative products or services, in short a showcase of excelling association management companies. But no, the "booth prize"-button brings me to attendee's heaven - I tried to count up the values but had to stop as I fell of my chair at 30,000 dollars.

What I really enjoyed up till now is the overall feeling of excitement that I encountered in blog posts and tweets. People from all over the country seem to be packing and preparing to fly in to LA for the annual meeting. It gives a tantalizing buzz and a eagerness to get to the Convention Center as quick as possible. This feeling is being fed by several unusual--for me that is--but exciting things, like finding the presentations up front, reading about the many side-events, such as the flashmob, Kiki L'Italien's live show, the Yapstar party and so on.

I know this post should be a triad, but this one really stands out, and is by far unequalled in Belgium. I refer to the part on "Leaving a Social Legacy". Apparently it has been a longtime tradition for ASAE to organize events to help the less fortunate in the cities where the meetings take place. Respect!


Quick Clicks: Annual Meeting, ready, set ...

LA rolls out the red carpet

There's been a lot of pre-Annual-Meeting blogging going on! Thanks to Scott for yesterday's roundup; here's what's been posted since:

- Sue Pelletier at the face2face blog can't be in LA this year (Sue, we'll miss you!) but she's still blogging about what she sees from afar. So far, she's written about some plans for the general sessions and about recharging stations available in the convention center this year.

- Elizabeth Weaver Engel is also thinking about the folks who can't be here in person, and lists the top 5 ways to be part of the Annual Meeting action remotely, including the Hub and the virtual conference.

- For those with an interest in learning, Jeff Cobb has put together a list of learning technology providers exhibiting at Annual Meeting this year.

- And for those of you who can read Dutch, Theo Jonkergouw has written his pre-Annual Meeting thoughts (which, if I'm following the Google translation correctly, are focused around the Annual Meeting "re" theme this year). Safe travels to LA, Theo!


Three First Impressions of ASAE 2010

Bruce Hammond, of Insights from a Future Association Executive fame, kindly sent us the following guest blog post during his first day in LA for the Annual Meeting:

I got to LA early this morning and had a chance to spend the day in LA leading up to my first obligation of ASAE10 that takes place tomorrow - the Communication Section Council meeting.

Upon arrival, I had three first impressions of this year's Annual Meeting:

1. LA & ASAE are both pulling out all the stops - If you've ever been to LA Live, you know how neat of a place it is. When I was walking down to the registration at the Convention Center, I was able to see all of the amazing preparations taking place to transform LA Live into an ASAE hot spot. It's awesome!

2. LA Convention Center is HUGE - Checking in at the convention center was an interesting experience because the Convention Center is just absolutely massive. Should be fun finding all of those meeting rooms!!

3. The community is going to be FANTASTIC - I have been following the Twitter feed on the Hub, and the chatter and community is already fantastic... Can't wait to read all of the tweets about each session when the event starts.

As I have for the last two years, I can't wait for the great content and connections that we're sure to get at the 2010 Annual Meeting.


August 20, 2010

Quick Clicks: PreAnnual Meeting Edition

I'm frantically packing and trying to get some last-second work done before getting on a plane for 5 hours headed to ASAE & The Center's (one of the last times you'll see that phrase in this blog) Annual Meeting & Exposition in Los Angeles. I'm a bit stressed, what with needing to remember cords and chargers for two cameras, a video camera, two microphones, an iPhone, an iPad, and a laptop. Oh yeah, and those wonderful ASAE & The Center logo shirts we have to wear (I especially love Saturday's "coral" color -- kind of a hot pink/bright orange mix). So not only am I stressed because I'm sure to forget something (or some things) and I have a ton of work that I just couldn't quite squeeze in this week that I'm going to have to find time to do today and tomorrow, but I have serious questions about my wardrobe--much like KiKi L'Italien... but we'll get to more blog posts about the meeting in a second.

I'm stressed is what I'm saying, and so I was thinking about a conversation I had with Lisa Junker recently who used to always write Quick Clicks for Acronym, and she mentioned how pleased she was that Joe and I, who now help her out with that assignment, continue to be irreverent in the naming of each edition. (I must be stressed, that was one huge run-on sentence I just wrote.) So I thought about naming this edition: Quick Clicks: the PMS edition -- for PreMeeting Selections. I realized that would be bad for many reasons, one of which is, well, it's just bad. But another is that I'm a guy, so I would describe my actual experience with PMS as"do-whatever-you-can-to-stay-out-of-its-way" variety. Plus its sexist and could get me in trouble. But I feel like I've let Lisa down with this title, so I decided to risk a little trouble and tell the story anyway so that, Lisa, at least will have a little respect for me. Now on to actual Quick Clicks, which is going to be a roundup of all the preannual meeting posts we saw (thank you so much to Lisa who pointed out most of them. All right, all of them.)

First up, is a nice three parter from Reid All About It's Deirdre Reid: post 1 ( a lot like this post, actually -- I mean this post from here forward, not the top part. Deirdre's much too classy for that.), post 2, and post 3.

There are several posts by bloggers on presentations they are giving (Frank Fortin, Mickie Rops, and Jamie Notter.

Shannon Otto, who is scheduled to write a guest blog post or two here on Acronym, pretty much laid out her whole schedule on the Splash blog.

Maddie Grant did a nice Twitter fountain, had some nice things to say about being excited about the meeting, and gave the meeting website a little bash, gave her schedule as well as some other handy info -- all in a single post. By the way, Acronym blogger Joe Rominiecki responded to the little bash, and Maddie posted it on the associationTECH blog.)

Lisa Hasen gives some ASAE & The Center annual meeting tips, and, finally, Maggie McGary, on the SocialFish blog, is sad to not be going to LA, but plans to stay in touch and involved.

So that's what I got. I'm sure I missed several posts -- I'm sorry. Did I mention I'm a little stressed? Please, give us a link to them in the comments section.


Last second packing guide

3 things you must bring to ASAE in LA:

1. Lots of business cards--how else can you really let people know where to find you after the meeting?

2. Comfortable shoes--yes it is a conference with lots of educational sessions in which you will sit but you will appreciate the shoes as you are working the Exhibit Hall, from session to session, potentially back and forth to your hotel and to and from networking receptions.

3. ChapStick--between the dry air on your flight out and in your hotel room and all the talking you will be doing while not necessarily hydrating as you should ChapStick is a lifesaver.

Hope to see you in LA.


August 19, 2010

What motivates employees?

A number of people now leaving for ASAE & The Center's Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles Aug 20-24 may be hoping to learn about ways to recruit, retain, and motivate staff. A new article in Knowledge@Whartoncontains the results of a fascinating series of studies about whether ranking workers (and, in particular, sharing that rank with the employee) would inspire good performers to greater heights and poor performers to buckle down.

Short answer: no. The worker rock star began slacking off, while the loser workers became discouraged but--although companies apparently hoped otherwise--generally didn't quit their jobs to move on.

After reading the article, I wondered how old the workers were. Would age affect this result?

I had recently listened to the September issue of Success magazine's CD, which shares interviews with 3-4 leaders of interest to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Featured was a terrific conversation with three inspiring and insightful Millennial leaders of the nonprofit Invisible Children.

Invisible Children aims to prevent child soldiering, the kidnapping of youngsters by rebel tribes in Northern Uganda for use as horrific "soldiers" in their battle against the government. The nonprofit, born out of a documentary filmed by student 20-somethings, has been remarkably successful at raising political attention to the problem and engaging supporters of all ages to their cause. (See here for a short video of its Schools to Schools program.).

One quote really stuck with me. The interviewer asked the trio what companies and organizations can do to attract, retain, and motivate Millennial workers. "Millennials value the impossible," one answered. They'll "work like crazy" and are "extremely passionate," but they want to have fun doing it, and they are attracted to projects, causes, and programs that are trying "to do things never done before." They also want their organizations to think beyond themselves and to take their role as a global citizen seriously, the leaders said.

I'm hoping that conference attendees will keep an open mind and the reality check provided by these three brave nonprofit founders as discussions begin again on worker "reward" systems in associations.

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August 16, 2010

3 reasons why a Belgian association professional goes to L.A.

As you know, we're following a "three things" theme on Acronym for the Annual Meeting this year--and several guest bloggers have kindly agreed to play along. Today, Marc Mestdagh of 2Mpact, an association management company and consultancy in Belgium, shares three reasons why he's chosen to attend the Annual Meeting in LA this year. Here's Marc:

I'm really not that keen on flying, especially when it takes more than half a day to reach my destination. And everybody keeps wishing me a nice holiday in L.A. Hello, I'm going on a business trip - no way you get me in an airplane to go visit places and museums and churches in my scarce spare time. Let me sit down just for a moment and try to find out three good reasons why I'm going to an annual meeting of ASAE on the other side of the world.

First of all, I've never been to a conference with more than 4000 attendees, a complete program of key-notes, educational sessions, an exposition and all those other events. I even read there is going to be a special act by Cirque du Soleil (that's Belgian quality by the way). I cannot imagine we have proper infrastructure for that over here in Belgium, unless you rent a football stadium or concerthall maybe. I'm really curious to see how this works.

Secondly, I've really been bitten by the association management bug. I've been getting into it rather deep for more than a year now, and it is exciting to see and learn how associations, and association professionals in particular, can really help transform society through the power of collaborative action. Sounds familiar doesn't it? I guess I just have to see for myself that all of this is real. Association management is hardly known to my Belgian colleagues. Recently I received a thankyou e-mail from a new BSAE (Belgian Society of A.E.) member because after 7 years working as an association professional, he now felt he had a job description and title, i.e. association manager. In other words, I hope to be able to take a lot home.

Finally, what I really am excited about, is to find out why so many people undertake so much effort to attend a meeting 'in the flesh'. One of the major trends I detect in association management is getting things organized using internet technology: virtual meetings, webinars, on line member and knowledge management. Using our time more efficiently, reducing our carbon footprint, this all seems to make so much sense for association professionals. But let me be honest, I already have had the pleasure of experiencing what that is all about.

People are made to meet people. As a little experiment, and challenged by some colleagues (who can stay alone at home), I've been trying to connect to some American association professionals using Twitter (@2Mpact), and I'm really surprised how warm and friendly everybody is, willing to share their knowledge and experiences on association management with a perfect stranger. I even got Maddie Grant to talk French to me - now, where's that airplane?

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July 29, 2010

Three things I've learned from Pixar

Sunday afternoons, I usually end up folding laundry while watching the most interesting documentary I can find on cable. A week or two ago, that documentary was about the history of Pixar. Just watching Pixar staff talk about their work was a learning experience for me:

1. When Pixar built its own headquarters building in 1998 (a headquarters that has been significantly expanded since), a stated goal was to design the building in a way that would "encourage unplanned collaboration." I found that idea fascinating: How do you plan for the unplanned? But Pixar sees such value in serendipity and unplanned connections between staff that it puts significant effort into encouraging them.

2. I noticed that as Pixar began work on each new film, giant figures from that film could be seen in the central lobby of their headquarters. It struck me as a great visual way to remind the Pixar team of the company's central purpose, each and every day. As staff walk through the doors, they can't help but notice the giant figures from Monsters Inc. or The Incredibles and remember that their work is part of what's going to make that movie great.

3. Multiple interviewees during the documentary talked about how each new movie began with some difficult technical challenge. When Toy Story was developed, it was the longest computer-animated movie made to that date (Pixar's previous projects had all been short films). When Monsters Inc. was in production, animating the monsters' fur was a huge stumbling block. When Pixar moved on to The Incredibles, animators had to find ways to create human characters, hair, fabric, and more.

In each case, Pixar's team saw the challenge as an inspiration, not a stumbling block. Instead of saying, "We'll have to scale the movie back" or "We'll have to come up with a character design that doesn't cause us these problems," they used these opportunities to take computer animation to a whole new level. That's not to say it was easy--there was more than one story told about the sheer amount of work it took to lay the technical groundwork for the animation you see on the screen--but the Pixar mindset seems to be one of seeing the opportunity to grow and learn rather than looking for ways to cut corners.

Luckily enough, one of the Annual Meeting thought leader sessions, "Innovate the Pixar Way," will take an even closer look at Pixar. I'm looking forward to learning more. (And in the meantime, there's some great info on Pixar in both Wired and in this HBR blog post.)

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July 16, 2010

3 smart quotes from Thought Leaders

Next up in our preview of the ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting & Expo, three deep thoughts from Thought Leaders who will speak at the conference. I've added my own reaction to each below.

On work-life balance:

"Take a few minutes to consider the physical or mental overcrowding that you're probably putting up with right now. Where do you need to bring some space into your personal or professional life? Do you need space on your calendar to spend more time with your kids? Space in your home to bring a pet into your life? Space on your to-do list to allow for new business?

"Decide where you want the space and start making room. Even though it may be hard to get started, once you're done it's like that final child pose that you ease into at the end of a tough yoga session. Ahhh, breathe deep and relax into all that space."

—Libby Gill, from "Find Space for What You Need," on her blog, March 19, 2010

(I've never done yoga, but I get the idea. City living and a busy job can make one claustrophobic. I used to find that relaxing came naturally, but I find more and more that I need to consciously plan time to make sure I'm relaxing and finding "space." You should, too.)

On getting attention:

"I first heard about the new Cisco product from a receptionist in our office. As I walked in, she said: 'Did you hear about Cisco's new router? It can download the entire Library of Congress in one second.' What surprised me was not that Cisco had introduced a phenomenally fast router for service providers. What surprised me was that our receptionist—who has never mentioned Cisco and probably cares little about router speed—was excited about it.

"I retrieved the Cisco press release and, sure enough, the streamed movies and Library of Congress hooks were included in the release, word for word. Cisco had given the public something to talk about, a conversation starter."

—Carmine Gallo, from "Why Your Business Needs a Hook," on Bloomberg Businessweek, March 16, 2010

(Carmine shares here a great example on Cisco's part of "lateral thinking," the ability to take a concept and present it in an entirely new way. It is often seen as a link between creativity and humor, because the human brain reacts with surprise when presented with a sudden incongruity or leap from one perspective to another. If you can present your association's message in a way that surprises or amuses members or prospects, they'll be far more likely to remember you.)

On interpersonal communication:

"Communication isn't a one-way street—you can't bark orders and commands and expect all employees to follow that system. In fact, that technique may even be wildly detrimental to what you're trying to accomplish with your business.

"Try reading this sentence six times—and each time put the emphasis on a different word …
'I Didn't Say You Were Beautiful.'

"If six words can mean so many different things it's no wonder that communication within a company can be so confusing and frustrating at times.

"Never stop passionately pursuing better communication with everyone around you."

—Cameron Herold, from "The Key to Good Communication," on his BackPocket COO blog, April 6, 2010

(I tried it. The sentence really does mean something different every time. And so it's no wonder people have so much misunderstanding via email and other electronic communication. It's hard to convey tone and emphasis in text.)

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July 8, 2010

3 tips for taking notes at a conference

At any conference with education sessions (such as ASAE & The Center's Annual Meeting & Expo or any other), learning is a key objective. But unless you have a photographic memory, you'll need to take notes to maximize that learning.

So, here are my three tips for making your notes more effective, based on my personal, entirely non-expert experience:

  1. Pick the right notepad (or computer, if you like). Why do news reporters use those narrow, 4" x 8", top-bound notepads? Because they fit firmly into the palm of the hand, which reporters need when they're often doing stand-up interviews out in the field. You don't have to use a reporter's notebook (unless you plan on standing for an entire conference), but you should take a moment to consider what notepad or note-taking device will work best for you. Go with whatever feels the most comfortable, convenient, and easy to carry around. Then you can focus on taking good notes.

  2. badnotes.jpgGo back to fill in and mark important items. As can be seen at right, my handwriting is messy, and I often can't decipher it later. This, of course, is a problem for information retention. But handwriting issues aside, when you take notes, you leave out a lot of detail and context. Something like "take people to the movie" probably made sense when I wrote it, but it sure doesn't now. So, immediately after a session is over, do what I neglected to do in this case and go back over your notes to:
    1. Fill in extra context and detail while it's fresh in mind;
    2. Clearly rewrite any sloppy writing while you can still decipher it; and
    3. Circle or star any major ideas that you want to be sure not to miss upon later review.
  3. Set a date for review or sharing notes with others. Unlike our school days, we're not tested on what we hear and see at a conference, so there's no built-in mechanism that leads us to review notes at a later date. You have to build that process yourself. So, before you leave for the conference, set an appointment, reminder, or alert in your calendar for a short time after the conference to review your notes and, even better, share what you learned with your colleagues. If you're a supervisor, you may even want to ask your conference-bound employees to provide a report back to you or your department somehow when they return. You might feel like a bit like a school teacher, but it will help your employees better retain and share what they learned.

Have any other note-taking tips to offer? Add them in the comments.

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July 6, 2010

3 things to know about Acronym and the Annual Meeting

Believe it or not, ASAE & The Center's 2010 Annual Meeting & Expo in Los Angeles is less than 50 days away. Of course, we hope you're planning to attend (in person or virtually), but even if you're not, stay tuned to Acronym during the next two months. Before the meeting, we'll highlight speakers and share tips for making the most of a conference; during and shortly after the meeting, we'll capture and share knowledge from on site.

Throughout, Acronym's Annual Meeting coverage will be brought to you by the number three:

  1. Three tips, three questions, three must-dos--whatever the case may be, you can expect three of each in our posts related to the Annual Meeting. The number three has no special significance in relation to the conference; we just like it as a nice, round number. Three will also help us keep things short and simple here during the meeting. We know the information coming out of the Annual Meeting is like a fire hose, so we hope posts with three short thoughts will break that flow into some manageable gulps.
  2. We're looking for guest bloggers--and you'd only need to write one post. Anyone is eligible, and no prior blogging experience is necessary. If you have an idea or want to share your experience from the meeting, we'd welcome your contribution. Think in terms of three. In the first comment to this post is a list of potential ideas with a "three" theme, just to get your mind rolling. If you're interested in contributing, email us at
  3. Find more knowledge at the Hub. Acronym is just one part of the conversation at the Annual Meeting. This year's meeting will again feature the "Hub," a central online location to find info and knowledge being shared at the Annual Meeting, whether it be from Twitter, Flickr, blogs, Daily Now (the onsite newspaper), and more. Find the Hub at on your desktop or on your mobile device. Bookmark it now and check back as the conversation grows before and during the conference.

Scott, Lisa, and I already have some three-themed posts in the works, which you'll see here soon. Feel free to offer more ideas or let us know in the comments what you'd like to see here on Acronym from the Annual Meeting. Thanks!

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