May 31, 2012

Upgrading Diplomacy Skills the Albright Way

Want to refine your diplomacy skills?

Flash back to the enduring advice given by Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to association leaders in this "classic" (June 2002) article, "Education of a Diplomat," which I pulled from ASAE's Knowledge Center archives of Executive Update magazine pieces published by the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives (pre-merger with ASAE).

I thought I'd bring the article up for a re-airing when I saw that Albright and 12 other leaders received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this week from President Barack Obama "for changing the world for the better."


March 26, 2012

Big lessons from small presentations

Great Ideas 2012 Ignite

Lowell Aplebaum shares "Associations Lessons from Dr. Seuss."

At the Great Ideas Ignite session Monday evening at ASAE's 2012 Great Ideas Conference, an audience member described the Ignite presentation format as "the Twitter of presentations." Speakers must keep their messages to five minutes long, with 20 auto-advancing slides to accompany, so that description is a good one.

In that spirit, I'll share a lesson from each Ignite presentation tonight, and I'll keep them nice and short.

"What Seven Jobs at Three Associations has Taught Me." Beau Ballinger, certification programs manager, Investment Management Consultants Association. Among Beau's lessons learned: be passionate. You have the responsibility as an association professional to act with as much passion as your members do, he said.

"So What if it Feels Uncomfortable?" Elizabeth Brisson, association and affinity marketing consultant, MetLife. In her life, Liz has overcome fears of flying, public speaking, and heights. But she says she always remembers that, if you are growing, you will always be out of your comfort zone.

"Speaking of Great Ideas." Christine Smith, CEO, Boxwood. Christine shared five ways associations can recognize their staff and members and closed with this note about the importance of recognition: "Think about a time you were recognized for a job well done and how it felt, and ask yourself when was last time you made your employees feel that way."

"Associations--Let's Date First." Mariela McIlwraith, CMP, CMM, MBA, president, Meeting Change. Mariela likened the association-member relationship to a courtship. She said she would never date someone who sent her a lot of email spam, and that she doesn't like it when her significant other [association] forgets about her when someone new [prospective member] shows up.

"What Attending Eleven Different Schools Taught Me About Change." Shelly Alcorn, CAE, principal, Alcorn Associates Management Consulting. Shelly moved a lot in her childhood, and she said the ups and downs through that experience taught her that change can be: empowering, enlightening, stifling, courageous, chaotic, overwhelming, defining, accepted, inevitable, and survivable.

"Quick PR Tips and Tricks: Lessons from Teen Idols." Adele Cehrs, president, Epic PR Group. Adele loves Elvis, and she pointed to several of his qualities that association PR pros can learn from. My favorite: embrace imitators.

"Associations Lessons from Dr. Seuss." Lowell Aplebaum, director, membership & councils, International Facility Management Association. From reading bedtime stories to his son, Lowell has learned some association lessons. He reinvisioned a Dr. Seuss classic as "Green Eggs and the Private Social Media Site," and turned a rhyme that encouraged associations to build member buy-in for a private social networking platform rather than forcing it upon them.

As is custom for Ignite, the presentations were video recorded. Check them out on the Great Ideas Conference website or ASAE's YouTube channel.

Flickr photo by ahissrich.


March 23, 2011

Broadening my comfort zone

Last month I presented a webinar for Higher Logic titled "Engaging NEW Members with Old Ideas". But this isn't about the webinar content itself as much as the process. I had been contacted by Lauren Wolfe, who sits with me on the AOTF board and the Young Association Executives Committee, about submitting a proposal. I did so without really thinking about it; I felt confident about my knowledge of membership and association communications, and thought I could add a new perspective and fresh ideas to the topic. But as the time came closer, I realized what I was getting myself in to. "What am I doing?", I thought. "I'm not an expert on anything."

The idea that, at 28 years old, I would be presenting content to my peer group was intimidating. I have no fear of public speaking, and if you put me on a stage I'll do karaoke in front of any crowd. I've presented to my membership at various meetings without so much as batting an eyelash. So why was I so intimidated by addressing my peers?

It got worse when I found out that it had been approved for CAE credit. I'm not even a CAE (yet)! These people theoretically know so much more than me! And then I was told that the final count was over 450 registrants. Oh, and people I've worked for in the past were registered to be on the call. JUST GREAT.

But that day, I just... stopped stressing about it. Because I knew it wouldn't achieve anything. I had written a presentation I was proud of, practiced it in my head and out loud, worked on my timing, and felt comfortable that I could answer any question that came my way. And you know what? I did just fine. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Being a young association professional can be scary, but I'm so, so glad that I took this risk and put myself out there. We all have to. "Young" doesn't have to mean "inexperienced", and we need to break that stereotype.

What has been the scariest professional experience of your career thus far?

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February 25, 2011

How Would an Oscar Affect Your Organization?

Almost anyone who goes to the movies has probably seen the Oscar-nominated The King's Speech. The remarkable film captures the lifelong battle of the future King George against the serious stuttering that threatens to weaken his leadership at a time when he is ascending the throne and speaking out against the rise of Hitler.

It also shone an unprecedented spotlight on a personal and professional challenge faced by millions of adults and children worldwide.

"We've waited a lifetime to get this kind of interest in stuttering, so it's thrilling for us," said Jane Fraser, president of The Stuttering Foundation and vice president of the Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood, Michael Palin Centre, in London, when I gave her a call today for a pre-Oscars chat about the impact of the film on her organization.

"Our website hits have doubled," she added, noting that speech therapists across the country report a big jump in the number of inquiries from people who stutter and their families since the movie's Christmas Day 2010 release. "One of the therapists we refer to in Chicago said she had a 70-year-old man come in this week.... Across the board, that movie is so meaningful that anyone who has seen it will never laugh at stuttering again."

Maybe that's why one of the foundation's videos, Stuttering: For Kids, By Kids, has been viewed more than 50,000 times in the past week. The charity, which educates and refers stutters and specially trains speech therapists, also "whipped out a poster three weeks ago," Fraser laughs. "We designed ["Stuttering Gets the Royal Treatment] Friday morning, and on Monday at 5, it came off the press. The printer had never done that before. Everyone at the print house was excited." She had no problem securing permission from the independent film company, The Weinstein Company, to use photos from the film in the poster, which also directs viewers to the foundation website.

What have been the biggest impacts of the film on her group? "The exciting thing about The King's Speech is that people realize they can become fluent," Fraser enthuses. "... It's obvious in the movie that speaking is a lot of work, but ... some of the methods you see in the movie [such as learning to speak in phrases rather than entire sentences] are techniques that have been used over the years."

It also focuses on the "beautiful therapist-patient alliance. The king got to the point where the therapist was his close friend. Like all therapeutic situations, there are ups and down, but the beautiful way this relationship unwound is important.... You must have that total trust between the professional and the patient." She thinks film viewers will better understand how that deep relationship works.

You can join Fraser and her staff in rooting for the foundation and The King's Speech Sunday night during the 83th Annual Oscars Ceremony. Watch a trailer and learn more about this Best Picture Nominee here.

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January 29, 2010

First, assume no one cares

A couple seemingly unrelated thoughts that I've read recently have me thinking about the importance of this question: What if no one cares?

  • On Scott's "Welcome to governance month" post, Maddie Grant commented with a general feeling of angst toward boards, and she said "A friend said to me that people should print my comment and show it to their boards and say, ‘this is what some people think of boards - how would you refute it?'"
  • Then I saw "Three Quick Steps to Clear Writing" on Copyblogger (which, if your job entails writing in any way, you really should be reading). One of his steps: "Care: Clarity comes from deeply caring if people truly understand."

The latter reminded me of the old writer's adage "write for the reader," which really means "consider the reader's perspective, not your own." But with Maddie's comment in mind, I realize that this mindset should permeate pretty much everything you do.

  • For your next membership campaign, don't just assume that prospective members might be interested in networking or improving their careers. Assume that your prospects are content, lazy slouches with no ambition, little desire to expand their horizons, and zero familiarity with membership organizations. Then figure out how to make membership in your association relevant to those people.
  • Next time you call a staff or volunteer meeting, don't just assume that your colleagues want to collaborate with you. Assume they're already overworked and have little to no knowledge of the need for or the fundamentals of the work you'd like to do together. Then figure out how to make them excited about working or volunteering with you.
  • When you give your next presentation at a meeting or conference, don't just assume that the audience wants to learn. Assume that they came to your session because it looked like the least boring session during your time slot and that they don't think your topic is in any way relevant to their field of work. Then figure out how to get that audience engaged.

Of course, in most of these cases, people do care. But don't assume that. Don't assume anything in your favor. Rather, before you take on any task, ask yourself, "What if no one cares about this?" Then, with that perspective in mind, direct your efforts to making sure that you reach the people who don't care. It will make everything you do much more effective.

[On a related note, my colleague Lisa Junker wrote a great article back in 2007 on "red teaming," which is an exercise in assuming the mind of your competition to better understand your own weaknesses. It takes the "What if no one cares?" idea a step further by asking, "What if people want to defeat us?" and addresses it on an organizational level. It's a good read.]

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May 17, 2008

The Lecture Sketch

Despite having zero artistic talent, I’ve gotten into the habit of using sketching software and a small tablet for my conference lecturing (ie, instead of PowerPoint).

I have the tendency to use a lot of photos and discuss diagrams and charts. Actually drawing the charts live seems to be more engaging than throwing a complex chart up on screen.

And now, looks like there is a book to support this: The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam. Which, by the way, I came across via the speed review in Convene.

Anyway, I’ve done it this way a for about a year now and have gotten very positive feedback. And, actually, presentations are much easier to prepare since I'm not wasting time formatting bullets and whatnot... Below is a stitch of all of the “sketches” from one of my past lectures.

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April 8, 2008

Quick clicks: Common sense

I've been saving a variety of links to share today:

- Tom Peters suggests that you run your ideas and proposals by an "ombudsman for common sense." I wonder how many bad ideas could have been turned into good ideas with a little common sense at the beginning of the project ...

- Speaking of good ideas, Rick Johnston at the CAE Weblog recently shared one: instead of a focus group, hold a "listening lab" guided by your customers or members and their concerns.

- Jeff Cobb at Mission to Learn learned five good presentation tips from a series of 60-second lectures.

- I'm pleased to note that Joan Eisenstodt now has a blog, Good Stuff From Joan Eisenstodt, at the Meetings Collective. Those of you who read the listservers where Joan participates or have heard her speak know how interesting it is to listen to what she has to say. (Thanks to Sue Pelletier for linking to Joan's blog first!)

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June 23, 2006

Personal Presentation Improvement

In the association world (even on a state level), we do a lot of public speaking - from annual conferences to monthly meetings to the local media and civic groups. And in the communications world, media training is standard procedure. But now there's a new twist.

On July 13, media trainer TJ Walker is officially launching The Speaking Channel - an Internet TV network devoted to all aspects of speaking. The site will feature daily video segments spotlighting the best and worst TV interviews of the previous day and daily video, audio and text tips on how to master media interviews. (You must have the Windows Media player installed to view the videos.)

Visitors will be able to submit videos of their best speaking moments for the Channel’s “Great Speaking with TJ Walker” program. You can also submit videos of new business pitches and spokesperson appearances for critiques. All videos can be sent to In addition, there is an online video/audio interactive presentation school. Online forums are slated for the future.

“Speaking is the #1 fear most people have,” said TJ Walker. “And yet every promotion, new business client or vote has been earned by someone willing to speak. The Speaking Channel will soon be the one place in the world where anyone interested in great speakers or becoming a better speaker can come and experience the real deal.”

Interesting twist on distance learning and speech/media training. How could your association channel current learning opportunities and become The [ Fill in the Blank Here ] Channel online?

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