October 1, 2012

We've moved!

ASAE's blog on association management has a new home: AssociationsNow.com

For more information, see "A new chapter for ASAE blogging," immediately below this post on the Acronym homepage.

Acronym will remain online indefinitely, but commenting will be shut down circa October 15, 2012.

Please direct questions to editorial@asaecenter.org.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 10:07 AM | |

September 28, 2012

A new chapter for ASAE blogging

We've finally gotten to the bottom of that bowl of alphabet soup.

As I briefly mentioned yesterday, the times are a-changin' for ASAE's print and online publications, and we're about to launch a new website that will be the new place to find our day-to-day news coverage and blogging on the association management profession. We hope you'll join us there, at AssociationsNow.com.

Beginning Monday, when the site goes live, you'll find:

Blogs: Five Associations Now editors will be blogging regularly on the new site. We'll aim to continue in provoking thought and driving discussion with fresh perspectives on association management.

The five of us will each have a dedicated topic (Leadership, Technology, Membership, Money & Business, and Meetings) that we'll regularly focus on, but of course any and all topics related to association management will be up for discussion, and we'll continue to seek professionals and experts in the association field to provide their guest perspectives, as well.

Our blogging will look a bit different, but the tone and the content will be much the same as what you've come to expect from Acronym over the years.

Daily news: The site will also be a source for a steady stream of news both from and about the association field. From new research on leadership and the latest tech buzz to updates from Capitol Hill and association success stories, we'll cover the news that matters most to association professionals.

You can bookmark the site or sign up to receive the Associations Now Daily News email in your inbox every morning. (Current ASAE members, you'll receive the Daily News beginning Monday. We hope you'll try it out, though if you prefer not to receive it, click "Update Your Preferences" at the bottom of any issue to opt out.) The Daily News is available to anyone and everyone who's interested, not just ASAE members, so tell your colleagues and friends.

Curation: In addition to the links we share in the course of reporting and blogging, we'll also be rounding up a few interesting blog posts and articles each day in a "Lunchtime Links" post.

New faces: You all know Mark Athitakis and me from our blogging here on Acronym, but you'll soon be getting to know several of our colleagues, some of whom are ASAE vets and some newbies:

  • Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor. Our long-time showrunner for Associations Now will be our regular Meetings blogger on the new site.
  • Katie Bascuas, associate editor. Katie joined ASAE in June; she'll be blogging on Money & Business and reporting news each day.
  • Rob Stott, editorial assistant. Reporting daily news.
  • Ernie Smith, social journalist. Ernie will be reporting daily news, blogging on Technology, and curating links. He'll also be manning the Associations Now Twitter and Facebook feeds.

New formats: The new website and Daily News email are just two parts of an entire package of new features of Associations Now. The September/October issue of Associations Now in print is en route to ASAE members' mailboxes, and it has a whole new look. You can also now read Associations Now on the iPad. (Search "Associations Now" in the App Store.) And while you're at it, check out AssociationsNow.com on your smartphone or tablet, too. (Two words: responsive design.)

Trusty Acronym will ride off into the sunset, which in website terms means that it will no longer be updated but it won't be shut down. We'll keep commenting available here for about two more weeks, and then the site will remain static after that. Acronym has been going strong for more than six years now, believe it or not, and a deep well of knowledge and expertise has been amassed on these pages in that time. That, of course, is a credit to all of you in the association community, who have guest blogged, commented, and provided inspiration for posts here. We thank you for that, and we hope you'll continue to do the same in our new digs.

If you have any burning questions about the new site or Acronym, please feel free to comment below. Or, you can offer feedback about the new site in the Associations Now LinkedIn group or contact VP/Editor-in-Chief Julie Shoop directly at jshoop@asaecenter.org. Be sure to visit AssociationsNow.com on Monday. See you there!

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 10:20 AM | | | Comments (3)

September 27, 2012

Quick clicks: September 27, 2012

Have you heard about the new AssociationsNow.com? Tomorrow I'll be sharing more details about the new site, but the short version is that AssociationsNow.com will be the new location for ASAE's blogging on association management, beginning Monday. So, that means today's Quick Clicks post will be the final installment in its current form. But, fear not, as we'll continue to curate the best of the association blogosphere over on the new site. It will look a bit different, but I think you'll like it. Stay tuned for more details!

Now, on with the links:

Community management. Lindy Dreyer talks with a lot of community managers, and she sums up five core lessons from the best of them.

New product development. Knowledge@Wharton explains what organizations can learn from Bud Light Lime and Nintendo Wii about entering new markets.

CEO onboarding. Elizabeth Engel, CAE, says a new CEO's background and an association's internal structure are leading influences in a transition process, and she offers a list of ways to prepare for a smooth one.

Customer service. Maggie McGary tells her tale of dealing with her broadband-internet provider over service issues. Calling regular customer service got her nowhere, but posting on Facebook about her problems got her a solution (sort of) right away. Her takeaway: "Checking off the box of social media customer service while leaving traditional customer service untouched is ultimately a recipe for failure, because a confused customer isn't necessarily a happy customer."

Speaker selection. Meetings & Conventions shares some interesting data on how meeting planners choose event speakers. Thirteen percent of survey respondents said they don't pay for speakers, while 3 percent said they budget more than $50,000.

Video. Cynthia D'Amour shares a video from the Craft & Hobby Association that features CHA staff dancing and singing to promote their upcoming conference and tradeshow. It also kicks off a video contest for CHA members to promote the event, as well.

Volunteer management. Shawn Kendrick at the Engergize Inc. Blog shares several ideas for dealing with last-minute volunteer cancellations.

Technology. Wes Trochlil surveyed association execs on their biggest IT challenges, and he was a bit surprised by a few high-profile topics that didn't crack the top five.

Government relations. Stefanie Reeves, CAE, shares some advice for CAE candidates studying up on government relations, which she notes is the CAE domain that, by far, candidates feel the least prepared for.



  • Jeff Cobb writes that most adults are not prepared to continue learning after finishing high school or college, which is a big problem for maintaining a skilled workforce. Associations should be stepping in to solve this problem, but they're not doing enough, he says.
  • Dave Lutz calls Continuing Education Units the "fool's gold" of conference marketing: "I have yet to find an organization whose own research has proven that CEU acquisition is a major conference draw," he writes.

Future of associations. Jamie Notter responded to my "big and niche" post from two weeks ago to say that associations need to understand they aren't entitled to exist, and embracing that reality may just free them to build a more effective future for themselves.

Free membership. Steve Drake shares the story of the Small Business Association of Michigan, which added a free-membership category to its membership structure, primarily in effort to expand its lobbying clout: "Our messages focus on cause … NOT on the benefits you'll receive," says SBAM CEO Rob Fowler.

Membership marketing. Tony Rossell breaks out some important formulas to help you determine how to budget for recruitment and renewal efforts.

Boards. Rick Moyers points the spotlight at Susan G. Komen for the Cure to illustrate the dangers of founder's syndrome.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 10:04 AM | |

September 26, 2012

Two associations go with tiered memberships

In the last two months, two national associations have unveiled new membership models that rely on a range of options as a core selling point.

  • On August 1, AIGA (once the American Institute of Graphic Arts) announced a new membership structure with five levels ranging in price from $50 to $2,500 per year.
  • On September 5, the American Alliance of Museums announced a new structure with three membership levels and six staff-size sub-levels ranging from "pay what you can" to $5,000 per year. (The change also coincided with a name change from "Association" to "Alliance.")

The rule of thumb is that two is a coincidence and three is a trend, so these might not reflect any major trends in associations. (Though now I'm curious if ASAE or anyone else has any benchmarking data on membership structures with tiers; I'll have to dig and perhaps follow up in a later post.) Nonetheless, there are some interesting common themes between these two recent revamps.

Broader inclusion. Both organizations cite the need to cast a wider net in diversifying industries, to expand beyond the traditional professionals to allow engagement among a wider variety of interested stakeholders.

  • AIGA CEO Richard Grefé writes, "The expectations of designers have broadened in recent decades, as have the range of design disciplines and practices. … AIGA has always adapted to the interests of the profession, and is now shifting to a model that makes membership more accessible, increasing participation while providing opportunities for those who value AIGA's role in the advancement of design to make a stronger financial contribution. A larger and more diverse membership makes AIGA's collective voice stronger and more compelling."
  • AAM explains, "… we came to believe that 'association' did not represent what we wanted to be as an organization, nor did it represent what the museum field needed us to be—an inclusive, collaborative organization prepared to work with museum professionals and volunteers, with those who do business with museums, and with those who just love museums. We wanted to be a good partner with other museum-related organizations and to help unify the field on behalf of the cause of museums. 'Alliance' describes the ideal role for this organization to play."

More choices. From those motivating factors, it's easy to see why they chose tiered memberships. Greater diversity in your industry means a broader mix of involvement and interest levels and thus demands a wider variety of membership choices to meet it. Conveniently, both AIGA and AAM provide a handy table of membership levels and benefits for potential members to examine their options.

Two weeks ago here on Acronym I asked whether associations should focus on smaller niches, welcome the masses, or try to serve both with tiered memberships. The answer might be different for every association, but these two are clearly hoping to broaden their bases while continuing to serve their most highly engaged members.

If you know of other associations that have recently adopted tiered membership structures, please share.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 10:40 AM | |

September 13, 2012

Quick clicks: September 12, 2012

Education. David M. Patt, CAE, says taking questions at the end of a session doesn't make it "interactive."

Pricing. Steve Drake asks, if online retailers adjust product prices multiple times per day or even per hour, why do associations tend to lock in their membership dues or product prices for months or even years on end?

Budgeting. Jeff De Cagna continues his series exploring his "really radical shifts toward the future" for associations, this time proposing that associations should eliminate budgeting in favor of "function[ing] more like investors by allocating capital to fund high-level strategic priorities."

Leadership. Kerry Stackpole, FASAE, CAE, offers five reasons complexity is your friend, rather than something to be feared.

Volunteer engagement. Got a new product in development? Don't wait until it's perfect, Elizabeth Engel, CAE, writes. Instead, recruit some eager members to test it out, and they'll love you for it.

Fundraising. Colleen Dilenschneider explains five mistakes that nonprofits often make in working with celebrities to endorse their causes.

Vendors. Deirdre Reid, CAE, says some association professionals are missing out on vast stores of knowledge when they say "no vendors, please" in community discussions. Her thoughts started a lengthy comment thread, which you should be sure to read, too.

Social media. Leslie White shares a report that examines the world of social media risk managers. Likely few associations are large enough to have such a specialized position, but that doesn't mean they don't still have to manage social-media-related risks.

Change management. Jeffrey Cufaude illustrates the importance of helping people understand new ideas in terms that relate to things they are already familiar with.

Value. Jeff Cobb reminds associations of the importance of answering the question "why?" in marketing its education programs or even membership overall.

Negotiation. Cindy Butts, CAE, hosted a yard sale, and visitors asked her a few questions that reminded her of association management.

Management. Jamie Notter points out one big reason for the success of Netflix as an organization: "They fire adequate people."

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 8:00 AM | |

September 11, 2012

Big and niche

A few weeks ago, I watched the first 45 minutes or so of the movie 2012. My only takeaway from that experience is that it was really important to not ask questions about the science. The world was ending, and it didn't matter why. People just needed to run like hell.

Sometimes I feel the same way about the imminent doom of associations. The world is changing! Associations are doomed! Run!

I don't doubt the need to change. The world is indeed changing fast, and associations must follow suit. I feel that in my gut. But a lot of times I don't know exactly why or which way we should be running.

The threats to the traditional association model that we should be running away from (or toward) seem to be coming from multiple directions. Consider these two recent blog posts:

  • In early August, Maggie McGary highlighted the niche community at socialmedia.org for big-brand social media pros. The concierge-level group costs $10,000 a year to join and promises a vendor-free environment, an exclusive online community, and VIP service for members. Maggie rightly suggests that this type of highly focused, premium-service community in any field could be a threat to traditional associations or at least an alternative model to consider.
  • Last week, Joshua Paul pointed out that associations are losing their claim to representing whole industries (if they ever really had it), citing a case of political talking heads dismissing the American Medical Association as not representing the whole physician community. Josh suggests that associations could broaden their membership base (and thus their lobbying clout) through virtual memberships that would appeal to rank-and-file industry members.

On their own, each of these posts makes a compelling argument for action, but taken together they raise a tough dilemma: Is the future of the association model more niche or more broad? Deeper or wider? Customized solutions for a few or scalable solutions for the masses? This is a case when I'm glad I'm just a guy who writes about this stuff rather than the executive who has to make the decision.

There are a lot of options. Associations could go big or go niche, they could aim for a happy medium, or they could try to encompass both ends of the spectrum with tiered levels of membership and service.

You might have strong opinions on which of these models would be most viable (which you should share in the comments below), but for any particular association, the decision likely depends on its own mission, strategic priorities, and market conditions. So, the most important steps may just be to get clarity on those before charting a course forward—to ask a lot of questions about the science that drives change for your association. That process might not make for a good movie, but it could be a good way to ward off impending doom.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 3:34 PM | | | Comments (4)

September 5, 2012

A Different Leadership Lesson From Navy SEALs

I recognize that there's an inherent risk in comparing associations to military operations, especially in the midst of a heated campaign season. But an article in the Daily Beast yesterday got me thinking about something. Hang with me for a paragraph or two.

Today marks the publication of No Easy Day, a memoir by Matt Bissonnette, a former Navy SEAL who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Bissonette is publishing the book under a pseudonym, Mark Owen, but his real name went public not long after the book was announced, and the very existence of the book has prompted some ugly public retorts among the onetime close-knit ranks. Earlier this week the Daily Beast reported on an e-book in which special-ops veterans criticize the publication of No Easy Day and speculate on the author's motives: "'Bissonnette was treated very poorly upon his departure ... once he openly shared that he was considering getting out of the Navy to pursue other interests,' [they write]. "Bissonnette was essentially given a plane ticket back to Virginia and nothing else--not much of a thank-you for his 'honesty and 14 years of service.'"

I admit to being a bit surprised, reading about all this. If the most fearsome, best-trained fighting force in the military---a no-nonsense, get-it-done unit adhering to the highest possible standards---can't set aside its squabbling, what hope is there for our staffs? Our boards?

The analogy is imperfect, I know: Navy SEALs operate in life-and-death situations that few can fathom, and the necessity for secrecy there is much more pronounced. But something very familiar and human also seems to be going on here: People are brought into a privileged group with at best a limited amount of forethought about what might happen when people leave. "Members of the Special Operations community are well known for eating their own," the e-book authors say. That mindset is designed to solidify ranks, but it fails when somebody is motivated, for whatever reason---a less stressful job, a lucrative book contract---to break from them.

In the same way that smart organizations think about the right way to sunset programs and products, some deliberate care seems essential when we consider the end of a board member's tenure; a toast at one last breakfast and a chance to walk the stage one more time at the annual conference may not enough if they're not attached to feelings of respect and accomplishment. Proper closure requires working with board leaders months before their term ends to find out how they felt about their service---and, if those feelings aren't entirely positive, what can be done in the time remaining to improve it. Not doing it risks lingering resentment---and, at its worst, public disagreement that can harm how your organization is perceived.

Posted by Mark Athitakis at 8:40 AM | |

August 30, 2012

What's a great volunteer manager worth?

Via Jena McGregor at the PostLeadership blog last week, a new research paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research quantifies the value of a great boss. From the abstract:

"Replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team's total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine member team. Using a normalization, this implies that the average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker."

McGregor then draws this conclusion about workforce development:

"More people need to understand that they're better off firing a poorly performing boss and replacing him or her with a better performing one, rather than adding more workers to their staffs. Once that happens, the productivity push should shift from getting more out of people on the front lines to first getting more out of the ones who lead them."

These aren't surprising conclusions, but it's interesting to see that some hard, data-based research has gone into supporting the idea of a great manager's "multiplying effect" on his or her team.

What I'd really like to see, though, is this same research applied in the context of volunteer management. I suspect that the multiplying effect of a great volunteer manager would be even more pronounced.

For paid employees, the potential influence of a great manager has a floor and ceiling, based on compensation. A worker with a bad boss still has to work to get paid, and a worker with a great boss is only going to increase productivity so far without a pay increase.

But for an association volunteer, potential productivity covers a much greater range. A volunteer with a bad volunteer manager can very easily quit, but a volunteer with a great volunteer manager could become a passionate advocate for the organization.

So go back to those quoted paragraphs and replace "boss" with "volunteer manager" and "worker" with "volunteer," and then think about how your association handles volunteer management. Perhaps, rather than fretting over getting the right volunteers lined up, you should focus more on finding staff who are great at managing volunteers, on better training the ones you already have, and on letting go of the ones who simply can't cut it. The potential upsides and downsides of the quality of your volunteer managers are too great to ignore.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 3:38 PM | |

Quick clicks: August 30, 2012

It's been three weeks since the last edition of Quick Clicks, so there's a lot to catch up on. First, a reminder about the #ASAE12 Scoop.It page, where you can find all the articles and posts from the community related to the 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo, which is already two weeks behind us. (Only 338 days until #ASAE13!)

Social media. How much is a tweet from an association CEO worth? A whole lot more than one from other staff, says Maddie Grant, CAE.

Membership marketing. Tony Rossell writes that most associations underbudget for membership recruitment: "Frequently, I speak with organizations that have very lofty plans on how many new members they want to add. When I ask them what they have budgeted to accomplish this, the answer is shockingly low."

Innovation. Jeffrey Cufaude explains how your association should work toward a range of innovations, from small, quick wins to big bets, which he likens to managing an investment portfolio.

Management. Speaking of portfolios, Jamie Notter shares a lesson the book Beyond Performance that applies the portfolio concept to changing organizational culture.

Loyalty. Eric Lanke, CAE, says for-profits organizations that want to create "brand superfans" can learn much from the associations.


Content marketing. Deirdre Reid, CAE, says associations should get on board with the concept of creating a Chief Content Officer position: "Content strategy isn't a social media, website, or magazine issue, it's a management issue."

Member relations. Shannon Otto asks what association staff could learn if they swapped lives with their members: "Imagine how improved communication and understanding between staffers and members could be."

Conferences. Dave Phillips, CAE, explains why his association stopped booking a keynote speaker for its conferences.

Education. Jeff Cobb says he likes the new education formats he sees associations trying, but they can be doing much more. He lists five changes for a true revolution in association education.

Online community. Maggie McGary shares a cautionary tale about the lack of control an association has over its groups on third-party social networking platforms, in this case LinkedIn.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 10:45 AM | |

August 29, 2012

Lessons on Usability From #ASAE12

The following is a guest post by Bill Walker, marketing manager, DelCor.

In a previous life, I must have been a zookeeper. Or a penguin.

You see, as soon as the closing general session with Daniel Pink concluded, I dashed to the Dallas World Aquarium. It's my personal goal to visit the zoo and/or aquarium in every city I visit, and with the DWA just 10 minutes from the convention center, I couldn't resist.

It was there, at the aquarium, that I started thinking more deeply about usability, and how usability contributes to or detracts from real-life experiences - not just online ones.

The DWA has touchscreen displays at exhibit groupings---not at every animal exhibit. An accompanying booklet is also provided with your ticket. But I found myself longing for old-school signage that quickly identified the animals on display. Even after two trips through the aquarium, I was at a loss for what was what.

Despite its desire to provide "a learning experience for everyone" and "an in-depth study" of the animals and habitats, the DWA's touchscreens detracted from this visitor's experience.

-If the touchscreen is occupied, you're out of luck or forced to wait.
-The animal you're trying to identify not in the touchscreen computer? Out of luck.
-Enter the exhibit from one end, only to find the touchscreen upon your exit at the other end? Out of luck, again.
-Taking in as much as possible in the short time you have because the aquarium closes at 5 p.m.? Try again.
-Trying to navigate the exhibits using the paper guide? Well, walking and reading is a hazard unto itself, and even with the guide it's impossible to locate and identify the enormous variety of animals inhabiting DWA. (This is no run-of-the-mill aquarium.)

The DWA is a beautifully designed space filled with wonderful creatures, but my inability to connect with the exhibits in my preferred (and most convenient) way was missing. I left disappointed and undereducated.

When I returned to my hotel, I started more carefully observing other physical design choices that influence usability, atmosphere, and experience. The most obvious was the circular check-in station at Aloft Dallas.

A far cry from the boring bank teller-style stations at most hotels, the round, airy check-in area at Aloft was an informal, friendly, and delightful surprise---and only slightly bewildering. I observed how it facilitated teamwork. On the flip side, I wondered if staff ever felt trapped there, or how difficult it might be to move/expand the round concrete desk, if needed.

Walking to and from my hotel to the convention center was easy, but the crosswalks presented another design/usability dilemma. All the crosswalks in that part of town are brick---an upscale design choice, for sure, but much less obvious than the standard reflective white paint that pedestrians expect. (See below.) Worse, the crossing signals rarely flash "go"; one step into the brick crosswalk and the red flashing hand urges immediate caution. Not what a person crossing a 4- or 6-lane street wants to see!


Once inside the cool, safe zone of the convention center, getting around was a breeze. The multiple levels provide interest and break up the space, without creating hazards or conundrums - most of the time. Most importantly, restrooms were easy to identify and find! Other convention centers, airports, and large spaces rarely get this right.

How did these design choices and observations affect my ASAE Annual Meeting experience? For the most part, they made it an easy one to take in. Sessions were easy to find, hear, and even choose, based on a well planned guide and apps (more on those in a minute). All of that made me a very happy camper---er, attendee.

As an exhibitor in the business services section of the hall, I am accustomed to traipsing long distances to perform routine activities or get help at the service desks. To my dismay, I found myself at nearly the farthest point from the exhibitor service area. When it was time to pack up, I was too tired for a lot of back and forth, resulting in some communication struggles.

"Did you label all your boxes?" a Hargrove staffer asked. "No," I said, "but I will as soon as I get back to my booth." She wasn't having it, and initially didn't trust me to do it when I returned. Logically speaking, how is trusting me before turning in my bill of lading any different than trusting me after? No one's physically observing or checking! What's clear here is that there are usability choices in process, too.

Now, what about those apps? Well, I'm a split user---I have an iPad, but my phone runs on Android. I downloaded both apps, but found myself only using the iPad version because it provided exactly what I was looking for and was easy to use; I simply didn't need the Android app once I was onsite. So I spoke to another attendee who used both of the i-related apps.

"I downloaded the iPad app, selected my sessions, and mapped my Expo hall itinerary before the iPhone app was even launched," said Sandra Giarde, CAE, executive director of the California Association for the Education of Young Children. "When the iPhone app was finally released, it didn't sync with the iPad app, and I had to spend extra time repeating everything I had already done."
Sandra pointed out some helpful features within the iPad app, such as toggling between Twitter streams within a session screen, that enhanced her learning experience. Ultimately, Sandra said, "I use the apps differently - one on the go and one in sessions---but they really need to talk to each other to avoid frustration."

What does all this mean? Usability is everywhere. It impacts not just your constituents' website experience, but also your meeting experience, your membership experience, and---ultimately---your brand, the impression you leave on your constituents. #ASAE12 opened my eyes to all these details. My impressions of the ASAE Annual Meeting experience extended beyond the session walls to Cowboys Stadium and Fair Park---a whole, complete, and mostly well done experience.

It's true: if you haven't been to Dallas lately, you haven't been to Dallas (as the Visit Dallas folks told us). But if you do go to the aquarium, be prepared for a beautiful, unusual, and difficult-to-comprehend experience.

Posted by Mark Athitakis at 8:28 AM | | | Comments (1)

August 21, 2012

A Pair of Lessons Learned From #ASAE12

The following is a guest post from a pair of colleagues who attended the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo together: Kimberley Gray, event coordinator, and Juanita Kardell, training coordinator, at Associated General Contractors of Alaska.

Kimberley: The Importance of Moving On

While at this year's ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo, I attended some sessions that sounded like they were a perfect fit for me because the title and description covered a topic that would aid me in my work. For most time slots I actually picked two sessions and soon learned why that was a good decision. For a few of my selections, it took only 10 minutes in the first session before I was able to ascertain that it was not quite the right fit. I didn't want to waste my time (I don't mean the session wasn't of value; I know it was of value to others, just not for me), so I moved on to my second choice. Now, as I return to the office, I wonder if it isn't time to take that same look at my programs. Yes, I attended the Mary Byers session on just that topic, and I can see why.

I know when I start each new project for my association it seems like such a great idea and will be a value to my members. But can that be true of every new project or event? With new information fresh in my mind, it is a good time to look at my programs with a critical eye to make sure that they are a "fit" for my members. So even in leaving a session, I gain information that will help me on my return to Alaska.

I do know that I had a great time at the ASAE conference, both during the day and during the after-hour events, when I was able to network with a wide variety of people, share information about the association world, and even just relax among my peers, which is always a good thing!

Juanita: First-Time ASAE Attendee

After viewing a general description of the conference, I decided which sessions could help me improve in my job, so I signed up to attend. Then the ASAE conference book came and I thought to myself "How do I attend more than one session at a time?" Yikes! Thank goodness I had time to further pare down my choices before the conference. The ASAE app was a great help in making a plan of action. I had finally pared down my choices but by no means had made any final decisions yet. I finally had my list down to three sessions during each time slot and felt ready to tackle the conference. The decision to have options was a good one. All sessions I attended were great but not always what I needed, so the option to move on was a valuable choice. I did find sessions that were a fit for me, some were the first choice I made, but some were the second. I think ASAE did a great job finding a variety of topics to meet the needs of attendees. I am very glad I attended!

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 4:30 PM | | | Comments (1)

August 15, 2012

Digital Event Engagement Manager: A New Role for Association Pros

The following is a guest post from Maggie McGary, online community and social media manager at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Last year, my first year attending ASAE's Annual Meeting & Expo, I was totally overwhelmed by the experience. This year, I was a little better prepared and went in with a game plan: Pick a session during each timeframe, then two backup sessions in case the first was full. I also spend so much time immersed in social media—learning, doing, speaking—that I thought my time would be best spent not attending any sessions dealing with social media.

At any rate, that's how I came to attend the Learning Lab "The Strategic Impact of Digital Events on Meetings," even though I'm not a meeting planner (currently; in past jobs I have done meeting management). As luck would have it, the session felt a lot like a social media session—a lot of talk about traditional versus new, with face-to-face meetings being the gold standard (like traditional communication media) and virtual or hybrid events the shiny new thing (like social media).

Lots of the same issues were addressed as are addressed in nearly every social media session: How do you get executive buy-in, how do you generate revenue from this new way of doing business, will this new way ruin the old, tried-and-true way we've always done meetings? As with social media, there are a few examples of associations who are already demonstrating success with virtual or hybrid meetings, but there still remains a lot of skepticism about moving into foreign territory.

What struck me most, though, was that I was sitting in a room full of seasoned meeting planners, many of whom are certified meeting professionals and have invested entire careers learning the business of running meetings. There I sat, a person who has spent the past four years in the business of online engagement, and it occurred to me that there's an entirely new field open to online community and social media managers: digital event engagement manager.

If the future of events is driving online engagement and being able to generate measurable results online in addition to, or instead of, face-to-face meetings, community management is at least as valuable a skillset as—if not more valuable than—meeting management. I wondered which education gap would be harder to fill—community manager retraining to learn meeting management, or meeting manager retraining to learn online community management? I also wondered who will fill that gap. Will fundamentals of online engagement and social media management be added to the list of things you need to know if you want to be a meeting manager, and, if so, will that be a new part of the certified meeting professional program? Or will community managers need to learn stuff like what's a BEO and which is a better seating setup for learning, hollow square or horseshoe?

Obviously, I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know this: Build it and they will come doesn't work for online communities, so it probably won't work for online events either. Meeting managers planning on adding digital meetings to their association's learning mix would be smart to start boning up on the fundamentals of online community management.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 8:43 PM | | | Comments (1)

Quick clicks: Check out the #asae12 buzz on Scoop.It

As attendees head home from ASAE's 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo, stay tuned here on Acronym for more recaps and perspectives. There's plenty of buzz elsewhere, too, of course, which we're gathering for you on the ASAE12 Scoop.It page. About 15 posts and videos popped up during the conference, and from past experience, I expect a lot of great recaps from our trusty association blogger community to begin rolling in soon, too. So here's your reminder to go check it out:


Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 11:24 AM | |

Tweets from #asae12, day 4

The #asae12 hashtag was abuzz on Twitter during the final day of the 2012 Annual Meeting & Exposition in Dallas. Here are a few of the tweets that you can find in the full hashtag stream.

Posted by Rob Stott at 8:25 AM | |

August 14, 2012

To View or To Do

The following is a guest post from Moira Edwards, CAE, president, Ellipsis Partners.

In Sunday's Learning Lab "Deep Dive: Everything Mobile" at ASAE's 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo, ASAE Chief Information Officer Reggie Henry gave us the insight that people have different appetites for online content depending on whether they are in learn mode or solve-a-problem mode. Our associations' websites satisfy both needs with information to browse and data to find.

In contrast, mobile sites are nearly always about doing rather than viewing. As you run through the airport, luggage in one hand and phone in the other, you access mobile sites when you need to save time and get specific information. So your members need your mobile site to solve their immediate problem. Maybe it's to find their meeting registration information or committee agenda or the certification deadline.

This is a very useful differentiation. Are our members in learn mode or problem solving mode when they get our newsletter, or maybe in neither? When we select an AMS or social media platform based on a great demo, were we in learn mode or problem solving mode when we evaluated the features? If we need both, how do we make sure we effectively meet both those needs? I will be using this framework as one way to evaluate all sorts of information in the future.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 6:56 PM | |

What if you had at least one member in every staff meeting?


Author Dan Pink closed ASAE's 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo with advice for association executives now that we're all in sales.

He called sales a natural human endeavor and "something we can do better by being more human." His message was a preview of his forthcoming book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, and he emphasized a new set of skills for "non-sales selling," most notably attunement to the perspectives of the people you're trying to influence.

Pink recommended association executives follow the lead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who pulls an empty chair into staff meetings to represent the customer. The "pull up a chair" exercise provides a visual reminder for staff and helps them be better attuned to the needs of the customer in any given project.

That's a great idea that associations could adopt, but there's no reason the chair has to be empty. Instead of having an imaginary member in every staff meeting at your association, why not have a real member in every meeting?

At some small-staff associations that are largely volunteer driven, this might already be the case, but for any association with enough staff to have staff-only meetings, adding one member would shift the dynamic in the room toward better serving member needs.

Pink said the new era of sales is one in which information asymmetry has given way to information parity: the buyer has just as much information as the seller, and it's the seller's job to understand how he or she can serve the buyer.

Maybe the logistics of getting a member into every staff meeting at your association would be prohibitive, but if you can make a habit of bringing members in more often, at least, you'll better reflect the dynamic of information parity, and you'll be better attuned to what members need.

Posted by Joe Rominiecki at 4:49 PM | | | Comments (1)

Stepping Outside of the Classroom Box

The following is a guest post by Peggy Hoffman, CAE, president of Mariner Management & Marketing, LLC.

I challenged myself to learn differently at this year's ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo. So I set two specific goals: use my iPad and smart phone exclusively (no laptop/pc), and participate in at least one really different learning format. The first goal was simply to push myself to work differently, to harness the power of mobile (check!). The second was to both explore new formats and to push myself to take more responsibility for my learning. On day three I walked into the Wisdom While You Walk session.

In the 75 minute session, I found both great self-directed content and a new learning format that I can use in my associations. I also experienced a sense of satisfaction that I had taken responsibility of my learning.

Briefly, we started the session with identifying topics of interest. Then we broke into groups and set a time to regroup. Off we went, wandering through the Dallas Convention Center. My small group explored learning for adults. We shared what we had learned in sessions at Annual, read in books, and tried and heard about. We visited the Imaginarium and explored some pockets of the convention center. When we returned, each group shared their nuggets and impressions of the session's format.

I have to report that the group gave the format and the session thumbs up.

Goal 2 ... Check!

Posted by Rob Stott at 3:15 PM | |

Tweets from #asae12, day 3

Day 3 of the 2012 Annual Meeting & Exposition in Dallas was filled with refreshing and provocative tweets with the #asae12 hashtag. Here are a handful of the tweets that you can find in the full hashtag stream.

Posted by Rob Stott at 8:08 AM | |

August 13, 2012

The Upside of Negativity

Like a lot of people in the room, I took plenty of inspiration from Peter Diamandis' Game Changer session this morning on abundance. To briefly summarize his points: The world is becoming a better place, not worse, and there is great power in working collectively to solve big problems---which are becoming easier to solve. More people means more solutions, he argued, so long as people stop thinking small and stop thinking negative.

Diamandis, head of the X Prize Foundation and pioneer in the nascent asteroid-mining industry, said negative thinking is an aspect of human behavior that has no useful purpose today; it's a remnant of an earlier time when human beings would be attacked by predators, human or animal, if they didn't have good intelligence on where the threats are. Threats certainly do exist now, Diamandis said, but in the overall scheme of things the world is a less dangerous place than it used to be. (Stephen Pinker published a much-discussed book last year, The Better Angels of Our Nature, drilling into this point.)

Sounds good. But here's what I came away thinking about: Why can't negativity be inspirational?

I'm not trying to be stubbornly counterintuitive here. I get Diamandis' complaint that a barrage of negative news on cable TV can be dispiriting and unproductive. But a sense of threat can also be a powerful motivator. To turn it back to Diamandis' work, the fear of being outpaced (if not taken over) by the Soviet Union was a chief reason why the United States launched the Apollo program. Fear of diminishing resources inspires our pursuit of alternative energy sources; fear of disconnection inspires technological innovation. The X Prize's various efforts thrive on the creeping sense that something's about to hit the fan.

There's a fine line between feeling threatened and thinking negative, and leaders ought to be mindful of the distinction. There's nothing entirely wrong with worrying that things will crumble if you don't act---the question is whether you act effectively on that emotion. If we can put a man on the moon, we can negative-think our way through anything.

Posted by Mark Athitakis at 12:58 PM | | | Comments (1)

Is That Your Raffle Prize to Keep?

The following is a guest post from Greg Wilson, CAE, director of finance and operations for the Sacramento Association of Realtors.

In Joan Eisenstodt, Jonathan May, and Michele Warholic's 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo session, "Shades of Gray: Crucial Conversations Around Ethical Quandaries," we were challenged with the dilemma of raffle prize winnings. The panel will tell you that the prizes won in various raffles this week belong to your association if in fact it was the association that paid your way. This was met with surprise and disappointment. After all what we were learning was that the Hawaiian vacay might not be ours to enjoy even if we beat the odds.

Vendors offer stuffed animals, mugs, whatever, in the hopes you will remember them when deciding on the next meeting location. By the way, the ASAE standards of conduct require objectivity and impartiality. A rubber wrist band might not sway a decision, but a Mercedes? Clearly a policy on gift and prize acceptance is needed at our individual associations.

Mine has such a policy and I wish I could say the dollar value is zero, but it is pegged at $25. That bothers me because what it tells staff is that gifts worth $24.25 have no influence on decision making.

In establishing a policy, I would recommend the following framework.

Set reasonable dollar values. Whether it is zero, $10, $25, or something else, decide what your staff, vendors, and members can live within. Do not set folks up to fail.

Model appropriate behavior. When you win an iPad, use it within the association, and put the free books on the library shelf for all to read.

Teach employees how to make decisions. Have conversations around objective decision making, intent, and avoiding conflicts of interest. This takes courage but it is possible.

Apply the policy uniformly. What is good for the iPad is good for the wine, mug, and car.

Educate in the round. Explain your policy to vendors, contractors, and members as well as staff. Doing so will foster a culture of transparency.

Again, all of our associations need to address the issue through a clear policy. The best approach is to have an ethics driven policy which defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior in general terms, while perhaps establishing a maximum dollar value. And then also creating a culture in which employees can ask themselves and be able to answer the difficult questions about influence peddling. Help staff to be aware of their duty to the association while endeavoring to avoid actual or the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Posted by Rob Stott at 12:53 PM | |


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