- There’s a lot that could go wrong in the backcountry. It’s probably best not to leave your homes. (Kidding!)
- Interestingly enough, this course aligned with Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, a systematic instructional design process (which I quite enjoy!) with a focus on learner outcomes.
- As learners (and leaders) it’s important to step away from our functional areas from time to time to gain professional development experiences from thought leaders and in content areas unfamiliar to us. This Wilderness First Aid course has absolutely made me a better learning strategist.
- Experiences like these, which allow us to better connect with our staff or clients, cannot be underestimated. The teambuilding opportunities and shared experiences are both memorable and invaluable.
- This investment (of both time and money) has already allowed me to better connect with my client’s members. My first-hand glimpse into their world allows me to better relate and collaborate.
Q & A with Elyse Kopietz, director of communications, marketing and events, Michigan Manufacturers Association
Q: It’s February…the month of love, candy hearts, chocolate and other sweet treats. So, if you could pick a special valentine, who would it be and why?
A: My children fill my life with love, sweetness and excitement. Greyson (age 8), Kinsley (age 7) and Arlo (age 5) have changed my world and make me a better person every day. I am sure there will come a time when they don’t draw me pictures and sing me songs, but for now, I’m going to hold tight to these moments and soak them up on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.
Q: If your friends had to give you a nickname, what would it be, and why?
A: There has been more than a time or two that I’ve been called a “firecracker!” Full of energy, a spark for innovation and the courage to be bold and take risks are a few of my stand out characteristics that make me a firecracker!
Q: Learn: How do you learn best? In a coffee shop with lots of noise or in a quiet, library-like setting?
A: To learn, take in new information and consider its impact I need to have both. Headphones help me to tune out the noise, but an active atmosphere gives me the opportunity to sit back and people watch while taking a study break and reflecting. Anytime I am able to add a delicious caramel latte into my study routine it is a definite bonus!
Q: Network: Some people are wallflowers while others are natural networkers. Which are you (or are you in the middle)?
A: For those who don’t me, I come across incredibly outgoing and ready to pounce into any networking situation with a smile. Those who know me know that sometimes it takes effort to come across as outgoing and confident. Entering a group of unknown people can be intimidating and there are times when I have to prepare, get excited and think of engaging conversation starters.
Q: Transfer: Let’s say you just attended a certification course. What would be your first step in applying what you learned?
A: Currently, I am studying to take the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam in May. What I am enjoying most about this process is finding opportunities to apply what I am learning as I go. I find learning new things incredibly exciting. For me, it is important to look at what I can apply right now, what should be part of a longer-term strategy and what I want to explore further.
In alignment with Event Garde’s focus on networking, this month’s guest blog post is by John Rampton, the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Due, a free online invoicing company specializing in helping businesses bill their client easily online.
It was originally published on BusinessCollective.
Over the past five years, I’ve attended, on average, one event per week. For those who attend conferences and trade shows often, networking can become mundane. We get used to doing the same thing over and over: from quick chats between meetings in designated coffee/beverage areas to huge parties thrown at local nightclubs by conference sponsors. Each morning, we get up and do it all over again. Due to the repetitious nature of conferences, I don’t enjoy them as much as I used to anymore, and I’m sure many of you are in the same boat.
Over the past six months, I’ve changed up my routine to make conference networking something I enjoy. With just a little bit of planning, I have been able to change my perception about networking and get 10 times more return out of every conference I attend.
Here are some of the ways you can make this happen:
- Throw a small meetup. Renting out a bar or restaurant — or even a hotel room — to host a conference meetup can be quite expensive, with really no ROI guarantee. However, you can achieve many of the same goals of hosting a conference event (without the cost) by hosting a meetup. Simply call a few local bars and restaurants and ask for some specials on food and drinks (don’t ask to reserve a space), create an event on Facebook or Eventbrite and spread the word via conference social channels. Keep the meetup informal and limit it to around 20-30 people. This allows the right setting to establish deeper connections but doesn’t tarnish your reputation if it doesn’t go so well.
- Hit the hotel bar. Every conference has a nearby watering hole. Pick the closest one to the conference and “belly up” to the bar. As attendees come and go, you will have an easy opportunity to strike up a conversation. However, remember that you are at the bar for business, so make sure to not go overboard with the booze.
- Go “hashtag hunting.” The key to conference hashtag use isn’t in what you tweet, but rather what you observe being tweeted. Scan conference hashtags often during your conference to search for small gatherings at nearby restaurants, bars and attractions. Searching conference hashtags can lead you to more networking opportunities, including small meetups, unpublicized events or just connecting with conference attendees you wouldn’t otherwise have met.
- Leave your lanyard on. As long as you are near the conference, you should have your lanyard with your conference badge on. Though it’s slightly embarrassing (like leaving stickers on new jeans), rocking your lanyard will let other attendees easily identify you and can lead to some easy networking opportunities — like a quick chat while you wait in line at Starbucks or an exchange of elevator pitches in an actual elevator!
- Read non-verbal cues. Not everyone at a conference is looking to connect, but it can be easy to find people who are looking to network just by their posture, how they are standing, with whom they are standing and other non-verbal cues. Networking isn’t always easy or fun. Hopefully the tips above will yield you some new business and add some flavor to your typical networking routine.
As a writer and professional communicator, nothing (O.K., well, not very much) is more frustrating than people who can’t communicate. Or even worse yet, companies. Inconsistent messaging drives me nuts.
But seriously…communication is a hard gig for most companies, especially with the advent of social media. Communication is everywhere.
So it’s not really a surprise that associations continue to struggle with effective communication, according to Naylor’s 2015 communication benchmarking study.
While associations have made headway in navigating communication chaos, only 6 percent of the more than 700 associations surveyed reported they have a fully integrated communications strategy.
Perhaps more problematic, however, is that very few associations employ social, mobile or video strategy.
All this said, there’s good news: Associations realize they need to do a better job – starting with what they have. For example, if given a budget increase, more than one-third of respondents said they’d develop a mobile strategy while another one-third said they would pour resources into social media.
More than one-half of respondents have optimized their websites for mobile, while more than one-third have done so for newsletters and blogs for mobile. And it seems more associations are connecting with members on social media.
But let’s face it. Without content, communication efforts are null. It’s hard to know what audiences want, so let’s trust Naylor.
According to its survey, in 2015 respondents chose best practices and how-tos as the most important topics. Second and third: professional development and industry trends. That’s changed from 2014, in which survey participants ranked lobbying/advocacy as most important. So maybe this is why 58 percent of those surveyed say members ignore at least half the communications they receive.
At a glance from the report:
- 41.7 percent of associations feel understaffed overall
- 43.5 percent feel their publishing/content creation teams are understaffed
- 43.6 percent feel their social media teams are understaffed
“To their credit, associations are working hard to shed their stereotype as overly cautious, slow-moving, bureaucratic organizations,” Naylor said. “They have made significant strides in optimizing their websites and publications for mobile, and in offering members a wide variety of streaming video content, mobile apps and social media outlets. But, there is a big disconnect between associations’ willingness to try new forms of communication and their willingness to put a viable strategy behind those channels, much less staff them adequately, support them financially and measure them aggressively.”
Now that we’ve identified the communication challenges, what do we do about it? How do we transfer the knowledge we’ve learned?
Naylor has some suggestions.
- To build better content and greater engagement, you must start by asking what they want and why. Create a survey and ask your members, for example, whether they prefer digital or print communications – and why.
- Take a closer look at who your stakeholders are and what they are telling you — and what they’re not — to uncover areas for improvement and set your goals. Take into account all audiences – staff, advertisers and members. Looking at membership demographics can provide insight into content consumption – Which publications are your competitors?
- If you don’t have a social media strategy, get one. Don’t create a Facebook account just because. Instead, use your survey data to determine topics that lend themselves well to social media and then determine how, and through which platforms, your audiences want to learn.
- When it comes to your digital communications, make every message count. In other words, integrate content and make messaging consistent. Start with subject lines for emails and e-newsletters. Make them catchy, but then, once they click, what will readers find? If people opt out, find out why.
- Stop under-utilizing video. Case in point: Event Garde started incorporating video into our e-newsletters a few months ago. Continuing education, event memorialization, live streaming and integration opportunities make video an incredibly viable communication tool.
- Designate an ambassador of integration. Establish someone who can liaise between all departments and audiences to make sure content is integrated and on message.
- Review available communication vehicles and consider how much more powerful a message can be if it’s repurposed across different channels. Think about what can enhance current content (i.e. video). Or repurpose your conference program book and reword it for social media.
- Make sure your content and communication vehicles are ready for consumption on the go. As part of your communications audit, ask your IT staff to analyze how mobile-friendly your websites, blogs and e-newsletters truly are.
- Don’t wait to measure—incorporate it as an everyday practice. Remember: Data are good. Measure early and often, and chart how your different communication vehicles are performing so you’ll know what’s working best.
- Track your results, and if you didn’t perform well in a certain area, ask for help. If you discover after analyzing data that you can’t give members what they need, this makes a good argument for boosting staff and budget.
“As we said in our 2014 recommendations, avoid ‘shiny-object syndrome’ and the temptation to be all things to all people,” Naylor said. “Consider how relatively simple a communications strategy can be with a Take AIM approach. Gather member feedback, deliver great content, monitor results, and watch engagement levels rise.”
It’s a new year. New predictions. New trends. New goals. New successes.
From memberships to learning to partnerships, software and services provider Abila just released its predictions for associations in 2016.
Of special interest? Learning and partnerships. (Note our new tagline – Learn. Network. Transfer.)
The demand for knowledge will continue to grow this year, specifically the focus on certification programs. In fact, Abila predicts certification revenue will surpass membership revenue in 2016.
“One of the most valuable resources you have is your association’s e-learning content,” Abila wrote in its whitepaper. “For many members, certification has greater perceived value and affords a significant career edge that mere membership can’t provide. This is particularly true for your millennial members who will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2020.”
As further evidence, according to Associations Trends’ TRENDS 2015 Report, about two-thirds of survey respondents receive less than half their revenue from dues.
At the same time, Abila predicts an increase partnerships. As the association industry continues to evolve, community engagement and networking among industry leaders will be key to success, which could include sharing of resources. So, will there be an uptick in swapping of online materials and open source documents? Maybe.
“Your association should look closely at similarly aligned organizations – regionally, nationally and internationally – to forge alliances for greater visibility and awareness,” Abila wrote. “All avenues, channels and opportunities should be explored to connect with potential new members and customers and generate revenue.”
This could mean partnerships between nonprofits and forprofits. Why? Such partnerships could offer new revenue streams and raise an organization’s profile on social media and among professional and personal networks.
So we’ve covered learning and networking. What about transfer?
Let’s say your staff completes a certification program or engages in e-learning. Or it learns how to better network.
How do staff members apply this newfound knowledge?
It’s about rethinking association management systems, Abila says.
As 2016 progresses, associations will increasingly use AMS for strategy – not just tactics. Mining the system for specific member information will allow associations to personalize customer experiences, which could very well include new networking and learning platforms.
“2016 will be a year in which many associations will take a deeper look at membership and the entire membership experience to better understand when and how to engage,” said Amanda Myers, senior product marketing manager for Abila. “Many organizations will also look more closely at revenue channels and partnerships as hybrid membership models continue to emerge, revenue from certification programs grows and associations will form new and different partnerships. The AMS will also re-emerge as a key piece of technology and play a far more strategic role.”
Do you have predictions to share? Think new trends will surface this year? Share your comments below!
Tags: attendees, audience, conference, content, customization, data, endorsements, exhibitors, feedback, hosts, IEG, issuu, NASC, National Association of Sports Commissions, participants, partnership, pictures, publications, research, speakers, testimonials
Post-event fulfillment reports consistently rank at the top of sponsor lists in terms of the most valuable services provided by conference hosts. According to the 2012 IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey, fulfillment reports tied audience research as the most important service provided by conference hosts.
So what is a post-event fulfillment report? In a nutshell, it’s a report penned by a host organization and provided to sponsors following an event. It benefits sponsors in the following ways:
- Helps sponsors justify their investments.
- Builds internal support at sponsoring companies.
- Demonstrates how conference hosts have over-delivered.
- Sets the stage for renewal discussions.
- Delivers gratitude on behalf of conference hosts (and their constituents).
While typically reserved for sponsors, fulfillment reports could easily be tailored to address the needs of exhibitors, speakers and attendees – any constituent group for whom an organization might wish to demonstrate a mutually beneficial partnership (particularly those who pay to attend events or for whom participation is otherwise uncompensated).
According to IEG, key elements of a post-event fulfillment report include:
- A brief (one-page) introduction and executive summary. Assuming it’s the only portion of the report some busy professionals will read, it should summarize key deliverables and include a short interpretation of the data.
- Participant/attendee information, including attendance figures, demographics and the results of any audience research (e.g., aggregate evaluation data).
- All on-site exposure documented through photos, samples and reproductions; the number of people who received promotional items or were exposed to advertising; and a comparison of quantities, location and position delivered versus what was promised.
- Any off-site exposure (e.g., print, television or radio).
- Trackable promotional results, including the number of people responding to sponsor campaigns.
- Any additional outcomes (e.g., donations to charitable organizations, employee participation or economic impact summary).
Additionally, consider adding in third-party endorsements or testimonials, including feedback or data from the event’s attendees or participants. Particularly impactful are pictures of attendees with their names, titles, organizations and insights.
The National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) offers one example of a post-event fulfillment report. In this case, NASC utilized issuu to display its report in an interactive and visually appealing platform. Issuu gives anyone with digitally bound content the ability to upload and distribute publications worldwide both quickly and easily.
So what does it take to develop and release your first post-event fulfillment report? Following are five tips to get you started:
- Dedicate staff resources. Assign someone as the lead and ensure multidisciplinary buy-in from all other supporting departments/staff.
- Make it an ongoing process. Create the basic template and keep it updated leading up to the event. Ensure all staff assignments onsite and post-event are clearly communicated. This should ensure the report is less tedious to complete post-event (with no lost information).
- Keep reports succinct. There’s no magic number – but you’ll know what’s right for the recipients of your report. Bullets, photos, charts and other brief expressions of content are always preferable to lengthy paragraphs.
- Consider the different audiences. A single report may be viewed by the chief executive officer, the chief financial officer, the marketing department and countless other individuals employed by your sponsoring organizations. Consider their needs and ensure your post-event fulfillment report meets them head-on.
- Deliver in a timely fashion. It’s best to complete and deliver a post-event fulfillment report within 30 days following an event.
Finally, a note about customization. While it would be optimal to customize every post-event fulfillment report before hand-delivering it to sponsors (e.g., custom cover page, sponsor-specific photos/data, testimonials naming the sponsor), that’s likely not feasible given our often limited time and resources. So, do your best. If nothing else, deliver the report via your organization’s email platform and be sure to personalize the recipient’s name.
Q: How do you plan to kick off 2016?
A: Well, ideally it would be with a vodka martini in hand; however, that will have to wait until the ASAE Great Ideas Conference in March! All kidding aside, on a personal note, I plan to purge more and more material items while offering my family more experiences. As each day goes by, I cherish special moments and memories as opposed to the latest and greatest material items that end up being donated for lack of practical use. On a professional note, I hope to continue to grow my business, Limitless ASR, and the relationships with our clients and partners.
Q: What personal and professional goals would you like to accomplish this year?
A: Ah, the age old question for the new year. Shall I say more gym time? Actually, I will continue my gym time while incorporating more family time through family travel, volunteering at my children’s school, baking and cooking more with the kids and more adult date nights with my husband. Professionally, I would like to volunteer more with my state and national SAEs, join more SAEs and add more speaking engagements to my year.
Q: If you had to pick a song that best sums up your life so far, what would it be?
A: Neil Young’s “Walk with Me.” My favorite lyric is, “If you just walk with me and let me walk with you; I am on this journey; I don’t want to walk alone.” This song defines me because it walks you through the emotion I have in my faith, my family and my professional life. We all need someone to take us through life’s journeys personally and professionally. It’s a privilege to guide and be guided while sharing life experiences and growing as one with those you love, those with whom you work or those with whom you serve on a volunteer basis. Life is too short not to share with others.
Q: You’re walking along and you see two paths: one that’s well traveled and one that seems to be relatively untouched. Which do you take…and why?
A: Definitely the road less traveled. It has been my experience that the road traveled may seem to be the easiest since it has safely taken many travelers to their destination. However, those travelers have also taken the majority of the opportunity along the way. So the best opportunity is on the road less traveled, plus you chart the course as the road expands. Hence, Limitless was founded as a full-service association management company, yet the model quickly evolved to take a detour from the road well traveled to the road less traveled. We began to focus on the credentialing piece – something only a handful of companies currently does. We now have clients ranging from stand-alone associations to association management companies. So the road less traveled is not only just my choice, but has always been my preference.
Q: If you had once piece of advice to tell your teenage self, what would it be?
A: Never miss an opportunity to help someone, regardless of what may be offered to you. First and foremost, stick with people who are loyal to you and enrich their lives as much as you can. Enjoy every moment with your loved ones as tomorrow is never promised to anyone…but most importantly, hold on tight because this is going to be the best ride of your life!