19
May
15

If companies build (capability), greatness will come

approach-buildingWe all know professional development is important. To thrive, companies need to have highly skilled and knowledgeable employees.

So the WHY is covered. But the HOW….that’s a different story. Although companies’ PD needs have increased, most seem to be pursuing the same traditional methods – and many are getting less bang for their bucks.

According to a recent survey by McKinsey and Co., a global management consulting firm, companies are struggling with the best way to build capabilities. (Institutional capabilities are all skills, processes, tools and systems that an organization uses as a whole to drive meaningful business results. Individual capabilities refer to training, learning or specific skills.)

In the study, companies cited customer demand and strategic importance as the top reasons for building capabilities. McKinsey and Co. says executives most often identify skills in strategy, operations and marketing and sales as most important for business performance, focusing efforts mostly on frontline employees.

Despite recent technological advances and the advent of e-learning, on-the-job training is still the No. 1 vehicle companies use to better their workforces. And while experts have proven that informal or formal coaching is an effective PD tool, only 33 percent of respondents engage in mentorship. And even fewer companies use methods such as experiential learning or digital (mobile exercises or group-based online learning).

“These leading-edge training methods could enable all organizations to replicate or scale up their learning programs quickly and cost-effectively across multiple locations,” the authors wrote. “But currently, companies tend to plan and execute large-scale learning programs with a train-the-trainer approach or with help from external providers to roll out their programs.”

mentorAt the same time, executives reported struggling with how to measure the ROI of capabilities building. At least according to the McKinsey and Co. report, companies lack a clear vision for how to link capability building to the overall business. They also indicate a lack of resources for developing programs and implementing efforts. More than half the survey respondents said they’re not sure if their capability-building programs have met their targets – or whether such targets exist.

And so….what does this all mean?

McKinsey and Co. offers some tips:

  • Diagnose systematically. Companies are best able to build strong capabilities when they systematically identify the capabilities, both institutional and individual, that can have the most positive impact on the business. Objective assessments are an important tool in this process — and few respondents say their companies use such assessments now. These diagnostics not only help companies assess their skill gaps relative to industry peers but also help them quantify the potential financial impact of addressing capability gaps.
  • Design and deliver learning to address individual needs. The core principles of adult learning require that companies tailor their learning programs to employees’ specific strengths and needs, rather than developing a one-size-fits-all program for everyone. The most effective approach to adult learning is blended — that is, complementing in-class learning with real work situations and other interventions, such as coaching.
  • Align with and link to business performance. To be effective and sustainable, capability building can’t happen in a vacuum. Learning objectives must align with strategic business interests, and, ideally, capability building should be a strategic priority in and of itself. Making human resources functions and individual business units co-owners of skill-building responsibilities and then integrating learning results into performance management are effective steps toward achieving this alignment.

What do you think? Have your PD efforts led to better company and/or individual performance?

12
May
15

Left brain vs. right brain: Which wins the event planning game?

Brain hemispheres sketchSo apparently I’m right brained. At least according to this test.

I guess that’s not surprising considering I’m a writer. But I’m also extremely detail-oriented and analyze everything, so I think I’m a good mix. Yeah. I’ll go with that.

While most people think with mostly their left side or mostly their right side, it’s crucial to have a bit of both.

And so, I encourage you to take the aforementioned into account after reading this sentence: New research by London and Partners, the official convention bureau of London, and MICEBOOK.com indicates that event planners aren’t as creative as they thought.

Yep. Research suggests the event management industry is filled with left-brained thinkers.

Samantha Whitehorne recently wrote an enlightening Associations Now blog post on the research. And I encourage you fellow right-brain thinkers to get a chuckle from it.

For the study, more than 400 event planners had their brains analyzed to see if they’re more “rationale left brained” or “emotional right brained” thinkers. And while most felt they performed their jobs creatively, only 39 percent were indeed considered creative thinkers.

Maybe that’s because, according to the study, only 34 percent of respondents said they’re given time to think out of the box and only 32 percent said creativity is rewarded. Furthermore, more than half of the respondents said the budget just didn’t support risk taking.

2000px-Rubik's_cube.svg“Ours is an industry within which logic and in-depth planning are absolutely critical to successful outcomes,” said Tracy Halliwell, director of business tourism and major events at London and Partners. “Creativity and innovation are growing ever more important as clients demand event activations that set them apart from their competitors and deliver enduring memories for consumers. The experience itself is now what drives the event, but it’s only by combining pioneering ideas with concrete solutions that we can truly surprise and delight.”

So what does the right brain vs. left brain debate mean for event planning?

Here’s a good summary from Cathy Key in a recent Event Manager blog post:

Left-brained people tend to be detail oriented and thrive on data. So event ROI is important. Also, they don’t like to take risks, so most likely, they’ll create a road map for events.

In contrast, right-brain thinkers bring to the table a flare for ingenuity and creativity. They look at the big picture and thrive on feedback and emotion to measure success. Event ROI is less important to right-brain people, who are willing to trust their gut instinct.

“While we need the analysis and fact-finding powers of the left brain, when it comes to motivating our team, ourselves and our attendees, we need right-brain thinking,” Key wrote. “We need to have an emotional connection to our events if we are going to really enjoy our work. When we are connected to WHY we are involved with an event, working late nights and pulling out all the stops is natural. Without the WHY all you have is hard work.”

Another way to look at it: The left side of the brain sets the goals and the right side finds the purpose.

creativity2But a good event planner needs to think with both sides of the brain. While creativity reaps huge rewards, we need left-brain thinkers to keep us in check. And so, event management teams should comprise both types of thinkers.

“While time constraints and restricted budgets can sometimes hinder creativity, a balance is always needed between the creative and the logical,” said Chetan Shah, founder and CEO of MICEBOOK.com. “Great teams bring together a mix of personalities, approaches to work and creative or logical attributes. Whether someone is left or right-brained, their attributes and strengths should be encouraged and nurtured to ensure their events are spectacular, both rationally and emotionally.”

Take the test and let us know. Are you left- or right-brained?

05
May
15

20 reasons to book within the official group block

PS_Hotel_KingRoom_newWith unprecedented access to vacation rentals through websites like airbnb and VRBO, as well as the availability of discount hotel stays through websites like Priceline and Orbitz, it’s no wonder organizations are having difficulty filling their group room blocks during in-person meetings, conventions and exhibitions.

A quick survey of industry professionals via ASAE’s Collaborate turned up the following 20 reasons (in no particular order) for booking within the official group block. Consider customizing this list and sharing it with your members and attendees via marketing materials (e.g., brochure, website and social media) prior to your next big event.

  1. Official hotels are inspected by the organization prior to your arrival.
  2. Greater informal networking opportunities exist in hotels within the group block (as this is where a majority of attendees are staying and frequenting).
  3. It will take you less time to travel from the meeting to your hotel room, making it easier for you to adjourn to your room to nap or work during down time.
  4. The important announcements and information the organization may need to share with attendees when they check-in are provided only at those hotels within the group block.
  5. Any room drops arranged by the organization or its exhibitors are only available to those staying at hotels within the group block.
  6. The organization is able to conduct high-quality meetings at desirable sites for a reasonable registration fee because a significant block of hotel rooms is reserved for meeting attendees.
  7. Friendly booking terms (e.g., no full pre-payment) are negotiated as part of the organization’s hotel contract.
  8. Meeting attendees receive a reduced rate (negotiated by the organization) for their sleeping rooms.
  9. Low group rates are guaranteed prior to the established cut-off date and are usually extended three days pre- and post-event.
  10. Attendees receive the negotiated benefits and amenities contracted for the group room block (e.g., fitness center or bottled water).
  11. Reservations within the group block are protected from hotel relocation (also known as walking).
  12. Complimentary shuttle service may be provided (e.g., to/from the airport, conference center or local attractions).
  13. The size of the official room block determines priority status for function space. By booking rooms outside the block, the organization may not get its preferred dates/function space on a first option basis.
  14. green_moneyIn exchange for filling the required number of sleeping rooms, the organization is permitted to use the hotel’s meeting space at no/reduced cost.
  15. The organization is penalized financially for not filling a minimum number of contracted sleeping rooms.
  16. Securing a smaller room block makes it more difficult for the organization to gain favorable hotel services, concessions and function space both this year and in future years at new/different properties.
  17. The hotel provides certain concessions to the organization based on filling the group room block (which help to offset registration rates).
  18. Helping the organization meet its room block obligation allows the event to earn reductions toward the overall master bill (e.g., comp rooms, commissions or rebates.)
  19. Future housing and registration rates can remain low when a majority of attendees book within the official group block.
  20. Booking within the group block is the right thing to do both to support the organization and to ensure the event remains financially viable.

Tell us in the comments what other reasons for booking within the official group block you would add to this list.

03
May
15

Bonus content – Event Garde e-news May edition

Bonnifer BallardQ & A with Bonnifer Ballard, executive director, Michigan Section, American Water Works Association

Q: If you could have any question answered, what would it be?
A: I like that we don’t have all the answers. I like the process of discovery. But if I could choose to read just one answer from the “back of the book,” the one thing I would ask is, “Is time travel possible?”

Q: If you could have one wish, what would it be?
A: Wow, this is tough. So much to wish for! I guess if I only had one, it would be that everyone on the planet has a safe place to live and not be hungry. What a different world it would be!

 Q: If you could invite four famous people to dinner, who would you choose and why?
Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, Eleanor Roosevelt and Neil deGrasse Tyson. What amazing conversation we could have!

Q: If you could learn any skill, what would it be?
A: There is still so much I need to learn. And I like learning new things. So those that are really important to me are already on the list. However, the one skill that seems to elude me consistently is the use of tools. Power tools, manual tools, it doesn’t matter; I just don’t seem to have the knack for hitting a nail on the head, drilling a screw into wood or turning a bolt. It’s a struggle every time I pick up a tool. My brain understands but my hands don’t follow. It’s very frustrating.

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
A: I like living in Michigan. We just moved back last year after living in Chicago for 15 years and I’m loving it. I guess if I could move my family with me, and money were no object, I would choose a beach with warm water, cool nights, no mosquitoes and no hurricanes or tsunamis. Is there such a place?

28
Apr
15

Good news foodies: Conference venues are listening

small_plates_of_foodAt a conference dinner earlier this month, a bunch of us, hungry and tired, sat at the table joking that chicken was most likely on the menu.

And it was. But we had salmon, too. And vegetables, rolls, rice, salad and dessert. Sounds about right for a conference, yes?

So imagine our surprise when the rest of the meals didn’t consist of the typical conference grub, but instead included fancy finger foods, fresh vegetables, flavorfully spiced meats and beautiful presentation. It was straight out of Pinterest or my “Cooking Light” magazine.

For the most part, everything was fairly healthy (except for the desserts). But more importantly: There were options.

According to a new list by International Association of Conference Centres, such palate-pleasing spreads will soon be the norm.

The global organization recently released its Top 10 Conference Food and Beverage Trends for 2015, and healthy tops the list. Farm-to-food eating is gaining popularity across the globe, so conference venues are taking note.

“Recently, there has been an enormous shift toward health and the impact that food can have on concentration and productivity,” said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. “The trends identified in our research take this knowledge to the next level and will help meeting planners to deliver the ultimate experience when it comes to catering for conferences.”

Here’s IACC’s list:

  1. Local is everything – The importance of adding a local feel to meetings has been identified as a major trend, as attendees want to experience as much as they can about the area they’re visiting for their meeting or event.
  2. Network your heart out – Small plates of food, continuously served in a reception format, add a nice break to an extended event. Another popular choice is to hold a more substantial networking-friendly dining reception midway through your event, as it provides a great way for guests to meet up in a causal environment and build relationships while enjoying great food and beverage.
  3. Small is the new big – Bite-sized desserts have overtaken larger portions in popularity. Conference delegates are turning their backs on the big slice of cake and heading instead for the signature bite-size desert station. Warm house-made donuts, chocolate truffles, French macaroons, mini cupcakes and house-made cookies are top of the list for planners.
  4. In with flavor, out with fats – Healthy choices don’t need to resemble rabbit food. Conference chefs are increasingly working with exciting new ingredients, including whole grains, protein alternatives (quinoa, amaranth, tofu, beans), green vegetables (kale, spinach), low fat and low-sugar foods that sound, look and taste great.
  5. Making and breaking bread together – Nothing brings the team together more than food. Having the opportunity to cook with someone can unveil a new hidden talent not seen in an office environment or company outing.
  6. Contrasting environments – Utilizing outside space to create a change in scenery and a casual dining experience will revitalize attendees, especially during multi-day meetings and events.
  7. Finale, not gala – Make sure the last night of your event has all the components to create a dynamic environment and brings people together to celebrate the end of a great conference. Be creative and choose your room seating layout and dining style to deliver that finale.
  8. Theatricality – Adding a chef-run interactive station can also highlight the menu with fresh prepared items (Panini, clubhouse or slider). Remember to ask for gluten-free options.
  9. Go micro for max effect – With the explosion in microbreweries offering brews that appeal to all tastes, ask your conference planner if he or she can make pre-dinner drinks a local affair.
  10. Infused tea cocktails – The English drink a lot of it and now the world has caught on to the latest trend: infused tea cocktails. Combine this with trend nine and you can have a double brew at your next reception.

NXT-CRAFTYBEERDRINKER-TBFood and drink bring people together. Case in point: Think about your last gathering. Did everyone congregate around the food, in the kitchen?

Try to create those same casual, memorable experiences at your next gathering. While education and professional development will draw your participants to your event, networking – especially over crisp wine and trendy appetizers – will bring them back.

21
Apr
15

Advancing association meetings via brain science

DSC_7176Whether you’re a planner, a CEO, a supplier or whether you fill some other role, think back to the very first conference for which you selected/hired a speaker. Maybe it was for an association event, a church event, a community event or some other program altogether. In my role as education director for a state trade association, I remember early in my career my priorities for hiring a speaker: cost, availability and topic (often in that order).

Once a contract was signed, we’d next touch base the day of the event. I’d stand in the back of the room and say a little prayer that in 60 minutes our attendees would be singing my praises. I now know better and am intentionally more involved in the co-creation of a presentation that’s right for my clients and their attendees. But just how high should you set your expectations for speakers? Should you have different standards for professional speakers vs. industry speakers?

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina shares 12 brain-based principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school. I’ve adapted four of his rules as the basis for advancing association meetings.

Medina claims that people usually forget 90 percent of what they learn within 30 days – a staggering statistic. Without key insights and takeaways, professional development investments are wasted. However, as more organizations offer continuing education both to support their strategic missions and to deliver business results, the threshold to meet or exceed the increasingly sophisticated expectations of attendees is changing.

Learning is now characterized by not only the acquisition of knowledge or skills, but by the retention and application of knowledge or skills in the work setting. By the way, your association scores extra points when it clearly describes the business measures that will change or improve as a result of an education program or if a specific return on investment can be attributed to its implementation.

If you understand how the brain learns and functions, you can greatly improve the retention and application of new information. Ultimately, this drives attendee value and influences member loyalty.

DSC_71781. We don’t pay attention to boring things. Audiences tend to check out after only 10 minutes of content. To regain their attention, invite speakers to tell personal narratives based on their experiences or to create events rich in emotion. You might also consider writing learning objectives into participant materials; using humor to engage and activate learners; or answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”

2. Move to improve your thinking skills. Develop opportunities throughout the program to get participants out of their seats and moving throughout the room or venue (e.g., breaks, meal functions). Additionally, ask speakers to consider flipcharts, manipulatives, networking and roleplaying as excuses to get people on their feet. Other ideas include a wisdom while you walk format (leveraging pre-function/outdoor spaces); small group assignments and activities; or having participants get up/post responses on a magic wall.

3. The brain is designed to solve problems. Encourage speakers to build and implement practice exercises that challenge learners. It’s recommended that practice time comprise between 35 and 50 percent of education sessions. Practice time includes practice activities, facilitator feedback and both pre- and post-assessments. You might also ask learners to elaborate on what has already been presented; share a case study that illuminates key concepts; or encourage learners to reflect on new information.

4. Vision trumps all other senses. The power of visual tools such as PowerPoint, Prezi, videos, handouts and job aids should not be underestimated. It’s said that if participants hear a piece of information, three days later they’re likely to remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and they’re likely to remember 65 percent. The key here is fewer words and more pictures. And if you can stimulate more of the senses at the same time, all the better for creating memorable content.

IMG_1180While there’s still a lot we don’t know, implementing these simple techniques when combined with quality meeting management can enhance the intentionality of an association’s professional development offerings.

Additionally, associations must work hand-in-hand with speakers and other subject matter experts well in advance to share with them clear expectations. Determine when and what you’ll introduce to instructors leading up to the learning program, the information to be covered during instructor orientation and how instructors will be supported both individually and as a cohort as they apply these new techniques.

For more, view the keynote and deep dive slides presented April 15 for the Georgia Society of Association Executives (GSAE). You might also check out the Brain Rules book and website.

14
Apr
15

Can associations keep pace in the tech race?

This month’s guest blog post is adapted from an original by Hank Berkowitz, moderator in chief of Association Adviser eNews. He wears many hats, however, and to see those, visit his LinkedIn profile.

Hank Berkowitz

Hank Berkowitz, moderator in chief of Association Adviser eNews.

About 60 percent of respondents to our latest unscientific reader poll said they’ve encountered more surprises in technology over the past 12 months than in any other area of association management. That includes membership growth, non-dues revenue, social media and Big Data.

Associations are generally not early adopters of technology, but they are taking steps to close the knowledge gap.

According to Fara Francis, chief information officer of The Associated General Contractors of America, association leadership now welcomes IT to sit at the table to participate in identifying the organization’s business strategy and goals.

“With this posture, technology is now given significant consideration in most associations and as such, a plethora of technology trends are now being adopted and implemented,” she said.

Staying current in this age of “throw-away technology” is a huge challenge for every organization she’s involved with, said Patti Stirk, a long-time IT services entrepreneur and now an investor and adviser to AgeCheq, which creates technology to protect children’s online privacy.

“Not staying current with electronic payment methods and communication methods risks disenfranchising donors,” she said. “It’s no longer simply about email and a Web page.”

Mobile
Members of all ages, not just up-and-comers, are likely interacting with you via a mobile device. That wasn’t always the case five years ago.

According to Naylor’s chief innovation officer Marcus Underwood, as the typical screen size has grown rapidly, so has the way in which people use their devices.

“In the past, messaging and searching for quick answers (through search engines) dominated the usage,” Underwood said. “Larger screen sizes have led to increased consumption of in-depth content. The types of content (articles, video, blogs) allow associations to communicate with their members in ways never before possible.

“This larger screen size has also freed up space that can be used for advertising or sponsorship. This is key for many associations as the non-dues revenue model is often necessary to pay for these new content streams.”

That’s also why designing your sites with responsive design—the ability to experience optimal viewing of a website from any source: web, phone or tablet — is “now mandatory,” explained AGC’s Francis.

As David Trust, CEO of the Professional Photographers Association said, “Trying to do business without tapping into all of the ways people communicate these days is like trying to hold back the tide with a sandcastle.”

Of course, no discussion about mobile technology would be complete without a nod to the explosion of mobile apps. Nearly half (42 percent) of respondents to our unscientific reader poll said mobile apps have had a bigger impact on their association than any other factor. No other tech development came close.

Underwood said gamification is one way that associations have rapidly boosted engagement with their mobile apps. And he said associations can now make content mobile accessible without having to rely on native applications that must be managed through a third party.

“Making your content mobile and web-friendly is far more cost-effective, and it doesn’t require specific downloads,” Underwood said. “The vast majority of ways an association needs to communicate with its customers can be done through smart, adaptive mobile web design.”

technology-727x350Marketing Automation
Another important trend we’ve seen is the number of associations now using marketing automation platforms to automate repetitive member communication tasks. MAPs also enable you to market to members selectively and with more relevance on multiple channels, including email, social media, websites and more.

Chad Lloyd, marketing manager of Boxwood Career Solutions, said MAPs help associations connect to members at the “appropriate time” and on a “personal level” so that your communications seem as though they were created just for that one single member.

Whether built in-house or more often licensed from vendors, MAPs use “digital body language tracking” so you are able to understand exactly what your members and prospective members are interested in and customize your communications with them, Lloyd said. That, he said, has gone a long way toward helping associations avoid two of the biggest member long-time member irritants: (a) Marketing to folks who aren’t interested in what you are sharing and (b) burning your list by over-communicating with your contacts and causing them to opt out of your communications.




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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