Archive for December, 2013

31
Dec
13

New Year’s resolutions: Time for your association to drop some pounds?

2014For most of us Michiganders, this year’s Christmas celebrations were put on hold – or completely rearranged – thanks to Mother Nature’s icy fury.

The hum of generators replaced the sounds of Christmas morning giggles in many homes. Christmas lights didn’t shine and instead of prime rib or turkey dinners, families ate at McDonalds or rescheduled for brighter (literally) days ahead.

In fact, as I write this a week later, some of my friends are still powerless.

“Things don’t always turn out the way we want or expect.” “Change isn’t always bad.” “Make the best of it.” “Some things are out of our control.”

I’ve uttered these phrases at least a dozen times to my kids throughout the past week, perhaps mostly to calm my fraying nerves. But as I thought about what to write for this blog post, I realized that as 2014 approaches, I need to believe these words, instead of just saying them.

And there’s No. 1 on my list of New Year’s resolutions.

I said I wasn’t going to make any resolutions because I rarely keep them. And I expect most of you say the same thing.

But a new year seems like the perfect time to lose weight, reduce debt, get more exercise, simplify our lives, watch less TV, spend more time with family…and the list goes on and on, not just personally but professionally.

weight-lossThink about it. What would happen if you made the same list for your job? Your company? Your association?

Let’s take the No. 1 resolution: lose weight and get healthy. Personally, we may want to lose 10 pounds, but what about the extra fat around your association’s waistline? What’s bogging down your daily operations or bottom line? Take a look at your miscellaneous budget line to see which extras can be trimmed. Then, consider what “getting healthy” means for your association. Wellness is important, and it could mean a happy board of directors or staff and volunteers who feel more fulfilled. What can you do to achieve wellness?

Next, “spend more time with family.” We all say it, but what does it mean professionally? Ask your staff members how many of them feel they have a good work/life balance. If you’re a CEO or director, ask yourself the same question. Juggling work, raising a family and other obligations stress us out. So for starters, make sure your association’s members don’t feel they have to choose. At your next event, plan family-friendly events at family-friendly places. And consider offering some personal development and wellness opportunities for your staff members. Encourage them to bring their families along while attending conferences.

“Change bad habits.” Most of the time, that refers to smoking and drinking, but bad habits exist in the workplace, too. Whether it’s communications, management or finances, review your practices. What can you do better? Have you received complaints from your members about any of these things? If so, now is the time to address them.

These are perhaps the three most popular New Year’s resolutions, but whatever resolutions you make personally can be applied professionally.

So now that you’ve made them, how do you keep them?

“Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on Jan. 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” said psychologist Lynn Bufka in an American Psychological Association blog. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”

First and foremost: Be realistic. Don’t expect to meet all your goals within three months.

APA offers these tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions:

• Start small
• Change one behavior at a time
• Talk about it
• Don’t beat yourself up if you have a misstep
• Ask for support

So, tell us, how will you keep your resolutions? What are they? Please email Kristen Parker at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

As we close 2013, Happy New Year from Event Garde to you! May you all enjoy a prosperous and memorable 2014.

24
Dec
13

Happy Holidays

seasons_greetings_2009_by_veeshanthrillersHowever you celebrate, all of us at Event Garde wish you a very special holiday with those you love. May you enjoy the magic of the season while making memories that last a lifetime.

 

Look for our next post on Dec. 31, when we’ll be talking about some of your new year’s resolutions.

 

We’d love to hear from you: What do you hope to accomplish in 2014? Please email Kristen Parker at Kristen@eventgarde.com. Until then, we wish you peace and joy.

18
Dec
13

Strategic meeting audits: Leveraging data to improve ROI

Are you under the impression that all associations are experiencing diminished attendance at their in-person events? Has your organization’s meetings function experienced a year-over-year revenue decline – however slight – since the 2007 recession?

If you’ve answered yes to one or both of these questions, 2014 may be a great opportunity for your organization to conduct a strategic meeting audit. We need only look to ASAE to learn that at least two signature in-person events were stronger than ever this year:

So I’m sure you have some questions. For example:

  1. What does a strategic meeting audit look like?
  2. What is the first step in initiating this type of audit?
  3. Who should be involved in the process?

Let’s start by identifying the key players. In my opinion, this isn’t a job only for the senior management team. Nor should the meeting professional conduct an audit in isolation. Rather, the association CEO/executive director, senior executives, meeting professional and anyone else responsible for the successful implementation of programs or events should be invited to the table.

Additionally, I’ll advocate here for supplier participation. Although this individual – or team of individuals – may not be involved during the preliminary discussions, I believe it’s important to include industry partners early on both to encourage diversity of thought and to promote better collaboration and decision-making during the planning and implementation of programs.

Next, let’s identify step one. After all, getting started is generally the greatest barrier to the implementation of most projects. As a CMP (certified meeting professional) preparation course facilitator, I’ll borrow a page from our participant reading materials: Identify event goals and objectives. For those who know me, this has sort of become my mantra.

It seems simple and obvious, but this very important first step is often overlooked. Many meeting professionals simply do not take the time to set goals and objectives for events they inherit (they tend to focus more on program maintenance), nor do they comprehensively evaluate these events using a variety of financial and non-financial indicators.

It’s not that they don’t want to; they either don’t know how, don’t feel empowered or have limited resources. And while a handful of industry tools already exist to support these planning and evaluation efforts, they are tedious. And let’s be honest – this often prevents adoption. Unfortunately, failing to set goals and/or evaluate success perpetuates the status quo and inhibits organization growth and member ROI.

If only we could leverage the right data to elevate the quality and sophistication of our programs, build the reputation of our signature events, improve our bottom lines and enhance member outcomes. Believe it or not, there’s a way. When establishing goals and objectives, there are at least four key indicators that should comprise the strategic meeting audit:

  • Onsite experience – What experience do you hope to deliver to attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and speakers onsite? What must you implement to make this happen?
  • Financial performance – What are your revenue and expense targets? Does event pricing reflect the projected profit margin?
  • Relationships/engagement – How will you create opportunities before, during and after the event to create meaningful relationships among participants?
  • Transference – How will you help ensure information and knowledge presented onsite is retained by attendees and applied to their workplaces?

Following each event, meeting professionals should evaluate actual performance and identify areas of opportunity for the future. Quarterly, meeting professionals should then use the aggregate results to drive continuous quality improvement efforts and annually this data should be used to help draft the organization’s meetings budget.

Ultimately, it’s about improving ROI both for your organization (i.e., financial performance, member engagement and alignment with the organization’s mission and strategic plan) and for your members (i.e., learning, networking and value).

Tell us in the comments about your experience conducting a strategic meeting audit. What key indicators did your organization emphasize?

10
Dec
13

There’s an app for that

Mobile appsIn this appilicious world, it’s hard not to be addicted to smartphones. From recipes to sports to stocks, it seems there’s an app for everything.

And it’s not just big businesses that have jumped on the app bandwagon. I recently attended an app swap (we public relations professionals are obsessed with new trends) and discovered a Lansing-based mom-and-pop store has joined the app market.

Next year promises to deliver exciting new mobile technology, so when planning digital strategies, associations should consider mobile apps and websites, said Kim Harwood, president of  Results at Hand Software.

“Mobile is a great opportunity to serve your members better with tools and services to meet each member’s need,” she said. “Your association can leverage mobile technology for advocacy, education, member communications and engagement activities. Our whitepaper, ‘Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations in 2014 and Beyond,’ highlights some available tools and trends worth considering so that your association can get the most out of mobile and use it most effectively to engage your constituents.”

Results at Hand develops mobile-centric solutions for associations, events and direct sales organizations. For its newest research project, r@h has designed the 2014 Mobile Readiness Survey to gauge the mobile readiness of associations.  Those who take the short survey will receive a copy of “Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations in 2014 and Beyond” as well as results from the survey.

Based on its research and a recent report from Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research company, Results at Hand has identified 10 mobile trends that will influence the association industry:

  1. Native vs. Web-Based Mobile Apps
  2. Responsive Design
  3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  4. Cloud Storage and the Personal Cloud
  5. Geolocation and Near Field Communication (NFC)
  6. Mobile Payment Systems
  7. Mobile Video
  8. Mobile Advertising
  9. Mobile Security
  10. Event Apps

“An additional growing mobile trend we will hear more about in 2014 is the use of peripheral devices and wearable technology that integrate with mobile phones, such as glasses and watches,” Harwood said. “Given the diversity of mobile devices and mobile accessories, developing strategies that allow and encourage members to use the best tools for them to accomplish their goals will be of increasing importance. Association resources can be a great tool, but only if they work on the devices that association members use daily.”

For this blog post, I read the whitepaper – three times. But since I’m not a techie, I think it’s best to leave the details to the pros. So I encourage you to request it and read it. I think you’ll be amazed at the growth potential these trends offer.

That said, I think it’s especially important to point out trend No. 10, event apps, perhaps because they’re among the most common apps used by associations.

Results at Hand app.

Results at Hand app.

For mobile app newbies, event apps are a good place to start – for things like creating event guides. They reduce printing costs while increasing engagement and fostering networking. And users can easily integrate apps into their social media platforms. (Trend No. 4, cloud storage, is also an incredible cost saving tool. And, it’s not hard. My 11 year old uses it for school every day!)

The current trends in mobile event guides include polling, customizable agendas, gaming, video, contact exchange, geolocation and social media integration, according to the whitepaper. For associations, polling, gaming, CEU tracking and GPS are hot topics that will continue to dominate in 2014.

So as 2013 comes to a close and you plan for 2014, will you incorporate mobile technology into your communication plan?

Whether your IT staff is ready to go or whether you’re just scratching the surface, consider participating in the Results at Hand survey. Research is the first step to designing best practices, and, who knows, you may be more ready than you think.

03
Dec
13

Celebrating two years

Two years ago, Aaron Wolowiec had a vision. Strategic planning. Instructional design. Meeting management. They were all in his wheelhouse. But it was time for something new.

And so, on Dec. 8, 2011, Grand Rapids-based Event Garde was born.

Wolowiec, a wordsmith at heart, chose the name carefully thanks to a little help from The Image Shoppe. Writers love the phrase “avant garde,” which is often used to describe trailblazers.  Event Garde:  A clever play on words? As a writer, I think so.

“Event Garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or status quo, especially as it relates to continuing education,” he wrote for the website. “By partnering with clients to tear away preconceptions, Event Garde reveals dynamic programs, events and professional development experiences that result in thoughtful, enthusiastic and empowered learners and practitioners.”

Fast forward and it’s hard to believe that we’re celebrating our two-year anniversary.

Cally Hill

Cally Hill, director of client relations

From the beginning, Cally Hill, director of client relations, has managed the ins and outs of the business. As it quickly grew, Hill led – and continues to lead – many of the firm’s strategic marketing initiatives, including outreach to association leaders nationwide. And she’s one of the important number crunchers.

As most of you know by now, I came on board this summer as digital content manager to help Event Garde grow its online and public presence. As the main writer and “voice” of the firm, if you will, it’s my job to keep you “in the know” about association trends and topics.

In the process, I’ve formed invaluable networks, and our blog has gained quite the following. In fact, throughout the last three months, our blog posts have been included in social media roundups and stories by Associations Now. And the Twitter traction has been just as impressive, thanks to #assnchat.

Sara Miller

Sara Miller, director of meetings and development

A couple months ago, Sara Miller, director of meetings and development, joined the team. Miller is a sales guru. She’s currently working with CPAs, selling sponsorships, advertising and exhibit space.

Event Garde has a great team, said Kathleen Mennillo, executive director of the International Hearing Society. Event Garde helped IHS plan its annual convention and expo for nearly 600 people.

“Aaron’s event planning expertise, coupled with his experience in the professional development and association arena, instantly made him an integral part of the team,” she said. “Aaron is extremely organized, creative and passionate about creating successful events that leave lasting impressions on event attendees. IHS is thrilled to work with Event Garde and looks forward to executing many more successful events together.”

Throughout the last two years, Event Garde has gained the professional accolades of the American Society of Association Executives and other key stakeholders.

Wolowiec now writes a regular column in Michigan Meetings + Events magazine and he’s been featured as part of two magazine cover stories. In addition, Wolowiec has given various presentations at ASAE meetings. And he was recently named one of four “rising leaders” by MSAE.

“Aaron and the Event Garde team have been so helpful to ALTA’s Land Title Institute,” said Kelly Romeo, vice president of the American Land Title Association. “It has been like expanding our own staff without actually committing to additional hires! Aaron engages 100 percent and quickly connects with what is important to our members and students. We are looking forward to the next project with Event Garde, and many more.”

We don’t often toot our own horn. But as we reflect on the last two years, we’ve reached some incredible milestones.

And in December 2012, Wolowiec co-authored “The Meetings Report,” published in tandem with MSAE. It’s the first-ever Michigan association meetings industry survey examining the characteristics of senior education/professional development staff, characteristics of association meetings, professional speaker hiring practices, industry speaker preparation and compensation and meeting evaluation practices.

Meeting Notes

The Meetings Coach column, by Aaron Wolowiec

At the end of day, however, none of this would be possible without your support. So we thank you for trusting us with your livelihoods and for appreciating the Event Garde vision. Thank you for joining us on an exciting ride towards a new horizon.

As a reminder, please like our Facebook page. We’ve made it to 500 likes, but we’d love to have hundreds more! And remember to follow me on Twitter and use the hashtag #assnchat.

We look forward to an exciting year ahead as our team continues to explore new projects and possibilities – and we hope you’ll be a part of that journey.




meet aaron

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

meet kristen

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

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