Archive for the 'Best Practices' Category

26
Jan
16

Networking boredom solved

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.

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John Rampton

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
02
Jan
16

Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – January edition

Adrienne Segundo

Adrienne Segundo, chairman/COO, Limitless Association Solution Resource, LLC

Q & A with Adrienne Segundo, credentialing specialist, chairman/COO, Limitless Association Solution Resource, LLC

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!

29
Dec
15

Connecting for Maximum Event Success

View More: http://pinupbyginger.pass.us/anne-bonneys-final-edits

Anne Bonney

This month’s guest blog post is by Anne Bonney. She is a John Maxwell Team certified speaker, trainer and coach specializing in leadership and empowerment topics. Bonney has spent the last 20 years bringing this to leadership and educational roles with companies including Under Armour, Les Mills International, Town Sports International and The New England Aquarium. 

Thanks to Bonney for submitting her post! If you have a guest post to share, please send it to kristen@eventgarde.com.

Managing and executing events is a tough job – one you can’t do alone. Event planners have to rely on the help of vendors, staff and sometimes volunteers to make an event successful. If everyone is on the same page, and they respect your leadership, an event runs like clockwork and it’s a beautiful thing! Everyone wants that…so how can you be that kind of leader?

  • PROVIDE ALL THE INFORMATION: Create a template for your vendors, staff and volunteers that has all relevant information. Have others on your staff take a look at it to be sure it’s thorough. Try to create a standard template that you can use for each event.
  • PROVIDE ROLE CLARITY: Assigning roles and making sure everyone knows their area of responsibility prior to the event will allow you to supervise the whole event while your staffers manage each moving part.
    • Volunteers: Nothing is worse than showing up to volunteer and having nothing to do! Be sure that whomever is coordinating the volunteers has clear instructions and can give your volunteers all information before and during the event so they’re confident they had a positive effect on the success of the event.
    • Staff: Everyone should have a clear job. They should know what they’re doing, why and what it’s going to look like when they’re successful.
      • Assign captains so there’s one go-to person for each functional area of the event (registration, sponsors, AV and stage, food, talent, etc.). Once you’ve done that, and you’ve given the information and tools they need to be successful, empower them by letting them do their job!
    • ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES: Get in there when things get hairy. If things aren’t going as planned, be sure help get things back on track. When your staff and volunteers see you rolling up your sleeves and busting your butt too, they’re likely to work even harder for you.
    • LEARN PEOPLE’S NAMES: People love to hear their names, and when the busy person in charge of a large event remembers their names, it has a huge impact. There are tons of techniques to help you remember names. It will make a HUGE difference in people’s commitment to your event.
    • THANK EVERYONE: Without them, you’d be sunk, so tell people how much you appreciate their part in making the event successful. If you have the budget for a small gesture, even better, but a simple, well-timed “thank you, you’re making a difference” will go a long way in their commitment to you now, and how much they’re willing to help you in the future.

If you can do these things, your team will function like a well-oiled machine. And this will leave you free to deal with unforeseen challenges and create a team that’s energized and excited to be a part of your events.

Event Garde is a professional development consulting firm that employs a versatile skill set and a wealth of experience to create well-connected leaders. We’re committed to lifelong learning, for ourselves and for our clients, believing in its ability to produce transformational experiences that advance innovation. Sharing our deep knowledge, we’re dedicated to performance improvement for the professionals we serve and those who attend the events we facilitate.

 

22
Dec
15

Vote for us for best meeting planning company!

MIMEBO16_web_600x480_voteAs you probably gathered from our recap of 2015, it’s been a pretty awesome year for Event Garde!

And it shows.

Again this year, Event Garde has been nominated for the best meeting planning company for the Michigan Meetings + Events 2016 Best of Michigan Awards.

We’d love your support, and ask that you vote for us! Click here to vote.

Each year, Michigan Meetings + Events sponsors the readers choice awards. The MIM + E team chooses categories, which vary every year to reflect a changing industry. This year, some of the categories: best audio-visual provider; best caterer; best convention and visitors bureau; best college/university venue; best event rental company; best hotel with meeting/event space; and best service.

“Event Garde should win for best meeting planning company because our team not only believes in dynamic, meaningful and compelling learning and networking experiences, but is committed to operational excellence and the delivery of exceptional experiences, both for our clients and for their attendees,” said Aaron Wolowiec, founder and president of Event Garde.

With 3,000 votes received for 2015, last year’s Best of Michigan Awards final voter tally set a record, so let’s do it again! Voting is limited to one ballot per email address and voters must vote in at least 10 categories. Write-ins are an option.

Voting closes Feb. 2. The winners will be announced at the annual Best of Awards Party.

So…why should Event Garde win for the best meeting planning company?

Between May and November, Event Garde managed five major meetings and several other education events. As such, Wolowiec spent many hours on an airplane for speaking engagements. From Atlanta to Florida to Michigan, he spoke at 25 events on a range of topics. Audience size varied from three to 144, but in total, Wolowiec spoke to more than 1,200 people. Some of the topics: learning/how the brain learns; how to improve conferences and events; and membership.

IHS groupBut don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what others have to say:

“Aaron and his staff at Event Garde provided first-rate service to our nonprofit organization. Their professionalism and dedication to delivering a thorough and comprehensive analysis of our team’s annual conference planning process was present from start to finish. … We were encouraged to brainstorm solutions and outline the future of our conference and are motivated to take the lessons we’ve learned to improve our process for next year’s event! We appreciate the timeliness and promptness of Event Garde’s staff. They were crucial to making sure we stayed on schedule and made the best use of the time with our team.”
Julie Metty Bennett, Great Lakes Fishery Trust

“Aaron Wolowiec and the Event Garde team provided calm and confident direction, helping us remain focused. … Part of the benefit of working with Event Garde is the professionalism. They are excellent at handling challenging tasks and finding ways to minimize the stress, all while keeping the rest of us at ease knowing things are under control.”
Jean Jernigan, vice president of business development, Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants

While we’re at it, Event Garde would like to give props to some of our friends in the profession. Below is a list of fellow nominees for whom we hope you vote!

Remember: Voting ends Feb. 2, so please consider voting for Event Garde for the best meeting planning company. As always, thank you for entrusting us to help you learn, network and transfer differently.

Event Garde is a professional development consulting firm that employs a versatile skill set and a wealth of experience to create well-connected leaders. We’re committed to lifelong learning, for ourselves and for our clients, believing in its ability to produce transformational experiences that advance innovation. Sharing our deep knowledge, we’re dedicated to performance improvement for the professionals we serve and those who attend the events we facilitate.

 

08
Dec
15

One slice is enough

info-overload-21-300x300Most moms are multitaskers. For example, we can cook dinner, help our kids with their homework and check our email….until dinner burns or the kids cry because while trying to reply to an email you forgot how to perform the “new” way of division.

Sound familiar? Yeah…maybe mom multitasking is a farce. Or least overrated.

And the kids? Why can they only do one thing at a time? Isn’t it possible to pick up their shoes while on their way to the shower?

Maybe not. Maybe it’s a case of brain overload.

There is a ton of research on how the brain works and how we learn. Some educational and training professionals tout the benefits of “chunking” information into small segments while others, like learning company Rapid Learning Institute, believe focusing on one concept may be the most effective learning strategy.

In a video that was recently pitched to me, Stephen Meyer, CEO of RLI, discusses single-concept learning.

Single-Concept Learning Online Training Technique_Page_1“We start small by isolating a single, compelling concept – we call it a thin slice – and we build a short module around that concept,” Meyer said.

“Thin slicing” is a psychological concept. It refers to the brain’s ability to digest thin slices of information in narrow windows of learning. By doing so, learners draw conclusions from this limited information and come away with a powerful learning experience.

Why?

Since learners have a specific learning objective, they’re less overwhelmed and therefore more enthusiastic about diving in.

Secondly, thin slicing avoids brain overload. So, remember that chaos in the kitchen I referenced above…yeah, that doesn’t happen. Meyer calls it “cognitive noise,” which sounds about right.

And finally, thin slicing only requires learners to remember just one idea – an idea that is well fleshed out, focused and specific.

“With thin slicing, learners are less likely to disengage because everything they encounter on their learning journey is directly related to one concept,” Meyer said. “So knowledge retention, which is the Holy Grail in training, is much more likely to be high as well.”

slice-of-pieThe thin-slice approach to learning can be a game-changer for managers, Meyer said. Like their pupils, managers are less likely to become overwhelmed and can focus solely on training.

So, the next time you’re planning a learning program, think about offering just a thin slice of the pie, rather than the whole pie.

Remember the Nov. 24 blog post about trimming the fat? Sounds like that theory aligns well with thin-slice learning.

 

 

30
Nov
15

The circle of [meetings] life: 4 steps to facilitate the most productive meeting ever

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Last month, I had the opportunity to present a session on meeting management (e.g., a staff meeting, a committee meeting or a board meeting) to a group of volunteer leaders. We started by viewing the following (hilarious!) YouTube video depicting every meeting ever.

After debriefing the video, which included a discussion of many of the personalities/bad habits represented (e.g., The Time Nazi, Get Here When You Can Guy and The Negator), we launched into my four steps for facilitating the most productive meeting ever (which you may find helpful in managing your own meetings).

Step 1: Create and launch an effective meeting agenda.

  • The Circle of [Meetings] Life must begin somewhere
  • Agenda should be drafted/distributed a minimum of one week out
  • For the first “formal” agenda, plan for 30-60 minutes of prep
  • Follow the template:
    • Organization
    • Committee/task force/meeting name
    • Date
    • Start and end times
    • Location/dial-in information
    • Welcome
    • Attendance
    • Content
    • Parking lot
    • Adjourn
  • Clarify meeting goals/objectives
  • Be thorough – amass all possible discussion items
  • Consolidate agenda items/content for efficiency
  • Be clear about the pre-work:
    • Ask participants to review the agenda
    • Ask participants for additional agenda items
    • Ask participants to come prepared with responses, decisions, ideas, examples and the like

Step 2: Examine the role of meeting facilitator.

  • Attend to logistics prior to the meeting
  • Learn to be cognizant both of your role as facilitator and of your environment
  • Start the meeting on time
  • Have a welcome prepared (to prevent rambling)
  • Take roll call
    • In person: Allow participants to say their names aloud in a logical manner around the room (perhaps clockwise)
    • On phone: Call out participant names in alpha order
  • Dig into the content swiftly (within five minutes of the start of the meeting)
  • Add off-topic questions/comments to the parking lot and return to them at the end of the meeting
  • Be aware of your environment and truly facilitate/drive the meeting forward
    • Time – consider how much time you think each section of the agenda will take and note these times on your copy of the agenda; move conversations forward that seem to be taking too long or are “stuck”
    • Participation – ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in the meeting, either by round robin or by calling on quiet participants
    • Action items – as decisions are made, ensure the following questions are answered:
      • What is the action to be taken?
      • Who is to complete it?
      • By when?
  • Be aware of/handle distractors:
    • Thank them for their comments
    • Provide feedback, if appropriate
    • Redirect the conversation
  • Establish the next meeting date/time or commit to sending a Doodle immediately following the meeting
  • Return to the parking lot, time permitting
  • Thank everyone for their participation before adjourning
  • Try to end the meeting early by 5-10 minutes; this will allow everyone time to start in on their action items

Step 3: Identify strategies for writing clear and timely minutes.

  • Minutes should be drafted/distributed the same day as the meeting
  • For the first “formal” minutes, plan for 30 minutes (write this time into your calendar as if it were a meeting)
  • Use your agenda as the template
  • Take draft minutes during the meeting
  • If you’re facilitating a majority of the meeting, identify someone else who can take notes
  • Following the meeting, clean up the minutes and edit out superfluous information
  • Highlight all action items – what, who, when; consider different colors for different meeting participants
  • Ensure meeting goals/objectives have been met
  • Be clear about the post-work:
    • Ask participants to review the minutes
    • Ask participants to complete their assigned action items within the designated timeframes
    • Ask participants to add the next meeting to their calendars

Step 4: Describe a successful post-meeting routine focused on action.

  • Serve as a good role model by completing your action items timely
  • Determine the priority of the remaining action items and follow-up accordingly:
    • Extremely important action items – add to your calendar and follow up with the owner if not completed
    • Less important action items – allow the participants to be accountable to one another
  • Draft/distribute the next meeting agenda
  • The Circle of [Meetings] Life begins again…
What strategies have you found most successful in managing The Circle of [Meetings] Life? What tips or tricks have you found most valuable in facilitating the most productive meeting ever?
24
Nov
15

Time to cut the fat

cutting-fat-thumb18752006Like most businesses, associations have a lot of bulk. Maybe that’s because it’s hard to trim the fat.

That said, eliminating wasted efforts and minimizing defects can lead to new products and innovations, according to a new whitepaper by Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, and Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, director of information systems for National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

From the whitepaper: “Is there a process that can help associations achieve our missions, stay in business, find problems worth solving and make a real and meaningful difference for our members, achieving the sustainable, dynamic impact we seek? Your authors would argue that there is: lean startup methodology, as most fully developed and articulated by Eric Ries in his 2011 book ‘The Lean Startup.’”

Elizabeth Engel

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

I asked Engel to break it down for us, and following is our Q & A. Thanks to Engel for her contribution!

Q: How would you simply explain lean startup methodology?
A: Lean startup is an innovation system developed by Eric Ries that came out of his experiences with lean process improvement, which is all about reducing waste and defects and working more efficiently and effectively. Ries had an insight: It doesn’t matter how quickly you’re moving if you’re headed in the wrong direction.

Lean startup methodology is designed to help make sure you’re going the right way and going there quickly and efficiently.

Q: Why is it important?
A: To quote Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, my co-author, “There’s no bigger waste than investing resources working on the wrong thing.”

Lean startup methodology has been being used not just in startups, but also in more conventional for-profit business, for several years. And that makes it easy for associations to dismiss: “We aren’t a startup – or even a for-profit. This isn’t for us.”

Guillermo and I would argue that associations share a key characteristic with startups: tight resources (and by that, we mean human as well as financial resources). Those perpetually tight resources are precisely why this methodology is so useful for our community.

Q: How do you think associations, specifically, could benefit from practicing this methodology?
A: In associations, decision-making is often driven by anecdotes, untested assumptions and the HIPO (highest income/influence person’s opinion). “One of our board members talked to a member who said she wants X so therefore everyone must want X and therefore we have to go build X immediately.”

But are you sure you’re solving a real problem that’s important to at least one of your key audiences, in a way that’s useful and makes sense to them – and that they’re willing to pay?

Guerimallo

Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, director of information systems for National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

That very situation was what sparked Guillermo’s interest in lean startup methodology. His association, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, is one of the case studies in the whitepaper, and he relates two stories: one of a project that took place before NCARB starting using lean startup that was NOT the right problem, the right audience or the right solution; the second of a project after NCARB “saw the light” that was far more successful for them.

Q: Walk me through the build-measure-learn cycle…what’s involved?
A: The build-measure-learn cycle is the core of the methodology.

In lean startup, you build first. That means you’re trying to get the Minimum Viable Product (that is, the minimum version of the product you can build with the smallest investment of resources and effort that would still be real enough to let you start testing your assumptions) out to your audience as quickly as possible. No theorizing or speculating, no “stealth mode,” no working for two years on creating the absolute perfect thing (that you then discover no one wants). You build a prototype and get people using it and offering feedback as quickly as you can and with as small an investment of resources as possible.

Next, you measure. You’ve identified a problem you think might be worth solving, and you have a hypothesis about what the right solution might be. Now you have to test whether your hypothesis is correct. You have to identify and track a few key measures that will prove – or disprove – your theory.

That testing leads to learning. Did you identify something that’s a real and important problem? Are you targeting your solution at the right audience? Does your solution work and make sense for them, at a price they’re willing to pay?

The only way to reliably answer those questions is to let people use your product and find out what they think and how they act. That information feeds back to your team so you can get closer to where you should be going in your next MVP iteration.

Q: Change can be scary. So what do you think is the best first step?
A: First of all, the whitepaper is just a primer on lean startup methodology and is designed to introduce the concept to association executives and hopefully pique their interest in learning more. If that’s you, I’d strongly encourage you to read some of the more extensive treatments of lean startup we share in the bibliography, to get some formal training (and we share sources in the conclusion) or to join a local lean startup MeetUp group for peer-to-peer learning.

Beyond that, start small, with something that lies completely in your own area of responsibility and is relatively low profile. Once you have a few examples of how the methodology works, it’s time to start sharing your story.

Q: Let’s say associations are ready to start with lean. How do they achieve buy in from the board of directors? members? staff?
A: It’s all about being able to demonstrate that the methodology works, which is different from building the perfect product right out of the gate.

To quote two of the other key thinkers in lean startup, Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer: “It’s liberating to recognize that no human being can guess correctly when you face uncertainty, and that part of the process is making changes to adjust to these inevitable errors.”

That’s what’s so powerful about lean startup: You are not going to get it right all the time. This methodology is built on that fact and structured to help you move as quickly and efficiently as possible from “here’s an interesting idea” to “here’s a program, product or service that we know – because we’ve been testing it all along the way – our audiences want, need, will use and will pay for.”

LeanstartupQ: And finally, what are two or three takeaways from your research that you’d like to share?
A: I’d strongly encourage people to download the whitepaper – it’s free – and read the stories of four associations we interviewed, all of which are using lean startup. It’s eye opening to see how this methodology works in real situations, where your peers are using it to help their organizations provide better service for their members and other audiences and invest their resources more efficiently and effectively.

Second, one of the concerns we’ve heard over and over from associations is: “What about our brand?” Again, quoting Guillermo: “In associations, we tend to worry that releasing a half-baked program will negatively impact the brand. I would argue that doing the same thing year after year without changing also negatively impacts your brand.”

Also, you have to realize that lean startup may not be suitable for every single initiative of your association or for every single audience – it’s hard to create a Minimum Viable Certification. Some of your members will not be O.K. with beta-testing a new product for you. But some will love that and leap at the opportunity to co-create a new service with the association. It’s up to you to find those people, who are your champions and allies in this.




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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