Archive for the 'Best Practices' Category

08
Apr
14

Economically engaging

economic downturnThings were humming along pretty well a few years ago. Gas was, well, relatively affordable, grocery bills were somewhat manageable and people were working.

And then 2007 hit. As the economy came crashing down, many of us lost jobs, houses and much more. Stocks and investments plummeted. Luxuries fell by the wayside.

Fast forward seven years, and the U.S. is slowly coming back, experts say. But consumers are cautiously optimistic and their spending reflects hesitation.

And that’s affecting nearly all industries and associations, according to a new Association Laboratory whitepaper released last month, which discusses the future of association engagement.

Simply defined, engagement is the relationship between a person or a business and an association. It considers touch points, interaction and influence. Measuring it is important for success, but doing so has become much more complicated since 2007.

“The recent economic downturn provided evidence that as the economic situation deteriorated, membership engagement, as measured by anticipated membership revenue, decreased,” according to the whitepaper.

For the purposes of the whitepaper, economy was divided into public and private sectors. In a recent study conducted by Association Laboratory, association executives revealed only minimal hopes for more engagement, mainly because of budget constraints of state and federal governments. The public sector has been hit especially hard by the recession, and professional development – which often includes association memberships – has fallen victim to budget cuts.

The three biggest factors affecting engagement, as reported by association leaders: reduced investment by federal and state governments; business mergers/consolidation; and nontraditional competitors entering the market.

In addition, as companies operate with leaner staffs, people have less time to commit to professional development. Return on investment has become increasingly important as some companies justify their existence in an uncertain economic climate. Also as a result of restructuring, decision-making is becoming more team-focused, and, quite frankly, things like association memberships and dues don’t take precedence.

As a result of tough economic times, government agencies – and the public sector in general – are facing more scrutiny.

So what does all this mean for associations?

engaging customers“To improve engagement, the association needs to identify and develop a deep understanding of the primary audiences, stakeholders or markets it serves,” Association Laboratory said.

Associations should understand the needs and expectations of their industries, especially as some companies contend with new market strategies and trends. They need to concentrate only on essential services and needs, which means legacy programs may have to be cut.

In addition, fostering professional networks will be key to improving association engagement. And relationships will need to become more intimate, which includes developing brand ambassadors.

“The decision-making environment facing associations will be complex and dynamic,” according to the whitepaper. “It will challenge many of the assumptions associations have used to guide membership and engagement strategy. Associations that invest in understanding their market more fully and aligning their strategic initiatives and organizational structure more closely with market needs will have a much higher likelihood of developing and sustaining membership engagement.”

Association Laboratory provides suggestions on how to use the data and recommendations.

Key questions for discussion:

  1. Who are the primary, secondary and tertiary audiences essential to the mission and market success of the association?
  2. What are the leading economic and business or professional influences facing the association’s members and what are the implications of these forces on their attitudes and behaviors relative to engagement?
  3. What is the historical culture of engagement within the industry and profession and what are the implications?
  4. What benefits and goals of engagement do key audiences seek and how are those benefits reflected in choices relative to the association?
  5. How should we define and measure engagement and modify our strategies based on performance?

How would you answer these questions? Has your association been affected by the sluggish economy?

18
Mar
14

Numbers and trends and data…oh my

canstockphoto7351376-landingpageIn this day and age, we’re inundated with data. And some of us thrive on it. Especially event planners.

Data are key to improving your events, to giving your customers and potential clients what they crave. But how do you know which data are important?

It’s something called event intelligence, the subject of a new(ish) Professional Convention Management Association whitepaper by Eric Olson, CEO and president of Zerista, and Staci Clark, global marketing strategy manager for Cisco Systems.

Simply put: It’s about more than numbers on a page or stats.

Eric Olson, president and CEO, Zerista

Eric Olson, president and CEO, Zerista

“The data available to us today goes well beyond simple reports, like how many people showed up to an event,” Olson and Clark said. “New technologies and reporting tools are moving event data usage from a traditional focus on topline metrics, which provide a quick readout of your event, to a deeper dive into analytics that provides valuable context.”

The best way to tackle this? Combining quantitative (hard) and qualitative (soft) data. A good example: Measure how much your event gives back to the organization. For an exhibitor-focused event, after you’ve asked the questions about budget and purchase intent, evaluate whether exhibitors attended sessions or product demonstrations for new solutions or products. If so, chances are, you met their customized needs.

At the same time, be wary of big, flashy numbers, Olson and Clark warn. While it’s tempting to focus on record attendance, if your event isn’t drawing the right crowd for, say, your exhibitors, it doesn’t matter how many attendees you have. In other words, it’s the right mix of quality and quantity.

According to the whitepaper, there are three building blocks for event intelligence: attendee intelligence, operational efficiency and performance and business value measurements.

Staci Clark

Staci Clark, global marketing strategy manager, Cisco Systems

Attendee intelligence focuses on demographic and behavioral information. What are your attendees’ buying patterns? What are their interests? Data are gathered through survey and registration systems and once gathered, your organization can analyze data for patterns (i.e. technology interest).

Operational efficiency is less exciting, but equally important. Areas of focus include spend data, food and beverage stats and registration and housing trends. Such information will allow your organization to spend less to do more. Not to mention, you can ensure your attendees are well feed and that they’re comfortable in the space you’ve allotted.

Finally, business value: Don’t stray from your business goals. Identify and write down your organization’s ultimate goal. Do you want to increase your participation by 100 participants? Do you want 150 more vendors? Do you want to net $10,000 more in revenue? Make sure everything you do is aligned with your goals.

“Events have changed. Every stakeholder expects more,” Olson and Clark said. “And the key to serving them better is locked in the data that surrounds every experience. Every event organizer should be focused on data. Yet, with deadlines to hit and events to produce, can event organizers be expected to do it all?”

Yes, but keep it simple:

  • Collect as much data as you can, even if you don’t use it.
  • Set measurable business goals before you start analyzing data.
  • Focus on what’s important. If you can’t change something with a set of data, ignore it.
  • Bring in the experts. Don’t be afraid to ask for help analyzing your data.

Tell us: How do you gather and use data for your events?

11
Mar
14

New data: Volunteerism at an all-time low

volunteer-11As parents, I think most of us want to instill in our children the importance of giving back. Thus the reason I’m PTA president, I teach Sunday School and chaperone field trips.

As a working mom, it’s sometimes hard to manage professional and personal commitments, but new federal government data suggest that we working moms volunteer the most.

That said, volunteerism is on the decline, according to a new report released Feb. 25 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report found that volunteerism fell 1.1 percent in 2013, with a total of 25.4 percent of people reporting some form of volunteerism. This figure is the lowest since the bureau started the survey in 2002.

Data were collected through a supplement to the September 2013 Current Population Survey, sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The CPS is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment for the nation’s civilian non-institutional population age 16 and older.

According to the report, about 62.5 million people volunteered at least once from September 2012 to September 2013, averaging 50 hours. And, as mentioned above, women volunteered more than men.

Surprisingly, while we’ve heard that Millennials and younger generations find volunteering important, 35 to 44 year olds volunteered the most, while 20 to 24 year olds volunteered the least.

Why? Because many of us in our mid-30s and mid-40s are parents. Specifically, the report found 44.5 percent of moms vs. 38 percent of dads volunteered. Religious organizations took the top spot for volunteering, followed by schools, sports groups or other youth extracurricular groups.

Other key findings of the BLS survey:

  • Married people volunteered at a higher rate
  • Those who achieved a higher level of education volunteered more often and were more likely to volunteer with multiple organizations
  • Part-time employees volunteered more than full-time employees
Peggy Hoffman

Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

The data may be surprising, but it’s important for associations to keep them in perspective, said Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC.

“There isn’t clear indication of why [volunteer hours are down], but remember that this study looks at community volunteering, which is different from association volunteering,” she said.  “We do know that people have less time and more work responsibilities, so it makes sense that volunteering is down and will continue to be until we create accessible volunteering.”

So what’s the key, especially to attracting young, energetic volunteers?

Gen Xers are inspired by entrepreneurial approaches and celebrate individual effort and risk-taking, Hoffman said.

In addition, Millennials thrive on cross-mentoring with older volunteers, especially when it comes to technology, said Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

“This presents a terrific way to build relationships between the generations, to create micro-volunteering opportunities for your younger volunteers, to allow them to develop the professional skills they seek through volunteerism and for your Boomer volunteers to learn new skills as well,” she said.

But first you have to ask, Engel added. In fact, according to the BLS study, 40.5 percent of people volunteered because they were asked.

And feedback is just as important. Engel and Hoffman suggest asking what interests volunteers, and it can be done casually during drinks, a quick poll or during a conference call.

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

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

“You can ask people to suggest topics for your newsletter, magazine, blog, webinars or conference, or vote on topics others have suggested. You can ask people to rate an article or comment on a blog post. You can ask people to post a question or an answer to your LinkedIn group, private community or list serv.

“You can ask people to make a personal call to a new member, welcoming her to your association. You can ask people to serve as welcome ambassadors at your chapter events or as meeting buddies for first-timers at your annual conference. You can ask attendees to share their thoughts at a town hall meeting at your next event. You can ask people to take a poll or short survey. You can ask people to share your content through Facebook or Twitter. You can ask them how they’d like to contribute to your association. Truly, you’re only limited by your imagination,” Engel said.

For more ideas on attracting volunteers, check out this previous blog post about mission-driven volunteering.

What trends are you seeing in your volunteers? Are you surprised by the findings of the BLS report?

04
Feb
14

Volunteer management: I gotta feeling

jugglingLike many of you, I’ve been known to juggle a handful of volunteer roles in addition to my nine-to-five job at any given point in time during my association management career. (Who am I kidding? When’s the last time I was able to get away with working an eight-hour day?)

Scanning my current commitments, I now serve on the editorial advisory board for Michigan Meetings + Events magazine, I’m a subject matter expert and facilitator for MSAE, I’m the luminaria chair for the East Lansing Relay for Life and I’ve recently been appointed to the ASAE 2014-2015 Professional Development Section Council.

Whether volunteer, volunteer leader, staff liaison or some other essential component of the volunteer management continuum, we all know what a good experience “feels” like. The sense of accomplishment from a job well done, the delivery of a long-anticipated product or service, a new friendship or business contact and the list goes on.

According to The Decision to Volunteer, association volunteers also expect a chance to work with like-minded people, network, keep skills sharp or learn a new skill, pass on their knowledge and contribute to a cause they believe in. Above all, people who volunteer for associations expect to be involved effectively.

Emphasis here on the word “effectively.”

Unfortunately, the study goes on to state that “turnover among association volunteers is high.” So why is this the case? In my experience, it’s because something is out of place or doesn’t “feel” right. Following are just some of the examples I’ve experienced over the years:

  • Volunteers are unhappy or frustrated.
  • Little to no direction from staff/organization.
  • Volunteer leaders are unprepared for meetings.
  • Few measurable outcomes are achieved.
  • Communication among volunteers is unpleasant.
  • Lack of resources to support scope of work.
  • Contributions are not appropriately recognized.
  • Milestones and deliverables are continuously delayed.
  • Lack of information or decision-making authority.
  • Workload is disproportionately assigned/assumed.

photoOther addressable issues in The Decision to Volunteer include poor follow-through with volunteers, lack of support or training and unclear roles.

And with the amount of work our associations set out to accomplish each year, we simply cannot afford to perpetuate these types of off-putting experiences. In addition to committees and councils, volunteers support our organizations as board members, SMEs and speakers (many of whom are uncompensated).

Following I’ve compiled just 10 simple ways we can take ownership of the volunteer management process (both as staff and as volunteers):

  • Identify a strong staff partner to support volunteer success – continuously refining his/her skills.
  • Align the group’s scope with the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Establish clear goals and expectations – communicating them early and often.
  • Ensure all new volunteers are oriented/trained.
  • Draft agendas for meetings and conference calls – and share them at least a week in advance.
  • Maintain appropriate communication levels between meetings – and in your volunteers’ preferred styles.
  • Create fun opportunities to build trust and camaraderie.
  • Quickly remove roadblocks, barriers and challenges that inhibit progress.
  • Celebrate successes – both large and small.
  • Strive for a proportionate distribution of responsibilities.

With our propensity for putting out fires, not to mention the countless other responsibilities that fill our task lists, it’s no wonder we don’t “evaluate” more regularly the volunteer experience. In fact, it’s usually not until something goes wrong that we take the time to identify and institute best practices in general.

So allow this to serve as your reminder. Check in on your volunteers this month. Assess their experiences, as well as those of your staff. Don’t become a turnover statistic. Leveraging just some of these course corrections while there’s still time could have a profound impact not just on your volunteer numbers, but on engagement and membership, as well.

In the meantime, tell us in the comments what you would add to our list of volunteer management best practices. What works particularly well for your organization?

14
Jan
14

Silence isn’t golden in the dark

?????????????????It was Dec. 21 and we were frosting homemade sugar cookies when our world went black. And it stayed that way – dark and cold – for a week.

After seven days, all our fish were dead. House plants – dead.  Pipes – frozen and burst.  It was a Christmas we’ll never forget, and while it could’ve been so much worse, when the house dropped to 38 degrees and we moved Christmas to my mom’s, it didn’t feel like it.

What we needed then was a glimmer of hope. Some sort of reassurance that power would eventually be restored and things would once again be bright, warm and fuzzy.

But instead, we got silence.

When I called to report the power outage, the recording told me there were system problems and to call back later. When I did, I got the same message – a dozen times.  At the same time, I checked Facebook and Twitter hoping for updates – nothing.

For days, our utility company, Lansing Board of Water and Light, left thousands of us in the dark. Stores ran out of generators, food spoiled and people got sick. And still nothing from BWL.

By now, many of you may have heard about the epic public relations failure of BWL in response to mid-Michigan’s days-long power outage after a major ice storm, dubbed “Icepocalypse.”

BWL pretty much broke every rule of PR 101. In fact, it’s a great case study for public relations students, and researchers and PR firms will have a field day analyzing this communications disaster.

First, media reported that BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark left town to visit family during the outage, thinking it wouldn’t really be “that bad.” At the same time, the company admitted it had no emergency plan in place.

In other words: mid-Michigan’s second largest utility company had no idea what to do and therefore nothing to communicate – which is probably why it took three days for messaging to trickle out on social media.

There have since been a couple public meetings, at which BWL employees mostly carried the floor to praise their leader. And this weekend, BWL took out a full-page ad apologizing for the situation. But most PR pros agree it’s too little, too late.

As a trained crisis communicator, I’ve learned that an organization has about 30 minutes to respond to a situation, even if it’s just with a holding statement. Someone needs to say something to let stakeholders know they’re engaged. And it’s just common sense that the leader should never leave the scene, but instead, rally the troops.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Truscott Rossman.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Truscott Rossman.

“Your reputation rides on how well you perform – especially in a crisis,” said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of Truscott Rossman, a Michigan-based strategic communications firm. “Your failure to rise to the occasion will undermine your reputation, short- and probably long-term. If your customers respect and trust you now, don’t lose them because you can’t meet their expectations under difficult circumstances.”

Crisis communications isn’t hard, but it does require preparation. If your organization doesn’t have a crisis communications plan, start one now, while things are calm.

According to Rossman-McKinney, there are three basic rules to crisis communications:

1. Acknowledge the problem with honesty, integrity and credibility. Don’t sugarcoat the facts.

2. Apologize for the situation sincerely and with care, compassion and concern.

3. Actively fix the problem and explain how and when action will be taken, what steps are involved, what challenges may arise, etc.

With these rules in mind, an organization can design its plan. Here are some must-haves, according to Truscott Rossman:

1. Identify your internal crisis team. Usually it’s your executive team and includes the CEO (always!), the COO, legal, HR, PR, etc. The team may vary based on the type of crisis but these are invariably the essential players.

2. Identify all your potential audiences and tier them based on type of crisis: internal (board members, employees, retirees, volunteers, donors, etc.) and external (starting with those directly impacted by the crisis, plus other customers/clients, vendors, suppliers, law enforcement, elected officials, media, etc.)

3. Determine your communications tools and tactics – and make sure you consider access to and credibility of those tools from your audiences’ perspectives. Traditional and digital/social media are both essential but also be prepared to think out of the box. Will phone calls, door-to-door, etc. be necessary under certain circumstances?

4. Know who will be responsible for what aspect of the crisis communications plan and have those folks prepared before a crisis. For example, if you know you will need outside expertise to implement portions of the plan, identify them now.  Also, make sure your spokesperson is the best, most credible individual.  Don’t send out the top dog if he or she comes across as arrogant, defensive, angry and patronizing. Care, compassion and concern are the leading attributes for a spokesperson in a crisis. Hire out if necessary – but make sure you hire credibility as well.

5. Don’t over promise. It’s better to exceed expectations by fixing the situation earlier than people expected than to let them down by missing a deadline.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. A vacuum of information from you will be quickly filled by others – and it won’t be pretty. Be clear on what you know, what you don’t know and how and when you’ll provide additional information – and meet and exceed everything you promise.

CrisisCommunications_2I think it’s safe to say that BWL may never recover from its PR nightmare. And I hope you never find yourself sharing a similar fate.

Does your organization have a crisis communications or emergency communications plan? We’d love for you to share it.

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.

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.

26
Nov
13

Just two little words

Throughout the last couple weeks, my kids have been making cute turkeys. We made them in my daughter’s Daisy troop with pinecones and feathers. Then she made one at school and wrote for what and for whom she was thankful on each feather. Also at school, my boys wrote thank you poems and sang Thanksgiving songs.

It touches me to hear how thankful they are for simple things like pouring their cereal, or as my daughter wrote, “my brothers and drinks, like pop.”

Granted, as adults, our blessings may not be so black and white. But just think what a difference the words “thank you,” and the simple gestures that go with that phrase, could make in the lives of your customers.

O.K. So you’re not going to make pinecone turkeys or sing songs, but saying “thank you” can be as simple as a coupon, a Christmas card or, on a larger scale, a food drive.

Destination Michigan believes that giving back to the communities in which we hold our events is an integral part of the meeting experience,” said Kim Corcoran, general manager. “If you’ve been in this business long enough, you’ve seen ups and downs in the economy.  You realize that meetings are dependent on the economy surviving, innovating and saving.  So to be able to give back to those in need is a great way to showcase the ways that meeting professionals contribute and persist in today’s world.”

Food drive items

On Nov. 6, Destination Michigan held a food drive at its showcase, donating 425 pounds of food to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

At its showcase on Nov. 6, Destination Michigan collected 425 pounds of food, which it donated to the Greater Lansing Food Bank. It asked each vendor to bring an item to donate as part of Destination Michigan’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.

According to Wikipedia, CSR is “a process with the aim to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere who may also be considered as stakeholders.”

In other words, it’s striving for social good. Making a difference. Giving back. Saying “thank you.”

Last week, I wrote about #GivingTuesday, which will occur on Dec. 3. And food drives are some of the most common ways in which companies will participate.

From food drives to volunteer opportunities to sponsorships, CSR is becoming an increasingly important factor when customers decide with whom to spend their money. Not to mention, it’s an incredibly effective way to advertise. One of the most popular places CSR shows up: Relay for Life events.

Each year, more than 4 million people in more than 20 countries participate in Relay for Life events, which has proven to be an incredibly powerful fundraising mechanism for the American Cancer Society. The opportunities for corporate sponsorships are endless: T-shirts, signs, giveaways, food.

What better way for your association or nonprofit to emphasize its commitment to CSR?

On June 7, Event Garde will be participating in the East Lansing Relay for Life event. Our team, Event Garde-ians, is looking for sponsors. Sponsorship amounts run from $100 to $15,000. For $1,000, Relay for Life will place a sign with your company logo on the track and on its corporate sponsorship banner.

Relay for LifeAs your organization budgets for community engagement and explores corporate sponsorship opportunities, I hope you’ll consider contributing to Event Garde-ians’ efforts to fight cancer. As a bonus, I’ll be writing about the companies, organizations and/or nonprofits that sponsor us, so we can help you say “thank you” to those who matter most.

In the meantime, Event Garde would like to thank you as we approach our two-year anniversary. As Thanksgiving approaches, we give thanks for all of you.

From Event Garde to you, Happy Thanksgiving!

12
Nov
13

Move over Fred Flintstone

George Jetson

George Jetson works in a futuristic office.

Remember the TV show, “The Jetsons?”  The funny robot housekeeper who talked back and the fancy buttons that made everything fly?

I loved it.

O.K. So maybe life won’t be that exciting 17 years from now. But I think George Jetson – or Hanna-Barbera I guess – was on to something.

Think about it. Seventeen years ago, I was in college, using dialup Internet to do research. There wasn’t Facebook or Twitter.  And I used the phone to talk, not text.

It’s amazing how far technology has come. So imagine what’s in store for the year 2030!

“Technology will specifically shape and challenge the meetings industry by 2030,” according to the German Convention Bureau. “The Internet, social media and mobile devices are the sources of this transformation.”

Recently, the bureau published, “Meetings and Conventions in 2020: A study of megatrends shaping our industry.” The study examines eight megatrends – globalization, demographic change, shortage of resources, urbanization, feminization and diversity, technology in work and life, sustainable development, mobility of the future and safety and security – to paint a picture of what the industry might look like in 2030.

I know what you’re thinking – it’s Germany, so why should I care? But Germany is second only to the U.S. as a meetings and conventions location, according to the bureau. And while it’s true that demographic trends may be different in Germany, issues such as technology and knowledge transfer apply globally.Techology

Obviously, I can’t write about all the trends here. But there are some key points of the study that are worth highlighting.

First, technology is a blessing and a curse. Infrastructure – meaning the venues that host conventions and meetings – will most likely change to accommodate more complex technology needs. As people become increasingly dependent on mobile news and social networking platforms, conference and event planners will look for facilities that are keeping pace. For instance, conference rooms will be better prepared for virtual speakers (i.e. webinars) and digital white boards. Of course, by 2030, who knows what fancy tools we’ll have? But one thing is for sure: Venues must follow the trends or they’ll lose business.

As we become an increasingly interconnected world, knowledge of other languages and cultures will be crucial, the study found. This means conference and event planners, caterers and wait staff may be expected to expand their global prowess. They may have to travel more. Learn a language. And adopt a love of lifelong learning. By 2030, these could be employer expectations,  rather than suggestions.

Along the same lines, the meetings and convention industry will gradually become more diverse, according to the study. And this means accommodating a variety of physical and social needs. An extreme example cited in the study: service robots in buildings. They may clean buildings, work security and help older guests get around.  Sort of like Rosie from the Jetsons.

The German study predicts by 2030 more older adults will attend meetings and conferences. People may work into their 70s by then, since retirement may one day become a financial luxury. So, the German Convention Bureau said the industry has to consider the needs of the older generation.

Fred Flintstone

Fred Flintstone

Another finding: Sustainability will become increasingly important. By 2030, environmental responsibility will soon be a top factor when businesses are choosing venues. In other words, certification systems (i.e. LEED certification) will be valuable, as will barrier-free accommodations.

The year 2030 may seem far away – as it did when we were kids watching “The Jetsons.” But as we parents know, time flies. So if you’re more like Fred Flintstone than George Jetson, get ready.

15
Oct
13

Internship Intel

I continue to be amazed at the response from readers on the topic of internships.

My colleague, Aaron Wolowiec, founder of Event Garde, posted on Collaborate, a private social network for members of the American Society of Association Executives, that I was looking for examples of successful internship programs. And examples I got. Lots of them.

Todd Von Deak

Todd Von Deak, president of TVD Associates

Associations aren’t usually top of mind for students looking for internships, said Todd Von Deak, president and founder of Philadelphia-based TVD Associates, but they should be.  Interns often think associations are run solely by volunteers and are therefore broke. But perhaps with better networking and marketing, associations could change that.

“Internship programs can help associations extend their staff in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible and the pipeline for identifying and vetting full-time hires can’t be underestimated,” he said. “We work in a profession that isn’t necessarily the first idea for a new graduate of where they want to work, but internship programs tell local communities that associations are a viable career option. We as an industry have to be doing more of that.”

Before founding his own association management firm, Von Deak’s association was named co-employer of the year at Drexel University. In 10 years, it employed about 125 interns.

He recently wrote about internships for the magazine of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives. In that article, Lisa DeLuca, associate director of career services at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, offered some insight.

For starters, DeLuca suggests associations:

•             Reach out to on-campus career center staff
•             Hire interns and co-ops.  Students on campus talk, and word of mouth matters.
•             Encourage alumni on staff to return to campus to share their knowledge

In that same article, Von Deak referenced a recent study by GradStaff, which suggested the cost to fill and train a new employee could run an organization more than $10,000.

Given that, it makes sense to create a pipeline of talent to the organizations: interns. Essentially, associations can engage a team of talent scouts who will steer some of the best students to consider the organization.

Von Deak’s interns earned a stipend, but weren’t paid otherwise. But he admitted that trend is changing.

“They would do a period of administrative tasks each day, but at the same time, they would write, develop promotions, lead work sessions and even pitch to our CEO,” he said. “I’ve always felt that an intern’s ideas are as good as anyone’s. The only thing the full timer has is perhaps a little more of an appreciation and understanding of how to make an idea work within the context of their company.”

PCI interns

Interns at PCI

And then there’s Frances Reimers, senior account executive at PCI, a marketing and creative production agency in Alexandria, Va.

PCI pays its interns $10 per hour. In the three years since the inception of its internship program, PCI has employed six interns, all of whom assisted with marketing, idea creation and pitching and research. Reimers looks for students who aren’t afraid to speak up and who have the confidence to hit the ground running.

To find interns, PCI advertises on local university websites and uses social media to engage. And from there, it’s about being prepared.

“Make sure you have a dedicated staff person with the right managerial skills to work with young adults,” Reimers said. “Have a formal plan in place to hire, train and manage interns. Just like any other employee, they need guidance, goals and direction to be provided by their employer. And provide interns an opportunity at the end of their time with you to voice their opinion about their experience – and listen to what they say. Finally, provide your interns a seat at the table – they have great ideas.”

What else?

“Feedback from our interns tells me they enjoy the professional, high-energy environment, the coaching and mentoring they receive from their manager and the opportunity to learn more about VisitPittburgh. For the students:  Don’t be afraid of non-paid internships, as many times the knowledge you gain far outweighs the short-term loss in wages.  Also, make sure you learn about the entire organization, not just the department in which you’re interning.  For employers:  Commitment from the president and senior management must be in place for the internship program to be successful.”
- Jason Fulvi, executive vice president, VisitPITTSBURGH

“Being an intern at Hargrove helped me establish a terrific professional foundation. I learned a lot of organizational skills, how to use email and all the basic computer software. I learned the terminology of our business, how to manage a budget and how to interact with clients.  The internship was a great opportunity because I could demonstrate my value. I’m not the best in an interview or on a test, so this way I could prove to Hargrove that I would be successful.”
- Renee Spragg, national account manager, Hargrove (a trade show, exhibit and event company in Lanham, Md.)

Renee Spragg

Renee Spragg, national account manager for Hargrove

Thanks to everyone who provided insight, advice and examples. I may write about this topic in the future, especially as we watch the repercussions of the Black Swan case unfold. So please keep the feedback coming.




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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