Archive for the 'Communication' 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.
19
Jan
16

Cut through communication clutter

home-gloryAs a writer and professional communicator, nothing (O.K., well, not very much) is more frustrating than people who can’t communicate. Or even worse yet, companies. Inconsistent messaging drives me nuts.

Rant over.

But seriously…communication is a hard gig for most companies, especially with the advent of social media. Communication is everywhere.

So it’s not really a surprise that associations continue to struggle with effective communication, according to Naylor’s 2015 communication benchmarking study.

While associations have made headway in navigating communication chaos, only 6 percent of the more than 700 associations surveyed reported they have a fully integrated communications strategy.

Perhaps more problematic, however, is that very few associations employ social, mobile or video strategy.

All this said, there’s good news: Associations realize they need to do a better job – starting with what they have. For example, if given a budget increase, more than one-third of respondents said they’d develop a mobile strategy while another one-third said they would pour resources into social media.

indexMore than one-half of respondents have optimized their websites for mobile, while more than one-third have done so for newsletters and blogs for mobile. And it seems more associations are connecting with members on social media.

But let’s face it. Without content, communication efforts are null. It’s hard to know what audiences want, so let’s trust Naylor.

According to its survey, in 2015 respondents chose best practices and how-tos as the most important topics. Second and third: professional development and industry trends. That’s changed from 2014, in which survey participants ranked lobbying/advocacy as most important. So maybe this is why 58 percent of those surveyed say members ignore at least half the communications they receive.

At a glance from the report:

  • 41.7 percent of associations feel understaffed overall
  • 43.5 percent feel their publishing/content creation teams are understaffed
  • 43.6 percent feel their social media teams are understaffed

“To their credit, associations are working hard to shed their stereotype as overly cautious, slow-moving, bureaucratic organizations,” Naylor said. “They have made significant strides in optimizing their websites and publications for mobile, and in offering members a wide variety of streaming video content, mobile apps and social media outlets. But, there is a big disconnect between associations’ willingness to try new forms of communication and their willingness to put a viable strategy behind those channels, much less staff them adequately, support them financially and measure them aggressively.”

Now that we’ve identified the communication challenges, what do we do about it? How do we transfer the knowledge we’ve learned?

Ask-a-Question-photoNaylor has some suggestions.

  • To build better content and greater engagement, you must start by asking what they want and why. Create a survey and ask your members, for example, whether they prefer digital or print communications – and why.
  • Take a closer look at who your stakeholders are and what they are telling you — and what they’re not — to uncover areas for improvement and set your goals. Take into account all audiences – staff, advertisers and members. Looking at membership demographics can provide insight into content consumption – Which publications are your competitors?
  • If you don’t have a social media strategy, get one. Don’t create a Facebook account just because. Instead, use your survey data to determine topics that lend themselves well to social media and then determine how, and through which platforms, your audiences want to learn.
  • When it comes to your digital communications, make every message count. In other words, integrate content and make messaging consistent. Start with subject lines for emails and e-newsletters. Make them catchy, but then, once they click, what will readers find? If people opt out, find out why.
  • Stop under-utilizing video. Case in point: Event Garde started incorporating video into our e-newsletters a few months ago. Continuing education, event memorialization, live streaming and integration opportunities make video an incredibly viable communication tool.
  • Designate an ambassador of integration. Establish someone who can liaise between all departments and audiences to make sure content is integrated and on message.
  • Review available communication vehicles and consider how much more powerful a message can be if it’s repurposed across different channels. Think about what can enhance current content (i.e. video). Or repurpose your conference program book and reword it for social media.
  • Make sure your content and communication vehicles are ready for consumption on the go. As part of your communications audit, ask your IT staff to analyze how mobile-friendly your websites, blogs and e-newsletters truly are.
  • Don’t wait to measure—incorporate it as an everyday practice. Remember: Data are good. Measure early and often, and chart how your different communication vehicles are performing so you’ll know what’s working best.
  • Track your results, and if you didn’t perform well in a certain area, ask for help. If you discover after analyzing data that you can’t give members what they need, this makes a good argument for boosting staff and budget.

“As we said in our 2014 recommendations, avoid ‘shiny-object syndrome’ and the temptation to be all things to all people,” Naylor said. “Consider how relatively simple a communications strategy can be with a Take AIM approach. Gather member feedback, deliver great content, monitor results, and watch engagement levels rise.”

05
Jan
16

Post-event fulfillment reports: Setting the stage for sponsor renewals

plant in coins TFPost-event fulfillment reports consistently rank at the top of sponsor lists in terms of the most valuable services provided by conference hosts. According to the 2012 IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey, fulfillment reports tied audience research as the most important service provided by conference hosts.

So what is a post-event fulfillment report? In a nutshell, it’s a report penned by a host organization and provided to sponsors following an event. It benefits sponsors in the following ways:

  • Helps sponsors justify their investments.
  • Builds internal support at sponsoring companies.
  • Demonstrates how conference hosts have over-delivered.
  • Sets the stage for renewal discussions.
  • Delivers gratitude on behalf of conference hosts (and their constituents).

While typically reserved for sponsors, fulfillment reports could easily be tailored to address the needs of exhibitors, speakers and attendees – any constituent group for whom an organization might wish to demonstrate a mutually beneficial partnership (particularly those who pay to attend events or for whom participation is otherwise uncompensated).

According to IEG, key elements of a post-event fulfillment report include:

  1. A brief (one-page) introduction and executive summary. Assuming it’s the only portion of the report some busy professionals will read, it should summarize key deliverables and include a short interpretation of the data.
  2. Participant/attendee information, including attendance figures, demographics and the results of any audience research (e.g., aggregate evaluation data).
  3. All on-site exposure documented through photos, samples and reproductions; the number of people who received promotional items or were exposed to advertising; and a comparison of quantities, location and position delivered versus what was promised.
  4. Any off-site exposure (e.g., print, television or radio).
  5. Trackable promotional results, including the number of people responding to sponsor campaigns.
  6. Any additional outcomes (e.g., donations to charitable organizations, employee participation or economic impact summary).

Business Communication Duplicate model

Additionally, consider adding in third-party endorsements or testimonials, including feedback or data from the event’s attendees or participants. Particularly impactful are pictures of attendees with their names, titles, organizations and insights.

The National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) offers one example of a post-event fulfillment report. In this case, NASC utilized issuu to display its report in an interactive and visually appealing platform. Issuu gives anyone with digitally bound content the ability to upload and distribute publications worldwide both quickly and easily.

So what does it take to develop and release your first post-event fulfillment report? Following are five tips to get you started:

  1. Dedicate staff resources. Assign someone as the lead and ensure multidisciplinary buy-in from all other supporting departments/staff.
  2. Make it an ongoing process. Create the basic template and keep it updated leading up to the event. Ensure all staff assignments onsite and post-event are clearly communicated. This should ensure the report is less tedious to complete post-event (with no lost information).
  3. Keep reports succinct. There’s no magic number – but you’ll know what’s right for the recipients of your report. Bullets, photos, charts and other brief expressions of content are always preferable to lengthy paragraphs.
  4. Consider the different audiences. A single report may be viewed by the chief executive officer, the chief financial officer, the marketing department and countless other individuals employed by your sponsoring organizations. Consider their needs and ensure your post-event fulfillment report meets them head-on.
  5. Deliver in a timely fashion. It’s best to complete and deliver a post-event fulfillment report within 30 days following an event.

Finally, a note about customization. While it would be optimal to customize every post-event fulfillment report before hand-delivering it to sponsors (e.g., custom cover page, sponsor-specific photos/data, testimonials naming the sponsor), that’s likely not feasible given our often limited time and resources. So, do your best. If nothing else, deliver the report via your organization’s email platform and be sure to personalize the recipient’s name.

09
Jun
15

Time to breathe…and think long-term

Strategy-Small1Meeting professionals are some of the busiest people I know.

But thanks to periods of economic stability, for the first time in a decade, these always-on-go folks will have time to take a breath and think strategically, according to Meeting Professionals International’s Meetings Outlook, 2015 Spring Edition. It was developed in partnership with Visit Denver.

This year has been, and will continue to be, defined by intelligent growth for the meetings and events industry, the report found.

For starters, 60 percent of survey respondents predict an increase in live events, while 56 percent predict an increase in virtual events. Part of the reason: Young professionals are realizing the value of face-to-face networking.

Other key findings:

  • 74 percent of those surveyed predict better business conditions.
  • Industry professionals plan to use mobile apps more strategically this year, including location-based technology for session check-ins and networking.
  • Budgets are still a concern, so organizations plan to host more local meetings, compress meetings into shorter times and increase use of technology.

“It takes opportunity, resources and the desire to be able to think strategically to consider how to improve relationships and to be smarter with how folks use the tools in their toolbox,” said Bill Voegeli (MPI Georgia Chapter), president of Association Insights — the company that conducts the Meetings Outlook research. “Now is one of those rare times.”

While this is good news, opportunities also bring challenges. For instance, it’s a sellers’ market, so meeting professionals will need to contend with shorter lead times. As such, pop-up meetings are becoming more common. And sometimes, when attendance is low, venues tack on charges.

shaking-handsIn addition, with the increase in live events comes the need to build face-to-face communication skills (much tougher than communicating behind a screen).

Budgets are increasing, but with a planned uptick in live events, resources won’t go as far. At the same time, food and beverage costs have increased, so organizations will need to come up with creative budget solutions (i.e. purchasing their own AV equipment, rather than renting from a venue.) The key: During budget planning, think long-term and out of the box.

It’s an exciting time for meeting professionals, and to help foster success, MPI lists some tips in its report:

  • Offer attendees more engagement while gathering more data through your apps to help inform future meeting design.
  • Crowdsource: Publicly display social media posts from attendees, such as comments and photos.
  • Make your eRFPs pop with clear details, and consider working with CVBs to streamline the process.

“All of this is opening a new era for meetings, as attendee behavior data is going to explode — and it will help in shaping meeting design in multiple areas,” said Christian Savelli, senior director of business intelligence and research for MPI.

What do you think? Does your organization have a strategic plan? Are you doing things differently? Let us know.

16
Dec
14

The makings of marketing mavens

Marketing_tomschaepperTwo years after graduating college, I entered the association world.

I served as director of communications for an association for four years – and I loved every minute of it. As all association professionals understand, resources were thin but job responsibilities were huge. I was all things communications, media relations and public relations.

But marketing? Not so much.

True, we launched our first official marketing campaign a couple years into the job. But with too few hours in the day and a never-ending list of priorities, marketing just wasn’t at the top of the list.

Fast forward 10 years, and I’m now a public relations professional who loves all things marketing. Today, we blur the lines between public relations and marketing, especially thanks to digital and social media. Yet, the mission is the same: Build your brand, your reputation and your credibility by engaging key audiences with specific (albeit simple) messaging.

And that takes an incredible amount of work and vision.

Associations are in a tough spot, forced to do more with less. So where does marketing fit in?

It often struggles to justify its existence, but associations seem to be embracing it as best as they can, according to a new report by Demand Metric Research Corp., a research and advisory firm serving the association industry.

The 2014 State of Digital Marketing in Associations benchmarking study was administered mid-October through mid-November, with membership associations holding the largest response rate. The median size was 1,001 to 5,000 members.

Marketing business salesKey findings:

  • Three-fourths of associations in this study report their marketing is somewhat to very effective. Eighty-eight percent think members perceive their marketing and communication efforts as sometimes to always relevant and professional.
  • For associations rating themselves most effective at marketing, strategy and planning is their most frequently cited capability. But for those that rate themselves least effective at marketing, strategy and planning is the fifth most-cited capability.
  • E-mail, event and content marketing are the top ranked tactics in terms of effectiveness.
  • Almost 90 percent of associations include an e-mail newsletter in their digital marketing portfolio, but only 41 percent use an e-mail preference center.
  • The ownership of marketing tasks – such as pricing, positioning, promotional channels, data analysis and technology spend – is fragmented, with a number of other association departments frequently owning these tasks.
  • In an increasingly technology-driven market, IT owns most of the technical skills marketing needs to succeed.
  • Only 13 percent of associations report not using any marketing metrics. For the 87 percent that are, most are using volume or activity metrics, such as click-through rates, which don’t provide true indicators of marketing’s contribution.

So, more than half of respondents reported that marketing strategy is important, and that they have the staff to design and implement such a strategy. But the key is to achieve buy-in: Marketing is an all-hands-on-deck approach. It shouldn’t just fall on the shoulders of the director of marketing and/or director of communications. Leaders should provide the vision; the board of directors should adopt it; and leadership should provide guidance to all staff. And all staff should operate with key messages in mind.

In the survey, respondents possessed three marketing capabilities: membership engagement strategies and campaigns; public relations; and membership retention and strategies.

But what about tactics?

Respondents ranked e-mail and event marketing as the top two marketing tactics, followed by social media, website/SEO and content marketing. But here’s the problem: Without content, there’s no marketing strategy. Content is the foundation from which to create all marketing strategies.

For example, e-mail newsletters and campaigns should be consistent with branding (the look and feel of the association).

The same goes with blogs. Although many associations aren’t blogging, blogs are crucial marketing tactics. They’re the perfect places to post content (content marketing). In addition, blogs are invaluable SEO tools.

Of course, marketing without analytics is useless. Google analytics are simple and effective, and associations should be using them. But the only two analytics most associations employ according to the study: click through and open rates.

“Marketing is simply too important to leave entirely in the hands of the marketing team,” the study’s authors wrote. “It is a function that must pervade the entire organization, guided by strong leadership that collaborates effectively with everyone, from the board and below.”

best-marketing-tacticsAs a marketing and public relations geek, I’m excited about the data this study provides. In summary, though, here are some takeaways, as listed in the report:

  • Strategic orientation. The most effective marketing functions in this study are those who prioritize strategy and planning. If your team feels like it’s too busy to take time out to plan and develop marketing strategy, then you’re opting for lower marketing effectiveness.
  • Embrace content. The content marketing effectiveness gap revealed in this study is huge. Most of the marketing tactics associations are using rely on some form of content as input. Learn how to develop and deploy content effectively.
  • The ownership and responsibility for some of the key marketing tasks is very fragmented. Much of this fragmentation would go away under strong, executive marketing leadership. Even without a marketing executive, associations can give their marketing teams a better chance by allowing them fuller ownership of the things for which they have, or should have, responsibility.
  • Marketing is increasingly a technical pursuit. Associations need to equip their marketing teams with the skills and training to function in the modern world of marketing.
  • Any use of marketing metrics and an analytics process is good, but even better is when that process uses metrics that do more than just report on activity levels. Association marketers need to identify metrics that truly indicate the value they create and then hold themselves accountable to them.

So what do you think? Is marketing part of the plan for 2015?

21
Oct
14

Know Your Members Through Better Surveys: A How-To Guide

This month’s guest blog post is by Kent Agramonte, a marketing supervisor at Naylor. He has four years’ experience helping associations with member surveys and data. It was originally posted at AssociationAdviser.

Are you interested in submitting a guest post? Contact Kristen Parker at kristen@eventgarde.com.

Kent Agramonte, marketing supervisor at Naylor LLC.

Kent Agramonte, marketing supervisor at Naylor LLC.

When we discuss knowing who our members are, we sometimes speak in nebulous terms, such as “We need to find out what’s best for our members” or “How can we better serve our members?” We tend to put the how or what before the who.

Recently, I was talking to an association about some of the challenges it faced and the subject of who its members were was brought up. I was surprised that this particular association didn’t know exactly who its members were. Associations tend to put members into categorical groups as broad as “regular members,” which can lead to a lack of understanding of its members. To figure out what our members truly need from us, the first step is to find out who they are. But often, this key element of association management is overlooked.

Associations tend to commission studies of their industries as a whole. While that is a great way to gauge the overall health of the industries they represent, it may not gauge the health of your individual members’ businesses. An association-specific survey will help you directly gauge the health of your membership and future needs you must address.

Getting started

So where do we start? The first step in a successful membership survey is to establish its goal. If you are trying to figure out your members’ overall business health, it is important to look at three key factors:

  1. Demographics. Questions that ask about member titles, where they fall in the chain of command and whether they are the ultimate decision-makers for their organizations can help you find out how influential your members are and the influence your association has within your industry.
  2. Economic factors. How much do your members spend on products and services each year? Do they expect their business to expand or shrink in the next 12 months? What is their organization’s revenue? These questions can help you find out the economic health of your members and will act as a benchmark for growth in future surveys.
  3. Member needs. Ask your members questions about what they need or want from your association. For instance:
    • What issues are you and your company most concerned about?
    • Is our association doing enough to focus on legislative issues that affect your business?
    • What can we do to bring additional value to you, our member?

By asking these questions, we can begin to paint a picture of what your members are going through and the state of their businesses. This information is also key to generating non-dues revenue because it is vital information for any advertiser, sponsor or strategic partner that wants to reach your members.

surveySurvey build and deployment

The second step in any successful survey is building and sending the survey. There are several free and low-cost survey tools that can help you generate basic surveys online. For example, SurveyMonkey offers a free, easy-to-use, basic version of its survey tool. Survey Gizmo is a low-cost alternative and offers a free trial. For more advanced metrics, try Qualtrics.

Once you enter your questions into the survey tool, test the survey on yourself and make sure all question logic flows the way you intended.

When you are 100 percent confident that your survey is ready to be sent out, you may want to test it on a small sample of potential respondents before sending to your full distribution list. That’s called a pilot. It’s a good way to tighten up the wording or answer choices that may end up confusing respondents.

Most online survey tools will allow you to include a link to the survey in your member outreach efforts. Our suggestion is to email this link to potential respondents or include it in an e-newsletter to your members. If you do not have a way to mass email your members, MailChimp is a commercially available tool that is free to anyone with fewer than 2,000 subscribers.

Once sent, keep your survey open for at least two weeks (but not forever) and send an update email at the beginning of the second week to remind members to take the survey if they have not already done so. If you are worried about not getting enough responses to your survey, you should offer some type of incentive to take the survey. Gift cards go a long way to helping you get responses.

recruitmentanalyticsFrom data collection to analysis

After two or three weeks, it is typically time to start looking at the results. Remember that you only need about a 10 percent response rate to make your survey statistically viable. For example, if you send your survey to 1,000 members (this is your sample size) and 100 members take the survey, than you can statistically project the results to your entire membership.

So, if 75 percent of respondents in a statistically generalizable sample are CEOs, then it would be safe to say that 75 percent of your members are CEOs. If you don’t meet the 10 percent threshold, then your results are still viable as “non-scientific” insight into your membership base. No, you cannot generalize to your entire association, but the small result pool will give you the overall pulse of members.

Once you have taken a look at the results, make sure to turn them into ratios if possible. For example, if 63 percent of your members say they are concerned about tax legislation, then it is better to say nearly two out of three members are concerned about tax legislation. Expressing numbers as ratios gives a human face to your members and allows people to better visualize results. Most people can picture two out of three people in their head, but a concept like 63 percent is harder to imagine.

Results like the ones in your survey are interesting to you, your members, potential non-dues revenue generating advertisers and the industry as a whole. So it is a good idea to share them with as many people as you can. An easy way to accomplish this is to create an infographic with short bullets that details the findings of your survey. This infographic shouldn’t be much longer than a page and should be emailed to members, industry stakeholders and included in your official communications pieces as much as possible.

Surveys generally only retain their validity for about two years. So plan to send out member surveys every other year to make sure you will always have the most up-to-date information about your members.

Conclusion

Good research, with good information, adds value to your association, your association’s communications and your members. When members see that you are making a concerted effort to understand more about them and their concerns, the more benefit they see in being a member of your association. Learning about your members helps you learn more about your association’s goals and the direction in which your association should be heading while helping you recruit potential members and associate members. The brain always knows what the body is doing, but when it comes to association management, sometimes the brain needs a road map.

02
Sep
14

Association Hunger Games: Victory or Defeat?

I had the pleasure of presenting this year at the ASAE Annual Meeting and Exposition in Nashville. And, believe it or not, I didn’t talk about meetings or learning. Instead, the session was developed as a result of a conversation I overheard at last year’s conference describing the challenges associations often have implementing strategy they’ve either developed internally or in conjunction with a consultant.

The Case for Execution

According to a 2005 Harvard Business Review article, “Companies typically realize only about 60% of their strategy’s potential value because of defects and breakdowns in planning and execution.”

Here you can easily replace the word “companies” with any functional area or department within your organization. As a supplier, you might also think in terms of “sales” or “services.”

Slide05This execution gap suggests that what we plan to do doesn’t quite align with what actually gets done. The resulting gap represents lost opportunities and revenue. Imagine our potential if we improved our execution by just 50%.

So, what’s at risk with poor execution? Following are just a few ideas:

  • Operational: production and finances
  • Organizational: efficiency, culture and reputation
  • Personal: credibility, supporters and job

Still don’t believe me?

“82% of Fortune 500 CEOs feel their organization did an effective job of strategic planning. Only 14% of the same CEOs indicated their organization did an effective job of implementing the strategy.” This is according to Forbes Magazine in 2011.

Take a moment to visualize what strategic planning looks like within your own department or organization. Is it board-driven? Committee-driven? Staff-driven? Consultant-driven? Whatever approach that’s taken to bridge insight and action, it’s important to have a framework in place to address potential pitfalls.

In fact, a 2013 HBR blog post suggests, “Execution is a minefield… Agendas compete. Priorities clash. Decisions stall. Communication breaks down. Timelines get blown. It’s never a question of if these problems will happen; it’s a question of when and to what degree.”

Framework for Execution

During this session I presented a simplistic, non-linear framework for implementation planning and execution. You may already have your own – and I hope that you do. Whatever tool you use, this was an opportunity to think more deeply about it – and to possibly identify areas where it could be improved. This framework first presumes, however, that a thoughtful strategic plan is already in place.

Scan

During the scanning phase:

  • Assess strategy/plan based upon recent performance
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis
  • Assess competitive strengths and identify weaknesses
  • Determine the issues that need to be addressed based upon findings

In many ways, scanning is the key to excellent execution. After all, it’s difficult to correct implementation issues if we haven’t identified them.

Slide11Even conducting a simple SWOT analysis when freshening up your conference plan can really improve implementation.

  • Strengths: Positive attributes internal to your organization
    • What do you do well?
    • What internal resources do you have?
  • Weaknesses: Aspects of your organization that detract from the value you offer or that present a competitive disadvantage
    • What areas need improvement?
    • What do you lack?
  • Opportunities: External factors or reasons your organization is likely to prosper
    • What opportunities exist in your market you can benefit from?
  • Threats: External factors beyond your control placing your strategy and organization at risk
    • What contingency plans could you develop to minimize threats?

Porter’s Competitive Forces

This is a simple but powerful tool for understanding where power lies in a business scenario. It helps you understand both the strength of your current competitive position, and the strength of a position you’re considering moving into.

  • Rivalry among competitors: Evaluate the number and capability of your competitors. If you have many competitors with products and services of equal quality, you have little power; suppliers and buyers will go elsewhere if they are unhappy. If what you’re selling is unique, you have tremendous strength.
  • Threat of substitutions: If substitution is easy, viable and inexpensive, your power is weakened.
  • Potential new entrants: People may enter your market and weaken your position if it costs little in time or money or if few economies of scale are already in place. Assess barriers to entry.
  • Power of suppliers: How easy it is for suppliers to drive up prices?
  • Power of buyers: How easy is it for buyers to drive prices down?

Bu2HB7SCUAAki1TPlan

In the planning phase it’s important to be inquisitive and to ask lots of questions. In her Association Hunger Games Tribute profile for Now Daily Donna Oser, CAE said, “Katniss Everdeen’s skill at archery can’t hold a candle to the ability to ask good questions.”

Equally important, then, is the tool you use to collect and maintain the responses to these questions. It could be a simple Excel spreadsheet or something more sophisticated like Basecamp, a popular project management platform. Either way, the tool you use to communicate actions and outcomes is just as important as the plan itself.

Implement

When it comes to implementation, there are a few key points to remember:

 

  • Ensure leadership knows the plan.
  • Schedule key checkpoints.
  • Invite input from colleagues.
  • Be on the look out for barriers.
  • Help colleagues prioritize.
  • Monitor the plan… obsessively.

Communicate

The framework continues with successful communication. When communicating, be sure to:

  • Articulate specific actions needed and desired outcomes.
  • Check in frequently/regularly for questions and progress.
  • Ask questions about process, workflow and unexpected issues.
  • Share progress, challenges and successes along the way.

Evaluate

Finally, don’t forget to evaluate:

  • Progress towards goals/metrics
  • Performance against the plan
  • Feedback from colleagues
  • Feedback from stakeholders
  • The ‘Done wells’, the ‘Do betters’ and even the ‘Don’t dos’ for next time

Common Pitfalls

When Katniss and Peeta entered the Hunger Games arena, they faced mutant animals, starvation, acid fog and fire. In the Association Hunger Games, the roadblocks are different but equally toxic. They include:

  • Lack of detailed planning
  • Expectations not clearly stated
  • Poor communication/coordination
  • Lack of accountability
  • Poor prioritization

During the session we walked through two case studies. After reading these scenarios and applying the framework, consider your own workplace: What changes can you make to how you execute? What other things will you consider or look into? What other ideas has this generated for you?

In narrowing your own organization’s implementation gap, may the odds be ever in your favor!

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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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