23
Aug
16

Listen: Don’t just hear

 

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Jennifer Grau, president, Grau Interpersonal Communication

This month’s guest blog post is by Jennifer Grau, president of Grau Interpersonal Communication, who is a listening trainer, coach, facilitator, speaker and consultant. She co-organized the first European Listening and Healthcare Conference in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, in 2014 and is currently planning the International Listening Association’s 2018 convention.

 

We invest significant time selecting conference themes, locations, accommodations and meeting spaces; finding speakers; planning activities; and relating these to learning objectives and business goals. But something critically important is missing from this list: the kind of listening environment you cultivate.

People rarely design conferences with quality listening in mind. If they do, they often mistake listening for hearing and so they focus on audio quality. Yet, the listening experiences you foster makes your event memorable and enjoyable and provides lasting value to your participants.

Listening is one of the most important business skills today, yet few people know what listening entails. When asked to define listening they frequently respond with something like, “Listening is hearing what someone is saying” or “Listening is taking in a person’s verbal and non-verbal signals.

While both of these definitions describe elements of listening, neither is complete. The International Listening Association defines listening as “the process of receiving, constructing meaning from and responding to spoken and or nonverbal messages.” And the ILA definition neglects to mention the enormous amount of effort and energy listening requires to sustain focused attention over time.

Attending, constructing meaning and responding are perhaps the most important elements of listening for conference participants. Understanding what you can do to help people listen makes it more likely they will leave your conference with value.

Most people are passive, lazy listeners. Words wash over them. They don’t remember people’s names, let alone recall the information they heard after lunch. They are easily distracted and most can’t find the WIFM (what’s in it for me) if a speaker is abstract or overly detailed.

Few people realize the effort and skill needed to listen effectively. They don’t arrive with listening goals nor have they thought about whom they want to meet. In other words, most people haven’t created an information or relationship retention plan.

Even those with the best intentions and good listening skills find conferences difficult environments in which to sustain focus and attention. Multiple days in stimulating settings with a barrage of new people and new information can be overwhelming. Back-to-back sessions, events and marketplace stalls, combined with networking and socializing, can undo even the most committed and skillful listeners.

listening-skills-for-trial-lawyersAs a listening trainer, coach and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience helping people listen in a variety of business settings, here are some tips to foster a better listening environment at your next conference.

  1. As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” As part of the conference registration process, get people thinking about their listening goals. Get them to reflect on what they will take away. Ask a question like the ones below and use the information to shape your event:
  • “What three things are you looking forward to gaining from this conference?”
  • “How will your time at this conference improve your work/life?”
  • “What burning issue, question or idea do you hope to explore?”
  1. Insist on speaker introductions that go beyond a list of credentials. Make sure your MC provides the WIFM by building a connection between the speaker, the content of the session and your conference theme or organization’s mission. Invite participants to consider how they personally will use what they are about to experience.
  1. At the end of each session ask participants to consider what they have gained. Allow time to record; reflect and integrate these insights; summarize notes; post to social media; take a memory-prompting photo; request slides. For listening that lasts people have to commit what they heard to their long-term memory.
  1. Avoid “talking head” panels whenever possible. Use a variety of formats when planning sessions. People habituate quickly. A variety of formats and session lengths will hold attention better and renew people’s listening stamina. Consider formats similar to TED talks, poster sessions and Pecha Kucha to add variety.
  1. Listening and digesting do not go well together. Do experiential or interactive learning after lunch.
  1. Plan a variety of interactive experiences for people to connect with other participants and exchange ideas. Leverage the face-to-face experience. Listening is a powerful relationship development tool. Consider adding World Café’s and other discussion formats that will engage participants and encourage two-way exchange of ideas.
  1. Open your next conference with a mini listening boot camp on how to listen to get the most out of conference events.

Don’t forget the power of listening to music to set a mood, calm or energize your group.

16
Aug
16

What’s the state of association marketing?

Digital-Marketing-TrainingAs many of you probably know by now, I’m a public relations fanatic. Not only is it my full-time profession, but I’m constantly soaking up stories about new trends, PR disasters, crisis communications and more.

Years ago, PR (which used to be more focused on media relations) and marketing didn’t always mix well. Fast forward: The line is fuzzy – if it exists at all.

Now, marketing is very much about content. Without content, you’ve got nothing to communicate, no brand and no campaign.

But not just anyone can do marketing. It takes careful planning, strategic thinking and skill.

This week at the ASAE Annual Meeting, Demand Metric (sponsored by HighRoad Solution) unveiled its benchmark report, “2016 State of Digital Marketing in Associations.”

Among the findings: Association customers think marketing communications are rather stagnant – and each year, those feelings grow a bit stronger, according to the survey results. In fact, in the 2016 report, only one-fourth of respondents reported their members perceive communications as always relevant. (Marketing Tip No. 1: Know your audience!)

“All associations need a strategic marketing plan to drive all marketing capabilities and tactics,” Demand Metric said. “In the absence of a marketing strategy that is based on an association’s values and objectives, it is difficult for marketing to have the impact that it should. So for marketing communications and all other capabilities, the right approach is to lead with strategy and planning.”

As for tactics, email marketing again took the No. 1 spot as the most effective (the same as last year.) The biggest dip: mobile marketing. It dropped 11 percent from last year, and this year, only 18 percent of respondents said it’s an effective marketing tactic. Event marketing took the No. 2 spot while content marketing took No. 3.

Other key findings:

  • 71 percent of study participants report their association marketing overall effectiveness as somewhat or very effective.
  • More one-third of study participants rate their understanding of member needs as poor to neutral.
  • 91 percent of associations in the study are tracking some sort of marketing metric. Just 22 percent track ROI as a marketing metric.
  • 82 percent of the associations that track ROI report high overall marketing effectiveness.
  • The average annual marketing budget for associations in this study falls in the $250,000 to $299,999 range.

ROI_blog_graphicSpeaking of ROI, according to the study, many marketers shy away from analytics – which can be a fatal mistake. My two cents: There’s no point in engaging in marketing if efforts are fruitless, right? And so, marketers need to have a key spot at the table when it comes to strategic planning.

According to the report, IT handles many marketing tactics (the logistics of email campaigns, for instance), but marketing staff needs to be involved in the overall vision of an organization. All this said, it’s crucial for marketing staff to have an understanding of HTML and other basic web functions. Unfortunately, according to the report, that skillset has decreased among association marketing staffs.

Here’s where learning and professional development come in.

“Associations must view training as an investment, not just in growing the skills of the marketing team, but in enabling the marketing function to help the organization achieve its goals,” Demand Metric said. “Marketing needs to exist within a culture that values learning. The marketing team that has a competitive technical skill set is an asset to the entire organization it serves.”

So marketers, what do you think? How do you fit into your association’s strategic plan? Share your comments here.

09
Aug
16

Big city love from ASAE

attendees6Good news fellow Midwesterners!

In 2018, ASAE’s Annual Meeting and Exposition will be coming to Chicago!

On July 25, ASAE announced the host cities for its meetings, through 2022:

2017 – Toronto
2018 – Chicago
2019 – Columbus
2020 – Las Vegas
2021 – Dallas
2022 – Atlanta

“Congratulations to the cities selected for our 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 ASAE annual meetings and expositions,” said John Graham, ASAE president and CEO. “We had seven cities that were finalists in our selection process, and each one did a fantastic job. The proposals submitted by the winning cities exceeded our expectations. Looking forward to growing our partnerships with the respective convention and visitors bureaus in the coming years as we plan exciting and engaging meetings.”

ASAE last held its annual meeting in Chicago in 2007, which had the highest attendance of association executives. In 2019, it will be the first time Columbus has hosted an ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition.

attendees11And, it’s hard to believe, but the 2016 ASAE Annual Meeting is next week, Aug. 13-16, in Salt Lake City, offering a versatile lineup of sessions and inspiring keynotes. New this year, ASAE is offering learning formats from which to choose.

I’m guessing there will be avid social media engagement, especially on Twitter using #ASAE16 and @ASAEAnnual. In fact, I’ll be following the stream, searching for future blog post topics and future guest bloggers. So please follow me on Twitter and don’t be afraid to tag me!

Is it your first time? Check out these tips from ASAE. And remember to use #newbie on your tweets.

At the same time, download the ASAE Programs App to help you connect with your network, keep track of your schedule and engage on social media.

And finally – have fun! I’ve been to Salt Lake and it’s a gorgeous city with some must-try eating hotspots. We’ve heard about how much revenue events such as Super Bowls and presidential debates generate for cities, think about how excited Salt Lake is to welcome you! Share some Twitter love.

I look forward to communicating with you next week!

03
Aug
16

Disney-inspired conference experiences

862de4ac-6590-4b05-a26c-3e939f6efa8aHave you ever wondered what attracts nearly 17 million guests a year to “The Happiest Place on Earth”? Surprisingly, it’s not magic. As our members, exhibitors, sponsors and attendees struggle to allocate limited resources, including time and money, they’re making tough decisions about whether or not to participate in our events. Regardless of attendance, revenue and other key performance indicators, there’s always room for improvement.
During a recent ORGPRO breakout session for the Michigan Society of Association Executives, I helped association professionals and industry partners apply Disney’s secret sauce of innovation, quality, community, storytelling, optimism and decency to their own conference experiences to foster loyalty, to grow repeat attendance and to generate buzz.
According to Disney’s culture statement, following are the core values of Disney’s approach to guest experiences:
  • Innovation – We are committed to a tradition of innovation and technology.
  • Quality – We strive to set a high standard of excellence. We maintain high-quality standards across all product categories.
  • Community – We create positive and inclusive ideas about families. We provide entertainment experiences for all generations to share.
  • Storytelling – Timeless and engaging stories delight and inspire.
  • Optimism – At The Walt Disney Company, entertainment is about hope, aspiration and positive outcomes.
  • Decency – We honor and respect the trust people place in us. Our fun is about laughing at our experiences and ourselves.

Member-Centric_Data_modelIf we dive a bit more deeply into this aspirational culture statement it’s easy to see how the values that make The Walt Disney Company an extraordinary place to work are the same values that are capable of transforming association events into member-centric conference experiences.

Consider, for a moment, your organization’s events, particularly it’s major annual meeting. How do you and your team:

  • Infuse innovation and technology into the design, development and implementation phases?
  • Demonstrate a high standard of excellence?
  • Create positive and inclusive experiences for attendees of all generations?
  • Identify, capture and share member stories and testimonials?
  • Foster positive learning and networking outcomes?
  • Honor and respect your key stakeholders (e.g., board of directors, volunteers, exhibitors, sponsors and attendees)?

While I had a number of ideas for how associations might translate these core values into member-centric conference experiences, the session participants simply blew me away with the robust list they developed. In the meantime, what ideas might you add to this list? What have you learned from your most memorable customer service experience (good, bad or ugly)?

28
Jul
16

Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – August edition

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Stephanie Wohlfert. Courtesy of Michigan Meetings + Events.

Q & A with Stephanie Wohlfert, meetings coordinator, MSAE

Q: Learn: What’s one subject you’d like to learn more about?
A: Nutrition Science – Throughout the last several years I’ve become more conscious about health and wellness and what my family and I eat daily. I focus on eating non-processed foods without all the fillers and preservatives. I have a very good understanding of why this is important; however, I’d love to take it to another level and understand the science behind it, too, so I can educate others as well.

Q: Network: Social media or face-to-face? Which form of networking is better and why?
A: Although I’m a fan of social media for so many other reasons, when it comes to networking, I think I’ll forever be “old school” in thinking face-to-face is the best form of networking. I know we are a lot busier in our personal and professional lives than ever before, but I’ll never get tired of physically attending a networking event to meet people in person. I feel that you can connect with people so much more on a personal level this way.

Q: Transfer: Please share with us a resource you just can’t live without.
A: I don’t read as many books as I’d like but my go-to book to keep me on track is “Secrets of the Obvious” by Harry Cohen. One of my colleagues gave me this book several years ago when I was very green in the industry and feeling overwhelmed with balancing my personal and professional life. Sometimes we get so caught up with the hustle and bustle of everyday activities that we forget the basics and how just focusing on a few positive changes will restore that balance!

Q: Tell us about an experience in which you learned something new and then applied it to your personal or professional life.
A: Ah, yes! Last year I attended the Convention Industry Council’s CMP “Conclave” and I’ll never forget the opening keynote speaker, Andy Cohen. His presentation was titled, “The Assumpt,” and it was all about the daily assumptions we make and how sometimes we treat our assumptions as truths rather than reality. Every time I hear or think the word “assume,” I now instantly think of why I should be more aware, keep an open mind and ask more questions.

Q: Which adjectives best describe you?
A: Dependable. I think I’ve been carrying around this adjective to best describe me for quite some time but I pride myself in always being reliable to those around me. Although I feel like I can always do more for people, I love helping out and doing things for others. I want my friends, family, colleagues and those I meet along the way to know they can always depend on me.

26
Jul
16

Improving knowledge transfer in your organization in 3 stages

 

Karla

Karla Gutierrez, marketing manager and digital strategist, Aura Interactiva

The following guest blog post is adapted from a recent blog post by Karla Gutierrez on SHIFT’s e-Learning blog.

 

Learning transfer is challenging because it’s difficult to predict how each person will respond to a course.

The most powerful reason learning transfer is ineffective, as was revealed during the ATD International Conference & Exposition 2016, is that 90 percent of training is designed without a well-defined strategy that facilitates it.

As a training manager and an e-learning designer, you have to provide a comprehensive learning experience, in all stages of learning transfer: before, during and after training.

You can facilitate a glitch-free learning and transfer process by adopting these measures even before the training program starts.

Before the training

1) Carry out a thorough training needs analysis.

A comprehensive training needs analysis exercise with the trainees will help you assess what skills and knowledge they need to excel in their job responsibilities and the gaps in their existing knowledge and skill sets. The insights you gain from a training needs assessment will help you design e-learning courses with relevant content that helps learners perform well in their jobs.

2) Identify the purpose (the what’s in-it-for-me information) of training.

Identify the training goals and learning objectives before you start designing the course. This ensures all team members are on the same page, work towards a common goal and focus their efforts to achieve similar objectives.

3) Align learning outcomes with business goals and on-job tasks.

Establish a clear association between company business goals and the skills learners will develop by the time they complete the course.

4) Plan to provide just-in-time learning using the most appropriate delivery method.

To ensure your training has the maximum impact on learners, provide training just when they need it. For instance, sales reps need to access a course on the last update on a product when they are at the store in front of the client.

5) Meet the learners.

To motivate your audience of learners, managers must ensure they meet at least some of them before the training and tell them about the significance of the material. Managers, meanwhile, should realize the significance of the learning and understand how they can facilitate the learning process for their team members and create opportunities for them to apply the knowledge.

before-during-and-after-training2During the training

You have to ensure the e-learning course communicates meaning efficiently and creates a memorable learning experience.

1) State the “what’s-in-it-for-me” information at the beginning.

The astute learner wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” The onus is on the e-learning designer to provide a satisfactory and credible answer to this question.

2) Chunk content to prioritize and eliminate clutter.

Chunking and prioritizing content ensure your course is clutter free and relevant. Adult learners are short on time; they appreciate a course that cuts to the chase right away.

3) Draw upon the learner’s prior knowledge to create associations.

We learn best by associations. It’s easy to comprehend, remember and retain new concepts when we can connect the dots and discover underlying patterns. Try to help your learners draw upon their prior knowledge or experience to understand, discover similarities and make sense of a new concept.

4) Use instructional strategies that establish relevance.

The adult learner is motivated to apply his newly-acquired knowledge only if he or she is confident it will help him or her tackle real-life challenges.

5) Align content with real-life job roles and responsibilities.

Create scenarios or stories that demonstrate positive outcomes. Incorporate case studies and video testimonials to add legitimacy. Use these media to explain how the learner can improve his or her on-job performance, as the people in the case studies and videos have done, after taking the course.

6) Keep an eye on the learning objectives while you design the course.

Whether you’re writing a scenario or planning an activity, continue reviewing the learning objectives. This ensures your content is relevant and there is no information that does not directly relate to the overarching goals of the course.

7) Divide the program into modules.

There are several advantages of spacing out and delivering your course in modules, but most importantly it has to do with the transfer of learning. When learners return to work after completing each module, they get an opportunity to apply their newly-acquired knowledge.

8) Provide action plans to retain and improve motivation.

Help learners prepare action plans to guide them when they are back to work. These action plans lay out the guidelines that will assist learners to apply what they have learned during the training.

boosting-business-performance-with-a-knowledge-transfer-partnership-sme-event-98_3-Knowledge transferAfter the training

The learning process continues long after the training is over.

1) Supplement the training with “social learning.”

We all learn best when we have examples to follow, friends to share our successes with, buddies to learn from and mentors in our midst. In-person meetings, chat groups, forums and videos of trainees sharing their stories are effective ways to incorporate social learning in the learning process.

2) Provide refresher courses.

Trainees often report being unable to retain key learning points after the training is over or recall these concepts when needed. A refresher course can improve recall. The course should be simple and provide just a crisp and coherent summary of the key learning concepts.

3) Arrange post-training follow-up sessions.

Reflection is one of the most efficient ways to cement the knowledge, identify gaps in training and identify the barrier(s) to a strong transfer of learning. You can send follow-up emails to trainees after about a month to reinforce key learning points. You can arrange post-training follow-up sessions to provide supplementary lessons or use these opportunities to let trainees practice their skills or discuss their experiences as they try to apply their knowledge on the job.

4) Create opportunities for practice. 

Multiple research studies have emphasized the importance of repeated practice to cement one’s newly-acquired skills. Employees should be provided ample opportunities at the workplace to practice the skills they have learned from the training program.

 

21
Jul
16

How will new overtime rules affect your organization?

OT-Map-FINAL-medium-600x300In May, the United States Department of Labor released new overtime rules that will take effect on Dec. 1.

Since December will be here before we know it, nonprofits are already making adjustments, as the new rules will have significant implications for the nonprofit sector.

According to the National Council of Nonprofits, it all comes down to salary requirements.

With limited resources, many nonprofits can’t afford to pay their staff big bucks. Under the new regulations, most employees earning less than $47,500 will be entitled to overtime compensation. So think about your events and meetings. What will that mean?

That said, it’s a complex formula for understanding compliance, but the U.S. Department of Labor has published resources.

According to DOL, employers have a few options:

  • Pay time-and-a-half for overtime work.
  • Raise workers’ salaries above the new threshold.
  • Limit workers’ hours to 40 hours per week.
  • Combine options above.

The council offers some tips, as well.

“Employers have various options to comply with these change in overtime rules, ranging from increasing exempt employees’ salaries to the new level, converting them to hourly employees and paying overtime or making other changes to benefits or operations,” the National Council of Nonprofits said. “Nonprofits with budget years ending on June 30 will need to develop new budgets for the fiscal year beginning in six weeks that take these new changes into account. Nonprofits with budget years ending on Dec. 31 have more time to adjust and plan for 2017.”

In addition, the rules allow for the use of volunteers under certain circumstances, but DOL warns nonprofits shouldn’t use volunteers to skirt the regulations.

Working overtime

The department contends its new regulations will ensure companies – including nonprofits – adhere to the Fair Labor and Standards Act. It also says the new regulations will lead to a better work-life balance while increasing productivity and reducing turnover.

“Job titles never determine exempt status under the FLSA,” DOL said. “Additionally, receiving a particular salary, alone, does not indicate that an employee is exempt from overtime and minimum wage protections.”

Regardless of the exemptions the new rule provide, associations are concerned about the ramifications. According to ASAE, more than 250,000 associations submitted comments on the proposed rule to the department last year.

“Because the rule would dramatically expand the number of employees now eligible for overtime pay, associations and other employers could be forced to lay off staff or limit employees’ work outside of core business hours, stinting employees’ career growth and harming productivity,” wrote Chris Vest on June 1 in “Associations Now.”

Additionally, Alex Beall wrote about the new regulations, offering advice from Julia Judish, special counsel with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

“Once the employer has identified which of its currently exempt employees would convert to nonexempt, the employer should start now requiring those employees to do the equivalent of clocking in and clocking out and track their average hours,” Judish said.

As December approaches, we’ll track the new DOL overtime rules and report changes and their implications for nonprofits.

Until then, if you’ve got tips to share, please email Kristen Parker at Kristen@eventgarde.com. We’d love to share them!




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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