Archive for December, 2011


What annoying things could you stop reading in 2012?

(And hopefully this blog didn’t immediately come to mind!)

Every Monday I receive an e-mail from LinkedIn titled, “The 5 things you need to know in the news this week.” And as I do every Monday, I spent a minute or two skimming the headlines and then reading the articles of interest.

One of the titles that I found particularly interesting this morning was, “Five Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012.” I’ve linked the article here just in case you missed it.

Although each recommendation was thoughtful, doable and completely applicable to my work, recommendation number three resonated most with me: stop reading annoying things. Following is author Dorie Clark’s rationale:

I have nearly a dozen newspaper and magazine subscriptions, the result of alluring specials ($10 for an entire year!) and the compulsion not to miss out on crucial information. But after detoxing for a month, I was able to reflect on which publications actually refreshed me — and which felt like a duty. The New Yorker, even though it’s not a business publication, broadens my perspective and is a genuine pleasure to read. The pretentious tech publication with crazy layouts and too-small print? Not so much. I’m weeding out and paring down to literary essentials.

I feel exactly the same way. There is an endless amount of information out there—and it only grows each day!—that we could potentially know or become privy to over the course of our lifetimes (only a fragment of which we’ll ever be able to read, digest and apply to our work as professionals given even the best of intentions). And for some time now I’ve felt this very real proclivity to get through every industry magazine, sign up for every potentially interesting email list and browse every remotely germane social media website that could impact my work as an association professional—all in the name of best practice and professional development. I’m sure you can relate.

Enough is enough. I, too, will be doing a bit of spring cleaning (I know, I know, it’s just a bit of wishful thinking) this holiday season and weeding out some unnecessary (annoying, burdensome) reading. Imagine what reclaiming all of that extra time will do for other areas of your work that could desperately use your attention.

So, my question to you is this: Given this easily implementable and potentially life-changing recommendation to streamline your reading list, what annoying things could you stop reading in 2012? Or, more importantly, what are the must-read articles, blogs, magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. that you absolutely could not give up? (My hope here is that you’ll not only share your favorite publications for others to consider adding to their must-read list in 2012, but that you’ll feel liberated to trim back your reading list—even if only by a subscription or two—in the New Year.)

I don’t know about you, but this seems like one New Year’s resolution that could have a huge impact on my workday (not to mention my sanity).


Meetings industry forecasting for 2012

As 2011 draws to a close, you can count on three things:

  1. Everyone and their brother will write a year-in-review article or blog post. (Case in point, see my Dec. 6 post titled, “Happy is as happy does this New Year.” I tried to be ahead of the curve.)
  2. Everyone and their brother will write a forecasting article or blog post. (Are you seeing a trend?)
  3. A jolly old man with a fluffy white beard and eight determined reindeer will circle the globe on Christmas Eve delivering presents to good little girls and boys. (Hopefully he’ll make a stop at my home, too.)

Since I’ve taken the high road and have already written my year-in-review post, and seeing as Santa may have difficulty finding me this year (we’ve been in our new home since the middle of October, but you know how much trouble it is getting the postal service to forward your mail these days), I’d like to focus for a moment on the meetings industry and what lies ahead in 2012.

If I was clever (or overly ambitious), I’m sure I could come up with a top 10 list of New Year’s resolutions for improving your meetings strategy in 2012. Instead, I’m taking the more practical route (and one that I believe to be just as effective). Following are my two (count them, two) recommendations for 2012 as it relates to your annual meetings calendar:

  1. Meeting planners need to book earlier to get rooms and function space.
  2. Professional development staff must plan more dynamic member experiences.

Easy enough, right? Maybe not. Allow me to explain.

First, if you know me or have worked with me in the past (particularly hoteliers and suppliers), you know that I plan ahead (seriously far ahead). So I’m always a proponent for booking rooms and function space in advance (it’s how you get the best rates and secure premium function space). However, supply and demand will not favor associations in 2012. With few new hotel rooms entering the market and the meetings industry steadily rebounding, planning ahead is an absolute imperative.

This mandate means surveying members, interpreting feedback, identifying both the short-term and long-term trends of your industry, determining future educational needs and crafting, in advance, a year-long educational calendar that both meets these needs and makes allowances for the addition of urgent and emergent learning opportunities along the way.

This calendar then provides the marching orders necessary to book hotel rooms and function space at the best possible rates a year or more in advance (of course, some crafty negotiations and innovative contract language don’t hurt either). Once you’ve mastered this practice, the same process can be applied to your signature events several years in advance.

Second, the traditional learning experience—one-dimensional keynote sessions and lecture-style breakouts—isn’t going to cut it moving forward. It may be the Band-Aid solution for the next year or two, but sooner or later your members are going to demand compelling experiences that inspire learning, engagement and community. And they’ll want this education delivered in a unique, engaging and unconventional way that speaks to their needs as an adult learner.

In my experience, these transformations don’t happen overnight. They require professional development staff to seek buy-in from key leaders and constituents within their organization. They require considerable training and coaching of program facilitators and content leaders. And they require significantly more planning, organization, lead time and logistics management than even the largest conference utilizing a more traditional learning format.

Although it’s a lot more work, the bottom line is this: meetings comprise a significant portion of the annual budget for most associations and without innovative events that peak member interest, associations are susceptible to retention issues and future budgetary constraints. Additionally, there’s a broader concern about educating members in a meaningful way so that their lives (and, consequently, our organizations and our industries) remain vibrant forces in today’s marketplace.

So, my question to you is this: Do you agree with my forecast for 2012? What would you change (or add)? What are you doing in 2012 to ensure your organization is delivering more dynamic member experiences (especially as it relates to learning)?


Happy is as happy does this New Year

There’s absolutely no denying it. The holidays are upon us. The Christmas music has slowly crept its way into rotation on my favorite radio station. The traffic in and around major shopping areas near my home has picked up. And some of my favorite holiday commercials have returned to primetime (the Folgers commercial where the brother comes home from West Africa and the M&Ms commercial where Santa exclaims, “They do exist!”).

The countdown to Santa’s arrival is inevitable. And for many, the holidays represent a time for rest and renewal, family and friends, indulgence and unstructured waistbands. It’s also the time that many of us reflect on the ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and setbacks of the current year, while at the same time look ahead with hope and excitement to the possibilities for the New Year.

This year an important chapter of my life closed, giving way to one filled with energy, passion and enthusiasm. An entrepreneurial spirit that once bubbled just beneath the surface has now been harnessed and channeled into what I can only hope is the next important chapter of my life. As I prepare to launch my new consultation and event management firm, I’m reminded of the phrase we use each and every season to ring in the New Year: “Happy New Year!” (Cue the horns and confetti.)

Here, happy is the operative word. In my opinion, each of us must find some semblance of happiness in the work that we do to remain connected, productive and innovative. The same can be said for our members, volunteers and leaders. For me, happiness is demonstrated by an individual’s actions (rather than their words). This can sometimes make identifying a disconnect with true happiness difficult to diagnose, but an important exercise nonetheless.

By no means am I advocating that everyone up and quit their jobs (or volunteer commitments). Quite the contrary; I’m recommending a New Year “check-in.” I think many of us do this each year in the form of a resolution. Something more or less we know we should do for our own benefit (lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more), but don’t necessarily see it through for one reason or another (it doesn’t make us happy—at least in the short-run).

This holiday season I’m not asking you to give something up or to pledge to do something that is sure to make you miserable (though for purposes of full disclosure, I’m resolving to lose 30 pounds). In fact, I’m asking you to do the complete opposite: Be good to yourself and do something this coming year that makes you happy. In my opinion, it’s more or less that simple.

Once you’ve done that (once you’ve identified a particular activity that makes you happy and you start doing more of it), creating opportunities for your family, friends, members, volunteers and leaders that make them happy will become that much easier (the phrase “pay it forward,” and all that implies, immediately comes to mind).

So, my question to you is this: What will you do for you in 2012? How can you support the happiness of those around you, both personally and professionally? What, specifically, can you do for those in your office that—through their actions—appear unhappy with their work?

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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