Archive for October, 2012


Nine tips to promote win-win negotiating (no matter the contract)

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, I’ll have the distinct pleasure of co-facilitating the final MSAE Emerging Professionals brown bag lunch of 2012 with Tammy Dankenbring, sales manager for the Amway Hotel Collection. Discussion will focus on successful negotiation techniques. If your schedule will allow, and you’re not yet registered, please consider attending.

Following is the abridged version of our presentation (and I promise I’ve saved our best examples and talking points for the program – so I hope to see you there):

  1. Contracts differ. Familiarize yourself with the differences among the various contracts your organization routinely executes (e.g., technology, entertainment, speakers, décor and hotels). Some contracts may appear to be substantially the same; however, focus on the nuances of the outlier clauses and be sure to understand how they could affect your organization.
  2. Trade shoes. Consider the other organization’s perspective during negotiations. You’ll note my intentional use of the word “organization” here. Negotiating should always promote the best interests of organizations (rather than the self-interests of individuals). Much like your circumstances, the other organization is affected by goals, expectations and limitations.
  3. Consider value. A correlation exists between the value of your business and the number of concessions or price breaks your organization can expect to receive during contract negotiations. Evaluate the relative value of your business and negotiate each contract based upon what you can offer the other organization. Focus less on what they can offer you.
  4. Avoid “never.” Refrain from using (or even thinking) blanket statements like “We never pay for….” or “We’ll never agree to an attrition clause.” Quite simply, it breaks down the negotiation process. In fact, it results in something more akin to bullying than it is does negotiating. Instead, carefully consider your organization’s needs and wants, and communicate them accordingly.
  5. Develop relationships. The personal and organizational benefits that result when you develop a meaningful relationship with those involved in the negotiating process are invaluable. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to develop these relationships; they do not blossom overnight. Likewise, care should be taken to nurture these relationships, especially between negotiation periods.

In anticipation of this session, I also posted a question to ASAE’s online Collaborate community some time ago seeking various negotiating best practices. Joan Eisenstodt, chief strategist of Eisenstodt Associates LLC and one of the most brilliant minds in the meetings and hospitality industry, was kind enough to reply with the following tips:

  1. Ask questions and listen to answers.
  2. Go in without a preset agenda – that is, don’t assume “no” or “yes” until you ask and listen.
  3. Educate yourself about the person/entity with whom you are negotiating – know their needs.
  4. Look beyond price to conditions.

So, my question to you is this: What would you add to this list? In your experience, what have you found to be the single most important lesson you’ve learned about negotiating?


25 instructional strategies guaranteed to refresh your signature programs

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: People are busy these days. They’re also moving at a faster pace and have limited dollars to spend on professional development. Period. Combine this competition for time and resources with the endless access to information and content available online and you have a long list of continuing education providers competing for market share. (Not to mention the countless organizations now offering education opportunities at competitive rates—even free!)

That’s why we – the collective association community – need to up our game when it comes to the instructional strategies we employ at each of our signature education programs. The number one question I’m asked by association staff, subject matter experts and the media has to do with innovative, engaging and creative instructional strategies. So, here are 25 I’ve collected and curated (and, in some cases, facilitated) within the last year.

Note: I could never credit every individual or organization that’s had a hand in developing and shaping these instructional strategies. I will, however, say that this list has been influenced by the likes of ASAE, MSAE, NACE, Segar Consulting, TSAE and Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. Of course, some are also my own creations.

1. Behind the Scenes

Attendees have the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the host venue delivers exceptional customer service. Stops during the tour may include the kitchen, sales, housekeeping, A/V and more. At each stop, attendees meet and interact with key personnel, have the ability to ask questions and walk away with a new-found appreciation for hotel/conference center operations.

2. Conversations That Matter

Participate in engaging, facilitated conversations that explore industry questions/issues that truly matter. Conversations may be tailored to any member segments/topics.

3. Deep Dive Sessions

These are interactive education sessions on a given topic that span approximately three hours or longer. Content is more detailed than what can typically be covered in a traditional 75-minute breakout session and engaging learning activities tend to necessitate the additional time.

4. Executive Learning Experience for CEOs

This intensive workshop (half-day, full-day or longer) will cater to CEOs (and sometimes other top staff leaders) who are serious about a specific subject affecting their industry. Often, these individuals find that the safe space (apart from their staffs) allows them to effectively leverage the collective wisdom of their peers and work through possible solutions.

5. Fish Bowl

Attendees, armed with questions and concerns based on a predetermined issue, stand facing each other in two concentric circles. Those in the outer circle pose a question to their counterparts in the inner circle, who then provide feedback based on their personal experiences. After five minutes, the two circles shift to the right or left and the process repeats.

6. Flash Learning Room

When attendees don’t see the content they’re looking for on the program agenda, allow them to claim a specified meeting room onsite and conduct a session of their choosing. It will be their responsibility to promote the session through the various social media channels available during the conference.

7. Game Changer Sessions

Get a compelling look into the minds of today’s most influential leaders in business, innovation and finance. See how these “game changers” redefined their industry and, at times, the world through engaging lectures, stories and real-world examples.

8. General Sessions

Traditional plenary sessions focused on topics of interest to a majority of conference attendees. Often, these may be combined with brief interludes of association business, speeches, entertainment or multimedia presentations – or are facilitated in an engaging way (e.g., talk show-style).

9. Genius Bars

These are modeled after the Genius Bars found in Apple stores. They may be set up between education sessions and during longer break times. “Geniuses” have extensive knowledge about the industry, and they work with you face-to-face to provide technical support and troubleshoot any problems you may be experiencing.

10. Idea Swaps

One predetermined topic is assigned per table and each table is assigned a facilitator who poses questions, synthesizes discussions and encourages participation. Each idea swap lasts 20-30 minutes. Participants have the opportunity to visit three to four different idea swaps throughout the allotted time.

11. Ignite

Presenters are given just five minutes to speak about their ideas and personal or professional passions, accompanied by 20 slides. Each slide is displayed for just 15 seconds, and slides are automatically advanced. The presentations are meant to generate awareness and to stimulate thought and action on the subjects presented.

12. Jam Sessions

A jam session is typically scheduled at the end of each day and members are grouped by area of expertise. Initially, attendees sit in rounds with a discussion initiated by a facilitator who provides leading questions to help reinforce key concepts and recurring themes. Participants are then regrouped based on their biggest takeaway, allowing them to engage in highly targeted conversations specific to their priorities.

13. Keynote Alternative

The organization identifies four to five industry trends and selects volunteer/industry speakers to develop mini-presentations (one for each hot topic). Each individual is then allotted a maximum of 10 minutes to share the most relevant information about his/her trend. Time for questions and answers – or interaction among the experts – adds additional dynamics.

14. Learning Groups

A learning group functions in 15-20 minute sessions held several times throughout the day. Attendees are assigned to groups of three, tailored to their levels of experience and areas of expertise. For the duration of the conference, members disperse for sessions then reconvene at prearranged times, bringing with them questions, concerns and potential topics of interest for further discussion.

15. Learning Labs

Take part in these 75-minute learning labs for tried and true education led by your peers.  Sessions may focus on every functional area of your industry – and are the closest to a traditional breakout session. Often, these are well-received by the Boomer and Silent generations.

16. Lunch for 6

Each table for six (a distinction that’s important for meaningful dialogue) has on it both a tent card indicating a broad topic and several index cards listing various question prompts or challenges related to the table’s theme. Participants roam the room, identify a topic they are interested in, sit at that table and informally converse with others also interested in that topic over lunch.

17. Mobile Playground

This showcase of mobile-driven sessions immerses participants in activities and experiences designed to maximize their productivity. From an App Boutique featuring an App Mixologist, to hands-on iPad training, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

18. Open-space Technology

This approach is most distinctive for its initial lack of an agenda. As participants create the agenda, they post issues in bulletin board-style. Each individual “convener” of a breakout session then takes responsibility for naming the issue, posting it on the bulletin board, assigning it a space and time to meet, and then later showing up at that space and time, kicking off the conversation, and taking notes.

19. Rolestorming

Participants take on another identity during the brainstorming process, viewing an identified industry problem or challenge from a very different perspective. By using an assumed identity, unusual or radical ideas are not only welcomed and encouraged, but serve as the foundation for real-world solutions. 

20. Self-directed Learning

According to Malcolm Knowles, self-directed learning describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.

21. Smart Talks

High-energy, fast-paced events that combine 20-minute presentations with 40-minute interactive group discussions. 

22. Solution Room

This innovative learning concept provides conference participants with an opportunity to unpack and make meaning out of information presented during a general session. Small teams identify personal opportunities for change and brainstorm a variety of strategies for growth. Each attendee then commits to an actionable objective to be completed within a specified period of time.

23. Story Slam/Coaching Jam

Explore the art of good storytelling in a fun and exciting format. Each presenter has five minutes to tell a story based on a theme. Presentations are not predetermined. Participants are selected onsite and receive immediate feedback on how to make their story more engaging.

24. Wisdom While You Walk

Who would’ve thought you could actually learn something outside of a meeting room? In this exploratory learning format, attendees pair off with a colleague and go for a short walk while examining a predetermined topic. Findings are then shared and debriefed with the rest of the group.

25. World Café

The process begins with a brief introduction and leading question about an industry problem.  Attendees, seated at tables of four to encourage an informal café-style meeting, are asked to discuss the topic for 20 minutes. Once time is up, three participants from each table move to a different table and repeat the process. One participant at each table stays put to function as “table host” and reviews what concepts were discussed during the previous rounds.

So, my question to you is this: Which of these instructional strategies have you tried? Were they successful in meeting program objectives/learner outcomes? What could have been improved? Also, what innovative, engaging and creative instructional strategies not on this list would you add?


10 tactics to ensure your strategic plan addresses member learning

Whether your association has just recently penned a new strategic plan or you’re three or more years into a long-term strategic planning cycle (however impractical that may be given today’s environment), do me a favor and locate this document.  Whether in hard copy or (preferably) electronically, open it up and conduct a simple search of the following key words:

  • Education
  • Learning
  • Professional Development
  • Conference
  • Meeting

Record the number of times each of these key words appears throughout this document specifically related to member learning (as opposed to the professional development of staff members, board members and volunteer leaders or any other possible reference). Obviously, conducting the search electronically will save you some time and energy – so what are you waiting for? (And, by all means, feel free to conduct a more comprehensive review of your strategic plan should you feel compelled.)

[Insert Jeopardy “Think Music” here.]

Finished? Good. What did you discover? In my mind, there are really only two possible outcomes:

  • Member learning is well-represented in the strategic plan, both as a core service of the organization and as an important revenue stream. Adequate time, money and other resources (including a talented and knowledgeable complement of staff) have been allocated to this essential association function.
  • Member learning is not well-represented in the strategic plan. And this could be true for any number of reasons. For example, perhaps it’s just not a part of the association’s mission, vision and values statements and, therefore, has no real place in the strategic plan. Likewise, it’s entirely possible the organization has created a separate strategic education plan.

Or, perhaps, the less desirable alternative is true: Member learning is important to the organization (maybe it’s even specifically cited in the association’s mission statement), but it’s just missing from the strategic plan, inadvertently left out or somehow taken for granted.  Whatever the case, following are 10 tactics your organization can immediately implement to right this wrong:

  1. Convene a representative stakeholder group to set strategic education goals and measurable learning objectives for your organization.
  2. Identify current (and optimal) engagement levels for the organization’s signature programs.
  3. Launch a survey to determine satisfaction of current education program offerings, member needs, opportunities for improvement and communication/technology preferences.
  4. Conduct a full SWOT analysis to identify learning gaps and priorities, environmental cues and organizational capacity.
  5. Research the organizations in your industry offering competing education programs and identify opportunities that exist within the marketplace for the addition of unique program offerings.
  6. Identify core member competencies, including job tasks performed, knowledge needed and skills required. Develop an optimal annual meetings calendar aligned with these knowledge domains.
  7. Explore opportunities for the application of web-based, virtual and hybrid programs based on survey analysis and market research.
  8. Create a comprehensive plan to sunset legacy programs and develop new programs based on current learning gaps.
  9. Develop a plan to more deliberately and timely cross-promote education program offerings and more effectively communicate program value to members.
  10. Review adult learning principles with professional development staff, subject matter experts and industry speakers as a first step toward developing more innovative and engaging learning opportunities.

So, my question to you is this: Which organization are you? Is member learning well-represented in your strategic plan or not? If not, which of the aforementioned 10 tactics do you think will be most helpful and valuable in refocusing the association’s available resources on member learning?


Advice from the front line: Social technology, engagement and events

I was recently asked by Maddie Grant of SocialFish to answer a handful of questions about social learning. One, in particular, caught my attention. I’m including here both the question and my response. I’d love to see how many people are willing to add their advice (and life experiences) to this post.

What advice do you have for someone trying to incorporate social technology and engagement into:

– the formal online learning programs they manage?

During online learning programs, people try their best to multitask. This means that, realistically, they have only one eye or ear on the webinar. The balance of the time they’re likely checking and responding to email, surfing the Internet, looking over a calendar, drafting a memo or balancing a checkbook – or some combination thereof. The likelihood that you have 100 percent of their attention from start to finish is slim to none. Therefore, the best way to keep participants engaged – and therefore the best way to demonstrate return on learning – is to give them something meaningful and constructive to do throughout the program. This could take the form of a moderated chat (in the online learning platform), a question and answer forum on Facebook or Twitter, bonus content (behind-the-scenes pictures and interviews, as well as ebooks, worksheets, checklists, best practices and the like) pushed out via an online member community, live polling or an interactive technology solution for taking notes. Whatever the approach, ask the participant to do more than just listen.

– an online program to complement a live event? (Or a hybrid event.)

Whether the programs happen simultaneously or consecutively, the key is to bridge the two experiences. The onsite experience is generally most appealing because of the face-to-face engagement and inherent networking opportunities available. However, when those participants attending virtually feel as though they’re a part of the onsite experience, they will likely enjoy the format that much more and find it to be an efficient and effective use of both their time and financial resources. Hybrid events may be complemented by social technology in one or more of the following ways: live audio or video streaming, online presentations, live commentary or transcripts, online chat or discussion forums, live blogs, event photographs, event videos, and the integration of other social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

– a face-to-face session or program?

For a face-to-face program, it’s important to complement and enhance the learning with social technology while not allowing the technology to detract from the overall goals and objectives of the event in any way. Because all of the participants are meeting together in a single location, some of the natural hurdles experienced in an online learning program are eliminated. Therefore, don’t use every technology available to you and your team. Rather, select a handful of solutions that will improve the learning environment while still leveraging in-person engagement. (Imagine any teenager glued to the television screen playing video games – or any sports enthusiast intently watching Monday night football. Getting them to sustain a conversation or take a break for dinner is nearly impossible. This should not be your intended outcome during a face-to-face program.)

So, my question to you is this: Respond to one, two or all three. Whatever you do, give us your best advice from the front line on this intersection of social technology, engagement and events.

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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