Archive for June, 2014

24
Jun
14

5 Cool Things Associations Are Doing at Meetings and Events

This month’s guest blog post is by Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor for Associations Now. Contact Whitehorne at swhitehorne@asaecenter.org.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor for Associations Now.

As the weekly blogger (and deputy editor) for ASAE’s AssociationsNow.com, I write about some of the innovative things that associations are doing for their meetings and conferences. While it can be stressful to come up with something new each week, it gives me a chance to spotlight association meetings, which sometimes are wrongly perceived as unable to keep up with the likes of bigger conferences such as SXSW or TED.

Here are five ideas executed by associations throughout the past year that I think are the best of the best.

Have Staff Wear the Latest Technology
In April, the Washington Restaurant Association outfitted its onsite staff with Google Glass to provide a live video feed of the event.

During the two-day event, WRA staff wore Google Glass while walking around the show, producing a video feed that streamed on its web site to give people an idea of the event’s layout and provide additional exposure for exhibitors via “on-camera” interviews.

“It allows us to go to a lot of the exhibitors and industry experts who are part of the trade show and interview them in a casual manner,” Lex Nepomuceno, WRA’s director of communications and technology, told Associations Now.

Keep Attendees’ Health in Mind
More associations are helping to keep attendees on track when it comes to their health and fitness while they’re onsite. For example, the annual conference and exhibition of the Health Information and Management Systems Society offered a three-day Wellness Challenge this year.

Here’s how it worked: Attendees had to sign up through the meeting web site and were required to have a fitness tracker to participate. They could either purchase a Misfit Shine activity tracker for $59 through HIMSS, which they picked up onsite, or use their own.

Each of the three days featured a different challenge. Participants used their trackers to calculate each day’s measurements and then posted their numbers online to qualify for daily prizes, which included two $300 gift cards and an iPad mini. To ramp up the competitive spirit, participants and other attendees could visit a booth in the exhibit hall to see who was in the lead each day.

Perfect the First-Time Attendee Experience
Conference newbies can be just as anxious to attend a meeting as they are excited, especially if they don’t know anyone, which is why the first-time attendee experience is so important.

The Society of American Archivists, with the help of its Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable, put together a first-timer’s guide for its 2013 joint meeting with the Council of State Archivists. It includes a list of what to pack and a guide on how to best network at the conference. In the latter section is a breakdown of networking opportunities made specifically for first-time attendees, including the Navigator and Lunch Buddy programs. SAA also has two other resources on its site for first-timers: One has interviews with three previous attendees highlighting their tips and tricks for making the most of the conference and the other focuses on how to best navigate the meeting.

The American Homebrewers Association also has a fun first-timer’s guide for the National Homebrewers Conference on its site. My favorite tip — written by “AHA Conference Veterans for Fun” — is this: “As delicious as it is, beer is not really food. Don’t get carried away with your conversation on hop glycosides and hot side aeration and forget to eat.”

conferenceDesign a New Learning Experience
Well-known keynoters, high attendee numbers and hundreds of education sessions are nice, but they don’t guarantee a successful meeting. What does? Designing a learning experience members can’t re-create or find elsewhere.

With member feedback in mind and a desire to create a more engaging learning experience, the National Association of Secondary School Principals made a fundamental shift in how knowledge was acquired and delivered at the NASSP Ignite 2013 Conference.

The backbone of the strategy was the Connected Learning Center, located in the middle of the exhibit hall. The center featured a technology showcase to demonstrate new tools and included a place for speakers to hold mini-sessions to dive deeper into concepts and topics they presented on during their larger, 75- to 90-minute learning sessions held earlier the same day.

To further encourage this dialogue, presenters also were able to hold “office hours” in the center. These open-door meetings gave speakers and attendees the opportunity to discuss the work they’re doing.

Let Members Do the Planning
In an effort to get members more involved in the meeting-planning process, the National Association of Plan Advisors — a sister organization of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries — let members select session topics for its NAPA 401(k) Summit, which took place in March in New Orleans.

The best part was that it was inexpensive and simple. ASPPA used the free, open-source platform All Our Ideas for the voting process. The tool was easy for members to navigate. They were given two session ideas, and they could either pick their favorite or add their own idea into the mix for others to vote on. The process was then repeated. The platform’s algorithm sorted and ranked the ideas in real time, allowing members and ASPPA staff to see what topics were in the lead.

What other cool and innovative things do you think are occurring in the meetings space, association-related or not? Share in the comments or shoot me an email at swhitehorne@asaecenter.org.

17
Jun
14

MOOCs: A myth for the masses? Not so much

MOOC infographic

An infographic by Online-PhD-Programs.org summarizing MOOCs.

Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs – seem to be all the rage. And why not, when learning is just a click away?

MOOCs are online classes that are available to anyone with a computer and/or Internet access. Some MOOCs are free, but others aren’t. It’s a bit confusing as MOOCs are still trying to find their place among social media, 24-7 access to news and a society that thrives on convenience.

It seems higher education has embraced MOOCs as a way to foster global education, but what about other industries?

According to Online-PhD-Programs.org, 4.7 million people participate in MOOCs through Coursera. But only 8 to 10 percent of those enrolled actually complete the class. So is it worth it?

It’s a constant source of debate, which may explain why associations have been reluctant to enter the MOOC market.

Tagoras recently released a whitepaper on fringe trends, and MOOCs were included in the report. “Fringe” refers to the fact that based on Tagoras’ research, only 10 percent of participants have adopted burgeoning trends.

“MOOCs aren’t just disrupting how training is delivered; they are changing how companies interact with their employees and others on a much grander scale,” said Bryant Nielsen, founder of corporate training firm Your Training Edge.

Throughout the last few weeks, Nielsen has written about 13 megatrends of MOOCs. Perhaps most relevant to associations is lifelong learning.

“One of the biggest impacts MOOCs have had is to make education available to people of all ages,” Nielsen said. “As a result, lifelong learning has become one of the biggest trends in recent years: In their spare time, people who once might have flipped on the television are now booting up their computers to learn and accessing learning resources on their mobile devices whenever they have a few minutes of downtime. Companies can capitalize on this lifelong learning trend both by offering engaging courses to the public and by recognizing their employees’ independent learning endeavors.”

But how does an association know if a MOOC is a right fit?

The key is to decide what it wants to accomplish, Tagoras says.

online-educationThe massive nature of MOOCs makes them incredible marketing tools. A MOOC can establish an association as an expert in a topic or field, while also turning curious learners into members. But a word of caution: As with anything new, there’s risk. Associations are often leery about giving away their content for free, but that’s the name of the game when it comes to MOOCs.

The key to creating successful MOOCs, according to Tagoras, is to make content general – to appeal to the masses. While it’s a good idea to showcase your best experts, a MOOC may not be the best option for a specific professional development topic.

In addition, MOOCs probably aren’t going to generate revenue, at least not at first. So it’s best to think of a MOOC as a long-term investment. Rather than making money, an association can build upon a brand while creating ambassadors, who will eventually help recruit members.

Finally, associations need to remember that completion of a MOOC isn’t a sign of its success, Tagoras says. Instead, associations should focus on the takeaways participants get from a MOOC and on the importance of educating the masses.

“While only 6.6 percent of respondents offer MOOCs and only 4.6 percent more plan to begin offering MOOCs in the next year, according to the survey behind our 2014 Association Learning + Technology report, we’re excited about the massive models enabled by MOOCs and expect more associations to embrace it in the coming years, as they realize the ready-built audience of their profession or industry could benefit from a MOOC offering,” Tagoras says.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to MOOCs. You’ll continue to hear about them as more people embrace online learning, and as such, I’ll be doing a couple follow-up posts.

So if your organization offers a MOOC, please contact me. Or if you’re an expert on the subject, please reach out. Have you ever participated in a MOOC? Tell us about it.

10
Jun
14

Post-Relay reflection: passion and public relations

The Event Garde-ians

The Event Garde-ians, from left to right: Jenny Hill, Ashley Jones, Cally Hill, Aaron Wolowiec, Kristen Parker and Sara Mller. All are employees of Event Garde, LLC.

It was 3 a.m. Sunday and I’d been up since 6 a.m. Saturday. By now, the midnight coffee was wearing off and I was punchy.

But the jokes were rolling as Aaron Wolowiec, president and founder of Event Garde, LLC, and I sat in the glare of stadium lights trying to stay awake. We’d been at East Lansing High School for the East Lansing Relay for Life since early Saturday morning. Our team, The Event Garde-ians, decided a year ago that we would do our part to help find a cure for cancer.

Wolowiec sat on the committee and chaired the luminaria event, while I served as a team captain.

So why did we do it?

Because a sleepless night is nothing compared to the battle of cancer. And because each of us on the team has been affected by cancer. I lost my dad and my father-in-law to lung cancer eight years ago. For our team, “Cancer Sucks” is more than a bumper sticker or a magnet – it’s reality.

Our team raised nearly $3,500 and placed fourth out of 20 teams. We walked hundreds of miles, sweated buckets, wore silly costumes and participated in three-legged races in the middle of the night – all in the name of cancer. During the luminaria ceremony, we cried as we remembered loved ones who lost the battle to cancer and celebrated the survivors among us.

Overall, the East Lansing Relay for Life raised more than $44,000 for the American Cancer Society. And while The Event Garde-ians were inspired by personal stories of loss and triumph, we also realized the importance of giving back.

As you may remember from previous blog posts I’ve written, giving back and community engagement are wonderful ways to say “thank you” to the community that supports your organization. And people notice: If a member is trying to decide which association to join, your organization’s commitment to social responsibility could make that decision a bit easier.

“The association community is founded upon the passion, integrity and commitment of members,” Wolowiec said. “As consultants, industry partners and association staff who understand the complexities of volunteer management, it’s incumbent upon us to use our considerable knowledge and expertise to help our local communities organize around and raise money for causes that are poised to imagine a better tomorrow – in this case, one that is cancer free.”

Relay for Life sign

Event Garde was a bronze-level fundraising team for the East Lansing Relay for Life event.

In addition, participating in such events is good – and easy – public relations. In our case, Event Garde was listed as a supporter and a bronze-level fundraising team on an American Cancer Society web site. Event Garde was included in promotional material and mentioned in word-of-mouth conversations. As a committee chair, Wolowiec networked with key community leaders and vendors to earn support.

That’s not all. Event Garde was tagged in social media posts and we engaged media. In fact, I did an interview with WLNS, one of Lansing’s main news outlets, talking about the importance of rallying together to some day find a cure for cancer.

So the next time an event such as Relay for Life comes to town, consider signing up. Your commitment doesn’t have to be expensive; you can easily start a social media campaign. If you choose a well-established organization like American Cancer Society, chances are, vendors will cut you a break – especially if you cross-promote their services.

Poll your members and staff to learn which causes they support and about which issues they’re passionate. If you can, donate to those organizations. Become a sponsor. Form a team and walk at midnight wearing your swag.

And get in front of the camera. Talk about your efforts to support your members’ causes. Don’t be afraid to get personal, because those are the stories your members – and potential members – will remember.

In closing, thank you to everyone who supported The Event Garde-ians’ crusade against cancer. Keep fighting, and we’ll do the same.

Luminarias spell hope

Luminarias spell the word “hope” on the East Lansing High School bleachers.

03
Jun
14

Engage volunteers, take a page from the magazine

“Busy.”

I suspect this is the four-letter word you last used in response to the question, “How are you?” And it’s probably not an exaggeration either. With impending deadlines at work, the various extracurricular activities of our children and our own attempts to maintain healthy lifestyles, there are countless commitments that draw down on our time.

And yet it’s incumbent upon each of us to acknowledge those who have helped us build extraordinary careers and give back to our respective professions in meaningful ways. Whether mentoring emerging professionals, serving on boards and committees or simply sharing with colleagues our best practices and lessons learned, every little bit helps.

Pictured with Bill Hamilton, president, Bill Hamilton Designs

Pictured with Bill Hamilton, president, Bill Hamilton Designs

Editorial Advisory Board

For the last year I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the editorial advisory board of Michigan Meetings + Events magazine. In some small way, my expertise and insights have helped shape a publication that serves as a resource to meeting and event planners and suppliers in our state.

And as a board member, it’s more than just a listing on the masthead of each issue. We attend board meetings to discuss details of the magazine—what we think works, what we think should be improved—and swap stories about the state of the industry.

We also vote for the magazine’s annual Hall of Fame inductees. Prior to that meeting, we nominate individuals in seven categories: Best Meeting Professional, Best Special Events Planner, Best Supplier, Up-and-Coming Meeting Professional, Up-and-Coming Special Events Planner, Up-and-Coming Supplier and Lifetime Achievement.

This year I was honored to nominate Katie Dudek, CMP as the up-and-coming meeting professional. By board vote, she was inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame on May 29 during the annual Best Of Awards party. Dudek is a meetings manager for the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants in Troy – and she’s an exemplary role model for the meetings industry.

photoContent & Articles

As content and articles are developed for the magazine, I’ve also provided input on story ideas and recommended sources for specific stories. Additionally, I’ve written a column called The Meetings Coach for the last several issues. Following is a snapshot of the topics I’ve tackled:

But don’t take my word for it. If you’re not yet receiving Michigan Meetings + Events magazine, order your free subscription today. Similar publications are offered in California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, as well as two regional publications (i.e., Mountain and Northwest).

Each issue includes the most up-to-date, need-to-know local intelligence for meeting and event professionals (and those interested in these topics). The Summer 2014 issue was just released here in Michigan. And exciting topics are on the horizon for this fall, including a piece from yours truly on exhibitor success guides.

Lessons Learned

The real takeaway here is that associations could (and should) take a page from the magazine when it comes to volunteer engagement. Following are my 10 lessons learned having been a part of this experience for the last year:

  1. Volunteers appreciate limited commitments given their busy schedules.
  2. And those with more time on their hands enjoy opportunities to scale up their involvement.
  3. Stronger products are produced with the help of volunteer insights.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of networking and the camaraderie that will grow among a group of volunteers.
  5. Be sure volunteer groups represent a good cross-section of your industry for optimal results.
  6. Busy work will not be well received; coordinate meaningful opportunities for volunteers to pay it forward.
  7. It’s best for volunteers to see and benefit from the fruits of their labor in a timely way.
  8. Recognition is always welcomed and appreciated.
  9. Loyal volunteers are often your organization’s best advocates.
  10. Volunteers like to talk; tight agendas and pre/post socials are your friend.

Tell us: How do you engage volunteers? Which of these lessons will you apply to your organization?

01
Jun
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – June edition

If you’re not yet signed up for our quick, fun, easy-to-read tips, news and association industry information, click here to join our mailing list.

 

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones, Event Garde intern

Q & A with Ashley Jones, Event Garde intern

Q: When you’re not working for Event Garde, what keeps you busy?
A: When I’m not working for Event Garde, I am either watching Netflix or spending time with my family in Lansing. Watching Netflix usually wins out.

Q: If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
A: I think if I were a superhero my power would be to be able to stop time. I think being able to stop time and take a quick nap and be able to wake up right where I left off would be the best power in the entire world.

Q: If you had to pick a movie that best captures your life thus far, which would it be, and why?
A: If I had to pick one movie it would probably be, “That Awkward Moment” with Zac Efron in it. My entire life always seems to be one big awkward moment with men and just interactions in general.

Q: What one thing could you absolutely not live without?
A: I think one thing I could absolutely not live without would be pizza and diet coke. I know that’s two things but they go together like peanut butter and jelly so you can’t just have one!




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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