Archive for November, 2014

30
Nov
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – December edition

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Kim Harwood, president, Results and Hand Software, LLC

Q & A with Kim Harwood, President, Results at Hand Software, LLC

Q: If you were a Christmas ornament, what would you look like, and why?
A: Well, I just returned from Florida and got a bit too much sun, so I would be red with a cheery warm glow!

Q: Think “Survivor” or another reality survival show. What would you choose for your one survival item, and why?
A: Assuming there is a network, my iPhone with a really powerful external battery pack. Does anyone go anywhere without their phone?

Q: If you could choose another profession/career, what would it be, and why?
A: Isn’t U-M looking for a coach? Fortunately, I really enjoy what I am doing now.

Q: What’s your superhero name? (And why do you like it?)
A: MultiTaskor – I would love to complete all my to-dos in minutes instead of days, weeks or months.

Q: How do you find your holiday spirit?
A: The movie, “A Christmas Story.” It’s a hilarious, holiday classic, and I always watch it while wrapping presents.

25
Nov
14

More than turkey and stuffing

thank you noteAnd so it begins.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and soon we’ll be spending the day with family and friends, gorging on our favorite foods, watching football and talking about our many blessings.

Yep. Thursday kicks off the holiday season.

So now what? Try starting with “thank you.”

“This is a great opportunity for organizations of all sizes to show their gratitude for customers,” said John Foley, CEO of interlinkONE and Grow Socially. “With so many businesses taking advantage of the holidays, it can be difficult to create a message that stands out. While many organizations offer sales and discounts during the holiday season, try using a slightly different approach to show appreciation.”

Foley produced a short video offering tips for effective holiday marketing. He suggests rather than promoting your business, promote your giveback efforts. Or, better yet, give some props to one of your clients or members. And social media is a perfect platform.

Foley also suggests sending Thanksgiving cards – not just Christmas cards – to your customers.

If you’re looking for more ideas, Help Scout provides an awesome list of 25 original ways to say thanks. Some ideas: handwritten thank you notes; customer appreciation events at a local coffee shop; surprise office lunches for members; social media love on Twitter and Facebook.

But it doesn’t end there.

volunteer2After Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. This year, #GivingTuesday is Dec. 2. Just two years after launching, more than 10,000 organizations around the globe join forces to do good.

Efforts can be small or large. Coordinate a food drive. Make a financial contribution to a cause you support – and then ask a board member to match it. Host a day of service in your community.

And use social media. Use #GivingTuesday on Twitter to raise awareness. Retweet often. Ask your members to share their giveback efforts.

Whatever your organization does, make sure you communicate your efforts. Take photos and include them in your digital publications and post them on Facebook. Include short write-ups on your website. And most importantly, include information in your member communications.

Big or small, your efforts to say “thank you” and to give back reinforce that your organization cares about more than the bottom line. Your members will jump at the chance to belong to something inspirational, something larger than they can accomplish on their own.

“Letting your customers know you appreciate their business is the right thing to do, besides being good business sense,” wrote Ostari, an IT firm. “Telling your vendors you value them by saying ‘thank you’ is not just common politeness; it gives them a sense of worth to be appreciated, and it makes them try harder to give satisfaction. Show everyone you do business with they matter to you, and you reinforce a good relationship. Common courtesy is not common today, but it’s very much appreciated when it’s shown.”

And so, on behalf of Event Garde, thank you for your continued support. This year, Event Garde has reached some incredible milestones. Without you, we wouldn’t be here.

From the Event Garde team, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

11
Nov
14

On screen or in a chair?

webeventMost of us would agree there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. The email inbox is always full. Meetings seem to pop up on the calendar. And deadlines continue to loom.

Then, if you’re a working professional with kids, you have to balance sports, clubs, carpooling and snack schedules.

It’s exhausting.

No wonder so many of us are spending less time away from our offices and our families to attend professional development events or other workplace functions.

It seems associations got the memo as the industry experiences a slow uptick in virtual events.

Last week, consulting firm Tagoras released Association Virtual Events 2014, a survey of associations’ use of virtual conferences, trade shows and other events. Conducted in August, 33 percent of the 112 respondents indicated they have offered a virtual event. And about 21 percent indicated they plan to offer such an event in the next 12 months.

Tagoras found there are three standard technologies for virtual events: webinar or webcast tools for presentations; communication tools to allow for real-time conversations among participants; and document and resource sharing of event materials.

So why the boom? More than 75 percent of respondents said they offer virtual events for members who can’t attend an association’s place-based events. Tied for second place were “to be seen as offering cutting-edge technology for members” and “to support an overall strategy to deliver more services online.” The third most popular reason for offering virtual events? To reduce costs for attendees.

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, co-founders of Tagoras

“These motivations clearly reflect necessity — organizations see a need to provide more options as travel budgets are trimmed and time becomes an increasingly precious commodity for members — but they also reflect a willingness to experiment,” study authors Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele wrote. “Many association professionals are embracing virtual events even before their members ask for them, and they’re doing so as part of an overall strategy built on online service.”

Obviously, virtual events aren’t for all associations, and several have yet to embrace the growing technological trend. Cost and complexity of technology were the top reasons for not going virtual, while concerns about cost ranked No. 3.

At the same time, most of the respondents indicated a virtual event has to be self-sustaining to be worth the investment, while 50 percent reported a virtual event should drive revenue. And most associations reported they charge both members and nonmembers to participate in a virtual event.

“Over time, we think associations will grow more adept at estimating realistic costs and determining a plan for covering those costs, whether through registration fees, sponsorships or both,” Cobb and Steele said. “That said, there’s skepticism on the sponsorship front.”

And then there’s fear of the unknown. Will virtual events cause a decline in attendance at an association’s traditional event? Tagoras doesn’t think so.

Is it possible to learn as much remotely as it is sitting in a room with colleagues, listening first hand to an expert? Data seem to swing both ways, but nevertheless, convenience sometimes wins.

(An editorial sidebar: Multitasking and distraction are justifiable concerns. But attendees will likely check email, text and tweet regardless of where they are. Just my two cents.)

LearnwithMouseTake a look at the stats Tagoras compiled about its survey. It seems virtual equals value.

  • While 58 percent of those who haven’t undertaken a virtual event cite technology concerns as a perceived barrier, 90 percent of respondents who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the ease of use of the technology.
  • Some 58 percent of those who haven’t held a virtual event cite concerns about costs, but 74 percent of those who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the cost of the technology. And 60 percent characterize themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with the revenue generated by the virtual event.
  • Some 46 percent of those who haven’t held a virtual event cite concerns about attendance, but 76 percent of those who have held a virtual event describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with attendance.

“We are still in the early days of virtual events as a trend, but the use of this format across a diverse range of organizations — and its continued use by most who have tried it — suggests that virtual events will become a mainstay of association education and events going forward,” Cobb and Steele said.

So what do you think? Does your association offer a virtual event? Tell us about it.

04
Nov
14

Call for Presentations: Dead or Alive?

call-for-presentations-openA colleague recently posted this question to a professional development discussion board I enjoy reading:

In the past few years, we have been receiving fewer responses to our call for papers. Has anyone had any success with any incentives to increase the number of submissions received?

Following are two lightly edited responses I posted in follow-up:

Response 1

You’re experiencing a trend, I believe, that most other associations are experiencing, as well. That is, fewer responses to your call for papers and even fewer, likely, quality responses. And by “quality” I mean different, leading-edge, innovative and engaging presentations.

“The new normal” is shifting to a process whereby a cross section of the association’s membership comes together as a conference task force or education committee and:

  1. Brainstorms what topics the members should be hearing at XYZ meeting (based upon the anticipated audience and conference goals/objectives).
  1. Identifies the most qualified and diverse individuals to present those sessions.
  1. Works with those individuals to co-create an experience with both quality content and quality instructional design (e.g., visuals, handouts, activities).

I hope this helps spark some ideas of how you might tweak the process within your own organization to ensure the “right” content at your next event.

Response 2

I’ve also used a more crowdsourced approach. It looked something like this:

  1. Send out mass survey to anyone and everyone our association had a relationship with. The survey generally maxed out at five questions. We posed questions focused less on what people have seen or heard before and instead asked questions that attempted to identify needs (vs. wants). The most popular questions were always: “What keeps you up at night?” or some similar iteration asking people what workplace challenges they’re currently facing. Questions seeking recommendations (e.g., speakers and topics) were phrased to encourage new, leading-edge, innovative, different speakers and topics that maybe we hadn’t featured before.
  1. I would boil down all of that data into an executive summary matching like recommendations, topics, speakers, etc.
  1. We would pull together a diverse cross section of key stakeholders asking them to help us interpret and prioritize the responses (e.g., What does this mean? Is this really a big need? Does this warrant an hour-long session at our annual conference or a full-day retreat?).
  1. With that information in hand and summarized, we engaged our education committee to “address” these needs in terms of placement throughout the annual education calendar. With their help, we would then secure speakers and share with them the actual needs/learning objectives identified throughout this process.

crowdsourceUtilizing this approach, however, I have a few cautionary tales:

  1. Attendees often can’t distinguish what they want vs. what they need. It’s our responsibility as educators to find and provide the balance.
  1. Attendees, when asked to recommend topics and speakers, are often recommending what they’ve seen/heard before. In my experience, education committee members may be participating in and attending multiple conferences a year – in which case we may be getting referrals that we’ve not seen/heard before. Additionally, if these are truly education or professional development folks, they likely know a quality speaker/presentation when they see one – which is good for us. On the flip side, attendees with little knowledge in this area may not be suggesting the right balance between quality content, quality speaker and quality presentation style. Likewise, their total experience with speakers/presentations may be limited (meaning the recommendations are simply a recycling of our own past conferences or those of our competitors).
  1. Finally, I always caution voting on topics or content leaders when it comes to education. It often becomes a popularity contest vs. a well-constructed and well-balanced education event with the right and diverse mix of speakers and content.

Anyway, thanks for sharing. Best of luck as you dig into this crowdsourcing process. You’ll have to let us know how it turns out.

Just the Facts

According to a study conducted by Event Garde in collaboration with the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) in 2012, when asked how many months before their 2011 major meeting associations closed their call for presentations, a majority of respondents (54%) indicated they did not issue one for this meeting. An additional 17% reported Four to five months; 11% reported Eight to nine months.

So what process are you adopting in 2015: a call for presentations, curation, crowdsourcing or some combination of the three? If you’re approaching content development in a new or unique way, we’d love to interview you for a future blog post or newsletter feature.

02
Nov
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – November edition

Q & A with Kelly Romeo, Vice President, American Land Title Association

American Land Title - Kelly Romeo

Kelly Romeo, Vice President, American Land Title Association

Q: When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing the most?
A: Playing in the kitchen, entertaining and spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy quiet time with a good book and usually have three books going at once (a fiction novel, a non-fiction biography or history and a cookbook). Dig that Kindle.

Q: What’s your favorite type of bird, and why?
A: A bluebird. We heard about the bluebird of happiness a lot when I was a child, and I like the concept. I try to bring happiness and fun with me wherever I go, with the possible exception of rush-hour traffic. Even the bluebird’s powers are limited.

Q: If you were a crayon, what color would you be, and why?
A: It’s impossible to choose! I do love a fresh box of 64 . . . all those beautiful colors and choices!  And don’t forget the built-in sharpener.

Q: If you were a candy bar, which candy bar would you be, and why?
A: Snickers. All those good things in a single package. Plus, I love things that make me snicker.

Q: You were just given a yacht. What would you name it?
A: In The Moment




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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