Archive for May, 2016

31
May
16

Community management is about strategy

pr-online-communities-20368498Although still relatively new, online communities are quickly becoming popular platforms for engagement, discussion and membership.

But there’s still some confusion about best practices and culture, according to a new report by The Community Roundtable and Higher Logic.

“In the current environment, it’s easy to question or second guess ourselves, but one thing I feel strongly about is this: A community approach can help navigate these issues in a way that brings along customers, prospects and employees,” said Rachel Happe, principal and co-founder, The Community Roundtable. “It is the best way, and maybe the only way, to keep our organizations in sync with themselves and with their markets.”

Happe said communities are the most effective way to deliver learning and change – much better than social media platforms, which are inundated with advertisements.

The Higher Logic report contains data from 339 community programs from a range of industries. The first takeaway: strategy. Strategy is based upon a shared understanding of value. In other words, communities must define value to their organization and to their community to foster engagement. In addition, the report found those who could measure that value to determine ROI performed best.

Next: operations. Giving members a voice is key to community success. Communities that provide a formal feedback system, multi-tiered advocacy program and member-led community programs far outperformed their peers.

And then, tactics: Most communities measure basic activity and membership, but going beyond that, including regularly tracking activity, behavior change and outcomes, reaps big rewards.

Happe

Rachel Happe, principal and co-founder, The Community Roundtable

Some recommendations from Higher Logic:

STRATEGY: Create strong, defined value statements for your organization and members, highlighting the shared value of the community. Tip: Boil it down: What’s the value that the organization and members get from being a part of the community – and where do those value statements intersect?

OPERATIONS: Engage and empower members, through feedback programs, member- and internal expert-led programs and by prioritizing getting organizational buy-in and understanding of community. Giving the community a say in its operation can help increase engagement and community contributions. Tip: Tap into the expertise in your membership – communities that include member-led programming demonstrate higher engagement and maturity than their peers.

TACTICS: Focus metrics and measurement on the behaviors you want to see, not just the ones you can easily measure. Everyone measures something, but the best-in-class communities are digging into the metrics that demonstrate the impact of the community. Tip: Use frameworks to better connect behavior changes to metrics so that you can more readily explain the value of the community to members and the organization.

“As community professionals, we need to keep our focus on the fundamentals and continue to reinforce value and success,” Happe said. “Don’t lose sight of the basics; continue the dialog with those that can benefit from your community; and develop an ROI model to define the specific business value that is generated from the community.”

30
May
16

Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – June edition

Killips.Shana-1

Shana Killips, sales manager, The James B. Henry Center for Executive Development

Q & A with Shana Killips, sales manager, The James B. Henry Center for Executive Development, Michigan State University

Q: Learn: What’s your favorite part about learning something new?
A: The people and our relationships are what I enjoy the most about my job. Learning something new allows me to be creative in finding solutions for my clients and it helps me to see new perspectives and better relate to my clients and my world. It enriches my relationships.

Q: Network: What’s your No. 1 networking trick?
A: I ask a lot of questions in an effort to learn about the person with whom I’m networking. I like to learn about their interests, their challenges and their passion projects and then relate them to my experience by asking questions and sharing stories.

Q: Transfer: How do you think mentorship aids in knowledge transfer?
A: I have had formal and informal mentors who have helped me at each stage of my career. The experience, stories and advice they share are a transfer of knowledge. The goal is to learn from each other so that we don’t have to learn every lesson ourselves. Imagine how long it would take to collect enough experiences to learn every lesson independently!

Q: What’s your favorite summer vacation spot?
A: Anywhere I can glide across a lake on my stand-up paddle board.

Q: Chocolate, strawberry or vanilla ice cream, and why?
A: Yes! Why limit yourself?

24
May
16

No more masses for association marketers

email-marketing-for-your-home-businessAs some of you may know, Event Garde sends a monthly e-newsletter. So every month, I jump into Constant Contact to look at stats.

Admittedly, I’m a word nerd, but I find the stats and data fascinating. I get excited when the click and open rates increase. And I use those – based on the popularity of certain topics – to decide what to write the next month.

Email marketers: Does this sound familiar?

According to most reports, email is the No. 1 tool for marketing among associations. But do email campaigns work?

A new report by Informz may help marketers decide.

The 2016 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report analyzes nearly 2 billion emails sent by associations in 2015. According to the report, email volume rose nearly 12 percent from 2014.

We’ll delve into the findings shortly, but first, Informz points out marketing automation technology has transformed the way associations communicate. For example, it allows senders to more easily segment audiences, allowing for topical, personalized responses.

“Associations are making a purposeful shift to integrate and maximize their digital marketing reach, utilizing all their data assets,” Informz says. “Websites, email marketing programs, account management databases and online communities are no longer perceived as separate functional entities. Taking a holistic approach means moving away from a single communication strategy to a tailored, one-to-one communication approach.”

click-460In addition, the report revealed email relevancy is top of mind for subscribers. As such, marketers are moving away from mass emails, instead sending customized communications to members – which translates into more meaningful member experiences.

And now the findings from the Informz report:

  • The average email metrics for associations include a 98 percent delivery rate, 36 percent open rate and 16 percent click rate.
  • More than 70 percent of email subscribers were sent one to five emails per month.
  • Emails containing eight or more links represent 77 percent of the email sent volume.
  • Audiences between 5,000 and 50,000 accounted for 63 percent of all emails sent; however, the smaller the audience, the higher the open and click rates were.
  • For the second consecutive year, emails sent during midday hours accounted for the largest percentage of emails sent, as well as the highest click rates.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday had the highest email volume with an average open rate of 35 percent.
  • Friday had the highest weekday open rate at 37 percent.
  • Subject lines with fewer than 40 characters had open rates that exceeded the 2015 benchmark of 36 percent.
  • More than 60 percent of opened email had engagement for more than 10 seconds, which is an increase from last year’s metric of 62 percent.
  • Mobile readers engage with emails longer than desktop readers, with 67 percent of mobile readers spending longer than 10 seconds.

So…what are your thoughts? How does your association use email?

Remember that newsletter I referenced? We’re always looking to feature examples of success so if you’ve developed an email campaign that works, please send information to Kristen Parker at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

17
May
16

Creating Conscious Meetings

Holly

Holly Duckworth

This month’s guest blog post is by Holly Duckworth, a keynote speaker and consultant. She’s the author of the award-winning book, “Ctrl+Alt+Believe: Reboot Your Association for Success.” Follow her on Twitter: @hduckworth.

As you look around it doesn’t take long to recognize the world of business is evolving. What used to be “woo woo” spiritual practices like meditation, essential oil and choosing holistic foods, is becoming more main stream.

As such, “same old” meetings will no longer work. Now, participants demand a deeper connection to self and to the experts in their field. And CEOs must create companies that reflect what they believe in order to keep the highest levels of talent.

At the same time, hotels and venue partners are struggling to create open spaces that support connection in this new way.

I have been active in the meetings industry since 1999 so I’ve had a front row seat to watch this happen. The most successful meetings now reflect the societal evolvement toward mindful business, and that’s where I step in. I use spiritual tools (meditation, visioning, affirmations, intentions, essential oils) to shift the consciousness in meetings/business from fear to faith.

Time for a New “Woo & Wow” Conversation

By spirituality, I don’t mean religion. Instead, I approach spirituality as a broad concept with room for many perspectives — a sense of connection to the wholeness of life. Meetings are a universal human experience —something that touches us all. How can we get conscious about co-creating more mindful, meaningful and powerful soul-connecting meetings? First we must give permission to connect to our own soul.

Try this “woo woo” on for size:

Accept the authenticity of your feelings in the moment. Feel your feelings fully and allow yourself to recognize this is how you feel in this moment, without self-judgment. Ask for help. Don’t assume people around you are too busy or unwilling to help. A two-minute closed-eye meditation at your desk can help you get more clear about who you are, what you need and what your meeting attendees desire.

Breathe in and out. Focus on feeling the air come in your nose and out your mouth. Repeat this several times. This can center your energy on what is truly important. Have you tried essential oils? Simply putting a little lemon essential oil on your wrists can elevate your mood; a little lavender can calm you.

Choose compassion toward yourself. When you take a moment to realize just how wonderful, capable and amazing you really are, you inspire others to show compassion toward themselves and it becomes reciprocal. Use an affirmation to focus in a positive direction. My favorite saying is, “Success is all I see; success is all I feel; success is all I know in my business and life.”

I believe it’s time to have a new conversation in the meetings business. Meetings are a key contributor to conversations and social change and we are living in an era when social change is rampant. The illusion of a division between church and state is that — an illusion. Equal rights, marriage equality, globalism and technology are all working to evolve the consciousness of the planet. Younger employees require bringing their heart and spirit to the work they do — and the meetings they attend.

My work as a CMP, meeting professional, CAE, association executive and licensed religious science practitioner trained in using spiritual tools and traditions positions me to be a clearinghouse for this new conversation.

10
May
16

Building community with a click

communityOne of the best benefits of attending professional events is networking – whether face to face or via social media.

And it often starts before an event. Personally, before I attend a conference, I search Twitter for the event’s hashtag to engage in conversation and “meet” colleagues.

That said, searching Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can be time consuming and overwhelming.

But event apps can help, according to a new e-book by DoubleDutch.

“It’s time to make use of innovative technology to enhance face-to-face connections, redefine engagement, keep the conversation alive, inform better content, build more robust social media communities and ultimately demonstrate the ROI of event marketing,” DoubleDutch says. “An event app provides community managers countless opportunities to build an audience before the event, engage during and keep engagement thriving long after the event has come to an end.”

Nearly all event marketers – 88 percent – use social media to create event hype. This means more than just promoting products and services; it means fostering conversation and building a community.

Event apps allow attendees to check in to events and post status updates. In other words, an event app mirrors an event-specific social networking platform. At the same time, apps allow event planners to gather and analyze data. In addition, by engaging in conversation, speakers can tailor presentations to address specific questions and concerns – thereby boosting ROI for event participants.

ts_140501_smartphone_apps_800x600

DoubleDutch has a few suggestions:

  • A welcome video from a CEO/chairperson
  • Interactive case studies in the form of Q & As
  • Access to presentations and other content
  • Live polls and audience surveys
  • Exclusive deals and promotions
  • Exhibitor giveaways

During a program, an event planner should:

  • Assign an app champion – Appoint a staff person to visit sessions and walk the exhibition floor to identify hot spots and key takeaways to share with attendees.
  • Stay in control – Sometimes things happen (room changes, session cancellations) and an app allows event planners to communicate quickly with attendees. At the same time, by following in-app conversations, event planners can nip a potential issue in the bud.
  • Share in real time – Build a crowd-sourced multi-media library in which participants can post resources and photos – both during and after the event.
  • Elevate key influencers – Find active app users and promote their posts. Call them out and show your appreciation. Encourage app users to sync apps with their social media profiles to maximize engagement.

In short, event apps allow attendees to learn from others; network before, during and after an event; and transfer their knowledge to their teams long after an event ends.

“Event marketing is crucial for forming connections with customers and sponsors, growing your digital community and building brand sentiment,” DoubleDutch says. “It is an opportunity to amplify engaged communities around your brand, product or service. Social media grows and engages those connections, but even the most adept community manager can’t attain the best event results through social media alone.”

03
May
16

7 secrets of thinking like an entrepreneur

2016-05-03_0835On Thursday, April 28, I had the opportunity to present a webinar on learning portfolio audits as part of the CommPartners Education Innovation Series. I define a learning audit as a systematic review of a learning program or a learning portfolio to determine the strengths and weaknesses with the ultimate aim to guide subsequent improvements. But what does that have to do with thinking like an entrepreneur?

Approximately 27 million working-age Americans are currently starting or running new businesses. What if you could replicate the secrets of their startup success within your own department or organization? Despite the cliché image of entrepreneurs who achieve great things simply flying by the seats of their pants, the most successful businesspeople approach their work with intentionality.

As education providers, we routinely inherit programs with unclear or undefined outcomes; we operate in an increasingly competitive professional development environment with fewer resources and budget-strapped attendees; and we consistently grapple with unrealistic revenue and attendance targets while forgetting to sunset programs past their prime.

My approach to learning audits is designed to help association professionals and industry partners leverage their inner entrepreneurial spirit to categorize, audit and optimize the programs that comprise their learning portfolios, resulting in a stronger brand, an elevated reputation and more loyal participation.

Following are the seven entrepreneurial secrets as originally imagined by Peter Economy in this Inc.com article and my interpretation of how they translate to the learning environment.

Business handshake

Secret 1: Build a solid relationship bridge.

Business is all about relationships, and building strong relationships is a pathway to success in both business and life. Identify key stakeholders (e.g., staff, board, volunteers) who are or who might potentially be affected by learning programs in your organization. Each will likely have a unique perspective/stake in the learning audit. Then, develop, implement and monitor a communication plan that answers the following four questions:

  • How will we ensure different silo groups buy in to the need and benefit of this project?
  • How will we ensure key stakeholders become a part of the process (e.g., taskforce)?
  • What is our preferred process/procedure and frequency for check-ins/progress reporting?
  • How will we promote/celebrate key milestones?

Secret 2: Slow down to lead.

Business is moving faster than ever, but great leadership means slowing down to take time to focus on doing the things that are most important to your success. Therefore, carefully delineate the three buckets that comprise your learning portfolio before moving forward:

  • In-person programs (e.g., annual meetings, multi-day conferences, full/half-day programs);
  • Digital/online programs (e.g., podcasts, webinars); and
  • Other resources that educate members or have the potential to educate members (e.g., blogs, newsletters, websites, magazines).

Secret 3: Choose your mindset.

You’re the one who decides the path you will take both in life and in business, and you’re the one who can change it. Determine the scope of your learning audit: either big picture or detailed. A big picture audit identifies for each of your three buckets the overall mix (e.g., type of event, number per year, strategic organization alignment, key performance indicators), the trends (e.g., quality of content, speakers, learning and instructional design) and the relationship to your organization’s body of knowledge. Conversely, a detailed audit drills down to measure the attainment of established outcomes for each individual program, and illuminates recommended changes at the program level.

small-business-owners-unclear-on-health-care-660x369Secret 4: Know your business “health” metrics.

The most successful businesspeople know exactly what makes their organizations tick, and they keep a very close eye on the metrics – making timely corrections when necessary. A typical in-person audit might resemble unbiased third parties observing and taking photos throughout an event; scheduled face-to-face interviews with learners and speakers; or small focus groups or consensus workshops themed around a particular topic. Back at the office, paper audits might include programs assessed against an established rubric; aggregate program evaluations and trend identification; or responses to new survey questions when the necessary data is simply not available. Furthermore, an entire education portfolio might be evaluated to ensure program outcomes align with the organization’s mission, vision and values statements or environmental scanning might be conducted to determine what previously unforeseen member needs might be lurking right around the corner.

Secret 5: Be determined.

Being determined isn’t just having the strength, fortitude and persistence to move forward against the odds, but it’s also being strategically prepared for the battle. In this case, if the standard audit tools and processes aren’t a good match for your organization you might consider these additional audit formats recommended by consultant and researcher Will Thalheimer.

Secret 6: Resolve to succeed.

Know that you can succeed, and then put all of your energy into it. Once we resolve ourselves to achieving something, then nothing can stop us. And it starts with developing a report according to stakeholder needs/wants – either written or verbal (or both). In crafting the report, carefully consider the length/duration, the language used and whether or not to include the raw data/findings.

candidate-1570478-2014-08-07-23-16-24_cSecret 7: Be prepared to swim upstream.

No one ever said that finding success in business or in life was going to be easy, and frankly, it’s not. Often you’ll find that you’ve got to swim upstream – against the current – to make great things happen. At this stage it’s time to implement new ideas/recommendations and sunset underperforming/mature programs, products and services. ASAE offers a three-step workbook for selecting and sunsetting association programs, products and services. The steps include building a team, deciding what is important and creating an efficient method.

So what approaches have you found most successful in auditing either a single program or an entire learning portfolio? Please share your thoughts or leave a comment.




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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