Archive for the 'Meetings' Category


Bonus content – Event Garde E-news – October edition


Angie Ahrens, director of meetings and events, Connect Meetings

Q & A with Angie Ahrens, director of meetings and events for Connect Meetings. Follow her on Twitter.

Learn: Q: What’s your favorite part about learning something new?
A: The excitement of figuring out how I can work with this new information, as well as how I can share it with someone else!

Network: Q: What’s your No. 1 networking trick?
A: Passion hunting. I try to discover what people are passionate about as it not only helps remember their name, but also links our personal connection. (Isn’t that what events are all about? People?) Note: Disney is a good way to start a conversation with me!

Transfer: Q: How do you think mentorship aids in knowledge transfer?
A: Mentorship is just that – the transfer of knowledge that is related to experiences. It is one’s responsibility to share the knowledge he or she has with others, to continue to strengthen our industry by strengthening our peers. I’m lucky to have mentors in my life, and only hope that I have taken all the knowledge they have given me to do good with.

Q: Please share with us a tool/resource/book/blog/article/website/etc., and why you just can’t live without it.
A: I have “magazine Monday,” which is a good way to stay current professionally. But I do love getting ideas from BizBash and a variety of Instagram accounts on events.

Q: If I were writing a book about your life, what would the title be, and why?
A: “Entertaining Life Daily.” It was actually the name of a blog I used to write, and it took me quite a while to come up with it. I realized that my personality is pretty optimistic and I was always looking at each day as a new adventure. I try to entertain myself and those around me daily, knowing that we have the opportunity to make each moment count. Plus, entertainment can be found in a variety of places – never stop looking!


Listen: Don’t just hear



Jennifer Grau, president, Grau Interpersonal Communication

This month’s guest blog post is by Jennifer Grau, president of Grau Interpersonal Communication, who is a listening trainer, coach, facilitator, speaker and consultant. She co-organized the first European Listening and Healthcare Conference in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, in 2014 and is currently planning the International Listening Association’s 2018 convention.

Grau wrote the following for Event Garde.


We invest significant time selecting conference themes, locations, accommodations and meeting spaces; finding speakers; planning activities; and relating these to learning objectives and business goals. But something critically important is missing from this list: the kind of listening environment you cultivate.

People rarely design conferences with quality listening in mind. If they do, they often mistake listening for hearing and so they focus on audio quality. Yet, the listening experiences you foster makes your event memorable and enjoyable and provides lasting value to your participants.

Listening is one of the most important business skills today, yet few people know what listening entails. When asked to define listening they frequently respond with something like, “Listening is hearing what someone is saying” or “Listening is taking in a person’s verbal and non-verbal signals.

While both of these definitions describe elements of listening, neither is complete. The International Listening Association defines listening as “the process of receiving, constructing meaning from and responding to spoken and or nonverbal messages.” And the ILA definition neglects to mention the enormous amount of effort and energy listening requires to sustain focused attention over time.

Attending, constructing meaning and responding are perhaps the most important elements of listening for conference participants. Understanding what you can do to help people listen makes it more likely they will leave your conference with value.

Most people are passive, lazy listeners. Words wash over them. They don’t remember people’s names, let alone recall the information they heard after lunch. They are easily distracted and most can’t find the WIFM (what’s in it for me) if a speaker is abstract or overly detailed.

Few people realize the effort and skill needed to listen effectively. They don’t arrive with listening goals nor have they thought about whom they want to meet. In other words, most people haven’t created an information or relationship retention plan.

Even those with the best intentions and good listening skills find conferences difficult environments in which to sustain focus and attention. Multiple days in stimulating settings with a barrage of new people and new information can be overwhelming. Back-to-back sessions, events and marketplace stalls, combined with networking and socializing, can undo even the most committed and skillful listeners.

listening-skills-for-trial-lawyersAs a listening trainer, coach and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience helping people listen in a variety of business settings, here are some tips to foster a better listening environment at your next conference.

  1. As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” As part of the conference registration process, get people thinking about their listening goals. Get them to reflect on what they will take away. Ask a question like the ones below and use the information to shape your event:
  • “What three things are you looking forward to gaining from this conference?”
  • “How will your time at this conference improve your work/life?”
  • “What burning issue, question or idea do you hope to explore?”
  1. Insist on speaker introductions that go beyond a list of credentials. Make sure your MC provides the WIFM by building a connection between the speaker, the content of the session and your conference theme or organization’s mission. Invite participants to consider how they personally will use what they are about to experience.
  1. At the end of each session ask participants to consider what they have gained. Allow time to record; reflect and integrate these insights; summarize notes; post to social media; take a memory-prompting photo; request slides. For listening that lasts people have to commit what they heard to their long-term memory.
  1. Avoid “talking head” panels whenever possible. Use a variety of formats when planning sessions. People habituate quickly. A variety of formats and session lengths will hold attention better and renew people’s listening stamina. Consider formats similar to TED talks, poster sessions and Pecha Kucha to add variety.
  1. Listening and digesting do not go well together. Do experiential or interactive learning after lunch.
  1. Plan a variety of interactive experiences for people to connect with other participants and exchange ideas. Leverage the face-to-face experience. Listening is a powerful relationship development tool. Consider adding World Café’s and other discussion formats that will engage participants and encourage two-way exchange of ideas.
  1. Open your next conference with a mini listening boot camp on how to listen to get the most out of conference events.

Don’t forget the power of listening to music to set a mood, calm or energize your group.


Big city love from ASAE

attendees6Good news fellow Midwesterners!

In 2018, ASAE’s Annual Meeting and Exposition will be coming to Chicago!

On July 25, ASAE announced the host cities for its meetings, through 2022:

2017 – Toronto
2018 – Chicago
2019 – Columbus
2020 – Las Vegas
2021 – Dallas
2022 – Atlanta

“Congratulations to the cities selected for our 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 ASAE annual meetings and expositions,” said John Graham, ASAE president and CEO. “We had seven cities that were finalists in our selection process, and each one did a fantastic job. The proposals submitted by the winning cities exceeded our expectations. Looking forward to growing our partnerships with the respective convention and visitors bureaus in the coming years as we plan exciting and engaging meetings.”

ASAE last held its annual meeting in Chicago in 2007, which had the highest attendance of association executives. In 2019, it will be the first time Columbus has hosted an ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition.

attendees11And, it’s hard to believe, but the 2016 ASAE Annual Meeting is next week, Aug. 13-16, in Salt Lake City, offering a versatile lineup of sessions and inspiring keynotes. New this year, ASAE is offering learning formats from which to choose.

I’m guessing there will be avid social media engagement, especially on Twitter using #ASAE16 and @ASAEAnnual. In fact, I’ll be following the stream, searching for future blog post topics and future guest bloggers. So please follow me on Twitter and don’t be afraid to tag me!

Is it your first time? Check out these tips from ASAE. And remember to use #newbie on your tweets.

At the same time, download the ASAE Programs App to help you connect with your network, keep track of your schedule and engage on social media.

And finally – have fun! I’ve been to Salt Lake and it’s a gorgeous city with some must-try eating hotspots. We’ve heard about how much revenue events such as Super Bowls and presidential debates generate for cities, think about how excited Salt Lake is to welcome you! Share some Twitter love.

I look forward to communicating with you next week!


How will new overtime rules affect your organization?

OT-Map-FINAL-medium-600x300In May, the United States Department of Labor released new overtime rules that will take effect on Dec. 1.

Since December will be here before we know it, nonprofits are already making adjustments, as the new rules will have significant implications for the nonprofit sector.

According to the National Council of Nonprofits, it all comes down to salary requirements.

With limited resources, many nonprofits can’t afford to pay their staff big bucks. Under the new regulations, most employees earning less than $47,500 will be entitled to overtime compensation. So think about your events and meetings. What will that mean?

That said, it’s a complex formula for understanding compliance, but the U.S. Department of Labor has published resources.

According to DOL, employers have a few options:

  • Pay time-and-a-half for overtime work.
  • Raise workers’ salaries above the new threshold.
  • Limit workers’ hours to 40 hours per week.
  • Combine options above.

The council offers some tips, as well.

“Employers have various options to comply with these change in overtime rules, ranging from increasing exempt employees’ salaries to the new level, converting them to hourly employees and paying overtime or making other changes to benefits or operations,” the National Council of Nonprofits said. “Nonprofits with budget years ending on June 30 will need to develop new budgets for the fiscal year beginning in six weeks that take these new changes into account. Nonprofits with budget years ending on Dec. 31 have more time to adjust and plan for 2017.”

In addition, the rules allow for the use of volunteers under certain circumstances, but DOL warns nonprofits shouldn’t use volunteers to skirt the regulations.

Working overtime

The department contends its new regulations will ensure companies – including nonprofits – adhere to the Fair Labor and Standards Act. It also says the new regulations will lead to a better work-life balance while increasing productivity and reducing turnover.

“Job titles never determine exempt status under the FLSA,” DOL said. “Additionally, receiving a particular salary, alone, does not indicate that an employee is exempt from overtime and minimum wage protections.”

Regardless of the exemptions the new rule provide, associations are concerned about the ramifications. According to ASAE, more than 250,000 associations submitted comments on the proposed rule to the department last year.

“Because the rule would dramatically expand the number of employees now eligible for overtime pay, associations and other employers could be forced to lay off staff or limit employees’ work outside of core business hours, stinting employees’ career growth and harming productivity,” wrote Chris Vest on June 1 in “Associations Now.”

Additionally, Alex Beall wrote about the new regulations, offering advice from Julia Judish, special counsel with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

“Once the employer has identified which of its currently exempt employees would convert to nonexempt, the employer should start now requiring those employees to do the equivalent of clocking in and clocking out and track their average hours,” Judish said.

As December approaches, we’ll track the new DOL overtime rules and report changes and their implications for nonprofits.

Until then, if you’ve got tips to share, please email Kristen Parker at We’d love to share them!


Plan, attack, conquer: A conference strategy


Tom Morrison, CEO, MTI Management

With the ASAE Annual Meeting and Expo quickly approaching Aug. 13-16, we wanted to share more advice from conference goers to help you capitalize on your experience. This month’s guest blog post is from Tom Morrison, CEO of MTI Management.

Do you have tips to share? Contact Kristen Parker at

Like many people, when I attended my first ASAE conference in 2006, I was overwhelmed and distracted by how the massive number of people, sessions and booths. And so I ran around like a kid in a playground.

However, it wasn’t the best use of my time and I wasn’t able to maximize my experience to absorb the key ideas that could transform my association’s future.

So I developed a process I now use for every conference, including ASAE.  It goes as follows:

1) Prior to arriving at the conference, determine the two biggest issues for which you need to find an idea or a solution. This allows you to know what you are looking for.

2) Determine the obstacles potentially coming your way that could have a negative impact on your members.

3) Make a list of the types of people you would like to meet and carry enough business cards to meet them.

4) Study the sessions and events and use the ASAE Conference App to build a schedule that keeps you on track. But be flexible and don’t be afraid to jump into a session with someone you meet.

5) Day one of EXPO: Start in row one and walk every aisle, seeing everything in the trade show. Make notes of booths to come visit in more detail on day two.

6) Day two of EXPO: Visit all booths you wrote down on day one to get more details or demos on products.

6) MOST IMPORTANT: At the conference each day, write down three things:

  • One new idea or a new way of doing something you already do.
  • Something you will do differently on the Monday you return.
  • Someone you met who can help you with an idea.

I’ve used this plan of attack for 10 years now and it has contributed to our association growing more than 1,000 percent in net worth and has increased my professional network the same.



Globalization isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy for associations

global biz expansionAccording to the United Nations, in the year 2100 the world’s population will be 11.2 billion people.

Not surprisingly, Africa and India account for much of that growth, meaning businesses will steadily expand into those regions. As such, we could see a booming global marketplace, which opens the door for associations.

As markets grow, businesses will increasingly need the services associations provide, such as professional development, knowledge transfer, networking, education and professional certifications, according to Globalstrat, which recently released, “2016 Association Growth Global Trends Survey Report.”

Among the challenges associations will have are identifying the markets yielding the most potential for growth and creating business models to address specific markets, Globalstrat said.

According to the report, 30 percent of associations have 5 percent or fewer international members and conference attendees. However, while only 18 percent indicate 5 to 14 percent of their members are international, nearly 30 percent of associations in that same range had international conference attendees. So there’s not always a direct link between international members and international program participants.

What does that mean for associations?

19957784-Global-business-plan-concept-presentation-With-creative-hand-drawing-business-strategy-plan-concept--Stock-PhotoFor those with a high number of international members, there may be opportunities to better market events internationally, Globalstrat said. At the same time, these organizations should consider hosting events outside their home countries. On the other hand, associations with a high number of international event participants but a low number of members may consider improving membership value for international members.

Other key findings in the report:

  • North America is the most popular location in the world for global expansion among associations, followed by Europe, Australia/New Zealand and South America.
  • Organizations that have a solid international business strategy experience faster growth.
  • The top three metrics for success are membership, financial performance and number of meeting and event participants.
  • In terms of services, trade associations place a high emphasis on in-person networking opportunities while professional organizations rank the delivery of a journal or magazine as a priority. (For global expansion, Globalstrat recommends professional associations lead with live events, focusing less on membership, while trade associations should focus on membership and live events in tandem.)
  • About 50 percent of survey respondents use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn proactively while 90 percent of respondents use these social media channels in some fashion. (Twitter is the most popular.)

“Associations are so diverse and operate under conditions and in environments that are so significantly different from one another that it is impossible to suggest a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to international development,” Globalstrat said. “Yet, it is hard to identify an association or organization that is not affected, in some significant manner, by globalization. The question for association leaders, managers, staff and their stakeholders is, ‘How will they interpret the changes taking place, correctly identify the implications and then decide a course of action that successfully navigates these changes?’”


Bonus content – Event Garde e-news – June edition


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?

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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