Posts Tagged ‘conferences

11
Oct
16

Change is good…right?

innovationLeaves change. People change. And yes, businesses change.

But what about associations?

Most of us realize innovation is key to driving a business forward. New ideas, new inventions, new strategies, new operating plans. The options are limitless – even for associations.

Associations aren’t often regarded as agents of change, but recently, Marketing General Inc., in conjunction with the National Business Aviation Association, polled association professionals to learn how they set innovation goals, how they support innovation, what rewards and recognition they offer and how they set metrics for innovation.

Nearly 350 associations participated in the Association Innovation Benchmarking Report, which found most associations are at least moderately innovative. That’s a recent development, however, as most didn’t start focusing on innovation until the past five years.

According to the survey, association innovation tends to focus around a few main areas: website and social media; conventions, conferences and seminars; education programs; and membership, technology and marketing (56 percent each).

the-secret-of-innovative-companiesIn addition, associations reported that innovation flows from the top down, with CEOs and other leaders serving as the primary drivers of new thoughts and ideas. In addition, collaboration and communication and encouragement are the most common ways associations support innovation.

And it seems there’s not much middle ground. Associations either fully support innovation or not at all. At the same time, there are challenges – lack of resources being No. 1. Also, most associations don’t set goals to achieve innovation and often, there aren’t reward programs for striving toward and achieving innovation – perhaps because it’s an expectation, and, in some cases, a culture.

Other key findings:

  • Changes in the industry or profession and technological developments are the biggest motivators for adopting innovation.
  • Among organizations that have rallied around innovation, communication has been key to getting everyone on board. Permission to take risk also plays a major role in getting personnel on board with innovation.
  • Those organizations with a specific system tend to handle new ideas in a variety of ways: 50 percent rely on staff initiative; 48 percent have a special committee or group; and 41 percent develop new ideas with the CEO.
  • Increased member engagement is the most common way to measure innovation efforts.
  • In those organizations where innovation is not supported, respondents cite departments and people being very siloed as a principal cause for the lack of support.
15
Sep
15

Millennial-friendly meetings: Bring on the couches and big screens

millennialsGoogle images of millennials and you’ll find young professionals connected to their smart phones and tablets. You might also find images of colorful workplaces and nontraditional desks. Maybe even a collaborative thinking space.

Much to Baby Boomers’ chagrin, it’s a different world, especially since Gen Y now comprises the majority of the workforce.

And with that comes a different set of expectations: Skype meetings and coffee shop conversations have replaced hours-long meetings.

All this aside, while millennials crave technology, they still value face-to-face meetings – albeit with a different flare – and understand the importance of networking, according to a new report by Skift and Meetings Mean Business.

“Meetings and events offer the best possible platform to help millennials expand their networks, customize their self-education and personalize their career paths,” the report says. “That is why millennials are advocating for more effective meeting design and better ways to connect, both physically and virtually, in a shifting and highly competitive global marketplace.”

Translated: Associations should think differently about events.

Video plays a huge role in the lives of young professionals, as evidenced by the boom of YouTube and Vine. So event planners shouldn’t be afraid to incorporate video into presentations, and, better yet, dabble in live streaming for their events.

networking3In fact, hybrid meetings are becoming increasingly popular, but not just for attendees offsite. Since millennials value networking opportunities, associations could explore broadcasting sessions throughout a venue to allow attendees to learn and network simultaneously. This could spur the advent of “networking places,” comfortable rooms with computers, couches and food and drinks.

At the same time, the report suggests mobile is the future of millennial-friendly meetings. Gen Y wants event apps and social media platforms. Real-time updates via social media allows attendees to join group conversations, regardless of their location.

Of course, all this is good news for vendors and IT providers, both of whom, the report predicts, could see steady growth in businesses from organizations looking to improve their events.

The Skift and Meetings Mean Business report offers dozens of case studies and examples of organizations that have successfully embraced millennials. But here are some key takeaways:

  • Millennials value face-to-face networking experiences (in fact they rank them as the top motivation for attending events), but such experiences should be enhanced with social media capabilities and technology. Enter the rise of hybrid meetings.
  • Millennials expect technology, including fast Wi-Fi, hybrid content, social media conversation, web-based audience participation platforms, comprehensive event apps and other technology to be seamlessly integrated into modern meeting design.
  • More than previous generations, Gen Yers choose professional events based on location. Cities that offer a rich nightlife and awesome attractions will attract young professionals much more than traditional conference cities.
  • Despite common perceptions, millennials’ top communication preference is face-to-face. Second was email and third was texting.

social_media_strategy111Finally, the report offers some additional tips for engaging millennials:

Include millennials in social media and website development — Even though many millennials are still developing their skill sets, they want to feel like their opinion is respected and they’re helping co-create meeting content and experiences. Create a millennial task force for special projects so they can work together on shared goals like new social media campaigns, pre/post online content, app content conversion to web-based platforms, etc.

Kill the cocktail reception — Well, maybe not kill it but definitely add some interactive knowledge sharing that helps millennials develop personally or professionally. Many millennials in this report said the traditional cocktail reception is intimidating because it feels so unnatural to start a conversation without some kind of shared interest beyond the event theme. Apps like MeetingMatch are becoming popular, where attendees can find people with similar interests, and app developers like DoubleDutch and QuickMobile are integrating similar functionality into their products.

Create young professional SIGs — Everyone loves special interest groups because they’re smaller gatherings with people who identify with a niche subject. Planners should think about creating one solely for young professionals, especially at association conventions, where millennials can let down their guard and network in a more relaxed ambiance.

17
Feb
15

Accelerating the Spread of Knowledge, Learning and Collaboration

Elliott Masie

Elliott Masie, The MASIE Center

On Wednesday, Jan. 14, I had the opportunity to interview Elliott Masie for an ASAE Professional Development Virtual Learning Session titled, “Ask the Expert: Accelerating the Spread of Knowledge, Learning and Collaboration.”

Elliott is a provocative, engaging and entertaining futurist, analyst and speaker – focused on the changing world of the workplace, learning and technology. He is also the editor of Learning TRENDS by Elliott Masie, an Internet newsletter read by more than 52,000 business executives worldwide, and a regular columnist in professional publications, including CLO Magazine. Moreover, he is the author of a dozen books, and is the convener of Learning 2015.

Following is an outline of our discussion, a combination of pre-populated and audience-generated questions.

Why do people come to our programs?

  • They come for context and community
  • It’s a rare opportunity where attendees are in a building with people who understand what they do for a living and can connect with people who have similar problems/issues

How do you like to tee up your conferences to get your attendees excited to be there?

  • Do not publish the entire agenda of people, keynotes and topics significantly prior to the conference
    • Announce one keynote or theme a month
      • Ripple effect
      • Get people interested and wanting more
      • Get conversations going about each new release
      • Use each announcement to post videos, announcements and questions
      • Create an environment where attendees can provide input
    • Build up to the full agenda about five to six weeks out

Before the event are there effective ways to engage the learner?

  • Surround the learner with options from which they can choose
  • Provide access to as many materials as possible beforehand
  • Be careful to ensure that any assessments don’t discourage people
  • Don’t do it in a way that takes people back to ninth grade

How much down time should we be scripting to encourage learning? How much of it should we let people use in a way that suits them?

  • Encourage participant choice
  • To some cohorts, empty space scares them
  • Allow people to skip the breakouts to go sit with people and network
  • “Meet up team” – put them in the middle of the pre-conference space to create opportunities for meet-ups and connections that aren’t in the agenda
  • Those who don’t go to breakouts are using the time in their own way (e.g., mingle, network, do other work)
  • Freedom of choice and personalization is key

In thinking about the experienced conference participants, is it about linking them with other experienced conference participants? Is it about finding opportunities for them to mentor new professionals? Or is it something else?

  • They want to be near their colleagues, but not necessarily in the classroom

Do you have any must-have evaluation questions?

  • Observe behavioral data
  • Count those who visit the content afterwards (e.g., read the material, watch the videos)
  • Create focus groups of 10 to 15 people and make the questions about next year’s conference (i.e., what they would like to see during another conference)
  • Have the participants design the next conference
    • You don’t have to use all of their ideas

How do you carry the learning through following the event?

  • Curation
    • Take as much of the content as you legally can and give it back to the people who paid to come to the conference to read again, listen again or watch again
    • Take bits and pieces of the content and send it out to the related industries
    • Most of the time people come for the experience, not the content
    • Don’t curate everything – it’s not all good
    • Part of curation is effective chunking

Have you explored or reached out to participants to assess job transfer? What does that look like?

  • Implement actionables
    • Job aids
    • List of five do’s and don’ts people can reflect on when they return to their workplaces
  • Although you may not be able to follow participants back into their workplaces, set them up for success
  • Sometimes an abundance of information and tools causes participants to do nothing
  • Less is more

What would you advise for a smaller association with a tighter budget?

  • Spend less money on food; people aren’t coming to feast
  • Bring content leaders in by video instead of in person
  • Try moving away from so much technology – encourage conversation
  • Move toward compression (e.g., one day instead of two)

What incentives or attention grabbers have you found successful?

  • Ask people to submit questions they’d like you to ask the speakers
  • Point out where controversy exists in your field
  • It better be fun even if it is deadly serious

How do you suggest learning leaders/planners/producers keep up with changing attendee education and experience needs?

  • Keep your pulse on the hot topics
  • Look at what is driving people in or out of your association/industry
  • Real-time word maps at your conferences

Attendees don’t feel comfortable sharing failure. How do you reveal that?

  • Programming it is almost impossible
  • People will gravitate to it as long as they’re not announced as the leader or the case study
  • Leverage the high and low points
  • Reshape the conversation

Is there a time in which an event should take a sabbatical?

  • This could keep the ideas and the experiences fresh
  • Consider hosting a national conference every other year; on the odd years host regional events

We need to take a fresh look at the trade show/exhibitor/sponsor model.

  • Frustration is growing
  • People are attending as learners and not as buyers
30
Dec
14

A Happy New Year for meetings?

Happy New Year hd wallpaper 2015The champagne is chilling and we’re pumped to watch the ball drop as we find ourselves humming “Auld Lang Syne.”

Yep. 2015 is nearly here. Maybe not quite so exciting for event planners, however. We know: It’s crunch time for you. Time to book all your conferences and events and finalize the budget.

The past few months have been a bit harried, no doubt. That’s understandable since it appears 2015 might be challenging for meetings and events.

That’s according to Meeting Professionals International’s Meetings Outlook (fall edition).

The report, developed in partnership with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, found that in general, costs in 2015 for event services are expected to rise, while budgets are expected to grow only slightly. Specifically, analysts predict air travel costs to rise 5 percent; room rates 3.9 percent; food and beverage/catering costs 4 percent; audiovisual costs 3.1 percent; and meeting room costs 2.5 percent.

Add to that limited guest room availability and shorter lead times for booking, according to the survey’s respondents. In fact, from June to September, the percentage of respondents who faced short lead times doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent.

“We are finding room rates escalating,” said Kevin Beckman, director of strategic accounts for Crowne Plaza Hotel Louisville, and a member of the MPI Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter. “We are adjusting our revenue goals for 2015 and increasing our rates for group business in 2015 and 2016.”

04_30_12_airfareThanks to rising costs, event planners are forced to be more creative. Examples from the MPI report include creating centerpieces from in-season flowers and simple craft supplies and using polyester-like tablecloth pieces. It also means choosing the right location, i.e. a rooftop terrace for a younger crowd (read: less décor needed).

“Great architecture goes a long way, if you highlight it with lighting,” said Pam Madewell, of the MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter, who runs an event management firm. “Fabulous architecture means you don’t have to put a theme-y thing in that place.”

Coming off the heels of a recession, ROI for meetings continues to be important. Unless it’s worth it, companies aren’t going to send their employees to events, and once again, professional development may hit the chopping block.

As a result, MPI says meetings focusing on practical topics, such as training, sales and education, will see the most growth.

WiFiAnd, finally, there’s technology. I’ve written about it many times, and we can’t escape its influence. As technology advances, associations are expected to keep up.

With laptops, iPads and smart phones in hand, participants arrive at events expecting easy connectivity. But some venues don’t seem to have the appropriate Wi-Fi capability.

That’s why Christina Devlin, of MPI’s Oregon Chapter, may purchase a dedicated router to use onsite. She wants to ensure attendees can connect multiple devices simultaneously and enjoy reliable, hiccup-free Wi-Fi.

In short: Event planners may have to plan further ahead and stretch the dollars a bit more. But, from the sounds of it, if you provide good ROI, your guests will come.

As you prepare for 2015, Event Garde wishes you much prosperity. Happy New Year!

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.

25
Feb
14

That’s so…2013

Each month, we’re asking editors and content producers to share with us what they’re writing about, upcoming trends and other behind-the-scenes must-haves for the association industry.

Julie Shoop

Julie Shoop, editor of Associations Now.

If you’d like to contribute, please contact Kristen Parker, digital content manager for Event Garde LLC, at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

This week’s guest blog post includes excerpts from “What’s Out, What’s In: Association Edition,” by Julie Shoop, editor of Associations Now.

Rebranding

Out: Aging brands
In: New names, fresh logos

Globalization, digital technology, shifting markets, regulatory change—with so many disruptions in the business environment, it’s no wonder that a slew of associations remade their brands and aimed to broaden their reach in 2013. Cases in point: Lobbyists became government relations professionals; recording merchandisers became Music Biz. Associations in the fashion, mobile, supply chain, marketing and recycling industries hopped on the rebranding bandwagon as well. We’ll be watching for who’s up next in 2014.

Conferences

Out: Lavish meetings and events
In: Slim federal conference and travel budgets

There’s a new reality for associations serving industries that interact heavily with the federal workforce: Government meeting attendance isn’t what it used to be. The wave of scrutiny that started in 2012 with revelations about a lavish General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas grew higher this year as reports of excessive spending on meetings by the IRS and Department of Veterans Affairs came to light. With slimmer conference and travel budgets now written into law, association events will continue to take a hit. Associations will need to drive home the value of face-to-face meetings to government agencies that will be footing the bill with fewer dollars and congressional watchdogs looking over their shoulders.

Workplace Culture

Out: Constant collaboration
In: Time and space for solitude

This was the year when a “whole world of secret introverts” was exposed, and being quiet was suddenly cool. Thanks largely to Susan Cain, author of the bestselling “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” momentum is building for greater understanding of different personalities and work styles to leverage every staffer’s strengths in pursuit of business goals. It was an eye-opening message for associations, where collaboration is king. Remember the buzz around open workspaces to promote teamwork? Now, not so much.

Volunteers

Out: Long-term commitments
In: Micro-volunteering

Plenty of dedicated association volunteers share their time and talents in abundance year in and year out—but that’s probably a small group of your hard-core enthusiasts. Micro-volunteering is emerging as a smart way to expand your volunteer pool and build engagement among your less connected members. Got people who can’t commit to helping plan your annual meeting, but can spend a few hours being a conference greeter? This is for them.
Editor’s note: See a related blog post for more on this.

Advocacy

Out: Bemoaning congressional gridlock (was this ever in?)
In: Putting pressure on Washington

The government shutdown in October highlighted the power of associations to show policymakers the consequences of their actions—or inaction. From air traffic controllers to businesses to Head Start and Meals on Wheels, nonprofits sent volunteers, activists and cold, hard data to D.C. about the effects of the shutdown. Their collective message: This hurts everyone. Fix it.

Learning

Out: Expert-driven education
In: Peer-to-peer learning

With competition heating up from for-profit providers offering free or low-cost alternatives to association education programs, pressure to innovate in association learning mounted in 2013. While we don’t expect to see the traditional keynote address fall by the wayside anytime soon, associations are experimenting with decentralized learning formats where peers interact in smaller groups and more casual settings. Is a “learning village” right for you? Or if you need to beef up your online offerings, digital credentialing may be the ticket. You might be surprised at how motivating a digital badge can be.

18
Feb
14

The certification conundrum

Book questionTo certify or not to certify. That seems to be the debate among association professionals.

CAE. APR. They’re just letters, right? Sort of.

When listed after someone’s name, they add credibility. And on a resume, those letter combinations pique employers’ interests since it means candidates strive for professional development. Whether it’s for prestige, a salary bump or a resume builder, people from all industries seek out certification programs.

So it’s a safe bet that just about every industry has them. But the question is, should your association offer certification programs?

Such programs can be costly and sometimes there are legal loopholes, said Mickie Rops, principal consultant for Mickie Rops Consulting, LLC. It’s tempting to jump on the certification bandwagon but first, it’s important to conduct research. And lots of it.

The three reasons most associations cite for starting certification programs are to generate revenue, to increase attendance at events and to one-up (or at least match) their competitors, Rops said.

Increasing revenue is a good goal to have, but it takes time. And too often, associations measure success with dollars. But money should never be the motivating factor.

In addition, while boosting attendance may seem tempting, the best way to increase interest is to improve curriculum. If your association needs a certification program to draw attendees, chances are, better content would do the trick.

Finally, while it’s human nature to compare, associations often wear blinders when doing it. For example, your association may think its program is better – and it might be. But the key is to determine the market demand.

How? Research: What’s already out there? How can your certification program complement – not compete with – existing programs? Remember, Rops said, just because your competitor does it, doesn’t mean you should.

Ask your members what they want. But rather than simply asking if they would be interested in a certification program, explain to them the specifics of the program – goals, eligibility criteria, testing requirements, etc. – and provide a timeline. This will help to avoid the inflated “yes” answer.

Mickie Rops

Mickie Rops, principal consultant for Mickie Rops Consulting LLC

“The key is to agree to step back and strategically consider what you are trying to accomplish and determine if certification is the most effective strategy for accomplishing it,” Rops said. “Yes, this may delay progress for a month or two, but it may very well save your association a costly mistake or help develop a certification program that’s much stronger for it.”

But where does an association start? The first step is to determine goals, and this might be a good project for a board of directors. Possible goals could include protecting health and safety, enhancing career mobility and opportunities for individuals or providing performance standards. Once you determine goals, make sure they align with your association’s mission.

Next, an association should weigh opportunities vs. obstacles, Rops said. Certification programs can provide improved visibility for the field/industry, but they can also create a rift between certified and non-certified members, and with partnering organizations. Your organization needs to decide if that’s a risk it’s willing to take.

And finally, associations should examine whether offering certification programs is truly feasible. Things to consider: Do you have enough staff to support such a program? Do you have enough funds? (Research alone usually costs $100,000 plus, Rops said.)

I’d like to open this up for further conversation. If your organization offers certification programs, what was the impetus for starting them? How do you measure the success of such programs?




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.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,352 other followers

Twitter Updates

Featured in Alltop

%d bloggers like this: