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Strategic Planning: Creative and Awesome Solutions for When You Can't Meet Face-to-Face

AMPED has distinguished itself as a leader in hosting and executing strategic planning sessions for associations and nonprofits. Depending on the needs of the client, a typical session may last two days, back-to-back and require that leaders and staff travel to meet face-to-face.

So what happens when conditions are such that you can’t do back-to-back and face-to-face? The results can be surprisingly awesome!

With the help of AMPED, the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) held its strategic planning session in June 2020, amid the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel was impossible, so it was quickly determined that a video conference was the way to go.

Using Zoom, UMA leaders and AMPED met for two days, one week apart – a structure that proved to benefit the session as a whole.

Thanks to some extensive pre-meeting preparation by AMPED, the participants kept to the agenda and knocked out the whole of the strategic session in less time than expected. “After day one in UMA’s virtual session, we got as much accomplished as we normally do in-person,” said Emily Petersen, AMPED Chief of Staff and a contributor to the UMA strategic planning process. For instance, she pointed to 15-minute breaks that can easily grow to 30 minutes when in-person. In this virtual setting, the video was turned off and then back on after the break, indicating the session was ready to continue.

With the 2-day agenda nearly accomplished on the first day, there was ample time for discussion on day two. Plus, where participants in a typical strategic session would only have overnight to reflect on the results of the day, holding the two sessions a week apart provided more time to digest ideas, concluding in clearer strategy development on day two.

As noted, preparation was key. In order to build an agenda with a clear focus for the strategic session, AMPED collected data using a variety of methods:

  • Interviewed UMA staff to learn what’s working well and what isn’t
  • Gathered financial data to better understand operating ratios
  • Developed a survey to members and nonmembers asking then to look beyond the pandemic to what they see as most impacting the industry
  • Held live interviews with a dozen members to determine the strengths of the organization and areas for improvement
  • Benchmarked UMA against other related organizations

Results from the interviews and survey pointed to common themes that helped steer the planning process. In a typical strategic planning session, that process would involve the utilization of flipcharts and Post-it notes - not something easily reproduced in a virtual meeting.

The advantage of virtual, however, is that multiple AMPED staff could attend without the extra travel costs.  More staff meant more expertise and more hands on-deck. When the association leaders separated into three Zoom breakout rooms, an AMPED staff member was there to facilitate and add notes in a prepared Google doc. Petersen monitored the doc and could see instantly the results of each group’s discussion and identify the most common themes. As soon as the breakouts ended, she was ready with organized notes to move the exercise forward — a task that would have taken far more time to complete in-person.

“We were so happy with the outcome of the strategic session for UMA,” said Petersen. “Given the circumstances, we pulled it off with creative solutions that we might not otherwise have tried. And many that we’ll continue to utilize in our strategic planning going forward.”

The end-result of the two-session virtual meeting was broad engagement, a clear strategy to move the association forward, and a happy client.

How can AMPED help your association discover new strategies for growth and success? Find us at www.manageassociations.com.

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Client Growth: A Retrospective

AMPED is proud to contribute to and share in the growth of our client partners. Here's a snapshot of growth one of our clients enjoyed over a 10-years with AMPED.

 

Client Case Study Infograph 2018

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Fast Transition to a Virtual Meeting Yields Educational and Financial Success

Using the resources of the AMC model, AMPED staff are able to pivot and learn quickly to support our client organizations in times of crisis and change. In the example below, the AMPED team paved the way and cleared many hurdles toward transitioning to a virtual meeting environment, sharing successes and challenges with other AMPED teammates along the way. 

 

American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA) - Spring 2020

The original American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA) Annual Meeting was originally planned for April 3-7, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina at the Westin Charlotte. At the time the decision was made to fully cancel the in-person meeting, there were 542 registrations and $30,000 in sponsorships.

As part of the decision process, the AMPED team worked very closely with the AAAA Board and hotel to present with three different scenarios:

  • Reschedule the meeting to the Fall of 2020 or Spring of 2021 at the Westin Charlotte
  • A hybrid meeting approach – using a combination of Marriott brand hotels in centralized locations to deliver meeting content
  • Complete meeting cancellation using the Impossibility/Force Majeure clause

It was vital that AMPED and AAAA move quickly with back-up plans as the meeting was CME-accredited and the attendees needed to submit their credits to renew their medical licenses by June.

On March 14, 2020, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an Executive Order that outlined a ban on mass gatherings, allowing AAAA to claim force majeure and cancel the hotel contract without penalty. Our team worked closely with all stakeholders to determine the right timing to cancel the meeting and how to communicate that with members/attendees. Further, pressure was felt from the AAAA member community, continuing news coverage about the pandemic, and the significant financial impact we would face from cancellation fees with the hotel.

Meanwhile, the AMPED team was preparing to “go virtual” and weighing platform options by participating in demonstrations from virtual learning companies like Digitell, Matchbox and Zoom. It was important to AAAA that the chosen platform:

  • Have an easy to use interface/platform
  • Be able to facilitate the distribution of presentations in order to qualify for CME credits
  • Include some interactivity for exhibitors, sponsors and attendees.

Our team recommended that the AAAA Board invest in Digitell: They hit all of our must-haves, their team of technicians would be able to supplement our staff team on delivery, they had great confidence in putting the virtual meeting together on a fast-tracked timeline and the total investment enabled us to break even at a minimum.

The Board quickly approved AMPED's recommendation and staff moved forward to develop the meeting with the Digitell team. In tandem, we worked very quickly with the AAAA Program Committee to prep the previously secured speakers to deliver their content virtually, as well as replace a handful that needed to cancel.

Behind the scenes, our team also refunded all of the original registration fees to the in-person meeting registrants. It was important to AAAA that the original fees be refunded and a lower fee be collected for the virtual meeting.

After canceling the original meeting on March 15, registration for the virtual meeting on the new platform went live on March 23. Fees were $175 (fellows) and $35 (students). We budgeted $15,000 in revenue for the virtual meeting. We surpassed that goal, taking in $60,000 by the start of the live meeting. Additional income was made from on-demand content offered through early June. 

A few results from the AAAA virtual meeting that kicked off on April 18:

  • Over four days, we scheduled a combination of sessions, including live panels and recorded presentations with speakers (some that included live Q&A).
  • Following the presentation, sessions were archived on the AAAA website for on-demand viewing through June 10.
  • AAAA was approved for 24.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s) — 4.5 more than what are typically offered at an in-person meeting
  • The chat was active for all sessions and was been very lively with many questions and supportive/positive comments for speakers
  • Additional functionality included an exhibitor/sponsor area, association information, technical support, and instructions on how to donate to AAAA's legislative fund.

The virtual meeting (non including on-demand content) brought in $47,250 in net income for AAAA — 28 times higher than the net income budgeted for the original in-person meeting! 

Additional statistics:

  • Average number of attendees per session: 150
  • Number of recorded sessions with a live speaker answering questions: 14 of 18
  • All sessions were packaged as enduring content with a shelf life of 3 years
  • $6,500 raised in donations during the event

 

 

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Working from home? Make your bed, and other suggestions

At his 2014 commencement address at University of Texas at Austin, Admiral William H. McRaven said, "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed." His point was that by making your bed every morning, it provides you a simple way to accomplish something every day, earning you a check mark on your task list.

With the advances in technology, it is expected that a percentage of employees will be working from home or on the road.

If you work remotely, clearly you have demonstrated independence and self-motivation, an ability to work without constant supervision. You have your checklists and calendars and there are tons of tips on working remotely, here are some of the most common I’ve found:

  • Set aside a dedicated space. This does not mean your dining room table, especially if you have others who share the space. You will need to carve out an area where there are limited intrusions and you can restrict the entry.
  • Make it pretty, or sporty, or feminine or masculine – depending on what you like, what motivates and inspires you. You will be spending hours in this area, make it your own,
  • Although it is unreasonable to daily dress in business attire, while working from home, do manage to make an effort to look put together. Dress as if you expect visitors.
  • Some people find it helpful to adhere to a schedule, my preference is a log I keep, a “to-do list,” which in conjunction with my calendar keep me on track.
  • For the animal lovers, if you have a dog, make a sign for your front door…”No knocking between the hours of 8 – 5.” Probably won’t stop all the barks, but it might help reduce the errant yip.

All these suggestions center around one theme, treat your remote work as a job, not as an indulgence, and finally, always make your bed.

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An intern’s perspective: First impressions of AMPED

Adam Graves June 2018 for webby Adam Graves, AMPED financial intern.  

At some point we’ve all been the outsider who has had to adapt to new people and a new environment. Whether you’re moving from one city to another, switching teams, shifting workplaces, or something completely different, there is always a degree of anxious excitement associated with the change. Having made the jump from my past, laid-back jobs in family entertainment and retail to being an intern at AMPED, there was an expectation that there would be major changes from what I had previously become accustomed to. Knowing what I know now, after all of three weeks, there are a few things I have picked up on about my co-workers and the general culture of the workplace we share.

Things are different… but a lot of things are quite similar to my past jobs. The smaller staff size is something that I’m used to and starting my internship right after Memorial Day where a lot of staff were out of town, on vacation, at conferences, etc. allowed me to get settled in a low-pressure environment and meet my co-workers in waves instead of all at once. Everyone was incredibly friendly, and the staff meeting on my first day allowed me to get a small idea of what each of my co-workers do for the clients AMPED serves. The group is very tight-knit as the workspace is physically small and the success of AMPED and the associations depend of everyone working efficiently and working together. The office culture is far more relaxed than I would have imagined for a more professional environment; almost everyone has their music playing when I walk into my co-workers’ offices and the attire ranges from casual to professional depending on what is happening on any given day. These were welcome sights on my first day as an intern with no prior office experience.

My co-workers work for AMPED, but don’t. Everyone is super invested in the associations they represent. Shirts, buttons, drinking receptacles, and other trinkets for the various associations can be seen at every turn. People are genuinely interested and have gathered tons of knowledge on the many associations they serve. Given that we work in such close coordination with the different associations, it makes sense that there a lot of pride associated with providing the best possible service to them.

What’s in the kitchen? Seriously, what is in the kitchen? It’s always interesting to see what tasty treat someone has brought in on any given day. It seems like a lot of times when something is brought in there is a significant event in someone’s life that prompts the purchase or creation of these delicious delights so the food allows you to gain a bit of insight about the person who brings it in. Other times it’s as simple as passing on some leftovers from family meals to our work family. Regardless, this cornerstone is something that brings everyone in the office together.

Other thoughts. AMPED has been so welcoming that I’ve been introduced at our Monday meeting for three weeks straight. If I’m lucky next week will make four.

AMPED provides a very unique work experience due to the friendly, hardworking people who allow it to provide a diverse variety of services to its clients. The qualities that make AMPED so welcoming to me as a new employee also make it attractive to its present and future clients. The laid-back environment and the hardworking people undeniably make AMPED feel like home from day one whether you’re a new employee or a new association looking to be managed.

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