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Successful webinars or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the mute button”

webinars

Webinars are great for connecting with existing members or prospects. It can be a simple PowerPoint or a multifaceted Prezi with videos and live webcam feeds. I’ve co-paneled and hosted several webinars in conjunction with our client associations and put together some pointers that I believe will help make your next webinar a success.

1) Determine a topic that would be worth taking time away from work to watch.
Just because you can host a webinar on any issue or topic doesn’t mean you should. If you simply put together a few slides and read from a script to promote yourself, you won’t find many attendees. A great webinar will cover an important issue that many deal with. It should be educational, builds off the introductory slides, and benefits those attending. Don’t sell hammers – sell hanging pictures.

2) Practice.
A dry run is always recommended, especially if you’re co-paneling with someone else. Get name pronunciations down, pacing, who controls the slides, etc. It makes the webinar run far smoother.

3) Sign-on 20-30 minutes early.
Even with practice, there’s always the chance that technical difficulties or issues will arise. (As they usually do.) Plan on being signed on and ready to go at least 20 minutes in advance so you can work out the bugs and be ready for go-time.

mute-button4) Typed questions only.
A chat window allows attendees to ask questions throughout the webinar that you can return to at the end. If you have another person with you, they can answer questions while you continue with the presentation

That said, restrict it to typed questions only. An open mic results in attendees who aren’t familiar with the mute button, and I have listened to someone eat during a webinar. It’s not pleasant.

5) Always have a follow-up plan.
After the webinar, debrief on how it went and what the next steps are. You have a list of those who registered and attended — make sure you follow up. It can be a quick thank you email, or link to references made during the presentation, or even a recording of the webinar for future playback.

 

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Be a problem finder: How member support can grow your association.

Help

Whether working with clients or members, individuals or organizations, there will always be the need to offer support. It could be answering a quick question or walking someone through an issue. Being able to provide excellent support will earn their appreciation and their trust. But what makes up excellent support? Three things that come to mind are knowledge, the ability to listen and a little bit of patience.

Knowledge: Know what you’re working with backwards and forwards. It could be membership for an association, the specifics of a product or service, the ins-and-outs of a website; familiarizing yourself will allow you to quickly answer those questions. Much of this will come from experience and helping others, so it’s important to learn from your past clients or members as well.

Listening: Sometimes you hear a familiar question and are already thinking of how you are going to respond. But if you make an effort to listen, you can pick up on issues they may not even recognize they have, or may be the root of everything else. Some of the best support you can offer is finding those hidden problems and providing your products or services as an answer. Being a problem finder is just as impressive as being a problem solver.

Patience: We’ve all encountered situations where we’ve tried everything and the issue still isn’t fixed. So we may be a bit flustered when we do ask for help. That’s a very common and understandable response, and in those situations what works best is offering the support that we would want in turn. Be personable, get to know who you’re working with and really listen to what they have to say.

Resolving an issue will build confidence in your company or organization, and being friendly and approachable will only further garner their support. It could be a prospect that you just won over, or a lead that you just converted. It could even be a member willing to pass your information along to others in need of similar support. Great support can garner that member or client advocacy, and further grow your association.

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Take control of workplace productivity

productivity

With summer finally hitting the Midwest, the weather keeps getting nicer and nicer. After surviving a brutal Wisconsin winter with polar vortexes, blizzards and ice storms, there is no doubt that we deserve a pleasant summer season. For me, the summer has a lot of positives: sand volleyball, hiking, kayaking and just the ability to enjoy being outside. Unfortunately, it can also be distracting and destructive for my productivity.

As the days get nicer, I start seeing my focus drift more and more from what I should be doing. This is a trend that seems to be popping up constantly in society today. Distractions from things like smart phones, social media sites and, obviously, the lure of nice weather seem to affect workplace productivity. In my short time in the working world, I’ve learned some things that help me stay focused and get my work done efficiently.

Take a break. I know that we are all busy and have tons of work to finish, but if you’re drifting off task then take 10 to 15 minutes to reenergize. If it’s nice out, take a short walk outside. Stop by Starbucks or a local food cart to grab an afternoon energizer. This could make a huge difference in terms of your productivity. Taking that extra time for a break could help you save time in the long run.

Exercise. Ok, there’s no need to exercise at the office, but make sure to take the time outside of work to workout. In the past year, I feel like I’ve read countless studies about how sitting in a desk or staring at a computer screen is going to kill me. While I have friends who have taken some measures in the office—such as purchasing a standing desk or sitting on a medicine ball—to overcome these trending theories, I prefer to use my time outside the office to my advantage. I try to get to the gym regularly or workout with some You Tube videos when I can. While this may not offset the pending doom that is “Death-by-Office,” I notice a difference when I expel some extra energy. When I work out, either before or after work, I notice that I’m not as restless as I am otherwise. This allows me to do my work tasks without feeling fidgety or unfocused.

Get enough sleep. Sleep makes a huge difference in my productivity. When I get to bed late, I can definitely feel it. I feel sick and I can barely get anything done. This obviously presents challenges in the office. Make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep so that you don’t end up falling behind on important tasks.

Find your “zone.” In general, we tend to perform best when we are “in the zone.” This means that we are not overly bored or overly stressed, but seem to have the right amount of focus and time to ensure the best possible performance. If you can figure out how to get in your zone and stay there, your productivity will increase drastically. I tend to get in the zone when I set deadlines for myself. Even if I am doing a remedial task, I set a deadline. The deadline could be one hour later or one month later. Either way, this makes me complete my tasks efficiently while producing high quality work. Calendaring out your day or week so that every hour is accounted for helps with this as well. While some things simply cannot be planned ahead of time, the more prepared you are the more likely you will enter your zone. While this may seem like an abstract concept, approaching the workplace this way could help you get in the best mindset to do work in the most effective way.

Unfortunately, distractions are part of life—and part of the workplace—but just because they exist does not mean they need to control your day. If you learn how to keep your distractions under control, your productivity will undoubtedly increase. These tips are just things I’ve learned from experience. Find what work for you and use it your advantage!

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Tips and tricks for attending your first conference

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When I was brought onto the AMPED team in January, one of the first things we did was book my flight for the annual conference of one of our clients. It was several months away, and I didn’t think much of it, as I was trying to learn and retain everything about my new position as quickly as possible. It really wasn’t until the week before that it occurred to me that I had never been to a conference of any kind, and I had no idea what to anticipate. So if you plan on attending a conference for the first time, here are some tips on how to prepare, what to pack, and what to expect.

How to prepare:
Determine what you hope to accomplish there. Making a small itinerary or schedule gives you an idea of just how much time you have available. Plan to meet with colleagues whom you’ve only ever talked with over the phone, as it will put a face to the voice and help you connect better. Put aside time for programs and presentations that you would not normally have access to outside of a conference venue. And if you are giving a presentation yourself, have duplicates of your visuals handy, whether it be on a thumb drive or in the cloud.

What to pack:
It’s hard to anticipate everything you will need once you’re there. Pack your essentials, of course. Plus, I suggest packing an extra day’s worth of clothing. It’s always good to remember that with your clients, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, so having several nicer outfits is important. Also make sure that you have everything that you will need to accomplish your goals at the conference: business cards, notepads, phone charger, etc. And comfortable shoes. I don’t think I can stress that enough.

What to expect:
There will be a copious number of people to meet and names to remember. Business cards will help, but following up with connections afterwards, and sometimes writing notes on the card itself will help you remember who they were. The days will be early and long, but fun and informative. Make sure you meet new people, as everyone will be a part of the conference and will have several things in common with you right off the bat. Who knows – the person you sit next to at lunch could be a potential business partner down the road.

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself. Though it’s a whirlwind of activity, the days are long and the work is hard, remember to step back and appreciate the experience. People are there to enjoy themselves and to connect, so you should do the same. I thoroughly enjoyed my first conference and look forward to more down the road!

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Five essential admin tips

keep-calm-and-always-prioritizeAnyone in an administrative position knows that an “administrator” can mean anything. There is no set job description. While there may be a set of tasks that you do daily, weekly or monthly, your job largely varies from day to day. That is certainly true with my position at AMPED. Although it is refreshing to constantly be doing new tasks, sometimes it’s difficult to keep everything straight. Here are some great tips I’ve learned to keep myself organized while getting everything done.

Make a list. Making a “to-do-list” may seem like an old fashioned notion, but I view it as a life saver, especially on my busy days. When you are working on a number of projects with various deadlines for different colleagues or clients, it is really easy to have things fall through the cracks. Writing out a list serves as a reminder for what jobs I need to complete on any given day. Additionally, crossing out an item on my list gives me a great sense of accomplishment!

Prioritize. When you have to work on more than one task for more than one client or co-worker, you need to know what tasks are most important and time-sensitive. It’s usually obvious which projects you should work on first; a task for an event tomorrow is far more urgent than a task for an event happening in six months. Be aware of your colleague’s deadlines so that you can set your own. This way, you will not only be able to prioritize your own projects, but also give your colleagues a realistic expectation of when you will complete a task.

Communicate. Communication is a lifelong skill that is helpful in any type of position. When a colleague or a client approaches you with a project, make sure that you have a solid understanding of what is expected of you and how that task is supposed to turn out. Ask questions and be thorough. While this may seem tedious and time consuming initially, it is better long-term. If you fully understand the project at the beginning, then you won’t have to redo or edit the project once you have completed it. Additionally, keep everyone updated on your progress. If something comes up that affects your timeline, make sure to share that with your colleague. Keeping an open dialogue always makes things easier for everyone involved.

Be realistic. Working in an administrative position can mean that many people are approaching you with many different projects. It is important to be honest about what you can complete in a timely fashion. I never want to tell a colleague “no” because I know how hard they work and how busy they are, but I also need to be realistic about what I can complete. If you’re already working on a few time-consuming projects and someone requests that you complete another by the end of the day, it’s time to be honest about what you can do. Make sure you aren’t taking on too much in too short a time-frame.

Work efficiently, but carefully. Getting things done quickly is essential, but completing something carefully is equally as important. Sloppy work not only reflects poorly on you, but also on your colleague or employer. Always make sure to take that extra time to double check your work. This will make you look like a key player in the workplace, making both clients and colleagues trust you.

While I have discovered these tips working as an administrative assistant, they are largely applicable to any type of position. Everyone is balancing busy schedules, so take some time to organize! Utilizing some of these tips in the workplace can help anyone stay organized and efficient while handling multiple tasks at once.

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Starting from Scratch: My transition to AMPED

Starting a new job is never easy. Learning new systems, names, job duties and everything else usually results in a state of utter confusion. Starting my new position as an assistant at AMPED was no exception. My first day was overwhelming; with five clients and being responsible for various tasks with each one, I was worried I would never be able to learn everything. However, with AMPED’s great staff and comfortable workplace, I felt at home right away.

Most of what I learned during my first few days initially seemed completely foreign to me. If you asked me to renew a membership, create a certification packet or even use the mail machine, you might as well have been speaking another language. I didn’t know how I was going to learn everything I needed to know promptly and well-enough to assist client needs.

Fortunately, I learned one very important lesson early on: I don’t need to know everything. The AMPED staff is more than willing to answer all my questions (and trust me, there are plenty) and teach me the skills I need to be successful in my position. I am no expert in half of the things I do, but I don’t have to be. Once I took the pressure off of myself to become all-knowing, I was able to relax and learn what I needed to know. Now things don’t seem so foreign at all. I am certainly still learning, but with a supportive team that is willing to teach me their ways, I am not as confused as I was at the start.

It’s clear that the AMPED team is committed to their work, but their respect for each other and positive attitudes make me look forward to coming into work every day.

AMPED’s workplace culture also made my transition easy. It’s clear that the AMPED team is committed to their work, but their respect for each other and positive attitudes make me look forward to coming into work every day. AMPED is casual when it can be and professional when it needs to be. The staff works hard and they go to great lengths to please their clients, but they genuinely enjoy working with each other daily. With a relatively small staff, they look forward to celebrating holidays, birthdays and other events around Madison together. Everyone was extremely welcoming from day one, which made my transition so much easier. I am fortunate to have found such excellent coworkers and always look forward to gathering with the staff.

In general, my transition into AMPED was great. While there were certainly many moments of confusion, I could not be happier to be a part of the team. I’ve now been in the office for about two months and although I am still learning, I am confident and comfortable in my environment. The things that felt so foreign to me during my first week are now tasks that I can complete quickly and easily. Being part of such a great company has been refreshing. I look forward to growing with AMPED, learning more about association management and seeing where the position takes me. It’s still true that starting a new job is not easy, but starting my position with AMPED was better than I could have imagined.

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