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AMPED blogs you may have missed

AMPED up

It’s part of the culture at AMPED Association Management that staff regularly share with one another tools and processes they use to support our mission: to perfect operations and accelerate growth for the organizations we manage. In fact, we specifically share “hacks” during our weekly staff meetings — what works for one person or organization may also work for another. It’s that sharing of knowledge across diverse associations that is the beauty of the AMC model.

Another, more public way of sharing what we know is through the AMPED-UP! blog. Staff members write weekly about challenges, tips and solutions for all things associations, from technology, to governance, to workplace issues.

Here is a list of top-read blogs from the last few months that are not to be missed.

Nine questions that can green-light or sideline your next association initiative
by Tony Veroeven

Planning a joint convention: Tips for a successful and positive collaboration
by Michael Battaglia

How to develop strategic priorities using a breakout session model
by Jen Brydges

When a hurricane hits your convention city: How our meetings team prepared for the worst
by Chris Caple

Is Squarespace right for your association's website?
by Emily Viles

Why you should attend user conferences for your technology platforms
by Emily Wiseman

First impressions: How to welcome new members
by Terry Driscoll

The Hitchhikers Guide to the CAE: Part 1
by Christina McCoy, CAE

What’s in your bag? Using video to up the entertainment value of your social presence
by Kristin McGuine

Certification program is opportunity to recognize key members
by Kim Siebecker

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In appreciation of Helvetica

helvetica film

My name is Jeanne Weiss and I’m a font nerd.

I came to grips with this while watching Helvetica, a documentary film dedicated to the proliferation and appreciation of the Helvetica font.

Judge me if you like, but I. Was. Glued.

The film takes the viewer through the 60-plus-year history of Helvetica while gathering the opinions and thoughts of designers and typographers around the world.

Until I watched the film, I was oblivious to just how much Helvetica had shaped my world. Now, I see it everywhere!

Helvetica is ubiquitous
Most likely, you’re not even aware of the extent to which Helvetica demands your attention every day. It directs you on street signage. It’s used on official Federal documents like your tax forms. It’s a favorite of corporate logos — Greyhound, Crate & Barrel, Urban Outfitters, the U.S. Post Office, American Apparel, Nike, Kodak, Target, Samsung, American Airlines, TNT and more!

The next time you watch The Office, pay attention to that opening sequence. That’s Helvetica.

We even use it in our branding at AMPED! 

Helvetica is neutral
Even with thousands of possible font choices at their disposal, designers continue to favor Helvetica because it’s clean, simple and perfect.

Said one of the designers in the film, “It’s very hard for a designer to look at Helvetica characters and say, ‘How would I improve them? How would I make them look any different?’ They just seem to be exactly right. Helvetica is a beautiful, timeless thing and certain things shouldn’t be messed with.”

Said another, “Some fonts only say one thing: Christmas! Wedding! Helvetica says everything, and that’s part of its appeal.”

Helvetica is powerful
There were so many wonderful quotes from the film about design and typography that I wanted to share them with those of you who geek out on such things. Here are a few:

“A typeface should express a mood, give atmosphere or color.”

“Graphic designers have an enormous responsibility. They are the people putting their wires in our heads. Graphic design is the communications framework through which these messages are sent.”

“Don’t confuse legibility with communication. Just because something is legible doesn’t mean it communicates.”

“If something has an important message and it’s set in a boring, nondescript way, it might be lost.”

“If you take the same message and apply a different design and typeface to it, the emotional response will be different. The choice of typeface is the prime weapon in that communication.”

“Type casts a secret spell. It makes you say, ‘I like that. That’s my kind of product.’”

“There’s a thin line between simple and clean and powerful, and simple and clean and boring.”
Standing joke: “A typographer can’t see a historical film because the fonts are always wrong.” Which reminded me of this recent story.

“The reader shouldn’t be aware of the font at all. The font should just hold, display and organize the information, not draw the reader from it.”

“Think about when an actor is miscast in a role. The viewer will still follow the plot, but be less convinced or affected. Typography is similar. A designer choosing typefaces is essentially the casting director.”

Whattaya know, I’m a font nerd AND a casting director!

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Getting personal: Using hand-written notes to connect with members and increase retention

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I received the loveliest note from a dear friend yesterday. Handwritten on a humorous greeting card only she and I could truly appreciate, she thanked me for our friendship and for just being me. It was simple and unexpected and I’ll cherish it forever.

I have another friend who mails me postcards every few weeks — kitschy relics he picks up at antique stores and re-uses. My favorites are vintage photos of old supper clubs and motor inns. I save them all.

I have, in fact, a box full of special notes, letters and cards that go back to my childhood — precious messages written by hand from high school friends, my mother, my grandmother, my husband. They mean a lot to me and I wouldn't dream of throwing them away.

In a world of knocked out texts and emails, hand-written notes are an anomaly. Think about the last time you received a hand-written note by mail. I bet it got your attention and made you slow down so you could appreciate the message. Maybe it was nice enough that you tacked it to your office wall for everyone to see. It made you feel good didn’t it? Kind of special?

What if you extended that same feeling to your association members? Imagine the impact a sincere, hand-written note would have on member satisfaction and retention.

It starts with prospective members. What if you had a targeted list of pre-qualified prospects and your CEO hand-wrote a special note to each inviting them to join your association or attend one of your events as her guest. Wow! At the most, they’d join or attend. At the least, you’ve opened a door of communication that will likely be reciprocated, but most certainly remembered.

For new members, a hand-written welcome, along with your “new member kit,” is a great first step to building relationships and engagement.

Get yourself a set of branded notecards or stationary and start reaching out today. Consider these ideas:

Letters of congratulations for

  • Certifications
  • New jobs
  • Promotions
  • Births
  • Marriages
  • Retirements
  • Business growth
  • Industry awards

Letters of thanks to

  • Sponsors
  • Event volunteers
  • Authors or blog contributors
  • Speakers
  • Board and committee members

There are so many ways to connect personally with your members and make impressions that last. It requires extra time and thought, for sure, but that extra touch will be remembered and appreciated, and will likely translate to greater member satisfaction and increased retention.

Now, grab a pen and make someone feel special today!

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Chrome’s Momentum extension: A to-do list wrapped in a fortune cookie

momentum

I recently set a goal for myself — a goal to set goals. This was a challenge given to me by my boot camp trainer. What she really wanted were long-term goals: this week, this month, this year. But I told her, I have enough trouble committing to what I’m making for dinner, much less what I plan to do with my life a month from now. So she suggested I keep it simple and shoot for daily goals.

Always looking for tools to streamline and add fun to my day, I went in search of an app. There were a lot of them. I wanted it super simple, motivating and free. What I discovered was a really cool Chrome extension called Momentum.

Morning Zen
Momentum is brilliant in its simplicity. Each morning, I open a new tab in the Chrome browser and up pops a stunning zen-like photograph and a welcome, “Good Morning, Jeanne.” Then it asks me, “What is your main focus for today?” I type in my answer and then all day long, each time I open a new tab, I see that beautiful photo and a reminder of my goal. And as if it can read my mind, Momentum also reveals a relevant, motivational message of the day. It’s like a fortune cookie for my soul.

A “to-do” list sent from heaven
The simple and beautiful structure of Momentum would be enough, but what really gets me excited is the to-do list feature embedded to the right of the screen. It sounds silly, I know, to get excited over a to-do list. But this one is so freaking easy to use! When I discovered it, it was like a “where have you been all my life?” moment.

I juggle dozens of requests from multiple clients all day long. And I need to keep track of all those tasks so that at the end of the day I can report the time that I dedicated to each. With the Momentum to-do list, I just enter the tasks as they come to me and check them off as they are completed. And the best part is that anything that wasn’t accomplished is carried over to the next day. No more writing and re-writing lists in a notebook.

Cue the angels singing.

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Name badge ribbons. You love ‘em. You hate ‘em.

For some organizations, name badge ribbons are a necessary tool for networking at meetings – an immediate way to recognize new members, sponsors or those with particular professional interests. They have their place, for sure. But they can get out of hand . . .

badge ribbons

And what about the logistics of distributing the ribbons?

  • Do you go through the tedious process of cross-referencing multiple spreadsheets?
  • Do association staff peel and stick them on each badge?
  • Are they stuffed in the back of the badge so that attendees can stick them on themselves?
  • Or are they laid out in piles at registration for self-selection?

One solution to never-ending ribbons is to print designations right on the badge. One of AMPED’s clients does this, identifying member type, board member, speaker, or sponsor in different-colored banners at the top of the badge. This works most of the time. Although there are always special circumstances, like when a board member is also a speaker or a speaker is also a sponsor. We deal.

This same client has never used ribbons. But a few years ago, they started requesting that staff stick gold stars to badges to identify first-time attendees – yep, the same ones your kindergarten teacher gave out for good behavior. Problem was, very few attendees knew exactly what that gold star represented. Additional requests came in to identify certified members, or those who used the insurance plan, or still others who were part of peer groups.

In search of a creative way to satisfy all the requests without resorting to ribbons and without the time-suck of having to apply stickers before-hand, AMPED staff devised a make-your-own badge solution.

badge stickers III  

We designed the badge so that the bottom 1” of the card was left open. Then we produced a half-dozen separate 1” square logos and had them printed on roles of stickers. Next, we set up badge stations on tables near the meeting registration area and directed registrants to step over and complete their badges. We built traffic by putting big bowls of M&Ms and Swedish Fish on the same tables.

The badge stations were a hit! Attendees enjoyed self-designating themselves and the whole process saved time and money. No ribbons. No labor.

Do you have a creative badge idea? We’re always looking for suggestions that save time and money at the meeting registration area. Let’s hear from you!

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But wait, there's more: The meeting is over, but the work isn't (video)

We’re celebrating a job very well done. Several members of the AMPED team just returned from a hugely successful, first-ever stand-alone meeting for our client partner, ACTRIMS (Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis). To illustrate just how successful this three-day scientific event was, the original attendance forecast was 435. You can imagine the challenges and excitement that ensued when the numbers peaked at 629!

Yes, there was much applause and commendation when the meeting closed. But AMPED’s job isn’t done when the registrants go home. There are boxes to unpack, evaluations to review, sponsors to follow up with, and sites to visit for future meetings.

Watch what's next for the ACTRIMS meetings and support team:

  meeting video image"Our work here is done." NOT!

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When I grow up I want to be an association manager… said no one ever

when I grow up

When I meet someone for the first time and I’m asked what I do for a living, the exchange usually goes something like this.

Me: "I manage associations."
Them: [confused look]
Me: "Do YOU belong to any trade or professional associations?"
Them: [nine times out of 10 they do]
Me: "Well, someone has to make sure the conferences are well planned, promoted and executed; the newsletters are written and distributed; the membership database is managed; the website is up-to-date; dues renewals go out on time; financial records are kept; and that the board stays on its strategic path. — That’s what we do."
Them: [clearly impressed] "Wow! I’ve never heard of that. How does someone get into association management?"
Me: "Well . . ."

It’s an excellent question — with answers as varied as the associations we manage. From my experience, there really is no direct entry into this profession. I mean, no career counselor ever looked me up and down and said, “Hey! You’re organized. You’re a great communicator. You like working with people and improving products and processes. You’ve got what it takes to be a great association manager!” 

In school, when I was thinking about career goals, association management wasn’t even on my radar. I landed here out of chance. I wanted to be a journalist, so my advisor hooked me up with an internship at what was then the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association, managing their monthly magazine. That six-month internship turned into a full-year job. And that opened the door to my first “real” job out of college with Executive Director Inc., as a communications manager for the National Christmas Tree Association (proving once again that there really IS an association for everything!). Later I would go on to do communications and marketing work for the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin and now AMPED.

Everyone else I know in this profession has a similar story. They had no aspirations to go into association work. By happenstance and good fortune, they simply fell into it.

I'm thinking about this now because my teenage daughter is exploring job options as part of her career planning class. As she shows me the top ten results from her career exploration exercise, I'm betting that nowhere in any student’s results did association management show up as an option. Which is too bad, because there is a great need for new talent and strong leaders in associations. The next generation’s skills in communications, finance, technology and governance will help advocate for and advance the careers of millions of professionals and academics around the world.

“To work for an association is to choose a varied, challenging and rewarding career path that will give you a chance to grow professionally while helping make the world a better place,” says the American Society of Association Executives.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Who do you know who would make a great association manager?

For more information on association management careers, see:
Through the Maze: Careers in Association Management; American Society of Association Executives
FAQs: Careers in Association Management; Association Forum of Chicagoland
Career Headquarters; Wisconsin Society of Association Executives

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Time to transition? The advantages of partnering with an AMC

transition fish
There comes a time in the life of just about every stand-alone association when its leadership questions the efficiency and expectations of its structure and staff. Does it have the funds to deliver on its mission and vision? Are the volunteer leaders getting buried in day-to-day operations? Does the current staff have the talent and experience to take the association to the next level?

Inevitably, as options are considered, the idea of partnering with an association management company (AMC) is introduced. For many associations, especially those that have been run by volunteers or with minimal staff from the get-go, the idea of hiring an AMC and sharing the reigns can sound pretty radical, and even frightening.

However, the promise of working with highly experienced association management professionals makes the decision to partner with an AMC a prudent one, especially for associations looking for efficiency and growth.

What is an AMC?

  • An AMC is a business owned and operated by experienced association executives.
  • AMC staff are professionals who know how to work with volunteers and are very familiar with the challenges of association management.
  • Because AMCs work for more than one association, they are in a position to offer more talent than the association could afford on its own.
  • AMCs provide organizations economies of scale through shared office space, equipment and staffing.
  • Staff are experts in niche areas (meeting planning, governance, membership marketing, etc.)
  • AMCs partner with organizations of any size, but most typically with not-for-profit associations or foundations.
  • The AMC serves as your organization’s headquarters.
  • Associations are the clients. They pay a fee to the AMC for the specific skills they need and the work required.
  • The AMC deals with all staff and administrative “overhead,” including office space, equipment, human resources and technology.
  • Finally, partnering with an AMC enables association leaders to stop managing the association and instead focus entirely on leading the association and the membership.

At AMPED, we make the transition easy for association staff and leaders. We believe in the AMC model and are fully committed to developing successful partnerships through trust, open communication and mutual respect. Our success is your success!

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Pinky up! Email etiquette from a correspondence snob

ettiquette

I attended a baby shower this weekend at which guests were asked to pre-address their own thank you note envelopes. What? I may as well have been asked to write the thank you note, itself. In my book, this is tacky and a major etiquette no-no. If a guest has made an effort to show up at the shower and bring a present, the least the recipient can do is send a personalized thank you card.

Am I a correspondence snob? Probably. When it comes to business correspondence, there are a lot of us. Dozens of business etiquette resources and websites point to the same bothersome trend: that writers have gotten lazy. The days of hand-written letters, even printed business letters, are fading, replaced by email and further degraded by phone texts.

To set you, the sender apart, I suggest the following email tips culled from my own experience and some pretty awesome etiquette websites.

  1. Include a courteous greeting and closing. It’s just a nice thing to do.
  2. “Please” and “thank you” are common courtesies that will take you far.
  3. Initially, address your recipient formally: Dear Mr. Pitt, Hello Ms. Jolie. Use first names after a few interactions.
  4. Know your fields: The “to” field is for those from whom you would like a response. The “cc” field is for those who you are just FYI'ing.
  5. When replying to an email with multiple recipients noted in the “to” or “cc” fields, remove the addresses of those who your reply does not apply to.
  6. Refrain from using the “Reply to All” feature to give your opinion to those who may not be interested.
  7. To be safe, don’t complete the “to” field until you’ve completely written and reviewed your message and are ready to send. How many times have you accidentally hit the “send” button prematurely? “Doh!”
  8. Take the time to review each email to ensure the message is clear and cannot be misconstrued. Check your tone.
  9. Refrain from using too many exclamation points. It’s annoying. This is a good rule for any writing – electronic or otherwise.
  10. If your email is emotionally charged, take a break before you send it. Nine times out of ten, you’ll feel differently in the morning. It’s for the best.
  11. Just because someone doesn't ask for a response doesn't mean you ignore them. Always acknowledge emails from those you know in a timely manner. And if you cannot respond to an email promptly, at the very least email back confirming your receipt and when the sender can expect your response.
  12. Keep emails brief and to the point. Don’t lose your message in a sea of filler.
  13. In a string of emails, feel free to modify the “Subject” field to more accurately reflect a conversation's direction.
  14. When in doubt, go formal. No abbreviations — use full words and sentences (you, not “u”).
  15. And for goodness sake, no crazy fonts or fancy backgrounds.

Lastly, if you need to clarify your message, don’t forget the telephone. I know it’s a scary thing to actually talk to people. Maybe my next blog will focus on the lost art of conversation . . .

 

Sources:
businessemailetiquette.com
www.netmanners.com
101emailetiquettetips.com

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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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Keywords are so last year: The new "formula" for SEO success

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There are no Search Engine Optimization (SEO) guarantees, only good practice. There is no silver bullet or shady tricks that will shoot your site to the top of the search engine rankings. It's as simple as that. I would advise caution if any company or freelancer guarantees SEO success, unless of course they come with a 6 or 12 month plan.

SEO used to mean putting a few bits of text, key-words or phrases in place on your site, getting a few links to your site and the rest would fall into place, with no further effort and no further thought.

But since search engines continually update and refined their ranking algorithms, that all changed. Search engines now rank sites a lot differently, and add weight to the type of links you have to your site, and the quality and relevancy of the content on your site. So called "black hat" techniques will kill your site and rightly so. Why should a site without decent content go to the top of the rankings ahead of a site that has?

Remember, search engine sites are companies like any other. Even massive companies need satisfied customers. Search engines need the best, most relevant sites at the top of their search results, otherwise their users will look elsewhere. So those terrible, irrelevant, content-light sites get punished. It just makes sense!

So what is the new “formula” for SEO success? Substance + Relevance + Shares = Success!

Today your website, blogs, and social media presence have an actual chance of out-ranking your competition under multiple searches, and this is where the new SEO practices will have their day.

Substance: Substance means a complete base of a few things: Content, content and, oh, more content. Part of the new formula is content creation, and yes, this means content that is relevant to your business and your potential customers.

Relevance: Without relevance, your SEO efforts are dead in the water. We cannot manipulate rankings no matter how hard we try, our business is not that of ranking, but of being relevant to those who search for the answers they want or need.

Shares: Today’s link building is not as serious a struggle as some SEO “experts” would have you believe. Forever it was link to this persons high traffic page and if they linked back even better, not so today. Social sharing and citations are the cause for serious linking success.

Sharing content not only promotes successful linking, but also creates a couple things that are far better, trust and credibility.

Sharing content that others will in turn share themselves, creates trust. When people do click a link and follow you through to your website, blog, or your social media page, it is all about the trust and credibility you are building with them and the search engines.

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Get up! Stand up! Tips for selecting a standing desk

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2014 was the year I finally decided to focus on my health. And oh boy did I! I joined a gym and got excited about working out. I learned how to fuel my body with clean, unprocessed foods. I grew stronger. I lost 30 pounds and gained some killer biceps! But of all the things I accomplished this year, perhaps the most healthful and life-extending decision I made was to reduce the time I spend sitting on my bum.

The Sitting Disease
Here’s what I know: Research shows that excessive sitting can be lethal. Most of us do it all day long: in the car, on the couch, in the office. It’s so bad, that experts say it can’t be negated by exercise and can lead to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers and early death. There’s even a name for this inactivity: the “sitting disease.”

I knew if I was really going to take this health thing seriously, I needed to sit less and move more. That’s tough to do when you have a desk job. So I set out to find a sit-to-stand office solution that would work for me.

In search of a solution
I started with a cheap hack that consisted of a 2’ x 3’ board set across two cardboard boxes. On top, I put my keyboard and my mouse. This got me on my feet, but, as you can really only stand for an hour or two at a time, it was awkward to break it down and set back up again throughout the day.

Then I started being conscious about standing while doing activities that didn’t require sitting: conference calls and meetings, or reading, for instance. And rather than sending an email to my colleagues a few offices away, I got up and paid them a visit.

This was all fine and good, but not enough to truly counteract the effects of sitting. I needed a permanent solution.

There are an amazing number of sit-to-stand options out there, ranging from adjustable desk tops to fully mechanized furniture. Some of the best I found were desktop workstations that turn your existing desk into an adjustable one. Ergotron, Kangaroo, and Veridesk are all attractive options and range in price from $300 - $600.

I wanted a full-desk option, however, to fit my two-monitor set up. Among the contenders in the height-adjustable desk category were Jesper, Evodesk, Ergo Depot, Stand Desk and XDesk. These can be pricier, ranging from $800 to over $2,000 depending on features that can include electronic adjustment, power management solutions and even add-on sound systems. Some also come with apps that alert you when it’s time to sit or stand (as if our bodies can’t tell us the same thing!).

The results
As I tend to have champagne tastes on a beer budget, I set my sights on a full sit-to-stand desk and scoured the Craigslist ads for something second-hand. Then last month — Bingo! — my dream desk appeared in the form of a beautiful bamboo-topped NextDesk. It required a two-hour drive across the state and back and another three weeks to get all the additional parts I’d need to make it complete, but it was well worth it.

I’ve lived with my new sit-to-stand desk for over a month now and have reduced my workday sitting time from about nine hours to three. I can write, design and hold meetings all while standing and I’ve noticed I have more energy than when I sat slumped over a desk all day. I love it!

I truly believe that adjustable desks and sit-to-stand solutions will become more commonplace and affordable very soon as we continue to learn about the dangers of sitting. But I wasn’t willing to wait. If sitting less and standing more can boost my chances of living a longer, healthier life, why not start right away?

A few final tips

Get a mat. Reduce the stress on your legs by getting a good desk mat. I purchased this one from Amazon.

Wear the right shoes. You’ll stand longer if you’re feet are happy. I have an extra pair of comfy shoes near my desk in the event that I’m wearing heels. Or I go barefoot.

Keep moving. Yes, sitting too much is bad, but standing too much in one place can lead to varicose veins. Who wants that? Be sure to shift your weight as you stand. Or, do what I do: turn on some tunes and dance!

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Responsive design: Why you need to make the switch, now

responsive-design

Responsive design. It's all well and good. Your site adjusts to the screen size, and your users get a good mobile experience, without having two or even three separate websites. But the process for making your site truly "mobile friendly" is a bit more complicated.

Why would someone view your site on their mobile device? What info do they need? What do you want to offer them and why are they different from your desktop computer users?

All these questions need consideration when creating a responsive design.

What is responsive design?
Responsive design is a design technique for websites that allows a page to rearrange itself based on the size of the screen displaying it. Modules rearrange themselves or even hide themselves so that nothing gets too squished and too small to view on a smaller screen, meaning mobile users have the same viewing experience they would have when visiting your website on a desktop computer.

The introduction of responsive design solved a few problems for website viewers. First, they were able to see the proper display of the website. But another, perhaps more important problem this solved, was the need to have a separate, dedicated site for mobile viewers.

Most large, modern websites now use a content management system (CMS) of some kind. To have the same CMS service content for two separate sites — a normal desktop site and a separate mobile one — was an extremely complicated and frustrating task and required a lot of extra administration time, skill, and effort.

Responsive design solved these issues. Simply having a design or template capable of responding to any screen width meant that you needed only one site, and that site worked on any device.

But there are some other really important reasons why you should make the switch to responsive design for your website.

Mobile usage is increasing
Take a look around and you'll notice a lot of people on their mobile phones. In fact, it seems that just about everyone is attached at the hip with their phone, tablet, or other mobile gadget. Consider the following stats from Smart Insights.

• More than 20 percent of Google searches are now being performed on some sort of mobile device.
• In 2012 over half of all local searches were done on a mobile device.
• 25 percent of Internet users in the United States only access the Internet via a mobile device.
• 25.85 percent of all emails are opened on mobile phones, with another 10.16 percent opened on tablets.
• In 2014 mobile Internet usage is expected to overtake desktop usage.
• Out of the 4 billion mobile phones in the world, 1.08 billion are smartphones and 3.05 are SMS enabled.

Recommended by Google
We all know that Google is a really big deal. In fact, Google claimed 67 percent of the search market share in 2013, making it the most popular search engine in the world. So, if Google claims that it prefers responsive web design as the recommended mobile configuration, hadn’t we better listen?

Why does Google prefer responsive design? For starters, it's more efficient for Google to bot crawl the site and then index and organize all the content that is online. This is because with responsive design, all your sites have just one URL and the same website coding across all devices. When a business has a separate mobile site and desktop site, there will be separate URLs with different website coding for each. This forces Google to crawl and index multiple versions of the same exact site.

A better user experience
Responsive design gives users a better experience. For example, users don't have to mess around with zooming and shrinking, swiping and pinching, to see the text or images on screen. Instead, all of the content automatically adjusts to the screen of the device. This makes it easier and more convenient for users to read and navigate on your site.

And, there are stats to support why the experience of users is so important. According to Google's Think Insights on Mobile, when a user views your mobile website and is frustrated, or doesn't see the content that they are searching for immediately, there's a 61 percent chance they will head to another website. However, when a user has had a positive experience with your mobile website, that individual will be 67 percent more likely to buy a product or use a service. Further, 48 percent of users stated to Google that when a site doesn't function on their mobile device it makes them feel that the company does not care for their business or about their viewers.

Social media has gone mobile
I’m guessing that you're involved in some form or another with social media. But even if you're not, you still realize how important blogging and social media are in the 21st Century. And, social media has also now gone mobile, which you may have also noticed. How important is mobile for social media users? According to a study from ComScore, 55% of social media consumption happens on a mobile device.

When you have a single responsive site that will function on any device, it is much easier for your users to share, interact, and engage with the content of your site. For example, what if a user shares your mobile site URL over social media and one of her “friends” views the site on her desktop computer? The experience would be less than optimal if it wasn't intended for a mobile audience. This makes the user unhappy, and we all know an unhappy user will go elsewhere.

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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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What’s in your closet? How to launch a successful online clothing store for your next event

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I recently cleaned out my closet and finally rid myself of all the branded shirts I had stashed away from conferences past. I was saving them, I guess, for an inevitable painting party or garden overhaul. I didn't plan to wear them again in public.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with mixed feelings on the subject. Receiving one of these goodies at conference registration is a nice gesture, but one I could just as well do without.

Some associations have a tradition of handing out shirts to all their conference attendees as a benefit of registration. Some love it; they collect them even! Others couldn’t care less.

From the view of the planner, a clothing give-away is a great way to grow excitement and brand the event beyond the conference. But, it’s a logistical challenge to select styles, collect sizes, and take a wild guess at quantities when placing the final order several weeks before registration closes.

Send your registrants on a shopping spree
For a recent global conference, here’s how AMPED found a way to make both registrants and our planners happy AND save our association partner loads of money in the process.

AMPED partnered with Lands’ End, a national clothing retailer to build an online store specifically for its association partner, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). In reality, it was the full Lands’ End catalog with a home page and URL branded for CSIA. Both the association and conference logos were preloaded on the site and ready for personalization.

Conference registrants were emailed individual Lands’ End voucher numbers several weeks before the conference and directed to the site. Here they could apply their voucher toward the “official” pre-selected conference shirt (the value of the voucher covered this and shipping) or toward hundreds of other items, paying the difference above the value of the voucher. Registrants could purchase any item they liked as long as it was branded with the association or conference logo. Their purchases were processed by Lands’ End and delivered directly to them before the conference.

Response to this new offering was overwhelmingly positive. Registrants enjoyed the option to personally select a shirt style (no more debates over long-sleeve, short-sleeve, golf, button-down, etc.), and planners could breathe easy knowing that everyone was happy with their styles and sizes.

Unexpectedly, the majority of vouchers were never cashed in. Only 40% of the registrants purchased clothing from the site, saving CSIA thousands of dollars that would have otherwise been spent on unwanted give-a-ways.

AMPED and the CSIA Board considered the initiative a huge success and look forward to doing it again in 2015.

Crowd fund your event attire
Maybe you’re a smaller nonprofit organization that wants to offer shirts for an upcoming event, but at no cost or risk to you. Enter the world of crowd funding. Sites such as teespring.com help you leverage crowd funding and social media to sell your uniquely designed tees. Just design your shirt, name your price, and set a quantity goal and timeline. Then broadcast it via social media. If enough orders come in to reach your goal within the timeframe specified, the shirts get printed and shipped to the buyers. If not, all payments are canceled.

There’s a fund raising opportunity here, too. Price the shirts so that you make a profit above and beyond the base cost. The more you sell, the more you rake in – a great tool for churches and school groups.

 

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Take control of workplace productivity

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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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Social media strategy: What would Don and Peggy do?

The suitcase peggy and don bar

I’m obsessed with Mad Men, the AMC television show about Madison Avenue advertising in the 1960’s, now in its semi-final season. I love the writing and the drama. The clothes, the period décor — they’re eye candy. The characters are as fresh and innovative as the campaigns they pitch. Don Draper is the man in control. I loathe him for his habitual infidelity, while secretly longing for the show’s writers to take him back to his dark side. And Peggy Olson? She’s the feminists’ every girl; the advertising exec career woman I would have been had I not been born too late to rock polyester plaid and Lucite earrings.

But here’s the thing: As I watch each episode of each tragically short season from the comfort of my 21st Century couch, I’m not thinking just about how far we’ve come in workplace gender equality or how fortunate we are not to have seen a fashion resurgence in wide ties. I’m also thinking about how narrow the media focus is at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP) compared to what communications and marketing professionals must embrace today.

A whole new world

As ad account executive and creative director, Don and Peggy fashioned pitches for magazines and newspapers. Later, they adapted their skills for a TV audience, writing commercials for floor cleaner and hair spray. And that was pretty much it. TV and print. Maybe a billboard or a radio spot thrown in.

Fast forward 50 years. We still have TV, although DVRs and webcasts have changed the playing field for advertisers. Calls for the death of print have been slightly premature — magazines are still thriving (newspapers, not so much). Digital media has opened a whole new world to communications. Today’s audiences are inundated with information from the World Wide Web, eblasts, texts, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, mobile apps, blogs, robo-calls, and on and on.

For associations struggling to grasp all these media options (with vastly smaller staffs than SCDP, I might add), the question becomes, How much is too much?

Change the conversation
All of AMPED’s associations have accounts on two or more social media platforms. A few of them also have their own custom online communities. Add to that eblasts, newsletters and website posts and you have at least seven possible touches for every one message in a multi-message campaign.

You can imagine, there’s a very real danger of over posting and turning off an audience. The challenge is finding the right balance so that followers stay engaged and enlightened.

1. Keep it fresh. You don’t want your members to go to your social media site and find months’ old news. In fact, not filling your page with fresh photos and posts can be worse than not having a page at all. Neglect your Facebook page and it’s like neglecting your members.

2. Time it wisely. Schedule dedicated time every week to focus on social media. And don’t post too much in too short a time or your followers will start to ignore you.

3. Reconsider the number of channels you’re using. While there’s no doubt that associations need a strong presence in social media, don’t substitute the quantity of your placements for quality. Two to three social media channels is manageable. Any more and you may find yourself neglecting a few. (see tip #1) And be sure your members are actually using the social media channels before you commit resources to maintaining them.

4. Above all, be social. Don’t just announce an upcoming meeting; highlight a special event or location that will intrigue readers. Use conversational tones in your writing. Include slang when appropriate. Add photos from previous events. Encourage members to post their own association-related photos and videos. Post “shout outs” to members who have contributed their time or benefitted the association.

As Peggy said, “There’s a fine line between engaging and annoying.” Actually, she never said that. But if she were immersed in the marketing and communications world of today, I imagine she might. I also imagine her getting rid of that lousy apartment, making partner and taking over Don’s old corner office. It could happen.

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Tips and tricks for attending your first conference

huemmer biz cards

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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Want to see more women Lean In? Start with your company's culture.

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Baby Shower last year for Laura Hodge and Kim Siebecker: Celebrating two baby boys to come!

 

By now, most of us have read or are familiar with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. It’s a groundbreaking essay that asks why so few highly talented women have gained positions as highly ranked business leaders. It dares to look beyond the ingrained corporate double-standard by embracing ambition and promoting fearlessness in women.

Much of the book puts the onus on women to seize opportunities and assert themselves on their way to securing their seat “at the table.”

I’m all for “girl power” (just ask my feminist-in-training, 12-year-old daughter), but I believe, if we truly want to support women and see equality in the workplace, we need to be honest and admit that women still manage the bulk of work as it relates to child and parental care. The challenge of life/work balance for women is very real. It’s a challenging maneuver, to be a successful professional while balancing an infant in one arm and tending to an elderly parent with the other. And those responsibilities at home can be a very real barrier to promotions and income growth as women move in and out of the workforce in an effort to balance both.

It’s no wonder that, as Sandberg states, although women now earn more college degrees than men, “continue to outpace men in educational achievement,” and are entering more fields previously dominated by men, they hold only “14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials.”

"I'm proud to work for a woman-owned company that gets it."

In order for the Lean In movement and women to succeed, employers must adapt their policies toward supporting valuable staff in balancing life, both in and outside the office.

I’m proud and blessed to work for a woman-owned company that gets that. AMPED has developed a culture where hard work and results are the expectation, but not to the detriment of family and self. It’s essential that our staff know they have the autonomy to do what they need to do for their families so they can concentrate on delivering exceptional results for our clients.

For instance, when school is unexpectedly closed due to dangerous weather conditions (we live in Wisconsin, after all), we have the flexibility to work from home. When an elderly parent is ill, we can take off at a moment’s notice and know that we have the support of the entire staff behind us. When there are doctors’ appointments, broken furnaces or sick kids, we all understand that life comes first.

There is an expectation that the work gets done — and then some — but there is no clock to punch and no judgment. It’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? Respect and trust your employees and they’ll deliver their best in return.

I truly believe that finding and nailing life/work balance is the key to empowering women. Support from family is essential. But employers can play an even larger role toward that dream of equality.

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