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Moderating a webinar? Some tips for a successful presentation

webinar

I recently had the opportunity to moderate a webinar for the first time. Over the years I have participated in many webinars and panel discussions as a member of the audience or a presenter, so I anticipated this experience would be similar. In many ways it was, but serving as a moderator did come with a unique set of considerations and preparing for the sessions was certainly a learning experience! Looking back, I realize how much I did learn from this opportunity and since many of us in association management may one day find ourselves in the position of session moderator, I thought I would share some of what I learned.

1. Do your research. As the moderator you are probably familiar with the subject(s) being discussed but don’t take that for granted. Take some time to study and read about any of the latest news or developments. This will make you more comfortable and able to take an active role in the discussion.

2. Check in with the panelists. Once you have assembled panel, don’t forget to check in with them prior to the event. Presenters are working diligently to prepare for their own participation, so consider putting together some information to assist them. This gesture will almost certainly be appreciated! Some examples of information to provide:

  • Introductions: It’s always nice to know who you’ll be working with. If these individuals don’t know each other they will appreciate a bit of background on their fellow panelists.
  • Reminder of Event Logistics: Date, time and anticipated length of the webinar; whether slides are required or encouraged (if so, submission instructions); event format.
  • Anticipated Subjects: What is each presenter expected to discuss and for how long? If registrants are submitting questions ahead of time, consider sharing those to help speakers plan their remarks.

3. Have a plan to encourage discussion. It’s possible that the audience will not immediately engage in dynamic conversation with the panelists. Have some questions or talking points ready to help encourage discussion and audience participation.

4. Be ready for the unexpected. Despite all your best planning, something unexpected may come up. While it isn’t possible to prepare for every possibility, try to think of some that may be most likely. Do you have a plan if there are audio or connectivity issues? If a panelist cancels at the last minute can you or another panelist cover his or her talking points? If you are able, consider doing a dry run with the panelists/presenters to help identify technical glitches ahead of time and give everyone a sense of how the session will flow.

5. Review the tapes. If the session is recorded, take some time and watch/listen to the recording. It’s a terrific way to see yourself in action, see what went well and identify improvements for next time.

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Exceed expectations when onboarding your volunteer leaders

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Here are some tips on how to put your best foot forward with your volunteer leaders and give them what they need to lead so you have what you need to manage.

1. Understand the role, personality, and communication style of each leader.
Do your volunteer leaders have a clear understanding of what their role is within the organization and what your role is as staff? Creating a decision matrix, leadership manual and onboarding your volunteers at the beginning of the association year starts you off on a good foot for working successfully together.

When new volunteers come on board, ask them how they want to be communicated with and then actually utilize that as often as possible. Do they have an assistant that they want looped in on certain requests (especially scheduling)? Is a text or a phone call a better alternative to email or is email the only way to go?

Whichever way you communicate, get to know their style and personality. Are they a nothing but business, straightforward communicator or do they like to engage in conversation prior to jumping in to the subject matter? Do they want a high-level response, or do they need a little more “meat”?

Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively to each leader in their “style” and preferred method will help to create a strong relationship and ultimately make the work easier for both you and the volunteer. There is, of course, a learning curve to this but the more you can figure your volunteers out, the easier exceeding their expectations become.

2. Be proactive.
Can you anticipate questions before you receive them? If so, answer them before they have to be asked. As an example, I like to annotate my check and credit card expense details for one of my clients so that they have an understanding of what each expense is for. It doesn’t take much time at all and it eliminates many questions that could come up.

Are there ways to streamline operations or do things in an easier way for both you and the volunteer? Create a well thought out proposal and present it – the worst that can happen is they don’t adopt it but, in most cases they are excited to see that you’re thinking about how to better the organization and agree to suggestions. As an example, one organization who holds annual elections wanted to send multiple email reminders. Staff are always aiming to streamline communications and not overwhelm in boxes. We suggested a schedule with rationale and proposed setting up a link on the member’s only part of the website so people didn’t have to look for the link in an email. The Nominations Committee chair was thrilled and appreciated the pro-active thinking.

3. Manage expectations and over deliver.
While we’re talking about exceeding expectations, some do need to be managed. During your onboarding process, talk about response time for emails and phone calls. Strive to respond within 24 hours of receiving the communication and, if you can get to it the same day, all the better!

Ensure that your volunteers have a clear understanding of turnaround time for various projects – not everything can be done same day. If you can anticipate that a project is going to take you awhile, be up front about it and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Then, when possible, over deliver. If you can get something done faster, they’ll be thrilled.

4. Do what you say you’re going to do.
This not only builds a strong, trusting relationship but it ensures the association will run as smoothly as possible.

5. Set them up for success.
What can you do to make your volunteers look good? Provide talking points ahead of meetings, annotate financials, talk ahead of time to ensure they have everything they need to understand what they’re talking about when they lead a board or committee meeting. When your volunteers look good, it’s a win for them and for you.

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Establishing goals essential to measuring event's success

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“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Tony Robbins

Events, conferences and meetings tend to be the lifeblood of associations, especially for our clients. As we approach the busy meetings season, many of us who are planners become so busy with the logistics of the event that we can easily lose sight of the ultimate goals and what defines success.

When planning an event, there can be a tendency to go into automatic overdrive. Planners may repeat processes that were done in the past because it’s efficient and familiar. Determining overarching goals of the conference, whether it be providing networking, education, business leads, or making a profit for the client, need to be clearly defined and understood for the entire team to execute successful outcomes. Using defined goals for each component of the event, which may change from year to year, drives decisions from selection of education formats to social/networking activities; from implementation of communication strategies to integration of technology.

Here are a few tips our meetings team uses to establish goals for client events:

  • Follow a goal setting model for each clients’ event to ensure you develop strong goals to be accountable for throughout the planning process. A common model used in our industry is SMART: Create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound goals.
  • Keep your goals focused on the needs identified in your audience. These can be actual attendees, subsets of attendees, potential attendees, stakeholders, or the organization itself.
  • Ensure leadership agrees with the goals as established. There will likely be less resistance to a change in process if all leaders are included from the start.
  • Review your goals regularly to ensure they are being executed.
  • Keep in constant communication with your organizing team on progress throughout the planning process.
  • Have over-arching goals that drive the conference experience, and then set specific metrics by which achievement of the goals will be evaluated.

In summary, deciding on specific goals prior to your event will help you judge your event’s success as well as help you prioritize efforts throughout the planning process.

 

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Tips for clear email communication

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Our members and volunteer leaders are inundated with emails on a daily basis. How do you get through, get what you need, and not result in confusion? Here are some email etiquette tips to be sure to follow to make everyone’s lives (yours included!) a little easier:

Tip #1: Be Clear and Concise
Nobody likes to receive an email that they have to scroll through. Can what you are asking for or saying be shortened? Use bullet points to clearly separate ideas, questions, etc. If you’re asking for multiple things, they can get lost in paragraphs of information. Calling them out will make it easier for the reader to refer back to.

Tip #2: Set Deadlines
If you need a response to or action from your email by the recipient(s), make sure to clearly lay out a deadline. Trust me—they’ll appreciate it! I like to call it out in the closing of my email, such as “Response is appreciated/needed no later than 5pm CT on Friday, February 23.”

Tip #3: Use BCC
In my opinion, nothing is worse than being overloaded with emails on a chain that you no longer need to be a part of or getting everyone’s responses. Below are a couple examples of when to use BCC.

  • Example 1: You’re emailing one of your Boards to confirm that a specific set of dates works for an upcoming meeting. Save the Board members from getting everyone’s responses if someone hits “Reply All” by blind copying everyone instead. As a courtesy, make note in the email that the entire Board is blind copied.
  • Example 2: A colleague makes an email introduction between you and another person. Said colleague does not need to remain on the chain back and forth between you and the new person. A simple “Thanks for the introduction, Tim – I’ll move you to BCC now” at the start of your reply to all will cover it.

Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Change the Subject Line!
Are you on an email chain where the topic has changed or gone on a different tangent? Don’t be afraid to change the subject line to match! A recent example: I emailed a potential sponsor to offer them the opportunity to host a cocktail party with a client in Las Vegas. My subject line was “Sponsor Opportunity – Event in Vegas.” Throughout the chain, a marketing person got looped in regarding another topic—we were out of their flyers we typically include with our membership renewal invoices. When I replied to that marketing person, I used tip #3 and moved two individuals to BCC who didn’t need to remain on the chain for this particular topic. I also changed the subject line to “[Client Name] – [Sponsor Name] Inserts.” This way, the people dealing with the sponsorship didn’t need to have their inboxes cluttered with irrelevant emails (but know the other item was taken care of), and it was obvious to me and the marketing person what the topic of the email was.

Tip #5: Reread Before Hitting Send
Stop. Before you hit send, read the email through one more time. Is what you are asking for clear? Are you missing any vital information? Did you set a deadline if you are in need of something? Take a few extra seconds now to cover these bases and save yourself from having to send any further clarifying emails.

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Apple changed the rules: Here’s how it impacts our event apps

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At the end of 2017, in an effort to clean up their app store, Apple announced restrictions to mobile app templates. This had a direct impact on the events app industry, as a huge draw for partnering with event app providers is that the development is already done — clients just add their content and branding into app template. This announcement changed the way some of our clients’ conference apps are structured and how our users access them. Now that we’ve begun our meeting season, we’ve been able to see the impact on our apps first-hand.

Here is the main result of the announcement on our client’s apps: our event apps will now be housed in a container app, but in different ways.

Multi-Show app: This essentially functions as a container app that is client-specific. It is premium-branded for the client, meaning the app still has the client’s branding from the app store to download. The client is an app developer and cannot have event-specific branding in the app store, but rather the organization’s branding. However, when you click into the app after download, the current event and all previous events are listed for the user to access, with specific branding for each event.

The pros:

  • The client still gets a branded app with their name on it
  • Searching for the app is very clear
  • Users only need to download the app once. They continue to get future event information for that organization in the app as it’s released

The cons:

  • Apps still to go through the Apple approval process
  • Can be more expensive

Provider container app: This is different because the mobile app provider houses the client’s event apps under their generic container app in the app store. The mobile app provider is the app developer and the container app is branded with their information. The user must download the container app and then enter an event code, search for the event name, or access it via an email sent to them for easy download.

The pros:

  • You do not need to budget time for Apple approval as the container app has already gone through the approval process.
  • It’s cost effective.

The cons:

  • The client loses some branding opportunities.

We are still learning how this change will impact event mobile apps, but we continue to learn more as our providers navigate the change and we build more apps for 2018 events.

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