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Working across cultures takes a little homework, a willingness to learn

global-etiquette

Working in today’s world means frequent interactions with different cultures and adapting to new business practices. Just because our reality is evolving to be much more flexible with these nuances does not mean they deserve any less thought, respect or effort in their understanding. When it comes to working with a global team, here are some points to take into account to achieve success:

Do your research. Doing a little homework about the new languages, cultures and traditions of those you will be working with is invaluable. You’ll be surprised at how unique business practices can be. For instance, in Japan, the business card exchange has a great amount of presentation and symbolic gesture. In France, you exchange a prescribed amount of “bisous,” or cheek kisses, depending on the type of relationship. And in India, business meetings begin with small talk that often takes over and in the end no work is actually accomplished.

Don’t be afraid to put down the books and articles. Learning these basics will help you ease into working internationally and, with practice, you will become more comfortable. What you don’t want is to put yourself in a position where you are labeling a culture with stereotypes and expecting these behaviors with each interaction. In reality, you will find other cultures often recognize that not everyone understands or follows their traditions and they will do their best to make you feel comfortable. If you ask, they might even teach you some things you couldn’t have learned in your research.

Willingness to learn. Talk to your new colleagues and leaders and find out what makes their culture important to them. Ask about how they feel, act, think, vacation, work, to expand your own horizons and build these relationships. If you are not willing to learn what makes different cultures different, you will quickly come off as disinterested. What a shame to miss such an opportunity! Disclaimer: Always be respectful and be careful of pressing too hard if it is clear the person is uncomfortable sharing.

Role of technology. It can be a challenge to plan conference calls and secure a time that works across six-plus time zones, not to mention trying to coordinate travel for in-person meetings where you find yourself dealing with currency conversions, customs and visas. With varied physical locations, it’s tricky to reach someone on the other side of the world when it’s 2 a.m. for them and you need to know right then who the special guests are that they’re inviting.

With a little patience and planning, these hurdles can be overcome. Many tools are available, like the World Clock Meeting Planner at www.timeanddate.com that assists in planning meetings in different time zones. You can even customize the locations you’re working with and save your own “Personal World Clock.”

Communication is key. Good communication and people skills are keys to any relationship. When you are working across cultures, this is ever more important. Just because you underlined, bolded, and italicized your request in an email doesn’t mean the message that it’s urgently important reached the recipient. What it comes down to is treating each person as we want to be treated. That Golden Rule we learned in grade school holds true even in today’s ever-changing world.

In the end, we live and work in a world that is becoming increasingly more connected. While we may not be able to control what brings us together, we can certainly make the most out of meeting new friends and colleagues from around the world. It just takes a little extra effort to recognize that we are as much alike as we are different and that we all have much to bring to the table.

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Make sponsorship dollars work for sponsors AND attendees!

With each New Year at AMPED comes the thick of meeting planning – budget management, exhibit sales, BEOs and, of course, sponsorship recruitment! While each client meeting is different, sponsorship support is vital to the success of any event.

Here’s a unique sponsorship idea
Attendee needs are constantly evolving, so it is important to remain open to new opportunities to enhance the overall meeting experience. These are busy people who are likely feeling the pressures of keeping up with business back at the office while they are away. What better way to put sponsorship dollars to use than helping attendees maximize their time out of the office?

Many registrants heavily rely on their phones or tablets to keep up on office activity. Don’t make participants go back to their hotel rooms to charge up. Recruit a sponsor for a charging station! Not just any charging station – get creative. Design a kiosk that will be similar to a coat check system. Let attendees walk away from their phones and hire an associate to manage the station so they feel secure in leaving their “lifeline” in trusted hands for a few minutes. How will I pay for a station attendant, you ask? Build the cost into the fee of the charging station sponsorship!

Attendees will be wowed at the convenience; meanwhile, sponsors will be thrilled with the opportunity to support a true registrant service. Make your meeting a wise investment for your sponsors! Feature the supporting company’s logo at the charging kiosk, display branded signage to guide registrants to the charging station, allow the sponsor the opportunity to run a video in the station throughout the duration of the event, or consider giving them an area for product literature.

This is just one example of the numerous things meeting planners can do to create a win-win situation for attendees, sponsors and clients. Increased sponsorship dollars means more flexibility to offer a high quality program. Quality programs equal higher attendance and continued growth makes the meeting an easier sponsorship “sell” the next time around.

Building sponsor relationships is not a simple task, but is definitely time and energy well spent. Ready, set, go!

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Is print dead?

Newsweek

At the end of 2012, when Newsweek magazine ceased printing and moved all content online, some media observers declared print was “dead.” Predictions were that, within a decade, all content would be online, accessed by on-the-go readers using tablets and other smart devices.

Immediacy, accessibility, searchability, interactivity, embedded video – all available for free – give online media huge competitive advantages over traditional print. Early in the online vs. print debate, magazine and newspaper publishers questioned how they could hold onto paid subscribers if they gave away the content on their website. Publication websites were mostly placeholders, where past issues could be warehoused along with media kits and subscription information.

Now, more publications are making their websites their primary delivery method. The shift from traditional print to web forces publishers to rethink every aspect of their business. How can they continuously produce fresh content? Where will the revenue come from to support a staff of writers, editors, designers and salespeople? Can they afford to create two versions of the publication? How will they build in interactivity? Who will monitor and respond to readers’ comments? How will they use social media to extend their reach?

One of the magazines to which I contribute articles from our members made this transition in the past year. Now, instead of submitting a bimonthly column for the print magazine, we are posting a weekly blog written by our members. The editors then choose among the blog posts for the print edition, based on web traffic and knowledge of their print audience.

I believe the publishers that reinvent themselves as online content providers will be the ones that flourish in the future. They will examine traditional business models and develop new ways to attract readers and advertisers. They will provide a nonstop flow of information that it is timely and relevant. They will engage readers in conversations that add perspective to the content. Their websites will be multimedia, multidimensional vehicles for news, opinion, entertainment and connectivity.
Print isn’t dead, but I think it’s safe to say it’s on the endangered list. Start charging your smart devices.

 

Addendum: Shortly after I finished writing this blog, the new owners of Newsweek announced they would resume publishing a print version of the magazine in January or February. The New York Times reported that the magazine will focus on in-depth, global reporting and rely on subscribers rather than advertisers for revenue, which will result in higher subscription rates. I look forward to seeing how this develops.

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Make a difference: How your association can have an impact on your community, your world

WSAE 2013 Donation

You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. — Winston Churchill

Last week, I saw a Facebook post by a peer letting everyone know that he and his co-workers had raised over $20,000 in one week for the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee County. His post reminded me again of how thankful I am for the life I lead. Everyone’s healthy and I’ve never had to worry about how I’ll pay the next bill or where the next meal will come from.

I realize that’s not the case for everyone. That’s why I’m proud of our client, the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) – an organization that knows the impact associations can have on the community and the lives of people around us. Through WSAE’s Community Outreach Task Force, we’ve helped build bikes for children that might never have one, collected “wish list” items for a children’s hospital, and supported an organization that provides care packages to overseas troops. In fact, as I was writing this, I received a report that we collected eight boxes and 27 bags of items (see photo) for Support The Troops at our December 2013 meeting. Wow!

WSAE values community outreach so much, that this year they awarded their Visionary Award to a woman whose nominator cited her leadership and involvement in her association’s community service program as the reason she was especially deserving of this award. In 2013, the Wisconsin Dental Association’s Mission of Mercy brought together 1,224 volunteer dental and other professionals to provide 2,072 free patient visits that included 1,450 fillings, 1,846 extractions and 32 root canals. Total services provided represented more than $1.1 million in donated care. Now that was certainly worthy of being recognized!

If you’re inspired to see what your association and its members can do to impact the lives of others, it’s easy. A large budget or staff isn’t necessary. You can start small, for every small act of kindness makes a difference. Here are some ideas to get you on your way:

  • Form a committee to select a worthy organization and ask everyone to bring an item from that org’s “wish list’” to donate at your annual conference.
  • Invite members to share the stories of what their companies do in your newsletter or on your web site. You’ll probably be surprised at how many of your members are already doing something, whether it’s through corporate and individual donations or employee service hours. Give them some applause for their service and let their stories inspire others.
  • Create an award to recognize member organizations that serve. Everyone likes a little friendly competition; and in that competition, everyone’s a winner!
  • Bring your staff together to volunteer as a group. The AMPED staff recently helped manage craft tables at a city-wide holiday party for 350 children from the Boys and Girls Club. It was such fun seeing the kids decorate holiday cookies and get their pictures taken with Santa. We all enjoyed the chance to serve and it helped make the AMPED team even stronger by sharing the experience together.

I always tend to think of volunteer opportunities as my chance to impact someone else’s life. However, what usually happens is that those people I’m serving impact mine much more. Let me know if you do something, I’d love to hear about it!

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A crash course in project management

Last year, we began developing a new certification management system for the CSIA Certification program. When I was asked to assist, my first thought was, “Great! But how do we start?” Getting this project off the ground took a lot of hard work and focus on the part of everyone involved. Looking back I realize that it was also an opportunity for me to take a crash course in project management. These are some of the most important lessons I learned.

Collaboration was vital. From the beginning, it was clear that this was not a one-person assignment. Successful completion of this project called for a great deal of collaboration. We had a core group of staff and industry members who undertook the day-to-day work and it was incredibly helpful to be able to rely on each other for fresh perspectives as we moved through the assignment. At times, the ability to talk an idea out was the best way to solve a question at hand. We also relied heavily on member/industry input. After all, this was their certification program and so their time and expertise was essential.

Establishing deadlines improved our focus. Before jumping in to the main work of the project we took some time to set up a schedule and set deadlines. We started by determining a target project completion date. With our start and end dates in place we could fill in the rest of the schedule, deciding on target deadlines for different parts of the project, all the time moving toward our completion date. Having this schedule in place provided structure to the work and allowed us to plan ahead. Rather than getting overwhelmed by the project as a whole we were able to focus on meeting each deadline as it approached.

Flexibility was essential. For all of our planning we figured out pretty quickly that this project was going to change as we progressed. We absolutely had to be flexible! We adjusted our schedule a number of times and our collaborative approach to the project meant we experimented with several management structures along the way. Even now, after the system roll out has been completed, we are still making changes to documents and procedures as we learn what works and what doesn’t.
Being part of this project has definitely been a great lesson in project management! It was a challenging assignment, but by working collaboratively, setting deadlines and staying flexible we were able to bring the development of the new certification management system to a successful conclusion. As we move the new system into practice I will continue to learn from these important project management lessons.

What about you? Have you been faced with a big project recently? What tools did you find most helpful?

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