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Christina w Cert

Get in your time machine and go back two years. Imagine you’re at a dinner with ten peers and an accomplished C-Suite Exec. The food is delicious and the conversation is stimulating. Then someone mentions that they are pursuing their CAE. There is a grand pause. EVERYONE around the table nods their heads in agreement and admiration. For the first-time this evening you feel like an outsider. You have no idea what “CAE” is, but you nod your head too, not wanting appear misinformed, praying no one calls you out. Before long you learn that several others have obtained their CAE, including the C-Suite Exec. Words like “domains,” “LERP,” and “SPIE” spill out in conversation . . . Geez, more acronyms! Curious, you go home that night and look it up: The Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential through the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Hmmm, sounds intimating.

This is how I first learned about the CAE, maybe you have a similar story? What I did next was most important. Three things stand out as I look back and map out my journey.

1. Ask around
The CAE was foreign to me. I asked a lot of my peers and mentors what it was all about, and why it was worth pursuing. What were their journeys like? At what stage in their career did they take the exam? Did they study? I got mixed responses, but one thing resounded clear: everyone’s journey was unique and personal. Mine was too.

2. Meeting the requirements
I spent a lot of time on ASAE’s CAE webpage. I had already met some CAE eligibility requirements, but did I have enough qualifying professional development activities to meet the 100 hours? To find out, I began meticulously cataloguing my hours in a spreadsheet. I found eligible hours in a variety of places: I looked through my ASAE profile (Login>My Account>Education History). I scanned through my work calendar from the past three years. I searched through my email for “CAE.” And I contacted both ASAE and the organizations that hosted programs to confirm those that were applicable. Sounds like a lot of work, and I’ll admit it was.

I was surprised to find out I had already accumulated 80 hours. Getting the final 20 was fairly easy: I signed up for free webinars.* It’s amazing how many free webinars are out there once you start looking. It doesn’t have to explicitly offer CAE credits to be applicable, programs that touch on any of the nine knowledge domains could count too. You can even count up to 10 CAE hours through mentoring and coaching, like I did.

3. Committing to take the exam
Next biggest decision: to take the exam in December or May? It’s only offered twice a year, and through my chats with peers, everyone encouraged me to take it when the content was fresh in my mind. Since my plan was to include three months of rigorous studying pre-exam, the decision on which month to take it was crucial. What three months were best for me to invest studying time? Were there any conflicts with the exam dates (maybe a work conference or board meeting already scheduled?).

Fast forward and it’s now six months out from the time I would take the exam. Now it’s November, and I was pregnant with my second and due New Year’s Eve. For me I was either committing to taking the exam the following May (studying during maternity leave and a potential job transition) or choosing to wait until the following December (several months down the road, when I’d have two young kids running around). Yeah, I chose May. The nail in the coffin was when a wise woman told me that she studied while going through a massive renovation on her home. Literally, no running water. If she was successful at that time, then I could be too.

If you take anything from this article, know that the CAE is only as daunting as you allow it to be. Smart time invested in learning about the process and other’s experiences can be time well spent. Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, in which I share my study plan and exam prep process.

Congrats to those who have decided to pursue their CAE, and good luck as you begin the adventure!

*Free webinars can be found at ASAE’s upcoming events page, the Wild Apricot blog with a listing of monthly free webinars, Collaborate events page, and the CAE Candidate community.

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I like to watch Tara Hunt’s Truly Social series on YouTube. She did an episode on 5 Types of YouTube Videos Brands Should Make. It gave me pause.

One of my ongoing responsibilities here at AMPED Association Management is to produce regular publications for some of our clients. When a new issue is dropped, we announce it, with content highlights, across our various social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and the client’s online community.

These promotional announcements used to be text-only, and perhaps a little text-heavy. We’ve begun including an image, often of a staff member reading or presenting the new issue. We try to make sure the image is fun and engaging, and helps to put a personal face on the client association. Sometimes, we do video announcements that similarly feature a staff member presenting the publication and running through content highlights. Organic and engaging? Yes! But, the ideas in Tara’s video up the entertainment value and do so while keeping the process easy and the tone light. After watching the video, I have been thinking about different ways to apply many of these formats to benefit our clients.

One of Tara’s suggested format types, “Hauls,” reminded me of the “What’s in your bag” feature I sometimes see in magazines, where they lay out what a certain socialite is supposedly carrying around in her tote bag. I thought this might make a fun publication announcement:

The bottom line is that we want to provide content that members will find valuable, and that will cement our client’s position as an important source of information for their members. And, we want members to find our social presence entertaining. If your content is entertaining, your audience will like it, comment on it and share it. Their connections will then see it. And, they’ll all find themselves compelled to return later to see what’s new, building their personal connection to your association.

I look forward to the day when a member lets us know that they look forward to an upcoming magazine issue with anticipation, excited to see how we announce its release.

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CSIA Accessories Photo anon

Working in association management, it is important to find ways to connect with and recognize association members. The certification program offered by our client, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), provides a great example – the chance to recognize member companies that have achieved CSIA Certification or certification renewal.

Recognition of companies that successfully complete an audit is a good way to boost the visibility of the certification program. More importantly though, we understand the amount of hard work and dedication that members put into preparing for a certification audit and are eager to acknowledge this achievement!

These are some of the ways CSIA members’ certification success is recognized.

Social Media Recognition
One of the most immediate ways we acknowledge CSIA Certified and recertified companies is through social media. In a matter of minutes, a post announcing a company’s certification can reach so many people. In terms of simplicity and effectiveness, social media is certainly one of the most successful recognition tools we use.

Certified Membership
Upon successful completion of the certification audit, a company is classified as a Certified member. By providing this membership category CSIA Certified companies are easily recognizable. This membership category also provides unique benefits such as access to certification-specific materials and a larger discount off the purchase price of an online profile on CSIA’s online marketplace, the Exchange.

Certification Materials
Certified companies receive a packet of information from CSIA soon after their certification is processed. Materials sent include:

  • Certification plaque (sent to companies certifying for the first time). 
  • Date bar showing the current certification term that is attached to the company’s plaque. A new date bar is sent each time certification is renewed. The plaque is designed so that a company can attach each date bar in order. 
  • A certificate is sent via email (so that the company can share it electronically with clients and post it on their website) and in paper form for display.
  • Stickers – These have proven to be popular with members. We often receive requests for additional stickers and companies have enjoyed sharing photos of the creative ways they have found to display their stickers.

Annual Conference Recognition
The annual CSIA Executive Conference brings the industry together and we have found that it is an ideal time to recognize Certified members. Conference recognition methods have included:

  • Slides/signage listing CSIA Certified members
  • Name badge ribbons
  • Recognition of CSIA Certified members during a conference event (such as a dinner or awards ceremony).
  • Photo ops

We are always searching for new, creative recognition methods to try. No matter our approach, the primary intent of certification recognition is to connect with the member and to demonstrate that we take their accomplishment seriously. It is our experience that members who feel appreciated by and connected to their association add a great deal to its success!

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What do TV news outlets and Ellen DeGeneres have in common? They both use Skype to interview guests. So why shouldn’t association professionals?

By now you know that creating video is an excellent strategy for bringing attention to your association. Video is an important communications tool to further your nonprofit's cause, market to prospective members or engage existing ones.

Skype is a relatively easy way to produce content in-house without hiring an expensive video production crew. By installing a free or inexpensive third-party plugin, Skype can record all parties involved (with their permission). Recordings of interviews or panel discussions can be repurposed as on-demand webinars to be viewed later.

Case Study
One of our clients, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) has a certification program, attained at the company level. The certification demonstrates proficiency in the best practices of the system integration profession. One of the goals of the organization is to promote CSIA Certification to the degree in which prospective clients require that only CSIA Certified system integrator may submit a bid. The more their clients understand what CSIA Certified means, the more likely they are to do this. 

One way we encourage clients to “spec-in” certification is to conduct video interviews of our Certified members discussing how requiring a certified integrator can reduce risk and increase efficiency for the client’s operation.

This comes with some major challenges.
1. CSIA does not have the budget to send staff to 400 member offices to capture this content.
2. Our members do not have budgets to allocate to video production crews.
3. Nor do not have the time or resources to produce or edit a video themselves.

With a little planning, a solid internet connection, decent lighting, and great audio, we have learned to create, edit and publish these interviews on our YouTube channel and public website.

Interviews may be conducted in one of two different styles:

Confessional: In this format, the interviewer is off camera and not heard in the final version of the interview. The viewer only hears and sees the subject of the interview. This requires more editing so that the final video contains the “parroting” of the questions along with the answers. This is a technique used in many reality TV shows; a producer debriefs the “contestant,” but you only hear the interviewee speaking.

Side-by-Side: Show one to four subjects in the interview on one screen with as many as 10 participants. The latter may look a bit like the old game show “Hollywood Squares” but could be interesting if you carefully coordinate who speaks, when.

Audio Podcast
You could also repurpose the audio from the Skype call into an audio-only version and turn it into a podcast. In a slide-less discussion, listeners can enjoy the interview while multitasking or commuting.

Software Solutions
There are many third-party software plugin solutions for recording the call, for both Mac and Windows. Many have free or limited trials, or licensed versions for only $20 or $30. 

Conducting a recorded Skype interview or panel discussion is easy to set up and conduct. The best thing is that the final product can be used by other departments in your association, from marketing, education, and even the board.

Additional Resources
How to Record a Skype Interview
Four key elements to shooting better videos
How to be a reporter’s favorite source: Ten tips, plus bonus tips for recorded interviews

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SWS staff 2017

After 11 months of planning for a conference hosted in Puerto Rico this week, I'm taking it all in from my office in Wisconsin and hoping that the staff handling logistics onsite has been equipped with all the details and knowledge behind each day’s events. My random text at 2 a.m. to a colleague would say otherwise, but I’m also 29 weeks pregnant and keep hearing about pregnancy-induced brain fog, let’s blame that.

Early in the planning process, with the ongoing concern of Zika in Puerto Rico, staff members were free to decide whether or not they felt comfortable attending the conference. This gave us plenty of time to ensure there were replacement staff onsite and that everyone felt prepared for their roles.

Undoubtedly, the staff representing our client onsite are doing an amazing job (see photo). Here are a few tips to help if you find your team in a similar situation:

Develop a game plan. With all of our client meetings, we prepare a Staff Roles sheet which outlines core events and responsibilities. Develop this plan early and think about who can fill in for any staff unable to attend onsite. Nail down those who will be involved in order to keep them in the loop as planning proceeds.

Brief staff from the start. Meet regularly throughout the planning process to keep staff up-to-date. Our team schedules weekly check-ins to get everyone up to speed and discuss any concerns. This will also help avoid a “brain dump” right before the meeting (although this won't necessarily prevent one…see below).

Create a staff operations manual. Equip staff with a comprehensive guide that can be easily accessed onsite. Include all meeting contracts, banquet event orders, floorplans and other important documents. Add in contact information for vendors, board members and staff. List your sponsors, exhibitors and VIPs. Use this as your main resource for event information.

Communicate with outside vendors. Once you’ve decided who will handle responsibilities onsite, reach out to vendors and introduce them. Include staff on important communications as planning wraps up and arrange a time for vendors to meet with staff once they arrive at the meeting destination.

Schedule a pre-conference briefing . . . or brain dump. Run through the meeting from day one to the conclusion to make sure all staff are aware of the schedule and their role at the meeting. This is the time to answer any last-minute questions and get the team excited for a successful meeting!

Be in regular contact with onsite staff. Maintain contact by email or phone and make yourself available as a backup if needed. There will be questions and unexpected stresses, so offer to help back at the office. You may also get a few calls from vendors that are used to contacting you. Help direct them to the right person onsite.

With the conference wrapping up today, I am eager for staff to return and hear all about the conference and its successes as well as improvements for next year. We only get a second to breathe before 2018 planning begins!

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