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Certification program is opportunity to recognize key members

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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How to use Skype as part of your video strategy

sidebyside

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.

Techniques
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. 

Conclusion
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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Game plan: When your meeting staff can't make it to the meeting

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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Food and Beverage - The Other Attrition

cheesecake

For meeting planners, the word “attrition” is a pretty common industry term, most often used in reference to guest rooms. However, paying attention to food and beverage guarantees — the “other attrition” — is equally important.

Usually hotel contracts have a food and beverage (F&B) clause that requires a group to generate a minimum amount of F&B revenue through the course of the meeting. The F&B clause goes on to say that if the minimum amount of revenue is not generated, the group is responsible for making up the difference. The F&B clause will require the shortfall plus the tax. Whether it’s called an F&B guarantee or minimum, it really is an attrition clause.

Here are a few tips to avoid paying more than you need to if a shortfall occurs:

Know the profit margin
Often, clauses are based on the difference between the guaranteed F&B revenue and the actual F&B costs incurred by the group. If you can, do not agree to terms that require monetary damages based on lost revenue. Instead, try to base it on lost profit. Know the profit margin!

Last year, we were negotiating with a hotel in San Diego for a large convention taking place in 2018. The hotel incorporated an extremely high food and beverage minimum in the contract. Knowing the profit margins for F&B helped us successfully negotiate terms to minimize the potential amount owed if a shortfall would occur.

Industry standard profit margins for food and beverage are between 35 and 40%. For example, if a group signs a contract with a $50,000 minimum, but only realizes $40,000, there is a shortfall. However, it does not make sense to pay for the full amount of $10,000. Despite the shortfall, the hotel never had to order the food, pay any staff to prepare it, or serve it. Instead the group should negotiate to pay between 35 and 40% of the shortfall.

To calculate the amount owed, take the total shortfall amount and multiply it by the agreed upon profit margin percentage.

Know if F&B damages are subject to sales tax
Before agreeing to pay taxes on shortfalls, check with the state in which your meeting is being held to see if taxes are required by law. If a portion of the F&B minimum guarantee is never purchased, then usually no sales tax is owed because nothing was sold in the first place. Know this before you sign the contract.

Consider ordering more food rather than paying the shortfall
If there is a shortfall, consider purchasing enough extra food to make up the difference. This could mean enhancements to a menu, upgrading a reception or ordering a fancier dessert.

Attendees will likely have a more favorable impression of the event and the group will avoid paying F&B damages to the hotel without getting something in return.

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The ROI of attending industry events

Czosek at association meeting cropped

I recently had the privilege of attending an event, Disruption + Innovation: The Future Association Landscape, put on by .orgCommunity’s “Association 4.0 Think Tank.” The event gave me an opportunity to participate in excellent educational sessions, make wonderful new connections and catch up with long-time Chicago-area association friends.

Do you ever return to the office after attending an event like this, see all of the email that has piled up, and wonder if the time away from the office was worth it? I do. So I always take time to think about what I learned and how I can apply it. I evaluate whether attendance was a good use of my association’s resources, time and money and what I might have accomplished if I’d stayed in the office.

How do I know if an event was time well spent? Here are some quick questions I ask myself and how they played out for this particular event.

  • While at the event, do I feel inspired? Do I jot down notes? Do I collect tangible tools or information I can use to benefit the members of the associations I manage?
    I took way too many notes and had several ideas for potential articles and conference topics. I thought of a new product offering and how I could make it happen.
  • Do I make 3-5 new contacts who can help my clients?
    The answer on this one is a definite yes. I confirmed two presenters for an upcoming client event, approached a third individual for another and secured an author for a magazine article.
  • Are existing relationships strengthened?
    Another yes. I caught up with two people I’ve known over 25 years. As an added bonus, a number of members from the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (an AMPED client) were present.
  • Am I intrigued enough by a topic to do additional research when I return to the office?
    Let’s just say that I spent a little time one evening reading and ruminating on CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list — a list of companies they say have the ability to upend multi-billion dollar industries. I thought about how those companies could impact the association industry, the hospitality industry and the industries represented by my client associations. Powerful stuff!
  • Do I share my experience with others?
    You bet! This one was an excellent experience and worth discussing.

By evaluating the answers to these questions, I determined that the “Association 4.0 Think Tank” event was definitely a wise use of my resources!

What was your return on investment of time and resources spent at your latest event? Do you have additional ways to evaluate whether your attendance was a good use of your time? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

 

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