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Linkedin Tip

I have been a fan of Wayne Breitbarth, a CPA-turned LinkedIn expert and author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success, ever since I heard him speak at a local business seminar a couple of years ago. When I had an opportunity to attend one of his in-person seminars last month, I jumped at the chance, partly because (true confession) I have neglected to keep up with this powerful and ever-evolving social medium, but also because Wayne’s witty, energetic teaching style makes learning fun.

Among the many tips I learned, here are four I want to share with you:

1. Download an archive of your data – now. Microsoft recently purchased LinkedIn and plans to integrate it with Office, Outlook and other products. Wayne recommends downloading an archive of your LinkedIn data now because some of it may disappear without notice. It’s easy to do: Hover over your photo in the upper right, go to Privacy & Settings > Getting an archive of your data. I chose the fast archive, which produced a zip file with my contacts, in box and other basic information that I don’t want to lose. For more tips, see Wayne’s blog on this topic.

2. Join groups that include people you want to meet. LinkedIn allows you to connect with other followers who are second-degree connections (someone who is connected to one of your contacts) – without having to send a contact request. Even though LinkedIn no longer categorizes your contacts, it still requires you to check how you know an individual (colleague, classmate, etc.), which can be a roadblock.

One caveat: The connect button in groups or “people you may know” sends the generic, LinkedIn invitation, not the personal invitation that Wayne recommends. A better option is to send the person a message first, then connect. If you’re concerned about flooding your news feed with group notices, remember that you can unsubscribe from notices or leave groups at any time.

3. Check out “Find Alumni.” One of the salespeople at the seminar said this tip alone was worth the price of admission. Let’s say I work for a Wisconsin association that offers continuing education courses for engineers. I look in “Find Alumni” for University of Wisconsin-Madison, then check engineering. Immediately, I have a list of the top 25 employers that I may want to notify about upcoming seminars. I can also see individuals I may want to reach out to. Wayne says I can stop feeling like a stalker; everyone on LinkedIn voluntarily shared this information.

4. Don’t think you’re posting too much. Thanks to LinkedIn’s proprietary algorithm, only about one in five of your posts actually appears in your contacts’ newsfeeds. Think about that: Even if you post the same information every day of the work week, your contacts will only see it once, and that’s if they’re paying attention. With the constant stream of updates, likes, shares, group discussions, expert advice and sponsored posts, it’s easy to see how your posts get lost. Wayne recommends daily status updates to stay in front of your audience.

You can execute any of the above tips without upgrading to a premium account. To learn more ways to tap the power of LinkedIn, check out Wayne’s website at www.powerformula.net.

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Miller on Abe

There’s a graduation tradition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to walk up its grand hill, climb up the statue of Abraham Lincoln and whisper your hopes and dreams into his ear. Why there’s a statue of Abe on Wisconsin’s campus and why it’s turned into a lucky charm is beside the point; what matters, is that that moment – sitting on top of the hill, on top of the world – is the moment for Wisco grads, to bask in all their glory and look out onto their bright, metaphorical future. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to feel…

In my experience, climbing up to ten-foot tall Abe was kind of a disaster. All I could think was, “Dear God, don’t let me fall.” I’d graduated with a double-major in History and Communication Arts-Radio, TV and Film, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Here I was at the top, with a clear and open path ahead, and I couldn’t see my future at all –“don’t fall; don’t misstep; don’t fail.”

Do I sound like a liberal-arts, millennial cliché? Perhaps. But I consider that feeling of fear not just as a millennial moment, but a very human one. Whether it’s a “quarter-life crisis” or “mid-life crisis” – you can call it whatever you like — leaving behind one life stage/lifestyle and starting anew is overwhelming, and it’s not just specific to my generation.

Think back on your first job and feeling that moment of uncertainty. In my case, I walked into the world of association management completely blind. I didn’t know such a field even existed before my interview, and honestly, I still struggle to describe exactly what I do to my parents. Unsure of pretty much everything, I questioned the most basic things, like whether to use “reply” or “reply all” in emails or if I used the correct ratio of coffee to water in the coffee pot.

They say that millennials are more invested in their work environment than their actual work, and to a certain extent, I couldn’t agree more. But, it’s not the space that creates the environment, it’s the people who fill that space. I knew I had found a good office when my coworkers’ faith in me helped to regain faith in myself.

At AMPED, I’m surrounded by “people” people who encourage me to take those steps, and missteps down the uncertain road to success. As someone who has been working for just three months, I know that I will undoubtedly take those missteps and sometimes fall (let’s face it, I have yet to master the coffee/water ratio). But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that you don’t need to rely on one big moment to get you to where you want to go –it’s the series of those missteps that force you to readjust and set you in the right direction.

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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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renewal call

Each client association has its own specific goals for member retention, but we like to keep ours in the 85-90% range. Below are some of the processes I use to make sure we hit these goals annually and in an efficient manner.

Keep track, and don’t reinvent the wheel. 
For each of our clients, I make a yearly table to keep track of when a reminder was sent, how many open invoices there were when the reminder was sent, and how many members renewed after that reminder (our clients’ AMS – or association management systems – make pulling reports like this quick and easy). This allows me to have a good picture year after year of what types of reminders get the most attention, as well as what timing seems to be best for each organization. I use this information to plan for the current year. If a specific method or text prompted a higher response rate, I’ll make sure to include something similar this year.

Plan for multiple mediums
We really try to be green here and utilize digital communications for the first month or so of a renewal campaign. This allows the open renewals to dwindle down a bit before we actually need to send a paper invoice. That said, I cannot tell you how often I hear “I was surprised to get this invoice in the mail – I had no idea my membership expired!” Sometimes seven email reminders just go under the radar. My point is that our membership bases are diverse and not everyone receives information the same way. For this reason, I ensure that our campaigns include a mix of email, social media, print, and even phone calls.

This year, we are also utilizing the Higher Logic platform on which some of our client websites are based. Higher Logic integrates with the member database and instantly notifies members at log-in when their membership expires and gives them a simple way to click and pay. Once the renewal is paid, this notification disappears.

HL member renewal

 

Make a schedule, but be flexible
As I discussed, I keep track of renewal campaigns annually so I can see when reminders were sent. I use this data to plan for the current year, shifting dates around based on holidays or other important messages going out for each client. That said, these dates are not set in stone. If renewal payments just do not seem to be coming in based on email reminders, I might move up the date that I send out paper invoices. I continuously adjust the plan based on how each client is performing.

Involve the Board (or a membership committee)
This step is vital. As association staff, we can only remind a member of their benefits so much. Board members can share experiences of exactly how the membership or a connection they made through the organization has improved their businesses or their careers. Last year, the past chair of one of our associations had a lengthy email exchange with a member who was on the fence about renewing — they had not had the time to commit to really be “plugged in” with the organization and therefore had not seen the value. The past chair shared a story of how he had seen his business quintuple in size over the past ten years, attributing it to relationships he had developed through the organization.

I cannot stress enough how much of an impact this can have, so I try to make it as easy as possible for volunteers by never giving them more than ten names to call, providing both phone and email contact information, and giving them a summary of the communications I’ve had with the members so far.

Teamwork!
Make sure that everyone on the client team is aware that the renewals are ready. The “front line” office staff can help a member renew over the phone without being passed to a membership coordinator. The meeting planners can remind vendor members about their renewal while discussing their exhibit space for the coming year. Our marketing staff make sure to include reminders in newsletters and social media. I share the master “renewal calendar” so that the whole office is aware of the plan for each client.

Membership renewals are a big deal for associations – after all, members are the “lifeblood” of associations. They are why we do what we do! It’s important to keep track, have a plan, and involve multiple parties to reach members and remind them why their association is so great!

 

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abstract management

One of the most important components of my job is abstract and speaker management, because our meetings wouldn’t be anything without the invited speakers and the submitters interested in presenting their research at our meetings. There is a trick to finding the most efficient and intuitive way to collect your submitter and speaker materials while still getting everything your planning team needs. And while I think I have room to grow, here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. Revisit your contract and review any new or updated features
Revisiting your vendor contracts is important to see if you have features that you were contracted for the previous year but never used, or if there was a feature you wished you had previously. Also check with your vendor to see if there are any new features you should know about, because their technology is always being updated. Consider how these changes to your contract impact the build of your system. For example, this year we are using a feature that allows system access to volunteers so that they can schedule the abstracts into the program. And while it slightly changed the meeting timeline, this is going to be a HUGE time saver for everyone in the long run.

2. Consider the requirements and the type of people who are submitting
Do you have an extensive application where each question requires a text box with character limits, or do you have something as simple as one file upload? Do you need to have header validation in a text box because there are five criteria that a submission must respond to? Does it make sense to ask award questions on the "author information" step because the awards are author-specific or separately because it is submission-specific? Do you need skip logic that only asks certain questions dependent on speaker roles or do you need separate submission portals for each speaker type?

I don’t really have a roadmap to figure this out; I just know that this forward thinking is crucial for your submission system from start to finish. The magic lies within creating an intuitive system that asks the submitters the questions your organization or committee wants to ask, while being mindful of limitations your vendor might have.

3. Have your colleagues/committee test
I work in our abstract management systems day in and day out, so sometimes I gloss over steps that might appear confusing for submitters because I understand how the system works (and I’ve already tested it 18 times). One of our clients had pretty significant changes to their submission site this year, so I had six people in my office test the new version. This was extremely helpful because the associate director tested from the perspective of what the committee wanted, another colleague tested from the perspective of functionality, while yet another looked for spelling or grammar errors, and they collectively made the submission site better with the variety of edits and suggestions they provided.

4. Do not launch until your submission site is complete
This seems self-explanatory but in an effort to meet deadlines, we’ve made this mistake. Some systems allow you to make live edits but I’ve learned that this isn’t in our best interest. This might be my best piece of advice (next to having everyone and their brother test) for those working with a new vendor, doing a complete overhaul of the submission system, or creating a new submission process for a new meeting. In our case, we were creating a new submission system for a new meeting with a new vendor from the ground up. We realized as we went along that there were items that we would have wanted our submission site to collect and when our vendor updated the site live, it impacted those who had already submitted. It all worked out in the end but that experience now impacts how early I build and/or review the submission site before opening.

5. Build your review system in tandem with your submission system – or at least keep the review process in mind
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Forward. Thinking. Even though review comes after submissions are received, it behooves you to either build the review system side-by-side or at least know your review process. Why? Because this will help you determine if there are any crucial questions your submitters need to answer during the submission process to pair them with an appropriate reviewer.

We pair submissions to reviewers based on topics or keywords and we determine those lists prior to opening the submission site and build them into the submission process. Once our submission site launches, we also promote our “Call for Reviewers” and request the reviewers to indicate which topics/keywords they feel qualified to review. This helps us prepare for when the submission site closes and automatic review assignments are made, which saves us time.

6. Keep track of withdraws outside of the system once the submission system closes.
You can track withdraws in your abstract management system and you should. However, in addition I keep an Excel document to track withdraws so that I can include a date, reason, session they were originally scheduled to, and any other information I know my colleagues and Board will want to know. This is also a helpful tool to reassign presentation dates or times because I know where there is space. But I think the biggest reason I do this is so that I can double check my work in the abstract management system, as well as in any meeting publications or mobile app.

7. Think about output: mobile app, proceedings, web apps
Unless you’ve found the unicorn vendor that does it all and does it well for your meeting, this is important because what you gather during the submission process is ideally what is used for everything after that point: mobile app, proceedings, web app, website, etc. For example, one of my vendors allows me to collect speaker information in a speaker portal after a submission is accepted, while another requires all information to be collected during the submission system and this determines how each system is built. Just keep in mind what you may want to appear in the meeting materials so that your vendor can provide thorough reports or API feeds for any other third-party vendors you may have.

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