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Six reasons working for an AMC is different from working for a stand-alone association

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For over four years I worked for a stand-alone international medical association. It was a great group of people and volunteers and I enjoyed it very much. However, the association was growing and evolving and with a small staff of only five full time employees serving 3,000 members, our project capacity became limited.  The board eventually hired an AMC when the executive director retired. This was my first foray into the magic of association management companies.  

Boredom is never an option. There are always new projects and challenges. Never the same old same old. 

Expertise with industry best practices. Run into a jam?  There is a very high probability that an AMC has been confronted with this issue before and can easily navigate leadership in the right direction. They have seen and done it all before.

Technology and innovation. With a large staff working on multiple clients, AMCs are tech savvy because they must be. They are organized and up-to-date on the latest and greatest to benefit the needs of all clients and keep projects streamlined and efficient.

Negotiating. AMCs have more buying power, period. If one client needs a service, it is likely that a second or third will as well. Multiple contracts equal quality discounts.

Networking. AMCs have a lot of connections. They’ve worked with several vendors over the years planning meetings all over the country and beyond. They know everyone everywhere! 

Flexibility. The beauty of AMCs is customization. They are extremely adaptable to clients’ requests and can pivot as necessary to accomplish goals with as many team members on deck as necessary. Anything is possible!

I have learned so much already from my colleagues and am proud to be a part of the AMPED team!

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The most simple, yet effective way to engage association members on social media

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One thing that marketers don’t get recognized enough for is the amount of time we spend testing things — testing new messages, new platforms and new algorithms to find that perfect balance of how best to reach our target audiences. This is extremely evident when it comes to trying to engage association members on social media.One thing that marketers don’t get recognized enough for is the amount of time we spend testing things — testing new messages, new platforms and new algorithms to find that perfect balance of how best to reach our target audiences. This is extremely evident when it comes to trying to engage association members on social media.

Which platforms should you use? What kind of messages do you put out there? What time of day should you post? All of these questions seem to be on every association marketer’s mind. And the answers are different for every association out there. There seems to be one pattern, however, that I’ve observed works for just about any association, in every industry, on every platform.

Start asking questions
That’s right. It’s as simple as posting questions for your membership to get them to interact. Enable your followers, likes and subscribers to create content for you by providing guided questions that are popular or hot topics within your industry. It sounds pretty basic, but I can honestly say through ten years of doing marketing and social media for all kinds of organizations that this is by far the most consistently effective method for engaging your community. There are a few tips and tricks to asking questions on social media that make these posts more successful:Be thoughtful of the types of questions you postYou might be wondering which types of questions you should be asking. One of the best ways to come up with questions is to keep your finger on the pulse of hot topics in the industry and what I call “passion propositions.” In every industry, there are three or four topics that everyone seems to be passionate about. Think about the tools people use in your industry or daily tasks someone in your industry typically performs. Creating discussion platforms for things your members have in common is a very effective strategy.

Catch their eye
To help engage readers, accompany the questions with high quality images. Take the time to include a professional looking image that will make your post stick out among the rest of the timeline. A good resource for these images is Pixabay, a free image and video community that has a lot of options to choose from.

Use built-In tools
Make sure you are using tools that are built in to the various social media channels to provide a unique experience. As most marketers know, in order to engage as many members as possible, you have to do a good job setting yourself apart from the rest of their timeline. For instance, don’t be afraid to ask simple questions using Twitter Polls. They look very nice in-stream and create the “fear of missing out” that we all know people hate. If they see 100 people have voted, they’ll vote too because they want to see where they stand with the rest of the industry.

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Why I'm a fan of training manuals

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Before I left my last job, I made sure to write a manual for my co-worker Cheryl. We had recently switched to new CRM software and she did not know how to generate certain reports on the new program. I included all my print outs and highlighted all the shortcuts I had learned. My goal was to save Cheryl the effort and time of learning from scratch. 

I was immediately put at ease on my first day of training at AMPED when Emily said, “I wrote a manual for you.”  A “kindred spirit!”, as Anne of Green Gables would say.

I have become a big fan of manuals, and here are a couple of best uses. 

Manuals for Yourself 
Emily already had a detailed manual for my initial duties, but as I have added new responsibilities, I have started writing my own manual anytime I learn something new. I try to write down every last step and detail as soon as possible and take screenshots for steps that I know will be tricky to describe accurately.

This would seem a basic principal, but many manuals I have read leave out a critical step. While importing data to a website recently, I followed the manual provided and could not understand why the import was not completed. It turns out that the manual did not include an important final step.

It might seem cumbersome to write up a manual right after training, but you will save yourself time in the end. I am always confident I will remember everything perfectly, but when it comes to tasks I perform only occasionally, my memory is too often vague, and I waste a lot of time retraining myself.

Video Manuals
Manuals do not have to be written. One of my first assignments at AMPED was a long-term database project for Tony. He wanted to know how many companies had renewed their membership after an email campaign. He also wanted to update contact information for future marketing lists.

He created a video for me using Camtasia, a video editing and screen recording program, to show me screen-by-screen the information he needed to be updated. The video was particularly helpful because the project was not urgent and something I worked on when I had time. I could rewatch the video to refresh my memory whenever I went back to it.

If Tony needs a similar report in the future and I am not available, he has the video ready to share without having to spend time retraining someone else.

Micro Video Manual for Frequent Problems on Website 
Another great use of a video manual is when members are having difficulty navigating a section of your website. I received a number of calls after registration opened for a recent annual meeting. Callers were having trouble finding their company on the initial registration page. This was an important step because there was a discount for multiple attendees from the same company. When I mentioned the problem to Tony, he recorded a short video using Camtasia to show how to properly search and select the company and posted it on the registration page. The number of phone calls decreased significantly after the video was posted.  

Next time you are training or training someone else, consider writing or videotaping a manual for the most efficient use of your time. 

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Canva tips and tricks


Recently, Kara Miller introduced us to Canva in her article, Canva graphic design for dummies

Everyone said, “try it. It might be worth your time.” Truer words were never spoken. As I explored this easy to use application, I realized what a time saver it turned out to be.

It was my mission to find out everything I could about this web-based design application, what more could it do, what was I missing out on? Below are the top 10 tips and ideas I found across the internet: 

Note, the following are for the free version of Canva only
• Your Brand. Upload your logo and brand images to quickly use across a variety of your designs. With the free version you can’t add to the Your Brand section, however you can store it in your library. You can create a unique color palate in Your Brand, which is stored permanently in Document Colors. Use your specific color codes in the color wheel and Canva will remember that color while you are designing. Your color code will be a six-digit number and letter combination with the pound sign in front of it.

Decide on your organizations fonts to make designs consistent, what to use for headings, content text etcetera. You can’t store in Your Brand, so make a note of your choices in a template. There are a limited number of fonts available to you, so take the time to scroll thru and choose the ones that complement your company identity:

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• Templates for quick and easy posts. Create templates for Facebook and Twitter posts. For example, to welcome new members, award programs and upcoming conferences, we’ve created separate templates where we simply add the newest information and can post on Social Media – don’t forget to include a tag or hashmark to make sure the subject of the post will see it, like it and follow you.

• Customize library background images. If you like the texture/pattern of one of the free backgrounds, you can change the color by clicking on the color palette. Change the shade on a background by highlighting and choosing a different color or shade.

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• Working with frames and images. If you’re using a frame, double clicking on the image will allow you to move or resize it. You can click and drag to show just part of the image or grab the corners and make the photo bigger.
Clicking on the filters button (when you have photo selected), and then choosing advanced, will give you complete control over the look and feel of the photo.

Filter codes can be copied and pasted so you can have all your photos with the exact same setting.

The little arrow (when you have a photo selected) will allow you to flip it vertically or horizontally.

The little arrow in blue is the one that will flip flop your photograph.

Use an image and set the transparency to 60%. Then use the frames to highlight the same image for a neat effect.

• Font Effects. If you want to create a shadow on your text, copy the text, make it black, and send it behind the original text. With it selected, use your arrows key to move it slightly behind and down. It’ll create a shadowed look.

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• Watermark your work If you have a custom watermark or logo, have your designer make you a transparent PNG you can upload into Canva for when you want to watermark your graphics.

• Nudge elements by 10px. To move an element, you can just select the element and hit an arrow key, but that only moves the object 1px at a time. To increase the nudging distance, click the element. Then hit the shift button + any arrow key in the direction of your choice!

• Grouping elements. If you want to move a group of objects at the same time, hold down the shift key while you click on multiple elements. This will group them together. Once grouped, nudge/move elements as normal.

• Centering text. To quickly and easily center your text on a graph, make sure your text box is the same width as the element you’re trying to align it with. Then, simply navigate to the drop-down menu (as pictured) and hit the “center” option.

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• But how do I check my spelling? The free browser extension called Grammarly can check spelling and grammar as you type.

Check out other tips on designing in Canva. Canva provides some excellent tutorials to help you further explore. The tutorials will show you what to do and how to do it, letting you try your hand at recreating the examples. https://www.canva.com/learn/design/tutorials/perfect-presentations/

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Speaking on a webinar? Do these first!

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Interruptions, awkward camera angles, and background noises are all indications that you’re an amateur webinar presenter. Polish up your act by doing these 10 things first, to ensure you’re viewed as a professional (and asked to speak again!).

1. Use headphones
Most webinar tools allow you to connect via a telephone or VOIP. Using headphones helps minimize background noise, ensure your voice is heard clearly, and reduces the possibility of audio-feedback. I was once on a program where the busy street traffic and police sirens could be overheard on the speaker’s phone line… don’t be that person.

2. Close the door
You’re giving a presentation, and therefore it’s obvious that you find a quiet place to present. If you’re in your office, a space in your home, or a shared conference room, simply close the door. This is an indicator that you’re busy and shouldn’t be interrupted. Better yet, put a physical “Do Not Disturb, Recording in Progress” sign on your door to alert those nearby to keep their voices and potential disturbances to a minimum.

3. Put your phone on DND
Often overlooked are potential distractions from incoming calls and the occasional office page. Turn on the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone, which will both mute your office ringtone and disable others from being able to interrupt your phone line. Yes, I have been in a program before where the presenter’s phone line was automatically put “on hold” due to an incoming call into their line, triggering the dreadful “hold music” across the airwaves and therefore derailing the entire presentation.

4. Turn off pop-up notifications and alerts
These usually important attention getters will become points of frustration for you during a webinar. If you’re sharing your computer screen, it will become increasingly frustrating (as well as embarrassing) anytime an alert or pop-up comes through on your device, visible to all participants. Common ones to silence include: incoming email notifications and previews, in-office chats, text messages (if your cell is connected to your laptop), and calendar/task reminders. Not to mention, these also make distracting noises.

5. Mute your computer speakers
Again, this is an example of muting any device that may potentially disrupt your presentation unintentionally. Muting your computer speakers is a sure bet that you’ll minimize distractions (perhaps even from an unintended alert you forgot to turn off? See #4). Also, if you’re connecting to the audio line via VOIP through a headset plugged into your laptop, muting your computer speakers may also reduce the potential for audio feedback.

6. Charge all batteries
Again, it seems obvious, but when your mind is concentrated on preparing the content for your presentation, the obvious is commonly overlooked. Is your laptop charged or plugged in? Are you connecting via a cell, is it also fully charged? What about a computer mouse… usually used as your slide advancer. Yes, I have been on a webinar before when the presenter’s mouse batteries literally died during the webinar. Simply put in a fresh set beforehand and you’ll be assured you’re good to go.

7. Have water available
You’ll be speaking a lot. Keep your voice clear and drink plenty of water. Enough said.

8. Install updates and plug-ins in advance
Is your laptop scheduled to automatically install system updates? Does your webinar platform require a plug-in (lots do)? These updates and installs may be routine, but, if they’re prompted right before you’re set to speak, could put you off balance and render your device temporarily unavailable. Nothing’s worse then watching the dreadful “Updates in progress, this could take a while” notification take over your computer.

9. Print out a hard-copy of your slides or notes
In the event that something unexpected happens, it’s important to have a printed copy of your speaking points in front of you. I also use this paper copy to jot down notes, perhaps of something interesting that a prior speaker said that was worth mentioning again. Having a hard-copy of your materials is a simple way to ensure you’ll be prepared. One time during a presentation I accidentally bumped my desk and knocked the wire loose from the computer docking station to the external monitor. My screen went black while I was on the air. I continued presenting from my printed notes, and at the next break for Q/A, I promptly plugged the cord back into the dock. No one was the wiser, but see how this could have escaladed quickly?

10. Preview your camera shot
Check in advance to find out if the webinar will be featuring video feeds of the presenters. If yes, use a website like this to test out your camera shot before you go live. Things to check: your personal appearance (do your hair, make-up, sit up straight, and wear appropriate attire), lighting (you’ll want centered front-lit lighting which could be accomplished by repositioning a desk lamp and closing the curtains), camera angle (lens should look slightly down on you, which may require raising your laptop on a few books), what’s in your background (a blank wall with minimal distractions is best). This video demonstrates how to look good on webcam.

Presenting on a webinar has similarities to speaking live on stage. Both require quality audio, technology, and the reduction of distractions and interruptions. Use these steps as a guideline the next time you present on a webinar. What other tips and suggestions do you have? Share in the comments below!

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