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Chrome’s Momentum extension: A to-do list wrapped in a fortune cookie

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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Planning a successful membership renewal campaign

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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7 tips for selecting the right abstract and speaker management for your meeting

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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10 Tips to set your event up for success: Pre-planning meetings 101

preplanning

You’ve contracted with the perfect venue for your next big gig. Let’s be honest, in this hot market, that contract was signed years ago. Now it’s next up on your calendar and it is time to get serious. With countless details to organize, a running list of questions to ask, decisions that are best made in person and a myriad of fresh ideas that can only be brought to life by seeing a space live – do yourself a favor and setup an in-person pre-planning meeting with the various key players that will be instrumental in the success of your program. After many productive site visits, here are my top tips to maximize this face-to-face time and promise a smooth planning process when you return to the office.

  1. Budget for pre-planning meetings. Make this an automatic line item in your meeting budget!
  2. Pick a date when all parties are available and focused. Give your Convention Services Manager (CSM) plenty of advance notice to ensure the dates you are considering for your pre-planning trip also work well for your key contacts. After all, what good does it do if your CSM has another group in house and isn’t able to be attentive to your needs?
  3. Communication is key. Paint the overall picture for your CSM. Describe your meeting goals and objectives. Discuss the profile of your attendees. Are they a social group or are they all business? What are the takeaways they expect by participating in your program?
  4. Have a set agenda of things you would like to review and share it with those you plan to meet with well in advance. Allow your meeting partners to prepare ahead of time so that everyone is fully equipped to tackle the big stuff!
  5. Create a grid of contracted space — or as I like to do, color code the venue floor-plans and identify the functions that will take place in each meeting space. Whatever your method, develop a system that will allow you to make informed decisions about room assignments, because odds are that your meeting has evolved since you contracted the venue several years back.
  6. Share your meeting specifications well in advance. This includes audiovisual, food and beverage, a program outline, etc. The more your partners know prior to your arrival, the less time you'll spend explaining the meeting basics. For instance, review the banquet menus prior to your site and share your top selections with your CSM. If you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for and want to consider a custom menu, your CSM can engage the chef and the three of you can select the best meal options for your group during the pre-planning meeting.
  7. Checkout a current onsite event. If there are any events taking place at your venue during your trip, set aside some time to scope them out. Seeing how others use the space can go a long way in helping you visualize things like your registration setup, signage plan and more.
  8. Put yourself in the attendee shoes. Use the same transportation system that your guests will as they travel to and from the airport. If your event involves offsite activities or tours, sample those same happenings during your pre-planning meeting to guarantee that it fits your attendee’s expectations.
  9. Review all types of sleeping rooms, not just your upgraded rooms. Of course it’s important to inspect the VIP suites, but these spaces only reflect the experience of a small percentage of your attendees.
  10. Take notes of action items. What do you need to do and what follow-up items do your planning partners have?
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Tips for avoiding the office illness

Hopefully this is just a little refresher course, but in case you're not sure how to best prevent falling victim to whatever's "going around," read on!

im sick

Don't share. As much as your coworkers might feel like family, it's probably best to keep the food sharing to a minimum during cold and flu season. As an alternative, you can offer individually-packaged serving sizes or a sanitary way to dole out the goods.

Sanitize. Sharing an office means sharing supplies, appliances, restrooms, common areas, etc. Do your part to keep these spaces clean by using antibacterial wipes or sprays after each use when you're sick, and otherwise daily to keep germs at bay. There are so many options on the market these days, including natural, plant-based products that promote overall wellness without the use of harsh chemicals.

Alternate meeting methods. If you're scheduled for a one-on-one with a coworker but you're ill, opt for a conference call to avoid sharing too many germs.

Vitamin C. While studies don't show significant evidence that Vitamin C actually prevents colds, it is said to help cold symptoms disappear more quickly. Rather than chugging sugar-laden orange juice once you're already sick (not-so-fun fact: the bacteria that makes us sick thrives on that sugar!), add some extra Vitamin C-filled foods to your diet during cold and flu season. Think brightly colored foods like kale, peppers, Brussels sprouts, and of course, oranges. Supplements like Emergen-C and Airborne can't hurt either!

Sneeze into your arm if you don't have a tissue nearby.

Stay hydrated.

Work from home if you must.

WASH. YOUR. HANDS.

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