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Running a successful association: It takes a village

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As in most things, running an association successfully takes a village of committed, talented people who listen, trust each other, and lean on each other for support. It’s important to check in with your team to make sure that the village continues to run efficiently, effectively, and collaboratively to ensure success.

Here are some good ways to make sure your team is successful and your village is strong:

1. Have an understanding of how you’re going to be with one another when times get tough. Running associations and meetings is full of fast-paced activities and doesn’t always come without problems. Having an understanding of how you’re going to treat one another and react to problems together when the tough stuff hits, will help you get through smoothly to the other side.

2. Good communication is key. Being able to effectively communicate with one another can make or break your team. Clear communication ensures that everyone is on the same page which is essential and will help to mitigate any problems that may arise.

3. Allow people to get excited about their projects and “own” them. Essentially, don’t micromanage. We all have our unique strengths, it’s important to allow people to let those strengths shine. When people are excited about the work that they do and can really “own” it, the work is better and the team is better.

4. Make sure everyone can be heard. Does each person on your team feel that they have a voice? That they can assert their opinion and have that opinion really taken into consideration? Do people feel like they can ask questions? Making sure that everyone on the team has a voice is important for collaboration and trust. It can also lead to exciting new ideas or foster a different way of thinking.

5. Listen to understand, not respond. This is one of my favorite Stephen Covey “habits.” Are you solely listening so that you can jump on a response right away or are you really understanding where your team is coming from and the way they understand things to be? Ask good questions to make sure you are understanding, not just responding.

6. Spend time with one another. Away from the office. Get to know each other on a personal level and have fun with one another. This will certainly help in listening to understand, building better communication, and increases the trust you have in one another.

7. Learn from the mistakes and celebrate the successes. We certainly try to be mistake-free, but, they are bound to happen. Be sure that you’re utilizing mistakes as learning opportunities and work as a team to come up with ways to “do it better” next time. In the same vein, identify ways that successes can be replicated in other areas, and make sure to celebrate even the smallest win!

Ensure your village is healthy and strong by checking in with your team regularly on these things. Ensure there is effective communication and that everyone is collaborating together to achieve a common goal.

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What makes or breaks the deal: Five things I look for on a site visit

chef impression

The success of your meeting may rely on a carefully planned and well executed site inspection. Having been on the hotel side of things and now as a planner, I see the site inspection as a unique face-to-face opportunity to kick off a lasting relationship between the planner and sales team.

A few of our AMPED staff recently went to San Diego to check out a hotel for a large client event in 2018. Based on the particular needs of this medical conference, the property was selected because it was in a great location, was symbiotic with our client’s goals and attendee personalities and had the appropriate space and guest rooms to comfortably accommodate all the various space requirements. However, what really clinched this property for our conference was our sales manager. From our first conversation, Jennifer was very easy to establish a rapport with and took the time upfront to fully discuss the meeting goals, objectives and purpose, and the demographics and meeting behaviors of our attendees. In summary, she nailed our site inspection experience! Early dissemination of conference information allowed the property to demonstrate on-site how they could best meet our needs and appeal to our attendees. This customized experience instilled confidence with us that she was truly our partner in the complete execution of our event and not just a sales rep trying to close business.

While onsite, what are some factors to be considered and can be influential when conducting a site inspection?

1. First Impressions: ….Go a long way so make sure the hotel properly represents your own expectations and branding of the conference to successfully execute them. Sometimes, it will not matter how well the meeting itself goes, if the hotel has an inadequate feel or attendees are not experiencing good customer service, that will be their lasting impression. We arrived at this hotel the day after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The lobby was abuzz with all kinds of activity and we knew the staff had to be exhausted. All staff we encountered were extremely pleasant and genuinely ready to assist, despite coming off a very hectic week.

A few things to consider observing upon arrival at the hotel:

  • How you are greeted by the front desk and bell staff?
  • Is this area well-staffed and there are plenty of employees greeting guests and carefully driving cars through the valet area?
  • Are their uniforms updated, clean, and fitted?
  • Are they pleasant and friendly

2. Hotel Management: In my past hotel days, we were trained on the “meet and greet” technique. Well-trained sales managers should be ready and prepared to meet you upon your arrival at the hotel. Nothing goes further than feeling that your arrival was anticipated and planned for. When our team arrived on this particular visit, hotel staff were enthusiastically waiting to welcome us to San Diego and the hotel. Our room keys were provided to us so we could proceed directly to our upgraded, expansive suites in which we each had a customized in-room welcome amenity. This little, but effective, touch reassured us that the hotel was eager to earn our business.

3. Presentation: Has the sales manager prepared in advance to show you exactly where your meeting and banquets will take place, as well as the variety of guest rooms and suites you need for your guests? So often hotel sales managers don’t take the time to go through your agenda prior to the visit and you end up seeing meeting spaces you’d never need and room categories you don’t want. Our sales manager, Jennifer, did her homework prior to our arrival through the many conversations. She also took the time to research our client to completely understand the dynamics of our conference. Our tour started with a relaxing lunch that set expectations for how the rest of the day would go. We were able to discuss in greater detail things that make our conference successful, get an understanding of the overall “lay of the land” before we began the tour, and also get to know their team a little better.

4. Hotel Quality: How recently was the hotel renovated? If there have not been recent renovations, be sure to ask about future renovation plans. Are the guestrooms, suites, meeting rooms and public areas updated? Are the bathrooms clean? How fast are the elevators and are they clean? This area in particular, is where the hotel has complete control to ensure the property is properly being taken care of. When it comes to cleanliness and working order, there are no excuses. While onsite, I built in some time to wander the hotel on my own to experience the hotel as our attendees would and to really pay attention to these details. Remember, the hotel will be part of your branding for this event and you should be assured the hotel meets your standards.

5. Food Quality: Food trends have come a long way from the clichéd “rubber chicken,” making planning meal functions a more engaging experience. In an effort to meet the changing needs of conference clients, hotels are transitioning from traditional banquet service to more, specialized opportunities like healthy, local fare and customized menu options. To see if the hotel is true to its word on these trends, visit the various restaurants onsite and note their differences in cuisine/gourmet experiences and price points. Order room service to evaluate delivery time and quality of food. If time allows, arrange a chef tasting to create menus and experience what your attendees will experience and also to ensure various dietary needs will be met.

A successful and productive site inspection, such as we experienced in San Diego, is fundamental in establishing confidence during the planning and execution process of your event. Considering our experience, our team at AMPED is looking forward to working with our new hotel partner for the upcoming conference in 2018!

 

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It’s called meeting “planning” for a reason. Use post-meeting time to prep for next year.

today

Spring is a busy season for meetings and events in the AMPED office with one association’s annual meeting ending and another just a few weeks or even days later. For some meeting planners, the much-anticipated summer months allow a minute (only a minute) to breathe before the planning process starts all over again for the next year’s meeting.

During this time, what can we do as planners to start off on the right foot and plan an even better meeting the following year? Here are a few tips to get you started:

Take a look at your post-event survey to find out what your attendees loved and didn’t love so much. What do your attendees really want? Are there areas that should stay the same? Are there changes that should be made right away? Many of these factors could impact your meeting budget or may need a vote from leadership, so it’s a good idea to run through the survey responses as soon as you get a chance.

Update your planning timeline right after the meeting ends to keep details fresh and plan more time than you think you need on big items. Things often come up but accounting for these incidentals can help relieve tight turnarounds and stressful deadlines. If you have a team working on the meeting, make sure to assign roles and walk through the timeline together. Also, check other meeting timelines in your office to make sure major deadlines aren’t hitting at the same time.

Plan your marketing strategy while you are planning meeting details. Note important dates in your timeline and plan communications around these. If you want to notify your attendees about important launches (registration, abstract management system, mobile app, etc.) or upcoming deadlines, work this into your timeline.

Go back to your meeting contracts and review. Look at your hotel room block compared to your most recent pick up report. If it's written in the contract, you may have room to renegotiate your block. Go through your concessions and make sure to incorporate into your planning timeline so you don’t miss out on the added benefits.

Reach out to vendors early. If you haven’t seen your meeting venue for a while, schedule a pre-planning meeting to refresh your memory on the space as well as to meet the staff that you will be working with over the next several months. If your budget doesn’t allow for a site visit, ask your venue to give you a virtual tour to see the space and meet the team along the way.

If you work with a committee to plan aspects of your meeting, schedule a committee call as soon as possible to begin tackling items that need their input and feedback. This also may help alleviate email trails that fill up your inbox.

How about you? Do you have any tips for starting off on the right foot?

 

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Six ways your association can rock the labor shortage

gig economy

Every day in the United States, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65, a trend that will continue until 2029, when the last boomers reach the traditional age of retirement. This mass exodus from the work force is already creating a vacuum of skills and experience. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that replacing retiring Baby Boomers is one of the key challenges facing HR professionals.

Despite the demographic facts, few organizations have planned for how to retain and accommodate an aging workforce, according to the SHRM report, The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages. Most employers are taking a wait-and-see approach to labor and skills shortages.

This demographic phenomenon presents associations with an opportunity to step up with solutions. How? By offering education, benefits and networking opportunities that support older employees who want to remain active participants in the work force.

Here are six ideas for how your association can serve older members, based on my experience as a boomer who counts herself among the many who expect to work well past 65.

Technical skills training. Everyone knows how quickly technology changes, but many employers continue to hold onto the notion that older workers can’t learn new technology. This is a generation that went off to college with manual typewriters and slide rules; we have a demonstrated ability to adapt. What training can you offer to help all of your members learn new technical skills?

Industry knowledge. Sure, we’ve “been there, done that,” but we still need to stay current in trends and developments in our field. Is your association the go-to source for developments in your industry? Are you ahead of the curve in reporting industry news? In addition to offering original content, do you help members sift through the avalanche in their in box by curating information from other sources?

Flexibility. Many older workers work part time or on a contract basis. Some choose to work in the “gig economy” because they want more control over their schedules or they are away part of the year. Others are caring for grandchildren or aging parents (or both). Or, part-time or freelance work may be the only gig they can find. How can your association offer these members the flexibility they need?

Affordability. Because employers can be reluctant to invest in the professional development of aging employees or contract workers, your older members are more likely to be paying their own membership dues and registration fees. What are some ways you can offer affordable opportunities to participate in your organization? Can you offer a membership category for part-time employees or freelancers? How about meeting for breakfast or happy hour instead of hosting more costly dinners?

Networking opportunities. If you’re part of the gig economy, you’re always looking for the next job. Members of all ages want opportunities to network that involve more than a business card exchange. How can your association help members make meaningful connections and showcase their expertise? When you’re looking for a guest blogger or workshop presenter, consider inviting older members.

Camaraderie. One of the reasons people continue to work past retirement age is the sense of belonging that comes with the workplace. Associations are ideally suited to offer members the social benefits of working together for a purpose. What are some innovative ways your association can involve members who have “graduated” from board and committee service but still want to be a part of the group?

While much has been written about recruiting and retaining younger members, I encourage you to consider how you can engage older members. In the end, we participate in associations for the same reasons younger members do – professional development, social interaction and a commitment to a common goal. Rock on!

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Name badge ribbons. You love ‘em. You hate ‘em.

For some organizations, name badge ribbons are a necessary tool for networking at meetings – an immediate way to recognize new members, sponsors or those with particular professional interests. They have their place, for sure. But they can get out of hand . . .

badge ribbons

And what about the logistics of distributing the ribbons?

  • Do you go through the tedious process of cross-referencing multiple spreadsheets?
  • Do association staff peel and stick them on each badge?
  • Are they stuffed in the back of the badge so that attendees can stick them on themselves?
  • Or are they laid out in piles at registration for self-selection?

One solution to never-ending ribbons is to print designations right on the badge. One of AMPED’s clients does this, identifying member type, board member, speaker, or sponsor in different-colored banners at the top of the badge. This works most of the time. Although there are always special circumstances, like when a board member is also a speaker or a speaker is also a sponsor. We deal.

This same client has never used ribbons. But a few years ago, they started requesting that staff stick gold stars to badges to identify first-time attendees – yep, the same ones your kindergarten teacher gave out for good behavior. Problem was, very few attendees knew exactly what that gold star represented. Additional requests came in to identify certified members, or those who used the insurance plan, or still others who were part of peer groups.

In search of a creative way to satisfy all the requests without resorting to ribbons and without the time-suck of having to apply stickers before-hand, AMPED staff devised a make-your-own badge solution.

badge stickers III  

We designed the badge so that the bottom 1” of the card was left open. Then we produced a half-dozen separate 1” square logos and had them printed on roles of stickers. Next, we set up badge stations on tables near the meeting registration area and directed registrants to step over and complete their badges. We built traffic by putting big bowls of M&Ms and Swedish Fish on the same tables.

The badge stations were a hit! Attendees enjoyed self-designating themselves and the whole process saved time and money. No ribbons. No labor.

Do you have a creative badge idea? We’re always looking for suggestions that save time and money at the meeting registration area. Let’s hear from you!

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