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We’re excited about what we do
and have passion for our profession

A working mom can have it all . . .


full time job . . . That is, if you’re working for a woman-owned business that understands the challenges of managing a job that impacts lives and a household where lives depend on you. Hats off to our owner and president Lynda Patterson for offering her team members a work environment that is enabling, flexible and supportive. 

I started working for AMPED full-time seven months ago. For much of it, I worked the usual 40-hour week. For the past several weeks, however, I have been clocking in at 150-200% due to the fact that the largest scientific meeting of our company’s largest client is a mere 27 days away.

We budgeted for an attendance of 6,185 scientists, researchers, physicians, investigators and patient advocates who focus on multiple sclerosis — 6,455 have since signed up with an expected 15-20 percent more by the conference date. The work behind the scenes is voluminous; the coordination levels immense; the back-and-forth between the organizing leadership, logistics specialists, speakers, vendors and attendees are incessant. Our scientific programs are all set and on schedule. We exceeded abstracts submission from past years by 115%. We are compliant with all ACCME rules and policies, even with changes that went into effect April 2014.

While ensuring that all our service providers from Montreal, the UK, Hannover, the East Coast and Madison, Wisconsin are in sync, I managed to have one son graduate from high school (with highest honors, ahem); prepare two kids for college (college dorm shopping and new student orientations, anyone?); celebrate four of five family members’ birthdays in a big way (thanks to frequent flier miles); send off and welcome back two of our kids to and from France, Sweden and Spain; cheered on our youngest in almost all but two soccer games for the season (they were conference champions); saw through the knee surgery of our oldest son; and personally volunteered as AV tech for our church and emcee at a fund raiser to raise awareness on the Typhoon Haiyan’s recovery efforts that claimed thousands of lives in the Philippines last year.

I credit my faith in helping me endure all these (I’ve been blessed with good health), but I must say the kind of work environment I am lucky to have and the lovely home I get to go home to at the end of each day have allowed me handle it.

Are there days when I’m just completely exhausted? Yes, of course! How do I cope? I catch up on sleep. I watch a favorite TV show while snuggled with my husband in the couch. I cook Filipino dishes. I connect with friends and family through social media. I hang out with my multi-cultural girlfriends. And then there are emails to answer, contracts to review, payments to process, doctor’s appointments to escort kids to. It’s endless.

I’m typing this blog entry while on a plane en route to a final walk-though of our upcoming scientific meeting of 6,000+. Yesterday was our youngest’s birthday. I scheduled this trip so I can be there for the celebration; to let my son know, he is loved. It’s possible. A working mom can have it all.

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Be a problem finder: How member support can grow your association.

Help

Whether working with clients or members, individuals or organizations, there will always be the need to offer support. It could be answering a quick question or walking someone through an issue. Being able to provide excellent support will earn their appreciation and their trust. But what makes up excellent support? Three things that come to mind are knowledge, the ability to listen and a little bit of patience.

Knowledge: Know what you’re working with backwards and forwards. It could be membership for an association, the specifics of a product or service, the ins-and-outs of a website; familiarizing yourself will allow you to quickly answer those questions. Much of this will come from experience and helping others, so it’s important to learn from your past clients or members as well.

Listening: Sometimes you hear a familiar question and are already thinking of how you are going to respond. But if you make an effort to listen, you can pick up on issues they may not even recognize they have, or may be the root of everything else. Some of the best support you can offer is finding those hidden problems and providing your products or services as an answer. Being a problem finder is just as impressive as being a problem solver.

Patience: We’ve all encountered situations where we’ve tried everything and the issue still isn’t fixed. So we may be a bit flustered when we do ask for help. That’s a very common and understandable response, and in those situations what works best is offering the support that we would want in turn. Be personable, get to know who you’re working with and really listen to what they have to say.

Resolving an issue will build confidence in your company or organization, and being friendly and approachable will only further garner their support. It could be a prospect that you just won over, or a lead that you just converted. It could even be a member willing to pass your information along to others in need of similar support. Great support can garner that member or client advocacy, and further grow your association.

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What’s in your closet? How to launch a successful online clothing store for your next event

closet 

I recently cleaned out my closet and finally rid myself of all the branded shirts I had stashed away from conferences past. I was saving them, I guess, for an inevitable painting party or garden overhaul. I didn't plan to wear them again in public.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with mixed feelings on the subject. Receiving one of these goodies at conference registration is a nice gesture, but one I could just as well do without.

Some associations have a tradition of handing out shirts to all their conference attendees as a benefit of registration. Some love it; they collect them even! Others couldn’t care less.

From the view of the planner, a clothing give-away is a great way to grow excitement and brand the event beyond the conference. But, it’s a logistical challenge to select styles, collect sizes, and take a wild guess at quantities when placing the final order several weeks before registration closes.

Send your registrants on a shopping spree
For a recent global conference, here’s how AMPED found a way to make both registrants and our planners happy AND save our association partner loads of money in the process.

AMPED partnered with Lands’ End, a national clothing retailer to build an online store specifically for its association partner, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). In reality, it was the full Lands’ End catalog with a home page and URL branded for CSIA. Both the association and conference logos were preloaded on the site and ready for personalization.

Conference registrants were emailed individual Lands’ End voucher numbers several weeks before the conference and directed to the site. Here they could apply their voucher toward the “official” pre-selected conference shirt (the value of the voucher covered this and shipping) or toward hundreds of other items, paying the difference above the value of the voucher. Registrants could purchase any item they liked as long as it was branded with the association or conference logo. Their purchases were processed by Lands’ End and delivered directly to them before the conference.

Response to this new offering was overwhelmingly positive. Registrants enjoyed the option to personally select a shirt style (no more debates over long-sleeve, short-sleeve, golf, button-down, etc.), and planners could breathe easy knowing that everyone was happy with their styles and sizes.

Unexpectedly, the majority of vouchers were never cashed in. Only 40% of the registrants purchased clothing from the site, saving CSIA thousands of dollars that would have otherwise been spent on unwanted give-a-ways.

AMPED and the CSIA Board considered the initiative a huge success and look forward to doing it again in 2015.

Crowd fund your event attire
Maybe you’re a smaller nonprofit organization that wants to offer shirts for an upcoming event, but at no cost or risk to you. Enter the world of crowd funding. Sites such as teespring.com help you leverage crowd funding and social media to sell your uniquely designed tees. Just design your shirt, name your price, and set a quantity goal and timeline. Then broadcast it via social media. If enough orders come in to reach your goal within the timeframe specified, the shirts get printed and shipped to the buyers. If not, all payments are canceled.

There’s a fund raising opportunity here, too. Price the shirts so that you make a profit above and beyond the base cost. The more you sell, the more you rake in – a great tool for churches and school groups.

 

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Want to engage people during meetings? Try these 6 tips.

face to face meetings

Great tips on increasing engagement during meetings — like, bring food!

I once heard a generational expert say that people my age prefer face-to-face meetings over phone calls or email. That seems like a broad generalization to make about 76 million Americans, but I will say that a meeting doesn’t have to be a waste of time – if all those involved in a project or decision are participating.

I learned a lot about leading meetings during the two terms I served on the council of a church with more than 4,000 members and an annual operating budget of more than $1 million. The church was growing rapidly, which meant the council needed to reach consensus on a series of issues related to property, staffing and resources.

Every year, when new council members started their terms, the senior pastor laid down the ground rules: “If you have something to say, say it here, not in a meeting after the meeting in the church parking lot.” He also said, “Debate all you want during the meeting, but when we leave this room, we stand united.” Those are good rules when you have volunteers making decisions in matters that members care deeply about. Truth be told, those are good rules for any group.

The pastor started every council meeting by asking each person to offer a brief joy and concern. I’ve noticed that people who speak early on in meetings tend to participate more throughout the meeting, so I started using the joys-and-concerns tactic at work. I started meetings by asking each participant to briefly share something on their minds: It could be anything – news about a client, a rapidly approaching deadline, a sick dog – you name it. Take five minutes to let people say what’s on their mind and you clear the way for productive participation, plus you become aware of other issues that may need your attention.

When major decisions were about to be put to a vote, the pastor asked each person to comment. When people know they will be asked to articulate a response – more than a yea or nay – they tend to consider it more carefully. More than once, after going around the table and hearing others’ responses, someone would say, “Wait. I’ve changed my mind.” Yes, the meetings could run late, but the decisions were solid.

Other suggestions, based on countless hours spent in meetings:

Prepare people to participate. Send a brief agenda with the topics you want to discuss and specific goals for the meeting. Tell participants how they can contribute. For example, if “leadership retreat” is an agenda item, consider writing “make a decision about the retreat destination – bring one or two location suggestions.”

Offer food. There is something almost magical about breaking bread together that helps people open up. I think it’s hardwired into our makeup to feel more at ease with people we share nourishment with, so bring doughnuts.

Encourage everyone to be fully present. If people are looking at their laptops, whispering in a side conversation, texting or passing notes (it happens!), you’re going to find people have less and less to say because they perceive that others aren’t listening.

Give people the freedom to fail. If the environment doesn’t allow for human error, humans will stop participating. “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one,” said Elbert Hubbard. People engage with the group when they feel safe.

Practice the Golden Rule. Encourage participants to treat others as they wish to be treated. Just as parents are encouraged to separate the behavior from the child, people sometimes need to be reminded to challenge the idea, not the person. Taunting or putting someone down in front of others is not acceptable.

End on a high note. I won’t suggest you end every meeting with a prayer, as the church council did, although you might want to say a silent one. Instead, wrap up by explaining what the next steps are, acknowledging the group’s accomplishment and recognizing the value of everyone’s contribution. Everyone will leave the room feeling like their time was well spent.

Comment, call or email me (hey, we could even meet!) with your tips for making meetings time well spent.

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The importance of understanding client needs and planning ahead

 low rez CSIA 2014-Day 1-4

It was another record-setting year for the Control System Integrators Association's 2014 Executive Conference,
in terms of attendance, sponsorship dollars and registrant satisfaction.


Summer at AMPED is an important time for building a strong foundation for our clients’ upcoming spring annual meetings. Although venue contracts are typically signed several years in advance, the meeting framework including detailed logistics and content is often identified a year before the event kicks off. While the big picture work of successfully planning a meeting is similar from client to client (preparing budgets, identifying speakers, securing AV, etc.), it is key to understand that each client is different and therefore every meeting is unique. Some groups are more adventurous and desire designated times for field trips and workshops. Others are family-oriented events, at which entertainment for spouses and guests must be arranged.

No matter the client's needs, AMPED has proven success in raising the bar in regard to increased registration numbers, sponsorship growth and positive attendee feedback, year after year. This starts with preparing the venue RFP and negotiating the contract and continues all the way through the execution of the live event.

Taking the time to get to know each client and understanding their current and future needs immensely improves the quality of the program. Spring of 2015 may seem like a long ways off, but any meeting expert knows is it right around the corner. Let the planning begin!

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