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Five essential admin tips

keep-calm-and-always-prioritizeAnyone in an administrative position knows that an “administrator” can mean anything. There is no set job description. While there may be a set of tasks that you do daily, weekly or monthly, your job largely varies from day to day. That is certainly true with my position at AMPED. Although it is refreshing to constantly be doing new tasks, sometimes it’s difficult to keep everything straight. Here are some great tips I’ve learned to keep myself organized while getting everything done.

Make a list. Making a “to-do-list” may seem like an old fashioned notion, but I view it as a life saver, especially on my busy days. When you are working on a number of projects with various deadlines for different colleagues or clients, it is really easy to have things fall through the cracks. Writing out a list serves as a reminder for what jobs I need to complete on any given day. Additionally, crossing out an item on my list gives me a great sense of accomplishment!

Prioritize. When you have to work on more than one task for more than one client or co-worker, you need to know what tasks are most important and time-sensitive. It’s usually obvious which projects you should work on first; a task for an event tomorrow is far more urgent than a task for an event happening in six months. Be aware of your colleague’s deadlines so that you can set your own. This way, you will not only be able to prioritize your own projects, but also give your colleagues a realistic expectation of when you will complete a task.

Communicate. Communication is a lifelong skill that is helpful in any type of position. When a colleague or a client approaches you with a project, make sure that you have a solid understanding of what is expected of you and how that task is supposed to turn out. Ask questions and be thorough. While this may seem tedious and time consuming initially, it is better long-term. If you fully understand the project at the beginning, then you won’t have to redo or edit the project once you have completed it. Additionally, keep everyone updated on your progress. If something comes up that affects your timeline, make sure to share that with your colleague. Keeping an open dialogue always makes things easier for everyone involved.

Be realistic. Working in an administrative position can mean that many people are approaching you with many different projects. It is important to be honest about what you can complete in a timely fashion. I never want to tell a colleague “no” because I know how hard they work and how busy they are, but I also need to be realistic about what I can complete. If you’re already working on a few time-consuming projects and someone requests that you complete another by the end of the day, it’s time to be honest about what you can do. Make sure you aren’t taking on too much in too short a time-frame.

Work efficiently, but carefully. Getting things done quickly is essential, but completing something carefully is equally as important. Sloppy work not only reflects poorly on you, but also on your colleague or employer. Always make sure to take that extra time to double check your work. This will make you look like a key player in the workplace, making both clients and colleagues trust you.

While I have discovered these tips working as an administrative assistant, they are largely applicable to any type of position. Everyone is balancing busy schedules, so take some time to organize! Utilizing some of these tips in the workplace can help anyone stay organized and efficient while handling multiple tasks at once.

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14 web resources to keep you and your work relevant

web resources

 

Everyone has websites, Twitter handles, blogs, news stations, magazines they follow to stay up-to-date and informed on topics important to them. And if you don’t, you should! Work resources are no different and there are so (too) many resources available to make your life easier and more efficient.

Here is a list of my top resources that keep me abreast of news in association management, how to manage work/life balance, and more. Have some of your own? Share them in the comments section at the bottom of this post. Want more? I have bookmarks and Twitter pages galore, just contact me.

Disclaimer: These are all my own recommendations, with no encouragement from the sources.

Bounce ideas off other associations in your area
A database of associations by country and state to learn more about those based in your community.
www.thepowerofa.org/asae-members

What’s happening in associations
Follow trending topics and learn from other association leaders.
www.associationtrends.com

Financial background on nonprofits
View nonprofit financial data, including Form 990s and more.
www.guidestar.org

The National Center for Charitable Statistics is also chock-full of important info dating back to 1989.
nccsweb.urban.org

Government per diem rates
Learn current and historical rates for each state as set by the U.S. General Services Administration.
http://gsa.gov/portal/category/100120

Event impact
Calculate the impact your event has on a host community.
www.destinationmarketing.org/topics/event-impact-calculator

Forms for volunteers
If you need to collect information from volunteers and require more functionality than SurveyMonkey can offer, check out FormSite.
fs24.formsite.com

Stuck in a rut
Two sites for helpful ideas on preparing publications of all types.
www.slideshare.net and http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/

Track packages
Slice can track package from all carriers with just the tracking number. Use the website or download the app. Bonus: the app sends push notifications to your devices so you know when the packages are out for delivery and waiting at the front desk.
www.slice.com

Junk mail management
Magazines, phone books and supply catalogs piling up at the office? There’s a way to stop them that’s easy and free!
www.catalogchoice.org

Choosing the seat with the most leg room
Figuring out which flight to take to the annual meeting is only half the battle. Use Seat Guru to help you choose the best seat, whether you need extra legroom, a power outlet, or to be one of the first off to make a quick connection.
www.seatguru.com

Worried about your grammar style?
Use Grammarly to quickly and accurately determine if your writing skills are up to snuff.
www.grammarly.com

Touch conversation starters
Some topics are just a challenge to bring up and there’s no getting around that. But you can learn how to effectively engage in the dialogue and hold crucial conversations with Vital Smarts.
www.vitalsmarts.com

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When it comes to awards, it’s always Green Acres

Green acres

 

Hardly a week goes by, it seems, without an awards show. The Oscars, Emmys, Screen Actors Guild, All Star, Top 10, Hall of Fame, Best of Everything, People’s Choice, Reader’s Choice, Taster’s Choice. Come to think of it, when isn’t it awards season?

I love to celebrate success, but even I am growing weary of what seems to be an increasing number of invented awards. By that I mean awards programs conceived by enterprise to recognize deserving people, products and ideas, but also to create “news” that fills magazine editorial pages, sells advertising space, and fills seats at conferences and dinner tables. Look past the acrylic and veneer, and you will see that not only are awards good publicity for the recipients, they are good for the businesses that sponsor them.

Not all awards are invented. However, if the entry fees are steep, if the “judges” stand to benefit financially from your participation, or if there is an evident quid pro quo, e.g., your mailing list so they can invite 200 of your closest colleagues to celebrate with you, then you might want to take a moment to ask yourself if your prize is someone else’s profit center.

Associations also bestow awards. The difference is that these awards traditionally are a means for members to recognize and celebrate their peers. The awards serve as a reminder of why the association exists, to recognize service and dedication to the organization, or to raise the bar for professional achievement. In short, these awards are earned.

Association awards rarely make the covers of glossy magazines and often get lost in the competition for eyeballs that all organizations now find themselves in. The never-ending awards season diminishes the value of all awards, both invented and earned.

Wondering why Green Acres was capitalized in the title of this blog? I will own up that, in 1980, I received a National Arbor Day Foundation Award on behalf of the University of Wisconsin. To this day, I don’t know who nominated the campaign I helped create or why I was chosen to represent the UW. I can say I was hugely honored and literally shaking in my high heels when I accepted the award. Regrettably, the foundation’s spokesperson, Green Acres star Eddie Albert, was detained in Hollywood. I have photos.

But, that’ll cost you.

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Six tips for stretching your F&B dollar

food money

Looking for ways to stretch your meeting food and beverage budget while exceeding your attendee expectations? Give these ideas a try!

The simpler, the better.
Often, hotel and convention center break packages are very “heavy,” not to mention pricey. Consider lighter options from the a la carte menu. For example, we’ve had great success with offering a variety of protein bars and fresh fruit for morning breaks. Simple, yet filling, and it won’t put your attendees to sleep!

Less is more.
If fancy break packages are your thing, consider guaranteeing less than your actual headcount. Often, extravagant breaks have a variety of options with large servings and attendees rarely sample everything. Don’t waste the food or your money.

Hold the dessert.
For smaller gatherings, request the dessert included in your lunch menu be brought out during your traditional afternoon break time.

All-day packages equal big savings.
A number of venues offer half or all day break packages, meaning one flat fee per person for all meal and break function(s). Meeting planners know how quickly the cost of bottled soda or water adds up, so if the package includes beverages for your program you’ll really save the green!

Schedule extended lunch hours.
This allows time for attendees to explore the host city and try the native cuisine while buying their own meal at a local restaurant. Or work with your destination’s CVB to arrange meal vouchers at area eateries. Say your budget allows you to spend $10 per person. You’d be hard pressed to find a venue that can accommodate such a budget, especially after taxes and service charges. However, a $10 coupon for guests to use at the restaurant of their choice means you stay within your budget your guests save money.

Drink responsibly.
Offering a cash bar rather than hosted bar is an easy way to save your dollars. If that doesn’t work for your event or client, consider drink tickets. Give each attendee a limited number of drink tickets and switch to a cash bar once the tickets are gone. Of course, give your VIPs a few extra tickets!

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A little hand-holding goes a long way toward member engagement

According to the Corporate Leadership Council, employees with lower engagement levels are four times more likely to leave their jobs than those who are highly engaged. Do you think the same can be said of our members? Those who we can get engaged will stay with us over the long haul while those who never feel a connection will move on fairly quickly?

I hear people talking about member engagement all the time. It’s definitely a hot topic for associations right now and it’s an important one. As our members have more and more things competing for their attention and dollars, it’s critical that we get them to feel a connection to our organization — to engage with us and their peers. The theory, of course, is that the more engaged a member is, the better our chances of having them stay with the association when renewal time comes along.

There are so many ways to involve and engage our members in our association. We can ask them to serve on committees, offer them the opportunity to attend programs where they learn and network with their peers, invite them to present at conferences and educational events and build online communities for their use.

One of the things our association partner, the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) will be focusing on this year is member engagement. We’re targeting their online community as one of the places we’ll start. Some believe that if you build an online community, people will flock to it and it will flourish with little to no intervention. I’ve worked with several organizations that have started online communities and I have yet to see this work without some gentle pushes from leadership and staff.

Some of the many things we’ll be doing in 2014 to increase participation on wsae.org include assisting leadership in becoming visible in the community, encouraging people to blog, utilizing it to communicate with committees and the board, making announcements and carrying on education program discussions long after the event has ended.

We often overlook the need to start with the basics when getting an online community up and running or trying to pump some energy into an existing community. First, we need to make sure all members know the community is available and encourage them to create their online profiles. WSAE is running ads in its magazine and newsletter that spell out exactly how to login and set up a profile. We’ll also encourage them to set up a daily or weekly digest, so they have new postings delivered to their inbox automatically. We’ll also be running questions that have been posted to the community in the association’s newsletter. We’ll share the topic question, but direct them to the website for the answer.

How will we know if our efforts are successful? The system we use tracks engagement and offers reports. We’ll be selecting some key metrics to measure our progress and see if we achieve our goals. I’ll let you know how it goes!

If you’re looking for a place to see what your peers are doing or pose a question, join me on the Member Engagement – For Online Community and Membership Professionals group on LinkedIn. There are over 2,100 members discussing all kinds of engagement issues. It’s always interesting to join a group and then see how many people you know that are already participating. I guarantee you’ll find peers dealing with some of the same issues you do.

What about your member engagement? Have you done something that’s worked particularly well or maybe something you’d never try again? I’d love to hear what you do or are thinking of doing to engage your members, and I know others would too.

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