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Bye-bye pipe and drape: Kiosks are welcome upgrade for expo

expo

The exhibit program of AMPED's partner client, CSIA (Control System Integrators Association), has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, nearly doubling the number of exhibitors since 2009. How, you might ask? Well, much of this success can be attributed to staff’s commitment to building relationships with new exhibitors and sponsors while continuously strengthening long-standing connections. Sure there are plenty of articles out there with tips for evaluating exhibition effectiveness, but the fact is that a strong meetings team is engaged with attendees and therefore is naturally in tune with how the participant experience is shaping up onsite. Listen to your exhibitors and, when considering a change, get their buy-in first. We did just that with CSIA’s exhibit program earlier this year.

Year-after-year, CSIA’s conference attendees say that the number one benefit of attending the annual meeting is networking among business leaders from all aspects of the industry. Well, if networking is one of the prime reasons to attend, shouldn’t the exhibit program reflect that, too? Anyone who has ever been on the exhibitor side understands how easy it is to become distracted by the entire process of setting up and dismantling your booth — making sure that all your shipments have arrived, tracking down someone to help you find any missing packages, unpacking, setting up, etc. Before your know it, it’s time to take everything down! The window for networking is closed all too quickly. That’s exactly why, this year, we proposed a kiosk-based exhibit model and it was a HUGE hit!

We pitched the idea to the volunteers of the partner committee who represent the exhibitor demographic at the annual conference. As soon as they heard the benefits, they were all in! We told exhibitors to keep it simple: bring your business cards, laptop or tablet for “virtual demos” and marketing collateral/giveaways if desired. Everything else would be there waiting for each exhibitor when they arrived, including a personalized prefabricated kiosk with custom graphics. Say goodbye to shipping costs, too! Leave the bulky demo equipment and booth displays at home. No need for the hard sales pitches either – just focus on making connections in a casual happy-hour type of atmosphere. Of course not every exhibitor was initially jazzed about this change; however, you know you've made a wise decision when even those who were skeptical compliment you on your brilliance during the show!

Moral of the story: be engaged, know your audience and get their buy-in. It’s a win-win for everyone in the end.

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A day in the life of an AMC staff member

wiseman w mug II

Each week you read on our blog how we all “wear many hats!” While this is the case for many association professionals, I feel that it is particularly true for AMCs like AMPED. Between the various needs of our different clients, some days we can be all over the place! I thought it might be fun to document one whole day at work to get an idea of the wide variety of tasks we tackle. It would have been hard to capture it all, but I did my best. Enjoy!

7:25 a.m. — Kiss dog and husband goodbye. Yes, in that order.

7:25:10 a.m. — One more kiss for the dog - she’s so cute. Off to the office!

7:43 a.m. — Pass by my usual drive-through Starbucks. Running a bit late. Decide I can make it without caffeine today.

7:56 a.m. — Arrive at office. Spend a few minutes reviewing each of my in-boxes (six total). Respond to messages that have quick answers and prioritize my day.

8:00 a.m. — Laugh at self for thinking I could survive without caffeine. Grab a coworker and head to Starbucks. We are both named Emily and we both get iced coffee. That really throws the baristas off.

8:05 a.m. — “The other Emily” and I use the walk back from Starbucks to discuss a knowledge-sharing session my colleagues had yesterday that I missed due to a call with a potential member. I give her a heads-up that I need her help pulling a specific set of abstracts from a recent client meeting to add to the client website.

8:30 a.m. — Recurring calendar reminder: time to update a client’s member list in email marketing service site. This particular client has rolling membership renewals, so their member list is constantly changing. They use this service to send out weekly e-newsletters and upcoming webinar invitations, so it is vital that it is consistently up-to-date.

8:45 a.m. — Lynda will be in the office today. Write up a quick list of items to discuss with her, including an upcoming client Board meeting.

8:53 a.m. — Follow up with emails from members for a particular client regarding their membership directory listing. Make changes to the database if required.

9:30 a.m. — Come across a voicemail from last night for a client member who wants to renew their membership. The message is a bit hard to understand, so I spend a few minutes searching the database for partial phone numbers and names to see if I can figure out who this is.

9:35 a.m. — Find the company name and confirm the phone number. Review my notes from the renewal workbook. Oh, awesome! This was a company that previously told me they weren’t planning to renew their membership. My follow-ups had worked! *Pats self on the back*

9:36 a.m. — Pick up the phone to dial the member.

9:36:15 a.m. — Realize the company is in California, where it is only 7:36 a.m. Ugh. *Hang up phone and create myself a calendar reminder for 11a.m. to give them a call back.*

9:45 a.m. — Calendar reminder pops up to write AMPED blog. Already on that! *dismiss*

9:56 a.m. — Pop over to “the other Emily’s” office for her to show me how to find those abstracts. Turns out to be super simple. Spend the time originally dedicated to writing my blog to updating the client website. Web updates for this particular client aren’t typically in my job description, but I work closely with the volunteer leader who inquired about it and I know the person that would normally take care of this has a lot on her plate, so I don’t mind at all. (Reason #536 I love working at AMPED – we all do this sort of thing for each other.)

10:20 a.m. — Microsoft Word crashes. Luckily, both documents I had been working on saved.

10:25 a.m. — Website updates complete. It bothers me that previous entries on the page are inconsistent. Spend time cleaning up the format and notify volunteer leader that the page has been updated. Notice that one portion is completely missing. I assume the client will want it added in, so I send an email to a colleague to find missing info.

10:30 a.m. — Three email campaigns were scheduled to go out today to notify various groups for one of our clients about an upcoming webinar. Watch notification emails as they come in to make sure everything seems right. Notification emails end up in my clutter inbox. Give clutter a quick once-over to make sure there is nothing important.

10:33 a.m. — Review inboxes and respond where necessary. One question required a bit of research, so I spend a couple minutes searching through documentation for an answer. Not finding what I need. Send an email to the person who will have the answer.

10:41 a.m. — Office manager, Trisha, comes in to let me know that she ordered a Graze Box trial for the office. *Yay! We love snacks.* Speaking of snacks…

10:42 a.m. — Grab snack from fridge.

10:47 a.m. — Tony pops over to discuss a potential member for one of our clients and come up with a quick plan to keep them engaged.

10:54 a.m. — Jeanne asks me about award order for client Board member. Shoot. Should have filed original email in ”waiting for response” folder. Send reminder email to Executive Director to select the award.

10:56 a.m. — Process new member application and send email with invoice and payment instructions.

11:12 a.m. — Realize reminder had popped up to call member in CA from earlier. Dial number, but learn that contact is only in office on Monday and Friday. Get email address from secretary and send follow-up. Create reminder for me to follow up on Friday. Respond to other emails while in Outlook.

11:47 a.m. — Process continuing education reimbursement application for a client member. Members receive up to $50 reimbursement every two years, so I first check to make sure this particular member qualifies.

11:52 a.m. — *HR hat on.* Discuss staffing plans now that two of our interns are gone for the summer.

12:00 p.m. — Only halfway through the day? Hope people are still reading! Discuss onboarding/orientation plan for new volunteer leaders with outside Executive Director for one of our clients.

12:05 p.m. — Help Tony and Brittany prepare for meeting with a client partner member. Discuss 2017 sponsorship package, including membership, conference registration, marketing support, etc.

12:20 p.m. — Quick walk around the Square. Stop at local cheese shop to put together Wisconsin-themed gift basket for aforementioned partner member meeting. *These are the really rough parts of association management.*

12:40 p.m. — Catch up on emails while eating lunch. I normally try to eat outside on nice days like this, but I’m taking the afternoon off on Friday and want to keep things moving.

12:55 p.m. — Calendar reminder for member database training with new Latin America staff person for one of our clients. Pull up documentation, database and screen sharing software. Quickly finish lunch.

1:00 p.m. — Give high level overview of membership database to new Latin America staff. Thankfully I have all of the most common database procedures documented. Our cloud server allows me to share the documentation via a web link to ensure that our Latin American staff always has the most current version of the document.

2:15 p.m. — Reach out to account manager for VoIP service to follow up on a new phone order and inquire about headsets for some staff that share offices.

2:21 p.m. — Update membership and staff reports for upcoming client Board meeting. I’ve already had various staff members update their areas, so I just need to finalize my sections.

2:30 p.m. — Does it bother you when you ask someone two questions in an email and they only respond to one?

2:46 p.m. — Provide updated membership numbers to finance manager so she can update budget forecast for client.

2:48 p.m. — Receive answer to question from 10:33 a.m. Pass along response to member and quickly respond to other emails while in Outlook.

2:52 p.m. — The new member application I processed this morning has made payment online. Complete processing membership and send welcome kit.

2:55 p.m. — There’s someone with a megaphone yelling outside my window. It’s always something . . .

2:58 p.m. — Review graphic and member listing for publication in a client’s magazine. Doing so reminds me of some web updates to make. Create reminder to do so once I receive answers to a couple questions.

3:13 p.m. — Follow up with a few new client members for their logos and text for their listing on the website.

3:18 p.m. — *IT Person hat on.* Boot up former employee’s laptop to look for document. Not able to find it. Deliver bad news to colleague.

3:28 p.m. — Yep! I was right – the client asked about that missing portion of the website from 10:25 a.m. Good thing I’m already on it.

3:31 p.m. — *All hats on.* Catch up with Lynda: potential clients, potential employees, upcoming client Board meetings, client financials, life.

4:32 p.m. — Review inboxes. Someone requested a list from a recent client meeting, so I repurpose one that I already have rather than starting from scratch.

4:40 p.m. — I won’t get to a larger project that I had planned to work on this afternoon, so I move it to tomorrow’s calendar. One of our clients is implementing a complete Association Management System to replace several independent systems (event management, email marketing, abstract management, etc). Moving a client to a new database is a big project and takes lots of prep work, so I block off an hour or so on my calendar every couple days to chip away at it.

4:42 p.m. — There’s a line out my door since I’ve been away from my desk. Assist colleagues with a few questions regarding financials and where to find specific documentation.

4:53 p.m. — Prepare projects for intern to work on tomorrow.

4:59 p.m. — Check survey sent to a client board regarding their availability for an in-person meeting. Send reminder to members who have not responded.

5:01 p.m. — Review calendar and to-do list for the day to ensure there was nothing missed.

5:03 p.m. — Shut down laptop, lock up. Head home to my cute dog (and husband)!

5:06 p.m. — *IT hat back on!* I notice an email on my phone from a colleague who accidentally deleted a file. Unfortunately she hadn’t saved it at all yet, so I am unable to recover. Deliver the bad news.

5:50 p.m. — Send background information files on a potential client to a new employee. I can do this from my phone. *Cloud computing for the win!*

5:59 p.m. — Okay now I’m done working for the day. Heading in to the gym.

9:04 p.m. — Peek at inboxes on my phone one last time. I like to have an idea of what will be on my plate when I get in to the office tomorrow. I swear I’m done now.

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Little tips for saving lots of time

to do list

Where does the time go?

There are only so many hours in a day, and only so many of those hours should be spent working. Check out a few of these ways you can save time and make the most of your work day.

To-do list. I get it. I know it’s fun to write it out and check the boxes as you complete the tasks. But in the amount of time you spend writing out that list, you could easily have checked at least one item off of the list. Make a task list on your email calendar, or set reminders on your phone.

Signing documents. Save time and paper by adding an electronic signature to documents rather than printing, signing, scanning, etc.

Banking. Still making daily trips to the bank? Don’t! Call your bank to find out if they offer a remote deposit system.

Create accounts. Find yourself ordering from the same places frequently? Take the extra few minutes on the front end to set up an account so you don’t have to enter all of your information the next time. Many websites also store your order history so you can more easily re-order frequent purchases. Bonus: you might get promotional emails for creating an account.

…which leads me to my final tip…

Unroll.me. Those promotional emails, albeit useful, can sometimes get out of hand. Use this super simple service to help clean up your contacts and make sure you’re only receiving the emails you want to receive, thus saving time weeding through the bad to get to the good.

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Recognizing volunteers – the backbone of an organization

love your volunteers

Associations rely heavily on volunteer members, many of whom do much of the work of moving the organization forward. That’s why it’s so important to recognize their efforts and keep their enthusiasm high.

The National Air Filtration Association (NAFA), a client partner of AMPED - Association Management Partners & Executive Directors, is comprised of dedicated individuals with years of experience — experience they are willing to share with other air filtration professionals. It is not a difficult endeavor to solicit volunteers within NAFA. Most are willing to dedicate their time to work on projects both large and small. Having such wonderful people within your organization is a blessing, but it is vital to appreciate their hard work every way you can.

  1. Recognize the volunteer at every opportunity. Thank them publically at conferences; give them plaques or tangible items that remind them how important they are to the organization. Use Facebook or Twitter to post updates with photos of the volunteers in action.
  2. Keep in close touch. Check in with the volunteers occasionally. Ask for their suggestions and feedback to show them how important their participation and opinion is to the group’s overall wellbeing.
  3. Refer technical questions to them. Rely on their expertise. When a technical question arises, seek them out for their knowhow. This will show them you recognize their authority, and gives them the opportunity to promote their businesses.
  4. Document their efforts in print. Periodicals, publications and newsletters offer the opportunity to recognize their work and publicize committee efforts.
  5. Don’t forget the volunteer’s employer. Be sure to include the employer’s name when recognizing the volunteer. Businesses sacrifice a lot in order to allow employees to attend conferences, work on committees and share their time. A way to recognize this and get the support of the employer is to always include the name of the volunteer’s company.
  6. Be sure to include their designations/certifications. NAFA has a certification program and the designation is always included when mentioning an individual. Not only does it help promote the program, it demonstrates the importance and value you place on the certification.

Most important of all, thank your volunteers. Send them a thank you card or call them personally. In the age of email and social media, the handwritten letter is a novelty. Personalize the note or call to thank them for a specific task they did during their time volunteering.

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Not Everyone Gets the Spotlight

But behind-the-scenes roles are equally important to pulling off a great event!

Wicked at the Omaha Orpheum theater


I was in Drama Club in school and one thing I remember our advisor telling us over and over is that every role is important. Whether on stage or behind the scenes, everyone has a part to play to create a successful production. Over the course of my career I have helped manage numerous client meetings and conferences. It is exciting and challenging work and an aspect of association management that I truly enjoy. There have also been many times when I have not been directly involved in the planning or on-site management of an event. Instead, I’ve found myself in more of a “behind the scenes” role back at the office. No matter what, I always want to be as helpful as possible so even if I am not directly involved in planning or traveling to the conference, I have found ways to contribute and help make an event great.


Stay informed: An upcoming client event usually means an increase in inquiries from potential attendees. Knowing as much as possible about the event is important in order to effectively and efficiently answer questions. In particular, make sure you are familiar with aspects of the event that are most likely to generate inquiries. Examples include registration policies, schedule highlights and sponsorship and exhibit opportunities. If there is an event website make sure it is bookmarked on your browser for easy access and that you are familiar with the information and where it is posted. If you are going to be processing registrations over the phone, familiarize yourself with the process and be aware of different registration options, fees and deadlines.


Offer assistance: Leading up to a conference there are numerous tasks to be accomplished, and the simple act of offering assistance or support can be incredibly helpful. Maybe you can help print name badges or pack up supplies. Even running out to grab lunch or a cup of coffee for a stressed colleague might make their day a little easier. During the event, make it a priority to stay in contact with colleagues who are on-site in case something comes up. Also, remember that the time immediately following a conference can be hectic, too. Catching up after having been away and dealing with the event wrap-up is a lot of work. If you have the time and opportunity to assist with post-meeting tasks such as unpacking or organizing and archiving conference files, definitely do so.


Take notes: Throughout the meeting planning and management process you may find yourself making mental notes about things that have worked exceptionally well or things that could be improved next time. Perhaps it’s a suggestion or comment you heard from multiple callers. It might be your own observation while navigating the website or processing registrations. Write these down! If you do end up with a list, make it a point to share it with your colleagues after the event is over. This is a useful exercise for everyone on the team and your notes may provide valuable insight when planning the next event.


Conference planning and management is a group effort and the advice my drama coach gave me definitely applies - every role is important. Whether on site or “behind the scenes” at the office, the ultimate goal is a successful event and everyone’s contribution matters!

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