Here’s a post I wrote for MemberViews Monday, a collaboration of bloggers in the association world who have teamed up to share their experiences and knowledge with other association professionals. The first topic in this series hosted by MultiView blogs is Advice for the Emerging Association Professional.

I never expected to work in associations. Frankly, they weren’t even on my radar. But I was leaving one career and in search of another. I took an association job just to have some stability and income while I figured things out. Little did I know, back in 1999, what a rewarding and fascinating profession I was about to enter.

Looking back, I wish I had asked for advice. It took me several years to find my way. If we were to have a “learn from my mistakes” conversation, it would go something like this.

Never stop learning. You will succeed in this profession if you live to learn. This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. Don’t shortchange yourself. Make time for learning even if it’s on your own time. Your older self will thank you.

Be observant. Listen to and watch people. You have to understand human behavior, both individual and group, if you want to motivate, manage and lead staff and members.

Give yourself time to think. You need time every week to plan ahead, set and review goals, and let your brain work its way around challenges and issues. 

Develop a DIY professional development habit. Set aside time to read association management blogs and publications, participate in Twitter’s #assnchat (Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Eastern), and attend association events. If your boss doesn’t give you the time or budget to do these things, do it on your own time. Put aside a small amount of every paycheck, even if it’s only $10, toward professional development. It’s an investment in your future, just like your 401K.

Join your state SAE even if you have to spend your own money. You’ll meet a network of peers that could become lifelong friends.

Look for mentors. Find people in your office or at another association who are active in your SAE or ASAE. They might not consider themselves mentor material so don’t even use the word “mentor” around them. A conversation with them could develop into a mutually satisfying relationship.

Find association peers. If you’re surrounded by colleagues who are only there for the paycheck, don’t be discouraged. Don’t follow them down their boring, soul-deadening path. Find people either in your office or other associations who are around your same age and career level. Twitter makes this so much easier now. Arrange monthly meet-ups. Make them your mastermind group.

Make friends all over the building. Avoid eating lunch alone. Don’t isolate yourself in a departmental silo. Learn about the work your colleagues are doing. How can you help them? How can they help you? What member stories can you share? What can you teach each other?

Pause and reflect before reacting. Expect stressful times. You might start the day expecting to work on specific tasks and projects, but find yourself dealing with other pressing problems, issues and people that weren’t on your list. You will constantly juggle a variety of deadlines and demands.

It’s natural to react quickly and emotionally to these stressors – those same reactions save us in life and death situations. But in the workplace, you must develop the habit of pausing before reacting, and thinking rationally, not emotionally. It’s not easy. Yoga helps, but I don’t expect you to practice yoga as a professional development tool – although it’s not a bad idea.

Become aware of your reactions to your own behavior (self-judging), other people’s behavior, stressful situations and change. If you learn to pause and reflect before reacting, you won’t stress yourself out so much and you’ll be a positive influence on the people around you. 

Don’t be a workaholic. Never put in crazy hours because you think you should, except, of course, for those special times in the meeting, magazine or budget cycle that require it. You and your brain need time off to recharge. You know the people who are always boasting about how busy they are and how late they stayed in the office? They’re not paragons of virtue to emulate. They’re doing it wrong — “it” being life.

Never be defined by your job. If you develop that limited mindset, retirement will be rough. Yes, your job is a huge, rewarding part of your life, but it’s just one part of your life. Make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the relationships and experiences that add color and passion to life. Find people, causes and hobbies to love. You’ll be a happier and more interesting, creative person and professional.

Advice for emerging association professionals

Photo by Andre Mouraux (Flickr CC license)

Have you missed my Reads of the Week posts? I’m sorry I haven’t been sharing good reads with you here, but I’m still sharing them on my Twitter account. I take reading and sharing quite seriously. 

It’s been a busy spring of conferences, a hiking vacation in southern Utah (see below), weekends away and lots of work for clients. Clients come first, otherwise there wouldn’t be any conferences, vacations and weekends away! 

Luckily, I have another platform to share my thoughts and ideas about association management — my weekly post on the Avectra blog. Tomorrow, my post is about the advice given to a national association by its members. In recent weeks, I’ve written about leading from the cubicle, spending a day in the life of members and new membership models.

I’m always looking for ideas, practices and programs to share with the association community, so if your association is doing something innovative, please let me know.

Proudest personal accomplishment: facing my fears and climbing to the top of Angels Landing, Zion National Park. This photo is taken from 2 miles up the trail at Scout Lookout. The last half mile is up that crazy fin to the narrow summit. I DID IT!!!!

Proudest personal accomplishment: facing my fears and hiking to the top of Angels Landing, Zion National Park. This photo is taken from 2 miles up the trail at Scout Lookout. The last half mile is up that crazy fin to the narrow summit.
I DID IT!!!!

Curated life

One of my favorite curated posts is published on Friday afternoons: Nieman Journalism Lab’s Week in Review. Last week it covered online and offline verification in Boston’s wake, an underdog’s Pulitzer win, Medium and Matter, journalism education and more.

Digital life

A GigaOm conference about digital media, paidContent Live (#pclive), took place last week in New York. Here’s the cool thing, they’ve put the session transcripts and videos on their website. Ernie Smith from Associations Now believes the association and news industries could learn a lot from each other. I agree. He attended the conference and says it “shone an important light on personalization, risk, innovation, and diversity—things your association should know a thing or two about.”

“The most interesting discussion of the day took place between two of the leading minds behind the personalized news movement.” Ernie’s talking about the founders of Prismatic and Zite. The video and summary of that session, The Impact of Personalization and Algorithms on the Attention Economy, is on the paidContent site. Another session that caught my eye was a panel of five startup founders who are “changing the way the news business delivers content.”

After seeing online comments about who should or shouldn’t be tweeting during a breaking news story, Geoff Livingston writes about the devolving online civility situation, social media vigilantes and respect. Geoff says, “The general state of online conversation continues to devolve into a snarky, nasty tar pit, in turn impacting the outside world by destroying real relationships.” And there’s data to prove it. I admit I’ve slipped into vigilante mode in the past when I saw people using the #assnchat hashtag for tweets that had no value to the association community. It’s a strange territorial, I-know-better-than-you kneejerk reaction, I’m guessing.

Financial life

Between 1990 and 2010, builders met the Boomer demand for big, large-lot single-family homes. Later this decade, the “great senior sell-off” will begin as Boomers downsize. But will there be enough market demand for these over-sized homes? Nope, says Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah. He told Emily Badger at The Atlantic Cities, that the next housing crisis will be in 2020. So sell that monster house while you still can!

Spiritual life

I love going into artist cooperatives, like the one I recently visited in Manitou Springs, Colorado, Commonwheel Artists Co-op. I haven’t bought any art in the last few years, but that will change soon. Felix Salmon reminded me of that visit in his article about artists who are moving away from the gallery-driven narrative of art-as-investment, and instead “are selling art to consumers who enjoy it, without making a big deal about how unique it is or how much it might rise in value.” Seriously, how many of us buy art for its investment value? We buy it because we want to live with it.

Have you ever walked into a museum or cathedral and seen such a work of great beauty and power that the experience felt religious? One of those hair-on-your-arms-rising or eyes-watering moments? Thanks to Kaya Oakes, I had that moment listening to Andreas Scholl sing Bach’s Agnus Dei. Click on the link she provides while reading her beautiful article, Searching for Bach.

Good-to-know quickies

  • A new app, Lively, is an activity-sharing platform that keep tabs on your independently living and aging relatives. (Michael Seo, TechCrunch)
  • When presenting data, get to the point fast with better visuals. (Nancy Duarte, Harvard Business Review)
  • How to embed part of a YouTube video. (Amit Agarwal, Digital Inspiration)
  • Make your trade show swag more useful and it will spark conversation. (WordofMouth.org)

I fell asleep last night with this song in my head – and it will soon be in your head – thanks to retweets from Jess Commins and Andrew Norcross of an advertisement spotted by Edward Mayes. Mama mia, that’s good.

Happy Friday!

best copy of the week

Brilliance

 

 

First…

Oh, Boston, you’re my home.

Dirty Water by The Standells (video)

Dirty Water by The Standells (video)
my favorite by Mission of Burma didn’t seem appropriate right now

Back to your regularly scheduled program…

One of my favorite curated posts to read during the weekend is GigaOm’s Look Back at the Week in Tech. They describe it as “our rewind and quick take on the most important stories and some great links for your weekend reading.”

digitalNOW (#diginow13)

I’ve been too busy to dig deeply into my digitalNOW conference notes but Sheri Jacobs‘ session on membership value and segmentation inspired me to write a post for Avectra about an interesting membership model. 

Maggie McGary is exasperated with the disconnect she witnessed during social media presentations by association execs at digitalNOW. When she examined one association’s programs, she discovered that social media was helping them create value and revenue, yet the exec said just the opposite. Why the disconnect? Knee-jerk reaction syndrome? Fear? 

Digital Marketing for Business (#dmfb)

I spent Monday and Tuesday at the Digital Marketing for Business conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. Like any conference, there were a few so-so sessions, but most of the 16 sessions I attended were excellent. I was especially impressed with Gregory Ng’s opening keynote on Tuesday – The Data Driven CMO. I kept thinking the association community would really benefit from his ideas, particularly on the intersection of tech and marketing – after all, most association positions have an element of marketing in them. ASAE and digitalNOW, give him a look. 

Another session I enjoyed at #dmfb was John Lane’s Content Marketing Art of War. He led with a stat that demonstrates why content marketing is critical to the success of any organization: 60% of the B2B buying process is over before the prospect makes the first sales touch with you. Content marketing is about delivering value before the sale. It’s the hook that entices prospects (and customers) to come to you. 

Tweetstream alert

On Tuesday I also saw intriguing tweets from Andrew Hanelly who was attending Folio’s MediaMashup conference. My plan is to check out the #mediamashup tweet stream this weekend. What a geek. 

Reads of the Week

Ray van Hilst says associations “are already on the leading edge” of the content marketing trend because the key elements to successful content marketing — content, distribution and trust – are embedded in association culture and business. But, many associations are losing the content competition because of antiquated policies and processes. See if you’re one of them.

Do you know what your association’s younger members really need? Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs does. He facilitated a strategic planning session for MACPA’s New/Young Professionals Network and now knows the top seven issues facing young professionals. MACPA also “developed a list of the top activities we can do to help young professionals address these issues.” 

“Each generation imagines itself as rebellious and iconoclastic. But none before has felt as free to call bullshit on conventional wisdom, backed by a trillion pages of information on the web and with the power of the Internet to broadcast their opinions. They have thrown off the shackles of received culture—compiling their own playlists, getting news from Twitter, decorating web pages with their own art.”

That’s Jerry Adler at Wired describing the first digital generation. This fascinating article is required reading for anyone who plans to be alive the next few years.

I love the ideas that Katya Andresen shares on what to do when you’re stuck on replay and need inspiration. She says, “It’s one thing to identify best practices and build on what works – it’s quite another to get too comfortable and call it in. Whole industries have fallen into habit only to be rendered irrelevant. You have to keep fine-tuning (or sometimes revolutionizing) what you do and how you do it.” She’s writing for a non-profit audience, but her suggestions would do wonders for any of us.

Quickies

  • 27 time-saving tools & tricks to be a more productive marketer (HubSpot)
  • You too, if you’re smart and talented enough, can be a kick-ass, well-paid conference speaker like Laurie Ruettimann. She shares how she rose to the top of the HR conference circuit. (Cynical Girl)
  • Here’s the poop on the daily routines of seven top CEOs. (Guardian)
  • The cicadas are coming! The cicadas are coming! (The Atlantic)
  • Want to help feed hungry kids? Vote for my local food bank (or yours) so they can receive a huge grant from Walmart. (Facebook)

In case you missed the best video this week – Boston Bruins’ fans singing the National Anthem – I’ve got you covered. Chills and tears.

Happy Friday! 

bruins anthem

Reads of the Week was on vacation last week while I was at digitalNOW in Orlando, which means it’s a long one this week. Again.

In years past, I’ve been envious reading the digitalNOW tweets and watching the keynote webcasts. Since I’m not an association executive, I felt very fortunate to attend this year. Without a doubt, it’s the best association conference I’ve attended. If you’re an association executive, put it on your radar.

To give you a taste, here are a few digitalNOW posts and resources. I’ll share more next week.

Conference season rolls on. Now that the Avectra Users & Developers Conference, ASAE Great Ideas and digitalNOW are behind me, the only one left, for now, is Digital Marketing for Business on Monday and Tuesday at the Raleigh Convention Center. It does not at all surprise me that a conference organized by Phil Buckley is the first result when you google “digital marketing for business.” All hail the SEO master!

If you’re in the nonprofit space, I probably don’t need to tell you about the NTEN conference that started Thursday. You can attend online or follow along on #13ntc until it ends Saturday.

My sources tell me…

Each week I’m revealing one of my many sources for good reads. Denise Graveline’s regular Friday post, The Weekend Read, on her Don’t Get Caught blog is one of my favorites. One of my good reads this week is also from Denise — Tweeting About Food, and Why It’s Smarter Than You Think. She tells you why and when it’s okay to tweet about food. So there!

Let’s talk about it

Chris Bonney at Vanguard Technology shares a list of questions associations should ask about their website. Gather some colleagues, grab some lunch and go over these questions so you can “help your association shake loose from old beliefs about your association website and start thinking about it not as a part of organization, but as your organization itself.”

Now, the reads of the week

I am not a robot. But, I may be replaceable, or at least that was my fear when I read Mitch Joel’s post about a ‘Robo-reporter’ computer program that writes newspaper articles. But then he reassured me:

“The true power in this is not how computers, algorithms and robots can now replace human writers. The true power is in how computers, algorithms and robots can now free up these human writers to do the more important work that our society requires of them.”

Phew.

You can do something a robot can’t do: convince your C-suite that your organization needs to develop and implement a content strategy. And, if you have Hilary Marsh’s presentation in hand, good money says you’ll succeed.

“The algorithm will likely replace the editor and curator.” Algorithms, again! One day, I’ll wonder how I ever got along without them. Roger Wood and Evelyn Robbrecht wrote a fascinating article about Intelligent Content at paidContent. “Written and visual content will eventually be continuously reconfigured and redesigned by the moment to accommodate data gathered about what you like to read.” That’s fine and all, but I don’t want to live in a content bubble. Hopefully I’ll always have the random serendipity of Twitter.

Where I get cranky

Stop using so many damn hashtags! “When kept to a small scale, they can ably perform their service as a filter of relevant tweets” – like my beloved #assnchat. But, Daniel Victor at Nieman Journalism Lab says:

“I believe for every person who stumbles upon your tweet via hashtag, you’re likely turning off many more who are put off by hashtag overuse. We need not banish the hashtag, but let’s start putting more thought into when we’re using it.”

Wise up, tweeps! Nonprofit Tech 2.0 identifies five types of tweets you should never post. Note number 3, please. Seriously, these are all obnoxious.

Quickies

  • Cute kitten videos are all that stand between us and the cyber-apocalypse. (The Verge)
  • Study says…blogs are still more influential than Twitter. Of course they are. (The Wall)
  • Turn your Google Analytics into an infographic with Visual.ly. (SocialTimes)
  • Note to self: the next time you’re tempted to use the word awesome… (Instead of Awesome)
  • Become a masterful note-taker. (The Atlantic)
  • Make sure you’re legally using online photos. (Lifehacker)
  • Four questions to ask before you send that press release. (Ragan’s PR Daily)

Read a poem

Thank you, Jeff Cobb, for tweeting the link to this inspiring post, Five Reasons Why We Need Poetry in School. It reminded me that it’s been way too long since I sat with a poem. I’m making a date this weekend for some time on the couch with a poet. Hmm, now who should it be?

Feed your neighbors

There’s a really good reason to visit Facebook every single day, at least until the end of April. Walmart is providing $3 million in grants for hunger relief programs – that’s means 35,000,000 (yes, million) meals — for food banks across the country. You can vote once a day for your local food bank on Walmart’s Facebook page. I’ll be voting, of course, for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Happy Friday!

vote for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina

Have you ever seen one of these?

association maker culture

UCF’s 3D printer at digitalNow

That’s a 3D printer from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training METIL Lab. David Metcalf and two of his students brought it to digitalNow for The “Maker Society,” their session with Jenny Levine, Strategy Guide at the American Library Association. 

Jenny made it clear up front: “Your association does not need a 3D printer.” Instead she focused on the maker culture and what it means for associations.

These articles will give you a better understanding of the maker culture:

Who’s a maker? Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE, defines a maker as:

“Someone who is a builder, a creator, a producer, a developer, someone who has an active sense of taking an idea and developing it into something that’s real and tangible and can be shared with other people.”

Sounds like an association leader to me.

The Maker Generation

A generation of makers is coming of age — our future members. How do we become organizations they want (and need) in their lives?

Librarians, as usual, are ahead of the game. At work, they’re creating maker spaces for kids and adults. At the American Library Association (ALA), they’re experimenting with new approaches to membership issues. Like many associations, the ALA has seen a decline in volunteerism. Fewer members are willing to commit to time-intensive volunteer roles. So what can an association do? Jenny  appeals to the maker in her members.

  • Listen to member conversations. What are they talking about? What inspires their passion? Jenny monitors an unofficial group of 3000 members and non-members on Facebook – the ALA Think Tank. She looks for short-term project ideas that she can help facilitate.
  • Create new pathways to bring members into association involvement. In addition to the traditional, time-intensive style of volunteer service, offer project-based entry points that require less of a time commitment.
  • Nurture the maker ethos – “let’s just do it” – by providing support or, at least, encouragement to member-organized projects.

One of the UCF students mentioned how fun it is to get a maker community going. The community was already there, UCF only needed to give it resources and get out of the way. You have communities of members who are passionate about different issues or causes. Find them and listen to them. What types of projects would give them a sense of satisfaction while also staying aligned with the association’s mission?

Maker governance

When Jenny looks for projects, one of her criteria is purpose. David Metcalf looks for passion about a social mission. The motivation behind these projects is a yearning to create or accomplish something. That’s such a powerful desire – the drive to create – yet how often do associations satisfy it?

After the session, I wondered: What will happen to the traditional association governance model? Is the next generation of members willing to put in time serving on committee after committee in hopes of getting a board position and then, maybe one day, being nominated for an officer position? Is that a desirable path? Is that how they want to serve? Is that how they envision an association experience?

Will this generation of makers be willing to deal with the slow-moving engines of association governance? Does “let’s just do it” work in the association world? Can we find ways to let people get together and make “things” that help their fellow members, attendees, profession/industry or community? 

I’m excited about this emerging culture of makers and here’s why. Bob Johansen, author of Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World, says the best leaders are makers:

“All humans have at least a touch of what I call the maker instinct, but most leaders have a serious dose since they must make and remake the organizations they lead. The best leaders have always been tinkerers who imagine alternative structures and love to play around with them to see what new things they can create.”

Why wait for the young ones to start hacking our associations. Let’s figure out how to just do it ourselves.

association maker motto

Photo by NoSoma (Flickr CC)

Friday, already?!

Time to get it done and get to the weekend. I’ve got your leisure time reading selections all ready for you.

Curated Post of the Week

No surprise, I love curated posts. The Verge publishes The Best Writing of the Week on Sundays. It usually introduces me to well-written posts that I might have missed during the week, usually about the intersection of life and technology.

Reads of the Week

While we’re on the topic of content curation, over at Top Rank, Brian Larson recommends using content curation to grow your company (or association) beyond being a me-me-me brand. Why? He points to the results of a study conducted by Jay Baer: “Brands that posted curated content linking to 3rd party sites experienced a 33% increase in clicks vs. those with original content linking back to their own site.” Follow his steps to diagnose and cure your me-me-me syndrome.

Gina Dietrich has business owner’s disease. You know it. You help clients with their problems and challenges, while neglecting the same issues with your own business. She says, “I’m calling baloney on myself.” Take a look at her website checklist. I bet a lot of these items could use fixing on your website. And mine. But first, I really should graduate from this baby blog to a big girl blog, but not until I get to the “Later” section of my to-do list.

“As we move towards a quantified society, one shaped by data, we start to dismiss things that are unquantified. Empathy, emotion and storytelling — these are as much a part of business as they are of life.” Om Malik says companies aren’t using their data in the most powerful way – to shape the user’s or customer’s experience. I’m glad I clicked on this. Normally, a post about data wouldn’t appeal to me, but there’s a lot to think about in this one.

Sarah Lacy, the founder of Pando Daily, takes a look at the media landscape now that the last major newspaper hold-outs are going over to the paywall side and the big digital players say the only way to survive is to produce “shit quality” content. She says, “I refuse to accept a reality where users can’t expect and demand quality.” She’s hopeful about the future, as am I. People are too creative and innovative to not make it work.

Someone who’s making it work in his own unique way is Shane Smith, publisher of Vice. Yes, the same Vice that sent Dennis Rodman to North Korea. “I wanted to build the next CNN, the next ESPN. And I also realized that, given the digital revolution, that is not only within my grasp, but I am a frontrunner to get there.” Tim Adams at The Observer has the scoop on this growing media brand that Rupert Murdoch described on Twitter as: “Wild, interesting effort to interest millennials who don’t read or watch established media. Global success.”

Speaking of millennials, another publication that’s getting their attention is Mental Floss. One of Mental Floss’ co-founders, William Pearson, spoke recently at a publishing summit about the brand’s growth. Saya Weissman of Digiday was there to capture four reasons Mental Floss attracts and retains a millennial audience. If you publish content, these four take-aways are for you.

Must investors be on Twitter?” asks Felix Salmon at Reuters. You could ask that same question about a lot of professions. He says, “If you’re an investor who wants to avoid being blindsided by something huge you were utterly unaware of, Twitter is a great tool for minimizing that risk.” It’s a fascinating read about the impact social media is making on an information-dependent industry.

Lightning Round

  • NBC News correspondent, Richard Engel, writes about his kidnapping. (Vanity Fair)

Happy Friday!

best read this week about the French and wine

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski (CC license)

 

 

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