Inspiration - Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend, Page AZ

Have you invested in yourself this week? Set aside an hour next week to attend one of these webinars or get some reading (and thinking!) done. Thanks to all the companies in the association community that provide free professional development. You are appreciated.

Tue 2/23 at 1 p.m. – Engaging Your Members

Learn about proven member engagement tactics that effectively communicate and compel members to renew and buy more of your services and products. Register. (1 CAE credit)

Host: Marketing General, Inc. (MGI)

Speakers: Ian King, Executive Director of Membership for the American Psychological Association, and Erik Schonher, MGI Vice President

Wed 2/24 at 12 p.m. 5 Tips to Drive Mobile Event Sponsorships in 2016

New event tech is delivering more relevant experiences to attendees and savvy planners are using their mobile apps in innovative ways to attract event sponsors. Learn four ways to bring value to sponsors and five best practices for integrating sponsors at events and thereby boosting your revenue. Register.

Host: Lanyon

Speaker: KiKi L’Italien, Social Media Strategist, Founder and CEO, Amplified Growth LLC

Wed 2/24 at 2 p.m. – The Latest Trends in Instructional Design 

Members look to their associations now more than ever to be the one stop shop for all their professional development needs. This virtual lunch will summarize the latest trends in instructional design including microlearning and credentialing, binge learning and ever-evolving social spaces, and explain how you can prepare your association for next level learning. Register. (1 CAE credit)

Host: ASAE

Speaker: Ben Kotenberg, Instructional Designer, National Association of Tax Professionals, and Associate Lecturer, University of Wisconsin

Thu 2/25 at 2 p.m. Bridging the Association Membership and Content Gap

In the ever-evolving association landscape, the gap between your membership, content, and systems keeps growing wider. Explore the shift in member needs and expectations; system alignment and integration strategies; and tactics being used by three associations today to successfully bridge the gap. Register. (1 CAE credit)

Host: Abila/Peach New Media

Speakers: Ryan Graham, Vice President of Sales, Abila/Peach New Media

Thu 2/25 at 3 p.m. – Leading Member Engagement from the Outside-In

Discover insights that will radically shift your understanding of engagement to one based on your members’ perspective and focused on the outcomes they want to achieve. Learn how to redefine engagement as a value-generating partnership; refocus engagement efforts on what matters most to your stakeholders and advancing the association’s goals; and shift your perspective on engagement to understanding its role at the heart of your business strategy. Register.

Host: Wild Apricot

Speakers: Anna Caraveli, PhD and Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE

If your organization offers professional development for association executives, please send me the link via Twitter. Every Friday, I publish Association Brain Food Weekly with the coming week’s events.

Bryce Canyon NP start of Fairyland Loop

Next week, schedule one hour for professional growth. Attend one of these webinars or catch up on reading. If you want to learn more about association technology, check out the DelCor blog. Or, if you’re in the generalist mood, Associations Now is your one-stop shop for news and information.

Wed 2/17 at 2 p.m. – CMS and AMS Integration Tips for Creating Member Happiness

Most website projects include integration between the association management system (AMS) and the content management system (CMS) so members can login and access members-only content. Learn reasons to integrate your CMS with your AMS and 3rd party systems, tips for leveraging these integrations to drive member value, and common hurdles in the integration process. Register.

Wed 2/17 at 12 p.m. – Looking Forward 2016: Association Business Environmental Scan

Dean West, FASAE, President of Association Laboratory, will present findings from his company’s annual benchmarking scan of the association business environment so you can understand trends, shifts, challenges and opportunities every association will face in 2016 and what the future will look like. Findings address the economy, the information environment, changes in the relationship of associations to state and federal government, as well as factors important to workforce and global issues. Register. (1 CAE credit)

Thu 2/18 at 1 p.m. – LMS Selection: Mastering the Process, Avoiding the Pitfalls.

Great content is only part of the equation for successful online education—you also need a way to effectively deliver the content, track participation, and manage credit and certificates. The right technology can mean the difference between a big success and a big headache, but the selection process can be daunting. In this session, Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele of Tagoras will discuss their time-tested process for selecting a learning management system and highlight the pitfalls to avoid. Register. (1 CAE credit)

Thu 2/18 at 12:15 p.m. – Success of Failure: Through the CEO Lens 

Join Kerry Stackpole, CAE, FASAE, to talk about the importance of learning from failure. Kerry will share decision-making strategies, and explain how to approach mistakes as successes in the making. Register.

If your company or organization offers professional development for association executives, please send me the link via Twitter. I publish a post every Friday with the coming week’s events.

webinars and chats for association executives

Schedule one hour next week to attend one of these webinars, read ASAE Collaborate, or skim the #assnchat hashtag on Twitter for good reads. You can’t get ahead if you’re always behind!


Tue 2/9 at 3:30 p.m. – eLearning Strategy, Tactics & Responsive Planning

Pave a clear pathway to building better eLearning programs for your association with this free, monthly webinar series from iCohere Academy, a worldwide professional community of practice dedicated to the evolution of webinars, web meetings and courses, and hybrid/virtual conferences. Register here. (1 CAE credit)

Wed 2/10 at 3:00 p.m. – 5 Tips for Maximizing Non-Dues Revenue from Your Communications Vehicles

Learn tactics to maximize your non-dues revenue earning potential: analyze communication gaps, engage members with advertising, meet advertiser needs, arm your sales team with the right tools, and invest in resources that provide maximum return. Register here. (1 CAE credit)

Thu 2/11 at 3:00 p.m. – How to Build an Amazing Volunteer Recruitment Strategy

Discover the difference between traditional recruitment strategies and the volunteer attraction strategy. Find out how to create the perfect mix of appreciation, recognition, incentive and reward to push volunteers to the next level. Learn about powerful organizational strategies that cultivate future leaders and long-term success. Register here. (1 CAE credit)

Fri 2/12 at 2:00 p.m. – Be Their eLearning Valentine: Capture Your Members’ Hearts in 3 Steps

The Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s marketing manager will share tactics to improve your learning catalog and member experience, while also driving membership and revenue numbers in the right direction. Register here.

Fri 2/12 at 3:00 p.m. – Promoting Online Education & Certification

Explore who’s doing online education effectively, the criteria to make it successful and how you can succeed too. Register here. (1 CAE credit)

Online chat

Have you tried Blab yet? Blab is a live-streaming video platform that’s really taken off in the last several months. A lot of its user-generated content, like on every social media platform, is self-promotional garbage, but there’s good stuff if you know where to look. For example, every Tuesday at 2:00 p.m., consultant KiKi L’Italien hosts Association Chat on Blab. This is the same chat (#assnchat) that used to take place every Tuesday on Twitter – it’s moved to Blab.

Blab is easy to use. You can watch and listen to the hosts and guests who appear in four large boxes on your screen. You can chat in the sidebar with the hosts and other viewers. And, you can even request to go on camera yourself by taking someone’s seat. Social Media Examiner explains Blab in more detail.

This Tuesday, February 9 at 2:00 p.m., the chat topic is: How Associations are Attracting Millennial Members. This time, consultant Amanda Kaiser is hosting with association execs Karen Hansen and Amalea Híjar who, according to Amanda, are doing some really cool things and will bring both small and large association perspectives to the chat.

You can see (and suggest) future topics on the Association Chat Facebook group.

That’s it until next week! If your company or organization is hosting a professional development opportunity for the association community, please let me know by giving me a shout-out on Twitter.

icy morning 1-24-16

The strong will survive, the smart will thrive. Even busy professionals must set time aside for reading, listening, and learning. Schedule it. Maybe 20 minutes a day, maybe an hour or two a week. You won’t evolve, and your organization won’t evolve, unless you’re regularly feeding your brain with new knowledge and ideas.

One of the ways I’m contributing to the Association Executives of North Carolina (AENC), as a member of its professional development committee, is by compiling a list of professional development opportunities that’s shared in AENC’s weekly newsletter. We only started doing this last week, so AENC’s role (and mine) as an educational curator is still a new one.

This morning, I thought, why not share it here too? So here goes. This week’s list is light on the webinar options-last week’s list included four webinars-so I added a podcast and an online conference. In the future, I’ll also include websites, blogs, and books.

Webinar: Driving Engagement and Retention through Multichannel Personalization

Wednesday, February 3 at 2:00 p.m.

Are you challenged with serving a diverse audience that has different needs and wants? Did you know your audience is leaving behind “digital clues” that reveal what they’re most interested in? Learn how to leverage your website, AMS, and email marketing platform to personalize the audience experience. Learn how to turn website analytics into actionable insight providing constituents with a customized experience. Hosts: Informz, American Eagle. Registration and more information.

Podcast: Leading Learning

The Leading Learning podcast is the only podcast created specifically for leaders and aspiring leaders in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. It’s a ‘must-listen’ for anyone involved in association education. Hosted by Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele of Tagoras, each week they offer perspectives and actionable insights based on their own extensive experience and interviews with a wide range of learning experts and association leaders. List of episodes and subscription information.

ASAE Online Conference for Small-Staff Associations

Save the date: Tuesday, February 23 – Thursday, February 25

You don’t have to spend money on travel, you can get a full conference experience at your desk: three days of sessions tailored to the needs of small-staff associations covering governance, technology, HR, marketing/communications, leadership, and education. (12 CAE credits)

If your organization offers professional development for association executives, please send me the link via Twitter. I’ll publish a blog post on Fridays with the coming week’s events.

I have a question for association, membership and marketing execs: How often do you pick up the phone at the front desk or in the call center?

nina simon tweet re working at the front desk

Nina Simon is the Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and blogs at Museum 2.0. Her “guilty pleasure” is a smart idea. She also told me she spends about ten hours a month in the galleries with visitors. That’s like a free focus group!

Imagine how those visitors feel when she talks with them. The museum is no longer an intimidating institution – although I’m sure her museum has never been considered that during her watch – her friendly face is the face of the museum.

Those of you who work in a small associations, you’re excused from this exercise since you probably answer the main line as much as anyone else in the office. But if you work in an association that has a dedicated call center or member service team, you probably only receive calls that are direct-dialed or forwarded to you. That’s a shame because you’re missing out on a convenient, cheap way to understand what’s on the mind of your members and other stakeholders.

If you don’t have the time, budget, or inclination to spend a day in the life of your member, then spend 30 minutes every few weeks in your call center. The experience will give you an opportunity to listen, ask questions, and even lay the foundation for further conversation with members you probably don’t know.

You will also set a positive example for your staff by spending time getting to know members. Let them see you on the frontline making the effort to learn about member needs and concerns. Your example could convince them to build similar activities into their week, like calling new members to welcome them to the association and learn more about their expectations, needs, and aspirations. Or, calling “old” members to find out what’s on their mind.

This simple 30-minute task is one you can put into your schedule right now. And it’s a small step that can nudge your organization’s culture into a new direction.

phone calls with members

For many years now, Mitch Joel, president of marketing agency Twist Image, has been manning the lookout post for the rest of us. His blog, Six Pixels of Separation, is a constant in my RSS feed and his podcast is a regular on my phone. Mitch dedicates each podcast to a conversation with someone interesting from marketing, media or another connected world. If you speak at conferences, you’ll like his recent shows with Nick Morgan and Nancy Duarte.

Mitch was a keynote speaker at the recent digitalNow conference in Nashville. In his keynote, as in his book, Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It, he described five massive movements that have changed how we interact with organizations. Unfortunately, many organizations, including associations, haven’t done much to change how they interact with us.

The power of direct relationships

The battle for direct relationships with your members involves everyone else who offers value to them, including your vendor members, media, consumer brands, thought-leaders and others on their screens. Mitch introduced us to someone who might change how we think about connecting with members. Bethany Mota is a teenage video star who shares her shopping “hauls” with 2-3 million fans every day. She’s successful because she knows her community and gives them what they want. Traditional media can’t even compete.

Do you have a Bethany Mota? Partner with people who know how to connect and communicate with your audience — people who can create direct relationships with them and give them what they want. These people may be on your staff or in your membership, but most likely they’re not. You’ll have to create new relationships (and new budget lines) to get them on your team. But you want them on your team.

disruptions facing associations

Mitch Joel at digitalNow 2014 in Nashville
(photo by Bill Sheridan)

Sex with data

Don’t be standoffish. Get cozy and intimate with your data. You can now capture two types of data:

  • Linear data – transactions, searches, email open rates and clicks.
  • Circular data – the social data we willingly put online that paints a picture of our behavior, interests and needs.

The magic begins when you put both types of data together for a deeper understanding of your members and a more personalized experience for them.

Amazon is the personalization king with their website recommendations and their PriceCheck app which tells you how much the product you’re looking at in a store will cost on Amazon. In the process, they’re learning more about you – your location, interests and shopping habits. In return for your data, they provide a better shopping experience. Check out what the Project Management Institute is doing for their members and website visitors. You don’t need an Amazon budget to do that.

Utility or death

Mitch said today’s prime real estate is the smartphone screen. “What are you doing that makes you valuable enough to be on your member’s home screen?” Members don’t really care about you and your promotions, but the old “what’s in it for me” is one marketing cliché that remains relevant today.

Successful for-profit online communities like Doximity for doctors and ResearchGate for scientists focus first on creating utility – tools and services that help their members do their jobs more effectively. That’s why these hugely successful communities have attracted millions in venture capital and millions of members.

Passive vs. active

Know when to make the distinction between passive and active media, and when a member is passive or active online. Press releases don’t belong on Facebook. Members don’t want to be hounded to like or +1 everything they read on your website.

But members do want the opportunity to be active when they’re online in a way that provides value to them. Give them regular opportunities to provide feedback, share an opinion or idea, help make a decision, or participate in a discussion.

One-screen world

No wonder we’re all distracted. Think about how many screens we have going at times: our phone, tablet, laptop and TV. And the Internet of things may bring even more. Yet, we can only watch one thing at a time. The screen in front of us is the only screen that matters. And soon perhaps all these screens will integrate into one screen.

He closed his keynote with a hopeful message: associations are pioneers who will decide how the future of associations will look. Will your association have a cozy relationship with your member in the one-screen world? Come on out of purgatory and into the light where you’ll find plenty of opportunity for those who can keep up and move onward.

disruptions to associations - fade away or become a pioneer

Emigrants Crossing the Plains (or The Oregon Trail), Albert Bierstadt, 1869, courtesy of the Butler Institute of American Art



We attend conferences so we can deepen our knowledge and relationships. Hopefully we’ll also get recharged and inspired too but that doesn’t always happen. I was fortunate enough to come away from the 2014 digitalNow conference in Nashville both recharged and inspired thanks to being surrounded by smart people, good friends, savvy conference organizers and the very cool city of Nashville.

After a bountiful breakfast from the talented kitchen at the Omni Nashville, digitalNow attendees entered the theater at the adjoining Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to await the conference welcome. I was expecting to see Hugh Lee and Don Dea of Fusion Productions, the brains behind digitalNow, walk on stage but instead the theater lights dimmed and I heard the opening chords of a familiar song. A spotlight shone on Nashville residents Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick playing a little something they wrote for Eric Clapton, Change the World.

Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick opening digitalNow 2014 (photo by Bill Sheridan)

Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick opening digitalNow 2014
(photo by Bill Sheridan)

…if I could change the world…

digitalNow’s opening keynote speaker, Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, is changing the world, one pencil, one school and one child at a time. By the time Adam turned 25, he had already been a Wall Street child prodigy, Brown University graduate, shipwreck survivor and world traveler.

During his travels, he asked a child who was begging in the streets of India, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” The little boy answered, “A pencil.”

The average pencil holds 45,000 words, Adam said. It provides access to self-education and unlocks a child’s curiosity and imagination. Adam started handing out thousands of pencils in his backpacking trips across six continents. Now, his organization, Pencils of Promise, builds schools (200 so far!), trains teachers and provides scholarships to students.

Adam shared several lessons he learned along the way – lessons that apply to both people and organizations.

We are not in the non-profit business. We’re in the for-purpose business. Adam hates the term “non-profit.” He believes “non-profit” is a negative term that doesn’t define our work and strips our organizations of their value. Pencils of Promise is “100% for purpose.” We all know that “non-profit” is merely a tax status, but I wonder how many organizations excite their community with their purpose.

When your members think about your association, do they only think about the products and services you offer, or do they think about being a part of a movement that is changing the world?

Nothing is more powerful than discovering purpose. Adam shared the journey that led him to discovering his purpose. Purpose, not possessions, gives life meaning. However, many of us are so busy living our ordinary lives that we don’t think about purpose. How can associations help members find and live lives of purpose?

True self-discovery is on the edge of your comfort zone. If your dreams do not scare you, then they’re not big enough. When you have big goals and do scary things, you end up becoming a much more grounded and happy person.

I can vouch for that even though I figured it out much later in life than Adam. Although I have very risk-averse genes, I moved across country twice, started my own business, climbed Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and, most recently, climbed over exposed slickrock domes, chimneyed in a slot canyon and rappelled down cliffs in Capitol Reef National Park.

I don’t list these experiences to brag. That’s not my motivation — although I do admit to still bragging about Angel’s Landing since I gave myself a 30% chance of doing it. I want to encourage you to go for the gusto. Prepare yourself and do it, whatever “it” is. Even if it makes you very uneasy. You’ll be a changed person once you stretch your comfort zone and overcome your fear.

Associations are on the edge of their comfort zone right now dealing with new ways of associating, learning and communicating, new technology, new competition, and new expectations. This is also a time of new opportunity. Associations who push through their fear will become stronger and better positioned to be agents of transformation for their members.

Angel's Landing - don't look down! (photo by Dale Beckett/Flickr CC license)

Hiking back from Angel’s Landing – don’t look down!
(photo by Dale Beckett/Flickr CC license)

The quality, not quantity, of an engaged and loyal following is key. It’s not about converting the masses; it’s about finding the one person in the room whose eyes light up. Adam told the story of one of their “torchbearers,” Chelsea, the only person who showed up at one of their meetings. She became a huge supporter and organizer. Are you paying attention to the people in your community whose eyes light up when talking about your mission? Not just the usual suspects but those on the periphery?

Take advantage of the belief people have that they can change the world. I wonder, do GenX and Boomers still believe they can change the world? I know some of us do. The members on your board better believe it too.

Thankfully, Millennials believe they can change the world. And Adam calls the generation after the Millennials, “Generation Why Not.” If younger people don’t see your association as a community where they can make contributions and create change, they’ll find another where they can.

Build a movement and mobilize people by making them the heroes of the journey. Stop talking about the association and start talking about the work your members and volunteers do – how they are creating (or can create) something bigger than themselves.

Find ways to make people feel like important members of a purposeful community. Adam gave business cards to early supporters of Pencils of Purpose. They built a digital platform where torchbearers can tell their own stories. They tag contributors’ name on social media platforms to show them (and their friends) what they’re creating.

Speak the language of the person you want to become — your future aspirational self. Use the language of self-realization, for example, instead of saying, “We’re hoping to build a school,” say, “We’re building a school.” Guess what happens? People will think of you in those aspirational terms and connect you with those who can help you do it. Say it and make it so.

Do you want to help change the world? Together, we are building a classroom for kids who never imagined they would sit in one. We’ll give little girls and boys the chance to unleash their minds and escape the worst kind of poverty. Visit and contribute what you can to digitalNow’s team fundraising page for Pencils for Promise.

Pencils of Promise's first students - click to watch the adorable 40-second video on YouTube.

Pencils of Promise’s first students – click to watch the adorable 40-second video on YouTube.

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)