Possible Workshops

Pep Up Your Next Meeting with a Workshop

Linda Stinson

Linda Stinson

What goals do you have for your next conference or business meeting? Why go through the time and expense of bring a group of employees together? Why do association members want to spend their time and money coming to your annual meeting? It just can’t be because we always do it.

Here are some possible goals you should consider:

  • I want my employees or association members to develop a network of people who they can later contact to get help working on a difficult problem.
  • I would like participants to learn something new that becomes a “take-away” idea from the meeting.
  • I want participants to engage with each other in a focused way so they learn from each other.
  • We cannot just have a program of scripted speeches.

Let us suggest that whether it is a company retreat, an annual association meeting or even a lunch and learn, a structured workshop can help you satisfy those goals. Experts in education tell us that adults learn best when they are engaged in a focused discussion of a subject as opposed to listing to a lecture. This often provides the “take away” idea from the meeting.  Although there are plenty of social; opportunities for participants to meet others and start building a network, aworkshop provides the opportunity focused discussions of interest to all those attending. Breakout sessions with workshops give participants an opportunity to move away from the larger plenary session and meet people who they would not have met otherwise.

Over our years of working with individuals and organization on development program, we relish the opportunity to share some of that experience with others. We are often called on to do so at a lunch meeting, an organizational retreat or an annual meeting.  Our sessions are very interactive and typically consist of between 5 and 25 people. No one sits in the back waiting for the Power Point to start. Our approach with the meeting host is to select a general subject area and then customize it to the needs of the participants. We do present some basic theory, but our main emphasis is practical application.

Below are listed three workshop ideas and links to 10 to 15 minute YouTube Videos which provide a taste of each. These videos are Power Point presentations which only provide some of the basic content of each workshop. They are not representative of our presentation style or the total content of the workshops.

Hiring the Right People  

This workshop concentrates on finding methods to better improve the practice of hiring a new employee. Chick here to see Power Point Video

Better Use of Your Time

The subject in this session goes beyond the concept of time management into an overall approach of using the time available to be more successful.Click here to see Power Point Video

Developing A Customer Loyalty Plan

 

Consider that a satisfactory grade is a “C” and what is really needed to improve profitability is an “A”, this workshop explores that higher level methodology.Click here to see Power Point Video

These subjects only represent of a few of those possible and available. Call or email us to discuss your specific wishes and needs Bob@plangoals.com  (910) 575-1286

Results in Leadership

Getting Leadership ResultsBob & Linda Stinson

In our previous article, Leadership, Back to Basics, the difference between the Characteristic Model of Leadership and the Results Based Model was explored. It was concluded that the Results Based Model provided any individual the best means of performing their leadership role, because it concentrated on the achievement of goals versus the difficult modification of an individual’s personality. The next question is that after this conclusion, how to motivate the team or followers to achieve those desired results.

Daniel Coleman has authored an article entitled Leadership That Gets Results in the March 2000 issue of the Harvard Business Review. He presents the results of a study done by the consulting firm of Hay/McBar which used the data from 3,871 executives to show there are distinct leadership styles. These styles spring from different components of emotional intelligence. (See our previous article on Leadership and Emotional intelligence). It needs to be remembered that each leadership is situational and the styles discussed may work in one situation but not another. These styles are defined as:

  • Coercive
  • Authoritative
  • Affiliate
  • Democratic
  • Pacesetting
  • Coaching.
  • Coercive Leadership

A new manager, with the reputation of a turnaround artist, comes on the scene at a company which is not meeting the expectations of its board of directors. The manager, as expected, begins to reduce staff, sell off lackluster businesses and makes tough decisions. Decision making is top down, with other points of view discouraged and even punished.

Although this style may produce short-term results, in the long run it causes great damage. It kills new ideas and minimizes the flexibility necessary to prosper in an ever changing environment. Managers lose their sense of ownership and are reluctant to pursue the organization’s mission. There is no doubt that this style has its time and place, but there is a point where the rebuilding of the management team is needed. Knowing when that transition point occurs is critical.

Authoritative Leadership

The other day I was watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His guest for the evening was leadershipHoward Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, who was explaining their new program to help finance college education for their employees. Schultz stated that at Starbucks they understand that if they treated their employees well, then the employees would treat their customers well. That would produce a great customer experience and that was at the core of their business success. Jon Stewart jokes that he thought that coffee was the core of the business and that illustrates the concept of the authoritative leadership style.

Authoritative leaders bring a clear vision and vibrant enthusiasm to their organizations. That vision and enthusiasm is contagious and permeates everyone in the organization including the store managers and the employees. The coffee has to be good, but the customer has to have a great experience. This is one of the most effective leadership styles, but requires the type of true insight only available from those who have a deep understanding of the keys to business success. Platitudes such as “we are a world class organization” are often seen in the vision statement of organization, but are just that, platitudes, which do not allow others to understand the organization’s vision for success.

Affilliative Leadership

One might observe that the authoritative leadership style of Howard Schultz described above is also affilliative. Let look at the difference. The authoritative style is about vision. The affilliative style is about people. The coercive style demands, “Do what I say,” and the authoritative urges, “Come with me”. The affilliative leader says, “People come first.”

The affilliative leader strives to keep people happy and builds strong emotional bonds. This builds strong loyalty. This builds upon strong communication, where ideas and inspirations are shared. The organization has great flexibility.

Although this approach sounds impressive, it does have its downsides. First, there is always a great diversity in the personality of the follower, causing a complex issue in building those emotional bonds. What builds loyalty in one person may not do the same in others. This style may also lead to mediocre perseverance by some. This approach would not be used on its own but only in combination with others.

Democratic Leadership

resultsThis style is exactly what its title says; the process is all about a democratic system where many are involved. It involves a series of meetings where the subject is discussed, plans are made and goals are set. It is a time-consuming process and cannot be one used in a crisis situation. It is often used when the leader does not have knowledge needed to set goals and plans, therefore the knowledge must come from the followers. There is always a great degree of buy-1n by those involved with this approach. It should be avoided when the employees are not competent or informed to offer sound advice.

Pacesetting Leadership

This style is similar to the coercive style but even more demanding. It needs to be used only sparingly. The leader sets extremely high performance standards and exemplifies them himself. He quickly pinpoints those who don’t measure up to those standards and demands more from them. If they don’t rise to the occasion they are quickly replaced. Employees feel overwhelmed and feel the pacesetter doesn’t trust them.

An engineering department made it a practice to promote the best engineer to the position of supervisor. It was clearly understood that the reason for his promotion was his design proficiency. During the first meeting with the new supervisor, the design engineers would present their initial concepts on a design process. The supervisor because of his higher expertise and standards would then exert his new authority to override the concepts presented. This eventually led to creating a group of demoralized designers and a fall-off in productivity. In most cases, the new supervisor had to be demoted.

Coaching Leadership

This leadership style can be very effective in helping people overcome their weaknesses and build new competencies. It works very well when employees are already aware of their weaknesses and are up to improvements. It works poorly when they are resistant to learning and changing their ways. Because of the constant communication and time involved,it is the least popular style of leadership.

Leadership is situational; therefore one leadership style doesn’t work every time. Good leaders can employ multiple approaches or approaches in combination. Crisis situations may require the coercive style to start, but a later change to the authoritative as conditions improve. A democratic style may be best used when the change that is necessary requires agreement of those involved and adequate time to implement. Knowledgeable business coaches, because of their wide range of experience, can help analyze the situation and provide the guidance necessary.

Bob and Linda Stinson are partners in RLS Focused Solutions. They specialize in leadership and organizational development. visit: http://www.plangoals.com

 

Peculiar Personalities Challenge Meeting Managers

By Barbara Ann Cox, CMP

As a meeting manager, you orchestrate a variety of events — board meetings, educational seminars, regional caucuses, full blown conferences, to name a few. You are organized, efficient, effective and politically correct. You prepare. You plan. You pray.

Whatever the situation, the association meeting manager must depend on others to assist with the many arduous and tedious tasks that are accomplished on site.  As an association meeting manager, you largely depend upon your fellow co-workers as well as volunteer members to provide over-and-above — and deeply appreciated — assistance during the event. Their daily jobs may not be remotely related to event management; nevertheless, they rise to the occasion.

Most likely, this select group of individuals attends the event with a certain degree of commitment to its success and the desire that their association excels. However, some on-site workers have their own attitude and agenda that can be a bit disruptive to the otherwise smooth-sailing event. Here is a whimsical look at the various types of on-site staff that, you as a meeting manager, must manage while managing your meeting.

Wally Whiner

“This box is too heavy.” “When can I take a break?” “Seven AM? Why so early?” Wally Whiner whines about everything, all the time. It is too hot, too cold, too far, too much, too late. He is like nails on a chalkboard. You could just slap him.

Patty Panic

You fantasize about stuffing Patty Panic in the trunk of your car for the duration of the event. She goes ballistic at every turn. She turns ordinarily nice people into frazzled neurotics. Her knee-jerk reaction to every situation creates stressed nerves, needless anxiety and possibly hives. She thrives on the chaos she causes. A smooth-running conference really ticks her off.

Ned Negative

Ned Negative’s knee-jerk reaction to every situation is doom and gloom. He forecasts the future of the event, hour by hour, minute by minute, as one of disaster anticipating the next disaster. His mission in life is to finger the weakness of whatever successes prevail. He would look good with a plastic bag over his head, tied tightly around his neck.

Gloria Goodness

Gloria Goodness nurtures. She mothers. She’s probably a Pisces. Gloria Goodness has a sympathetic ear to even the most egregious story of lost registration, lost nametag, lost checkbook, lost identity. She consoles. She soothes. She disrupts the agenda you have under “Rules & Regulations.” She belongs in the First Aid Room.

Harry Hotshot

Harry Hotshot comes into headquarters with his shirt buttons bursting of bravado and good will. What can he do? How can he help? Where can he serve? One firm request for assistance has Harry Hotshot bolting for the door with a litany of excuses that trail the length of the convention center. You hope he keeps heading for the exits . . . all of them.

Nora Knowitall

Nora Knowitall probably runs the association’s birthday parties.  This gives her the infinite wisdom to be highly knowledgeable about every essential detail of the meeting. She has all the answers; knows all the questions in advance. She can give out the name, address, cell phone numbers and topic title of the last five keynote speakers. No matter that much of her information is incorrect (i.e. fabricated), she stands firm in her misguidance toward attendees. You wish she would get laryngitis or maybe stuck in the elevator.

Claude Competent

Claude Competent read every memo, attended every planning meeting, memorized every session and starched every shirt he wore to the conference. He studied the floor plan, knows all the meeting rooms’ square footage, electrical outlets, public phone numbers, fire exits, etc. He not only knows the names and organizations of the attendees, he also knows their hotel room numbers and eating habits. He never misses a chance to tell you how much he knows, ad nauseam. You know, however, he needs to get a life.

Edna Efficient

Edna Efficient mans headquarters, fills in at registration, helps out in the speaker ready room, assists with lunch seating, passes out handouts and tracks down attendees who have received urgent messages. She is everything to everybody and cannot stop in her quest to personally satisfy attendees, staff and VIPs. However, if she does not get the proper recognition and constant accolades she believes she deserves for her efforts, she pouts and grumbles about how much she sacrificed of herself. You want to suggest she Google “convents.”

I have no doubt that meeting managers could come up with a few choice personalities from their own experiences. I’m sure I could conjure a few more examples as well. However, limited space permits me these few samples of the interpersonal challenges that meeting managers must endure while orchestrating the myriad tasks necessary to produce a success event.

Meeting managers celebrate their professional expertise that makes any event successful . . . despite the peculiarities of the on-site personalities.

Barbara Ann Cox, CMP, has been enduring peculiar personalities for more than 30 years as a conference & meeting management professional. She recently rebranded Meeting Makers Inc., her company of 18 years, to Barbara Ann Solutions, offering multiple services for meeting consulting, site research, speaker resources, public relations, writing, editing, proofreading, event planning and more.  Share your peculiar personalities with Barbara Ann at Barbara@BarbaraAnnSolutions.com or call 850.656.0025.

Attempting Too Many Things at Once

by Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC

In our current era of multi-taskers, concentration and focus are underrated. A magnifying glass held up at the correct angle to the sun will quicky burn a whole through a piece of paper. At the same time, no matter how much sun shines through your office window onto your desk, none of those long and tedious memos are going to catch on fire. The lack of combustibility has nothing to do with the way the manufacturer engineered this flat piece of glass.

Multi-tasking is occasionally helpful and seemingly satisfying but, along with the shower of information and communication overload, represents a paradoxical impediment to getting things done. Let’s see why.

Faster and Less Attentive

The term multi-tasking evolved from the computer industry, the early mainframe computers designed with parallel processes is perhaps the prime example of automated multi-tasking.

In many respects, the computer has accelerated our inattentiveness. Personal computers achieved critical mass in 1981 with the introduction of the Apple Computer designed as an alternative to the IBM PC. The affordable technology enabled common folk to engage in sequential kinds of activities and elevated our propensity to become task-switchers. Then for a host of reasons, and some so bizarre that they defy description, over the next 25 years we began to emulate our computers. We multi-tasked while they multi-tasked.

Today, with the typical office professional sending or receiving more than 200 messages a day, counting all forms of communication, and all of them coming and going at shorter intervals, a generation of career professionals are being driven virtually to distraction. A number of the messages are fleeting, the meaning often unclear, and the result a listless and confused workforce.

Against the back drop of information and communication overload, ever-advancing technology, and more choices than anyone needs or even wants, seemingly, an entire workforce generation has been taught to multi-task as if this is the way it has always been, needs to be, and always will be.

Continuous Partial Attention

Multitasking has become a norm giving rise to “continuous partial attention,” where nothing gets your true and undivided focus, and everything is homogenized to the point of carrying nearly equal weight.

We offer our attention here, there, and then somewhere else. Like a one-man band, we get our strokes from strumming the guitar, tapping our foot, and blowing on the harmonica. We equate accomplishment with flapping our wings, stirring up a lot of commotion, and making a lot of noise. We can barely tolerate stillness. For many, silence doesn’t appear to be golden, it seems more like a dark space, lacking productivity, that can yield nothing useful. Undivided attention is a term that has fallen out of popular use.

Generally, we feel guilty if we don’t multi-task! We contemplate our increasing workloads and responsibilities and how they are subject to continual shifts, and justify multi-tasking as a valid response to a world of flux.

Despite the temptation to do otherwise, focusing on the task at hand is vital to getting things done. Whether there’s a handful of tasks confronting you, or ideally only one, give all your time, attention, energy, focus, concentration, effort, and all that good stuff to the task at hand, and then turn to what’s next.

Over-employed, and Undesired

It’s likely that people have always sought to handle many things simultaneously, stretching as far back as cave dwellers. Their multi-tasking effort probably seemed crude by comparison. Someday, somewhere, someone may discover that we are hardwired to continuously attempt to economize our use of time.

Our age old “flight or fight” response to perceived stressors in the environment works well, at intermittent times. The small jolts of concentrated energy and vigilance helps us to safeguard our selves, our loved ones, and our possessions. As a species however, we are not wired to effectively handle continuous streams of two major stress hormones — adrenaline and cortisol — on a daily basis.

Bruce McEwen, Ph.D., director of the neuroendocrinology lab at Rockefeller University, observes that while we can apparently weather stresses and rapid hormonal changes in the short term, about 3 to 15 days, soon thereafter chronic stress begins to ensue. The result is a weakened immune system, aggression, anxiety and a decrease in brain functioning which results in burnout. Dangerously high levels of cortisol can result in poor sleep patterns and insulin resistance which can open the door to bad eating habits and weight gain.

More Errors, Lingering Effects

Multi-tasking seemingly enables one to achieve time-saving benefits, but does it? While some people remain relatively unscathed by multi-tasking and can get as much done in the course of the workday, most people suffer in ways they don’t even understand.

Rather than increasing their productivity, multi-tasking diminishes it. They make more mistakes. They leave too many things undone. Their quality of work is not what it could be. And the list of potential hazards of multi-tasking is beginning to grow. Are you a victim to any of the following:

* Gaps in short-term memory?

* Loss of concentration?

* Problems communicating with co-workers?

* Lapses in attentiveness?

* Stress symptoms such as shortness of breath?

When multi-tasking, sometimes your brain can go into a crash mode. This is characterized by not being able to remember what you just said or did, or what you’re going to do next! This has been termed “having a senior moment,” but it’s no joke and it doesn’t only happen to seniors.

Professor David Meyer at the University of Michigan has established a link between chronic high-stress, multi-tasking and loss of short-term memory. “There is scientific evidence that multi-tasking is extremely hard for someone to do, and sometimes impossible,” he says. Also, the time lost switching between tasks tends to increase the perceived complexity of the tasks and often results in making a person less efficient than if he had chosen to focus on one task or project at time.

Continually Kidding Ourselves

The most difficult type of multi-tasking occurs when you try to engage the same area of the brain. You run into this all the time, people who are on the phone who are also surfing the net, listening to the radio, or in earshot of someone in the next room. Whether you’re attempting to handle conflicting visual-processing tasks or conflicting auditory-processing tasks, the net result is you’re not going to handle either task as well as you would handle each individually.

Marcel Just Ph.D., co-director of Carnegie-Melon’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, conducted a study in which he asked participants to listen to sentences while comparing two rotating objects. These tasks draw on different areas of the brain, yet participants’ ability to engage in visual processing, comparing the two rotating objects, dropped by 29%.

Participants’ capabilities for auditory processing, listening to the sentence, dropped by 53% when engaged in this mild multi-tasking test. Dr. Just says that while we certainly can do more than one thing at a time “we are kidding ourselves if we think we can do so without cost.”

Also, research conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health confirms that when the brain has to juggle several tasks at once or in rapid succession, it has to overcome “inhibitions” that it put in place to cease doing the task to begin with. It’s as if the brain is taking its foot off the break.

Focus and concentration will be your keys for getting things done. Multi-tasking, as it is popularly understood and practiced, is not your answer. It is expensive in terms of the level of stress induced and the rise in errors and, hence, can actually hamper productivity.

Jeff Davidson is “The Work-Life Balance Expert®” and the leading personal brand in speaking, writing, and reflecting on work-life balance issues. He’s spoken to Fortune 50 companies such as IBM, Cardinal Health Group, and Lockheed; and to American Express and Westinghouse. He wrote Simpler Living, Breathing Space, and Dial it Down–Live It Up, among 65 other books. Visit http://www.BreathingSpace.com

If Events Could Talk: 10 Strategies for Fueling a Powerful Voice

by Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA

Has your association conducted a communication audit within the last three years? More specifically, are your meetings and publications teams working together to ensure your association’s events are effectively marketed?

If your events suffer from stagnant or declining attendance, sponsors or exhibitors – or if you have difficulty securing quality speakers – the answer lies not in a silo, but rather in your team. Following are 10 strategies your association can immediately implement to boost the reputation of its signature events and, in turn, its bottom line. 

  1. Branding – A uniform event name, acronym or hashtag from one year to the next is just the beginning. To ensure your members easily recognize an event at first glance, consider how colors, logos, fonts and overall design elements are used consistently across communication platforms.
  2. Differentiation – Briefly scan the professional development landscape and you’ll find fierce competition all around you – colleges and universities, other associations and even your own members. Event messaging must clearly illustrate in both quantitative and qualitative terms how your event is different from the rest.

  3. Value proposition – Every event comprises some combination of learning and networking. One way to elevate yours above the others is to demonstrate the value attendees can expect to gain in both the short-term (e.g., contacts, ideas, goals, objectives) and the long-term (e.g., strategy, tactics, products, services, profit).
  4.  Voice – If your event could talk, what would it sound like? An elderly grandparent? A progressive hipster? Ensure written collateral closely resembles the tone and sophistication of your audience. As appropriate, add in elements of levity, informality, slang and pop culture to also make them fun and interesting to read.
  5.  Brevity – Promotional pieces are not the place to be long-winded. Prospective attendees are inundated with messaging each and every day, so make it easy for them to cut through the noise and connect with your publications. Don’t be surprised if fewer words result in improved open and click-through rates, too.
  6.  Channels – Determine how your association communicates. And don’t just think in terms of print communications – include all digital and social media platforms, as well. Optimal event marketing is multimedia in nature and should include messaging in most – if not all – of these communication channels.
  7. Testimonials – Never underestimate the power of an exceptional experience, particularly by Generation Yelp. Gather and share both written and video testimonials from attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers. Ultimately, it means more coming from their peers than it does from you.
  8. Images – We know a picture is worth a thousand words, so ditch the clipart and invest in a professional photographer to take pictures during your signature events. Use these photographs throughout your marketing materials to tell your event’s story: who attends, how they engage and what they learn.
  9. Sample content – Sometimes prospective attendees and their supervisors are looking for added insurance your event will be worth their time and money. Sharing sample content in the form of slide decks, handouts, executive summaries and video clips may be just the ticket to secure their participation.
  10. Engage volunteers – Identify your repeat attendees and arm them with the tools needed to promote your events. Consider guest blog posts, social media chats and featured magazine columns. Likewise, remove as many barriers as possible to encourage easy sharing of member-generated materials.

While you may not have the resources to employ each of these tactics between now and your next annual meeting, take some time this month to identify and address the low-hanging fruit. Then develop a long-term strategic plan for implementing the remaining marketing and communication ideas, remembering to include representation from both the meetings and publications teams.

At the end of the day, you simply can’t afford to ignore what your events are saying about you, your department and your organization.

Aaron Wolowiec is founder and president of Event Garde, a Michigan-based professional development consulting firm. Event Garde works with association leaders who want to deliver dynamic, meaningful and compelling education and networking experiences. Email: aaron@eventgarde.com

Six Ways to Intersect Publications and Education Events

by Kim Howard, CAE

Delivering content to your members is one of the cornerstones of not only your publication program, but your education events. We all know that not all of our members attend our events. In a perfect world, they would. Because they do not, how do we share that information while not reinventing the wheel? How do we help sell the value of our education events? How can we showcase the content in the best possible way before, during and after our programs? Here are some ideas.

  1. Go beyond an ad. Cross-promote your events in the publications that you have. When you have a regularly published magazine, your content, if it’s mission-aligned, will likely fall in line with topics discussed at your education events. Is your editorial calendar in line with broad issues that are discussed at your conferences? Are you covering your content through the applicable lens for your members? Many associations have membership that runs the gamut from students to c-suite executives. While it is difficult to serve them all in one publication or conference, you can successfully integrate your content to cater to the cross-section of members. I use the term education events loosely because this could mean an in-person conference, webinar or podcast, lunch and learn or brown bag, etc. Have staff, freelancers or volunteers cover the event and write an article about the topics and subsequent discussion during the event. This is an excellent way not only to generate content for your publication, but to showcase the discussion. It’s also a great way to showcase your volunteers. Many members covet a byline on your association’s blog or in your publication. Covering select sessions at your events drives home the message to those members and the profession in general who did not attend that the event’s content is something to take note of and hear first hand. Think of it as your indirect sales guy.
  2. Give sidebars new meaning. Sidebars help break up your content and add an element of information that otherwise may be awkward to include in the main story. You are likely housing your speaker’s content somewhere on your website and the subject will also pertain to something you are covering in your publication. Remind your readers that the content is still there and provide access to it by showcasing it in a sidebar. You could have content available from a webinar, a whitepaper or a slide presentation from an annual conference session. Use it. You don’t have to showcase the entire resource—just use a link, headline and blurb. And don’t forget your association’s other resources such as white papers, reports, webinars, podcasts, blog posts and other gold nugget of information that shows your members that they have access to solid industry or profession information.
  3. Ask speakers to convert their presentation into an article or interview them. This approach works best if you have your editorial staff attend the selected sessions and figure out which ones will translate into content for your publication. It also helps to weed out the presenters who were less than stellar—you probably do not want to showcase their content in your publication. It’s unlikely their content would translate well in a new format. Add an editor’s note at the beginning or the end of the piece letting the readers know that this topic was first discussed at XYZ conference, webinar, etc. I have used this approach for years and our publications have received many excellent articles that we published.
  4. When you have a hot, timely topic of discussion, ask the speaker or panelists to write blog posts about the subject before the event. There is always some piece of relevant information that he or she wishes they could include, but can’t because of time constraints or it diverts from the subject a little too much for an event. Not only is this a good way to showcase the content, but it creates buzz about your event and may even increase the numbers from last-minute registrations or day-pass registrants.
  5. Cross-promote your education event through Twitter. If you know that certain members are into social media, especially Twitter, and they have fast fingers, ask them which sessions they would consider covering for you. This approach works best live, but after the event, consider picking out the top five or 10 tweets from the meeting and using that information as a sidebar to post-event coverage. The great thing about this approach is that you are covering yet another session that may not be covered any other traditional way. It’s yet another insight into the education content that your meetings and events offer.
  6. Additional ideas might include:
    1. Videos or other enhanced content in digital publications. Careful planning and scheduling can yield good video clips from members when they are onsite.
    2. Executive summaries of content, ideas or discussions to share with attendees/those who were unable to attend as resources rather than simply as informational articles (think of this as a note-taking service or perhaps even enhance these notes with new information to make them that much more useful).
    3. Leverage sample content/learning outcomes/ROI/testimonials in next year’s event marketing materials to make the promotion that much more compelling.
    4. Consider year-round opportunities to position your annual meeting vs. only the 2-3 months leading up to the conference; keep the conversations going.
    5. Consider repackaging content into an infographic or other visually interesting format to help members/attendees digest the information in a new way.

Even if you cannot implement all of these ideas, pick one that you know will work with your membership and any internal constraints you may have. Starting small will be the first step to yielding better results for your educational events and content that you are delivering to your members.

Kim Howard, CAE, is an award-winning publisher and president of Write Communications, LLC. Write Communications works with association leaders to create mission-aligned content for every channel for measureable results. She is the immediate past president of Association Media & Publishing. She can be contacted at kim@writecommunicationsllc.com.

 

Help Your Organization Leverage the Power of Twitter

by DJ MullerMuller Headshot

#worldcup2014.  #ipad . #followback.  #android.  These are just four of the topics trending on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 8:06pm.  The amazing thing is, these so-called trends are subject to change at any given moment.

Welcome to the world of Twitter, populated with 230 million active users who send more than 500 million tweets per day.  Although its dynamic nature can be somewhat intimidating, Twitter is a cost effective tool that gives organizations of all types and sizes a way to promote their brand, connect and engage their target audience and truly create a unique customer experience.   This is precisely why the social platform should be integrated into your marketing communications plan if you have not done so already.

Too often small organizations create Twitter accounts just to leave them sitting idle – failing to leverage its innate power to communicate and interact with their niche audiences.  The good news is, with a few simple steps, you can ensure that you are on the right track to implementing a Twitter strategy that drives results.

  1. Complete your profile and maximize your presence.

First and foremost, you must complete your profile with information that will help others easily find and identify your organization upon a search.  Make sure to choose a Twitter handle that is simple, easy to spell and does not include an abundance of special characters.  Ideally, your Twitter handle should be the name of your organization as that is the name that the public directly associates with you and will ensure that your account is easy to find.

In addition to choosing a Twitter handle, choose profile and header images that represent your organization and positively reflect the industry in which you serve.  Also, make sure your bio communicates your organization’s specific purpose, includes your location and has a direct URL to your website.

  1. Design and implement an insightful strategy that drives results.

With your profile complete, it’s time to design and implement a strategy that drives results. Although this may seem like a rather large task to tackle, if you break the process down into smaller steps it will be a much more manageable.

  • Define your purpose and set goals. Before you even begin to think about designing a strategy, you must know what you are trying to accomplish. Do you want to generate awareness for your organization?  Are you trying to generate leads for new membership sales? Do you want to increase member engagement?

No matter what your primary intention may be, make sure it is clearly established and set goals that will ensure that you are working to fulfill that purpose.  For example, if you are seeking to generate audience engagement, you should set goals for the number of mentions, retweets and favorites that you receive on a monthly basis.

  • Build your network.  Building a network is essential to setting up a successful strategy.  More is not always better. Although it seems as though the more people you follow, greater awareness will be raised, this is by no means the best way to attract the type of audience that you want and need to fulfill your purpose.

Start by following customers, clients, vendors, business partners, local businesses and other organizations in your industry. Additionally, take the time to identify and connect with industry thought leaders and experts. These types of connections will help create relevant content for your target audience, as well as provide engaging material to share with your followers.  To discover your industry influencers, check out Topsy, a popular social tool that allows Twitter users to analyze the social web based on specific search terms.

  • Know the platform. If you want your strategy to be successful, you have to do a little bit a research.  Twitter is not rocket science, but in order to attract and engage effectively, it is imperative that you know exactly how to interact.

In a nutshell, there are five different types of interactions on Twitter (see chart below). You should familiarize yourself with each and incorporate them into your strategy.

The Tweet.  A message that a Twitter use originates and may not exceed 140 characters in length.
The Retweet (RT).  A re-posting of another user’s tweet that appears on your Twitter timeline.
The @reply.  A public update that contains your response and the hyperlinked username of the person whom you are replying.
The Direct Message.  A private message you can send to your followers.
The Mention.  Any tweet containing a username within the tweet, including the @reply.

Beyond these interactions, you must master the art of the hashtag (#). By using a hashtag in front of a word, or phrase, you can potentially reach any Twitter user that is monitoring that specific hashtag. You can use your Twitter sidebar, or tools such as Google Alerts, Social Mention, Radian6, Trackur and Twitter’s search tool, to identify trending and relevant hashtags that will help you to connect with your defined target audience as well as industry influencers. As a general rule of thumb, never use more than two hashtags per tweet.

  • Develop quality content. Creating engaging content for your followers on Twitter can be a challenge as you only have 140 characters to attract and capture their attention. With this in mind, keep your tweets interesting by asking questions, leading with numbers and statistics, use images, videos and links, and promote your events. Most importantly, ,take the time to reply to those who mention you.   
  1. Add Twitter to your current marketing plan. Adding Twitter to your current marketing efforts will help  drive other users to your profile.  You should add a Twitter button to your website, or even embed a live feed., Promote your organization’s events, hosts contests and link to your other social accounts, such as Instagram.
  1. Measure your results and adjust accordingly.  As you employ your strategy, you need to make sure to measure your performance over time. This will ensure that you are reaching your goals and will give you insights into improving your strategy to better accomplish your purpose. Luckily, tools including Klout, Twitter Analytics, Demographics Pro, Sprout Social and Hootsuite, make managing your account easy and will help you to efficiently measure your reach and influence.  Explore the different features of each tool and choose one that best suits your needs.

As I mentioned above, Twitter is not rocket science. Therefore, have fun with it and don’t be afraid to adjust and experiment.  For example, try tweeting during different times of the day in order to determine when your audience is most active.

Following these simple steps will help you to leverage the immense power of Twitter.  Optimize your account, execute an insightful strategy, integrate your account with existing marketing, measure and monitor your results, be creative and, most importantly, and have fun!

For more Twitter tips and tricks, download WebLink’s free eBook 4 Simple Steps to Help Your Organization Tackle Twitter.

DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers. Learn more at weblinkinternational.com.