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The Ultimate Guide to Generating Non-dues Revenue: Ten Best Ideas!

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 15, 2019
Non-dues revenue is considered revenue from any source other than membership fees. Non-dues revenue has always been an important factor in any association’s financial health, but in the current economic climate, it is even more important. The type of non-dues revenue you want to pursue depends on the nature of your association. It’s key to find ways to generate this additional revenue that fit into your brand and mission. Our teams at Community Brands have assembled ten of the best sources of non-dues revenue to consider for your association. Download the whitepaper today.

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Top Tips to Monetize Your Association’s Webinars

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 17, 2018
Top Tips to Monetize Your Association’s Webinars
By Jodi L. Ray, Channel Manager, Blue Sky eLearn 

With so many choices to deliver education, events and information online like self-paced courses and live streams, webinars continually rise to the top as the most popular and widely used technology tool. And with the right web event technology and strategy, associations are able to reach more people more immediately and more frequently than traditional place-based meetings while saving the association and their audience time and money.

Ultimately, if the virtual events are engaging and professional with content that is relevant to the audience, associations can bring value to their members and attract new ones.

BONUS: Those who do it right, are also reaping the rewards of creating new and significant revenue streams. 

Check out these tips to maximize opportunities for additional revenue: 

1) Find sponsors.
In return for sponsor support, offer creative ideas to give your sponsors value. Some ideas to consider:
Acknowledge your sponsors during the webinar or let them provide a quick company overview at the start or at the end of the webinar.
Offer branding opportunities (e.g. logos, video) on marketing promotions prior to the webinar, at registration, during the event (e.g. banners, links or downloads to resources) and in the on demand recording.
Create a series of webinars on a trending topic that one sponsor can participate in exclusively, perhaps giving them an opportunity to present or choose a presenter.

2) Leverage your in-person meetings. 
Make webinars a pre-requisite by inviting attendees to participate and potentially purchase related webinars to your meeting sessions before the actual face-to-face meeting. This allows you to “flip” the experience either way by offering more lecture style content in the webinar and more interactive and hands-on learning at the onsite event. Or offer some engagement in the webinar to crowdsource questions and stir up interest and excitement to be used for the in-person event. 
Repurpose your live meeting content by taking a popular session and using a recording from the live event (or re-record with your Subject Matter Expert) and replay it during a live webinar with an opportunity for breakouts or a Q&A session.

3) Market to both non-members and members.

Non-members: you can charge more for webinars when marketing to non-members, which will then bring in higher returns. Webinars also are a great way to market the benefits of association membership, build recognition within the industry, and also recruit new members.
Members: you can offer webinars at a reduced cost or offer them as an incentive and value-add of membership.

4) Repackage your webinars.
Offer packages for purchase at a special price. Examples include:
Bundle multiple webinars in a “Best of…” or Ultimate Guide for….” or simply bundling together multiple webinars or presentations in the same topic area. 
Bundle one or multiple webinars or on-demand presentations with additional resources like a template, toolkit or reference guide, all available digitally for streamlined delivery.

5) Offer on-demand viewing.
After a live webinar or conference, make your recordings available on-demand as quickly as possible. Some important tips to keep in mind:
Be sure your audience has an optimal mobile viewing experience. 
Use a platform where you can track activity so you can gauge the success of the presentation and plan accordingly in the future.  
To ensure your audience is aware of these on-demand offerings, start marketing before the content is even available, and continue to ramp up the promotion of the content once it has officially gone live.

6) Enhance with additional eLearning opportunities.
You can add additional value and relevance with the following tools:
Wrap engaging tests, surveys, commenting or additional resources around the recordings for an opportunity to earn CAE credits and certificates.  
Offer a certificate of completion. Even if you are not offering continuing education credits, a certificate offers incentive and a sense of accomplishment that can be tracked and reported.

Many associations who are maximizing revenue potential utilize managed services so the association team can focus on finding the right SME and marketing efforts, as well as ensuring the event is engaging and pulled off flawlessly. They understand it’s essential to have staff, presenters and attendees have a great experience! 

Check out these infographic resources:  Keys to Webinar Engagement or Managed Webinars VS DIY

Or contact me and I’ll be happy to help!
Jodi L. Ray
Channel Manager, Blue Sky eLearn 

Direct: 858.900.2258 | Cell: 608.669.0786| toll free: 877.925.8375 ext 2258 
jray@blueskyeLEARN.com www.blueskyeLEARN.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodiray/

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Running Productive Team Meetings

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 6, 2018
By: Joseph Sapp, CAE, Director of New Business Development, Talley Management Group, Inc.

We’ve all been there-stuck on another conference call or in a meeting that seems to have lost focus. How much time do we spend in meetings or on calls that are not accomplishing what they are set up to do? Studies show a typical employee spends 31 hours a month in unproductive meetings. That is a lot of wasted time-too much. Whether you are leading a team meeting or are a participant, we can all contribute to improving how we spend time in meetings and make them as productive as possible.  

Have an agenda
Write and distribute an agenda in advance of the meeting. Everyone involved should be on the same page and prepared for what is going to be discussed.

Keep an eye on the clock 
Meetings will go on and on if you are not sticking to the established timeframe. If the meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes, make it 30 minutes or less. Do not let points linger on; discuss, find a resolution and move on.
Send things to the parking lot
Implement the “parking lot method.” Things come up in the meeting that are important, but not part of the meeting’s agenda. When that happens, record it and put it in the “parking lot” to be addressed in the next meeting. Do not let it take up time in that meeting.  

Ensure participants participate
Do your meetings have other participants reporting out on specific topics? Make it clear that participants have an active role in the meeting. When it is their turn to report or discuss an agenda item, ensure they are prepared to lead the meeting during that section of the agenda.
Make follow-up a regular thing
A successful meeting always has action items and follow-ups. Task the follow-up to a team member to follow-up on action items and ensure they are not lost in between meetings. Reach out the same day with a list of action items that came out of the meeting so that everyone knows the take-aways and who is responsible for them.  

Your time and the time of your team is valuable-treat it that way. Meetings are important times to collaborate and gain and share information. Keep them focused and make the best use of everyone’s time. We can all have an impact on improving how we interact in meetings, ensuring increased productivity and collaboration. 

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The Community Engagement Committee in Action at the Annual

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 5, 2018

The Community Engagement Committee in Action at the Annual
By Karen L. Kramer, SPHR, Executive Director of HR, Association Management Center

Face-to-face networking simply can’t be replaced by online meetings or social sharing. That was proven over and over again at AMCI’s Annual Meeting.

The Community Engagement Committee (CEC) had the honor of hosting the First Timer’s Reception at the 2018 Annual Meeting, held in beautiful Vancouver. There was a great number of new faces – 44 – including a mix of current and new members. The Meeting’s theme was ‘Inspiration to Implementation,’ and focused on giving attendees the opportunity to gain knowledge that would assist in running their business, looked at best practices in client management, and enabled unparalleled daily opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction.

The CEC designated Ambassadors whose task it was to welcome new attendees and connect them with people and opportunities that would help advance their business and ensure they could fully leverage all that the Meeting had to offer. That is just part of the work the Committee does in this area. In January of this year, a new member orientation program was developed by the CEC, creating a relationship-based orientation that informs, engages, and inspires new members to become lifelong members.

In addition to hosting the First Timer’s Reception, the CEC continues to foster the concept of community through ongoing efforts to engage all members by providing opportunities for valuable, affordable education and networking. This is done through AMCI’s one- and two-day regional meetings, online webinars, and Member Matters articles. The Committee hosted its first two-day regional meeting last May in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and had a great turnout of 75 members. We are hard at work developing content for the next regional meeting. Watch your email for details.

If you are interested in hosting a meeting in your area, please contact AMC Institute at info@amcinstitute.org.

The Committee is thrilled to be part of helping to shape the future of the AMC industry and connecting and learning from the amazing, talented members of AMCI. Those personal connections are the backbone of our industry and we will continue to work hard to foster them. 

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Associate Members on the Value of Attending AMCI’s Annual Meeting

Posted By Administration, Thursday, December 21, 2017
Associate Members on the Value of Attending AMCI’s Annual Meeting
By Betsy Delfosse, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, Dynamic Benchmarking and Jeff Baryenbruch, CHSP, Executive Director of Sales, Visit Milwaukee

Associate members have much to gain from the friendly AMCI community of business professionals, who are so open to learning and sharing ideas and best practices. The best way to get to know the members and invest in our education about the AMC market and association industry is by attending the next AMCI Annual Meeting in February 2018.  As associate members, we are running or managing a business of our own…a technology business, an accounting firm, a destination organization or hotel group…but you’ll find that much of the content of the AMC annual meeting is also relevant to our businesses or operations. 

The meeting’s Speed Dating event is your introduction to AMC business owners, who are organized into small groups for the purpose of hearing about associate member products and offerings. It’s a quick and comfortable way to make new connections and begin conversations that drive your business objectives. Take advantage of this great opportunity to meet as many AMC members and other associate members as possible to set the stage for a successful meeting experience.

If you haven’t attended a meeting before, you will be invited to the First Timers Reception.  New attendees are grouped together with a mentor (someone who previously attended meetings, is part of AMCI leadership or participates in the AMCI Community Engagement Committee). This relaxed, welcoming event is the perfect way to meet a new group of people that you will continue to see throughout the meeting. 
Then, jump into the program! In 2017 the Annual Meeting’s opening keynote address was about identifying both personal and employee strengths in order to build effective teams.  It was a perfect reminder to all of us to spend time evaluating what is going well, as opposed to focusing too much attention on what is going wrong. Additional session options included everything from how to grow a business while maintaining profitability, security and privacy in the workplace, business exit strategies, understanding how to work with AMCs as associate partners, and much more. 

A broad offering of content again this year will not only inform you about the challenges that AMCs face, but will help you develop strategies for positioning your product/offering as a solution to these challenges. The keynotes and sessions are designed to have content that is meaningful to members and associate members alike and this year’s theme is about moving your organization from ‘Inspiration to Implementation.’  And, you can share what you learn as you engage in conversation with other attendees.

Other opportunities will arise as you work your way through the meeting including: 
Learning about the AMCI committees that welcome associate partners
Seeing how your business can contribute to AMC:
How DMOs and CVBs provide important destination insight for meeting planning
How technology can be a differentiator or save AMCs time

The AMCI annual meeting ROI is easy to calculate from both the learning and networking perspectives.  It’s this deeper understanding of the AMC business and relationships that will help drive your success. As the saying goes “people do business with people they know, like and trust.”

We hope to see you at the AMCI Annual Meeting in February 2018 in beautiful Vancouver, Canada!

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Driving Association Innovation

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 20, 2017

Driving Association Innovation
By Mike Dwyer, Chief Executive Relationship Officer, Association Headquarters

We all believe that associations must be innovators of new products, services and ideas in order to remain relevant. It is often true, however, that association boards tend to be conservative when it comes to challenging the status quo. And, when they do think about imaginative ways to grow membership or meet the needs of a new or different demographic, shift the strategic focus of the association they lead, or even brainstorm new and inventive ways to increase the relevance of their associations, they tend to be mired in the old way of thinking: members will support our association because we provide the only forum for them to interact. But this thinking is flawed and can be dangerous given the reality that associations have more competition than ever, particularly from for profit entities. 

Associations must begin thinking along the “innovation continuum” -- the concept of constant improvement -- looking at its activities through a multitude of angles and perspectives. 

There are many – including myself – who believe that a major key to the success of this idea of an “innovation continuum” is tied to the concept of process as well as product improvement. That is to say, the process by which associations innovate is as important as the products and services that arise out of the process itself. At last year’s Society of Association Executives meeting for the Mid-Atlantic region, I sat in on a session presented by Amanda Kaiser from Kaiser Insights, which provided some insights into this concept of Association Innovation. Her firm had been hired by the National Business Innovation Association to delve into the challenges associated with breaking the bonds of the status quo in the association community. As a result of her research, Ms. Kaiser noted six fundamental elements that lead to innovation for associations.

  1. Define Innovation. To quote from her research, “The first step in focusing the organization on innovation is coming up with a consistent definition for innovation that is understood by all.” She goes on to define it as the process by which associations create and launch a product or service that brings real value to its members.
  2. The CEO is key. The success – or failure – of developing a culture of innovation is directly tied to whether or not the CEO embraces the idea and drives it within the organization. 
  3. Culture AND process carry equal weight. Without arguing which comes first, Kaiser suggests they are equally important in driving innovative thinking.
  4. Change management is hard but crucial. We all can agree that change is difficult but Kaiser’s research clearly suggests that associations must obtain the discipline to prepare, equip and support all stakeholders to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success via innovation.
  5. Structure is important. Associations must provide certain tools to engage in innovation, namely, budget, process, staff resources, etc., or failure is certain.
  6. Encourage ideas! Listen to members because innovative solutions come from listening to their challenges. Encourage all stakeholders, including staff, to ideate. 

It may seem very straightforward, but I think we can agree that too few of our clients think in these terms. Kaiser’s research provides a very nice overview of how to successfully innovate, engage in change, break the bonds of the status quo and ensure there’s a future for associations who embrace a culture of innovation. How are you helping your clients find a path to innovation? 


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Introducing and Establishing Team Collaboration Tools

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 20, 2017
Introducing and Establishing Team Collaboration Tools
By Denise R. Calabrese, CAE, President of Calabrese Management

There’s no shortage of team collaboration tools out there, but taking the leap in embracing them – and then having people actually use them consistently – is a bit of a process. 

For the team at Calabrese Management, our first foray into collaboration tools began with the need to address an internal frustration: trying to manage our calendars. We were spending an inordinate amount of time checking in with each other on availability, double-checking which client needed to be billed when a conference line was booked, and not being fully informed as a team when there were absences from the office.

We discovered that Google Calendar had the functionality we needed, enabling us to be more productive and coordinated. Now, everyone on the team puts everything on the collective calendar including meetings, calls, and out of office notices.

Once we had mastered that – and found it incredibly beneficial – we started using Google Drive to enhance our internal collaboration and ensure that all staff had access to everything they needed should they be working remotely. Adopting cloud technology also avoided some of the pitfalls with having an internal drive that can sometimes really let you down just when you seem to need it most!

The move to using the Google suite of collaboration tools with clients presented both opportunities and challenges. 

One of our more tech savvy clients wanted to use the Google platform to communicate with each other and so we created an account for the organization and uploaded board folders, committee folders, and other organizational and financial documents. Rather than emailing documents, it was left to our client to download them when they wanted to access them. At first, we kept getting requests to have the documents emailed. Fortunately, our client’s board was really supportive and clearly communicated that no documents (other than confidential ones) would be circulated via email and that everyone had to use the Drive. That kind of reinforcement is invaluable and necessary to getting new approaches adopted within an organization.

Having successfully integrated the Drive into our working method, our client was interested in enhancing communication among the Board members and for that, we turned to Google Hangouts. This tool enables real time conversation and notifications and is an easy way for a team to interact on an ongoing basis. One of the key benefits we found is that there was more personal interaction among the board members, creating closer and personal connections that have enhanced their work overall. 

The success we had with the client’s board then led us to using Google Hangouts with their Nominating Committee. Here we focused on the video conferencing capabilities and not surprisingly, we found that people paid more attention in the meeting and it was possible to see the collective reactions to initiatives, ensuring that we could address any concerns right on the call. Video also prevented participants from multi-tasking (something we’re all guilty of on a conference call) and kept everyone focused and productive. 

We’ve also used Hangouts to do video interviews with nominees, enabling the Nominating Committee to have a better read on potential candidates and thus make better decisions. 

Throughout the process of introducing new tools to our client, we spent the time training them, upping their comfort levels, and helping to ensure adoption. 

Along with organizational commitment, training is essential to ensuring success and taking full advantage of the improved communication and efficiency offered by collaboration tools.

Our staged approach, both internally and with our clients, has been extremely successful and has helped ensure that the collaboration tools are solidly integrated into our working methods.

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Leveraging Flexible Talent for Results

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 20, 2017

Leveraging Flexible Talent for Results
Karen L. Kramer, SPHR, Executive Director of HR, Association Management Center 

We have all been there: whether it’s trying to figure out how to tap into additional resources to get the work done, or support is needed in the form of interim staff during recruiting efforts, or a leave of absence is suddenly required, or a new billable project has been approved, or a project that was on hold needs to be accomplished, or a new idea needs to be developed and piloted. 

There are solutions. 

Why not consider creating a business model that leverages and executes your strategy using flexible, educated, skilled, cost-effective talent? There are a couple of approaches for how to uncover the capacity that already is under your roof or to create a team comprised of individuals with specific talents who may not be accessible through traditional employment and staffing sources. Read more.

Fully utilizing existing staff enables individuals to be exposed to other clients in greater depth and provides potential opportunities for staff development. At times, one or multiple people even may have a small amount of bandwidth that can be leveraged. In this sense, continually assessing the need and identifying bandwidth creates a win-win solution. 

Why not go a step further and build a small team that is flexible and nimble and is already acclimated to your company, systems, and clients? The training time would be minimal and the results would be fantastic. The team would be available to flex and meet needs as they arise.

A critical component to making this work is creating a matrix that clearly outlines the need. When creating the matrix, the devil is in the details, such as the career level of the person needed, their skill set, the deadline, the approximate amount of time the project will take, specifics of the responsibility, and any other important pieces of information. Once that is in place, identify the individual(s) needed and check with the appropriate person to make sure it is okay for the individual(s) to be considered. At Association Management Center (AMC) we do this on a regular basis and we have had great success with aligning skills and fulfilling the need. We’ve received positive feedback from our staff with this approach because they enjoy working with new team members and learning additional skills. 

Prior to determining the best structure at your company for your flex team, do your homework to identify the need as best you can. Consider potential future needs; when and how have you used resources from staffing agencies; and how often have you had new or unaccounted-for projects pop up. The key to recruiting a flexible, nimble staff is everyone having an understanding of and commitment to managing the ebb and flow of work and the flexibility needed of the individual in the role. 

At AMC, we sought the ultimate in flexibility and tapped educated, talented people with a strong work ethic who also were seeking highly flexible situations. This created a win-win environment for both our clients and the AMC team. 

You may be wondering how exactly that worked; what if AMC had the need and the people couldn’t work? Because we have a small group of these pinch-hitters, AMC often is able to fulfill the company’s need all while still meeting the needs of individuals. We are always able to coordinate the client’s need with the schedules of the team. When someone needs an extended period of time off we can make that work, too, and when they can resume working they do. The make-up of our group is returning-to-work parents, people who were interested in working but didn’t want to make too big of a time commitment and who needed an understanding, flexible environment. 

The recruiting effort for this type of role often can be accomplished through word of mouth or reaching out to the local elementary and junior high schools to tap into the pool of moms or dads who are ready to get back into the workforce. 

With a little up front effort, you can manage through all of the new and varied demands that come up out of nowhere and simultaneously create new opportunities for your staff.


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Building a High Performing (Virtual) Board

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Building a High Performing (Virtual) Board 
By Beth Quick-Andrews, CAE, Principal, Q & A Business Solutions

In the mid-20th Century, my grandfather was active in many bankers’ professional associations. He sat in many chairs and rose through the ranks during his long and storied career to become part of the leadership of several banking associations. I am told that nothing, I repeat, nothing interfered with his work as a banker or as an association volunteer. If he were alive today, I am certain he would say: “That is just the right way to be a professional.” He was not unique in his opinion. I am sure that his peers felt the same way. This dedication and commitment certainly helped to build many strong associations.

Fast forward fifty or sixty years…Times have changed!  Even though we are more connected than ever before in a global society, we are all the more distracted by all the inputs and outputs that are expected of us on a daily basis. Today’s mantra when asked “How are you?” is “I’m sooooo busy.”  Wasn’t all this technology supposed to give us more free time? (Yes, that and a paperless office too!)

So how does an association develop a high performing Board built on strong interpersonal relationships when Board members don’t have regular face-to-face contact? Here are some keys to success:

Every Board member should be mission-driven and member-focused:  While this may be an overused catch phrase, it gets the point across. Board members should be focused on what is in the best interest of the association as a whole, and not what might benefit any one person or segment of the membership.

Have the right tools in place: To make the most of the Board’s time when they are together virtually, it is important to have a well-put together agenda, Board reports submitted in advance, structured engagement during the meeting, regular contact between meetings, and clear expectations with roles defined.  

An agenda for success:  When putting the agenda together for a virtual meeting (or any meeting for that matter), be sure to structure it in a way that ensures that if time ends up running short, you have covered the essential business.  The use of a Consent Agenda is an efficient way of approving association matters that are not controversial. Motions can be submitted in advance and included on the Consent Agenda.  Next, the agenda should include strategic discussion topics submitted, along with time needed for discussion, on the Board reports.  Add visual time cues to each of the sections on the agenda to help set the stage with expectations for the length of discussions.  If the discussion goes astray, it is much easier to get the discussion back on track by verbally referencing these cues.

Focus on core activities and then expand: It is easy for Board members to get distracted with the next “great idea” that will be “the thing” for the association. It is incumbent upon leadership to ask: Does this fit with the strategic plan? What resources will be required? Do we have the budget? What will we need to stop doing if we take this on? Do the ends justify the means?

Board meetings are a team sport:  Every member of the Board needs to actively participate in order for the team to be successful.  The chair’s job is to be mindful of everyone’s participation in discussion.  It is too easy to “multitask” when on a conference call.  (We have all done it... “sorry, can you repeat the question…I didn’t hear it”). If the virtual meeting is audio only, then it is helpful to keep a list of the names of everyone on the call and make a tick mark by their name when they participate in the discussion.  This helps to see who needs to be encouraged to speak up more and actively participate.  When virtual meetings have a video component, it is easier to see who is engaged and who might still need a nudge.

Can you feel the volunteer love tonight?:  Regular communications from the Board chair, committee chair, and staff thanking volunteers for their time throughout their volunteer time goes a long way to helping volunteers feel appreciated and that their time was well-spent.  It is especially impactful when the thank you includes the positive results of the volunteer’s work such as the results on a successful membership campaign or annual conference. Thank yous can run the whole gamut.  It could be an e-mail to the committee.  It could be a handwritten note to each volunteer, to his/her boss thanking them for allowing this person’s volunteer service, or to his/her family thanking them for allowing their family member to be a part of their professional association.

Utilize video technology tools: One of the reasons the world has gotten smaller is because of the advent of tools such as Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting and the like. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words…and they say it because it is true. The complete communication spectrum of verbal and non-verbal communication makes all the difference in the effectiveness of Board interactions. These tools make it quick and easy to hop on a call/chat and connect almost as if you walked down the hall to a co-worker’s office. When you can’t be together physically, it’s the next best thing.  We have used Zoom with several clients.  It is very easy to set up, even for the non-tech savvy folks.  One of our client’s calls it the Brady Bunch Board meeting because we all show up in boxes like Mike, Carol, Alice and the kids.  You can also do screen sharing with anyone on the call so everyone can, literally, be on the same page on documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? A word about civility. I was speaking with a trusted colleague and friend who shared the story about how she was on a call with a client Board while sitting in the community room at the hospice home where her mother was spending her final days. My colleague excused herself for a moment to talk to the janitor to ask him to stop vacuuming until she was done with her call. When she returned to the call, one of the Board members said…all in a huff…“Are we even a priority for you?” Another colleague from her firm was on the call and explained where she was at the time. The Board member did not even acknowledge the extraordinary sacrifice that was being made by my colleague to be on the call given the circumstances and moved on with the rest of the agenda.  

Moreover, while modern technology has made it very easy to connect and communicate faster than ever, we have lost our filters.  We have all had the experience of feeling very justified in sending an e-mail that would have benefitted from spending time in a drafts folder. That momentary exuberance of slaying the dragon is quickly followed by “Oh _______ (fill in the blank with what works for you)!  What have I just done?”  

Sadly, this type of behavior is becoming more the norm than the exception. It is important to remember that everyone is a valued member of the team (volunteers and staff). Each member of the team has the best of intentions in fulfilling his/her commitment to the association. Sometimes life is going to happen. 

As our to do lists get longer, our patience/tempers are shorter.  Here are some keys to maintaining civility in a virtual conversation:

  • Focus on what has brought you together in the first place and what you are trying to accomplish together. Rigorous debate is essential to getting to better outcomes, but it needs to be done as respectfully as possible. Ask yourself “What would I say if I were in person?”
  • Recognize your role. Each member of the team needs to be mindful of the role he or she plays in the organization. What role does the Board chair play in managing the discussion? Should a director say this or that to a peer?  What role should staff have in the discussion? Keeping in mind that everyone is a valued member of the team.
  • Think Q-Tip: Quit taking it personally. A friend of mind is great at coming up with these little phrases. This one helps me a great deal when things get off track.  My experience has shown that when discussions go astray, many times it really has nothing to do with the situation at hand. The current situation may just have been the last straw for someone. Each person needs to take responsibility for his or her role in the discussion.
  • Creating a culture of civility and mutual respect is imperative for a leadership team to not only be successful, but it just the right way to be a professional.

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Talent Development: Challenges and Solutions

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 29, 2016

Over the next few months, this column will explore several challenges faced by AMCs and their client association partners. To find solutions, we've asked Michael Reed of Bloch/Reed Association Advisors to connect with leading AMC executives and ask them to share their perspectives on the issues - and the strategies and tools needed to address them. We’ll also pose a series of reflective questions for you to consider as you seek to improve the practices and culture of your organization.

This Month’s Member Experts

Erin Fuller, FASAE, CAE President, Association Management & Consulting MCI USA
Bennett Napier, CAE President and CEO, Partners in Association Management
Carolyn Price, CAE President, CMP Management, Inc.

What is talent development?

Any AMC leader will tell you, the key to happy clients is having knowledgeable, enthusiastic and engaged employees. Although this is true in most businesses, in an association management company, the client’s perception of the entire organization is almost completely tied to the performance of the employees assigned to the account. This means that the systems for talent recruitment and development are some of the most crucial aspects of our business. Unfortunately, these systems are often neglected or overlooked. In an effort to get you thinking about the talent development system in your organization, we’ve asked three AMC principals to share their ideas about how to recruit, onboard and develop engaged employees.

What makes a good talent development system?

“AMC owners and senior leaders have to be keenly aware of their own strengths and weaknesses,” suggests Carolyn Price, President of CMP Management in Austin, Texas. “If hiring and professional development are not the owner’s strengths, it’s time to find someone who can do those jobs well. Early on, we had a few hires that didn’t work out, and we had to rethink our whole process,” she explained. “I realized that there was a unique human resource mindset and specific set of skills our organization needed to acquire so that I could focus on my strengths.”

If knowing yourself is important, knowing your organization is vital as well. Erin Fuller, President of MCI USA in McLean, Virginia, suggests that it’s also important to know where your business is in its lifecycle. “When a company is just starting out and in rapid growth mode, you need employees with diverse skill sets and a broad knowledge base. As your business grows and your internal systems become more specialized, it’s helpful to have talent that brings a specific educational background, a network and a successful track record in their specific area of expertise.” The needs of the organization change as your company matures.

Bennett Napier, President and CEO, Partners in Association Management in Tallahassee, Florida, also cited the importance of being intentional in talent recruitment and development. “We saw an opportunity to improve our business and made a conscious decision that employee development was going to be the key attribute of our organization’s culture. We built everything else around that decision.”

One common mistake that leaders make is trying to fix employee relations issues or morale challenges with training or other interventions that should be addressed by making changes to the recruiting practices of the organization. The leadership challenge associated with talent development is to think of the whole system and how the various inputs influence one another and work together to give you the results you want. 


  • Does our organization have trained and passionate people handling the recruitment and employee development system of our organization? What could we improve?
  • Do we have an integrated talent system that understands the needs of our organization or do we have several functions that are cobbled together?


How do you handle interviews and selection?

Our experts had a lot to say about interviewing new team members. Over the course of their careers each had former employees who had the ability to do a job, but struggled because they didn’t fit into the culture of the organization. “In addition to meeting the educational and professional requirements for a job, we also assess the individual’s team orientation, flexibility and their interest in their own development,” Fuller explains. “We have always had a strong spirit of inclusion, but now, as a global organization, we also look for people who want to develop their global perspective.”

They also cited the increase in the use of technology and assessments in the recruiting process. “One of the fundamental shifts in our recruiting practices was to incorporate job fit and communication assessments of candidates,” says Price. “These tools provide additional data to help in the selection process, and the results also help to inform initial opportunities for professional development.” Napier agrees, “We rely on our intuition in terms of selection, but we do two things to help inform our intuition. First, we do structured interviews in teams and then compare notes, and then we also look at data on assessments and communication inventories and discuss the specific needs on the initial client team.”


  • Does our organization make use of appropriate technologies like application tracking, job fit and temperament assessments to improve decision making?
  • Do our interviewers evaluate a candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities for a specific job, as well as their fit for our organization’s culture?

Is onboarding important?

Onboarding is the systematic process that focuses on transferring knowledge about the organization, the account team and job responsibilities to a new employee. In the AMC environment, new employees have to learn the cultures of both the employer and the clients to which they are assigned. “We have a standardized onboarding process,” explains Napier, “and it’s completely led by the employees. We want new employees to have a custom experience based on the relationships that are important for their jobs’ success, plus it helps the teambuilding process.”

Fuller shares how onboarding works in her organization, “new executive directors are welcomed onto our client leadership team – which meets monthly for lunch and discussion – and they are assigned three client leader mentors, selected for their own expertise. For instance, an executive director that may have a lot of government relations responsibility will be partnered with a strong lobbyist, and perhaps someone who came into our company with a similar skillset. Mid-level talents have similar onboarding opportunities with being matched with a peer mentor as well as having a number of cross-client teams that meet quarterly.”

In a smaller organization, multiple stakeholders can work together to integrate onboarding and team development of employees. “Everyone gets involved,” explains Price. “We have weekly training meetings that the whole team participates in. It keeps everyone focused on our strategic objectives and helps to build camaraderie.”


  • Does our onboarding process support employees when they are hired, or do we provide them with an ongoing structured experience that helps them develop the relationships and habits that they need for long term success?

Do employees have to “own” their development?

All three AMC executives shared examples of encouraging individuals interested in professional certifications like the Certified Meeting Planner or Certified Association Executive designations, but none of the organizations forced employees to pursue credentialing. Napier explains how individual performance goals are managed in his organization. “Each year team members create their own self-directed annual professional development plan and work with their managers with available resources to achieve their goals. Goals and activities must align with and support their client goals, and at the end of the year progress is measured relative to the goals set by the team member.”

Price and her team use outside organizations to supplement inside training. “We’re active members of the Texas Society of Association Executives, and take advantage of local education programs. We also encourage volunteer work so that our employees have the experience of working as volunteers for nonprofit organizations.”


  • Are our employee’s goals aligned with our team and organizational goals?
  • Are leaders in our organization creating the structures and the environment for employees to own their development?

What’s the most important thing about a culture of talent development?

To have success in the area of talent development, organizations need to have to have a systems approach. “You can’t do one aspect of talent development well, and then hope for the best. You have to recruit well, and you have to bring people onboard and make them feel valued and supported. People have to know that you care about them and their success,” Price explains.

Fuller shares some additional thoughts about the culture she’s building, “Leaders have to develop an environment where people feel empowered to pursue their professional goals while they continue to live full lives. “I don’t believe in work/life ‘balance,’ but I do believe in work/life integration. In our organization, employees are supported holistically in the things they want to achieve in their personal and professional lives.” She also stresses the importance of teams, “individual performance goals are important, but people also seek out opportunities to serve on teams that raise their profiles. They want to build a reputation for being invaluable to their teammates and to the company.”

“Deliberately shifting your organization’s culture can be scary at first,” adds Napier, “but remember, tone is set at the top. It’s important to have complete buy-in from the management team before an organization-wide roll out,” he cautions. “Be patient. People will buy into the process at different stages; don’t give up. Nothing as important as cultural change happens overnight.”


  • Does our organization make recruitment and employee development a strategic priority with measured results and accountabilities?
  • Do we clearly communicate the importance of talent development to our employees?

Michael Reed is a principal with Bloch/Reed Association Advisors. As association leaders, a former AMC owner and as trusted consultants, Ralph Bloch and Michael Reed have been asking questions that help association leaders for over two decades. They use trust, data and dialogue to help leaders see clearly, plan strategically and act decisively.





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