11 Ideas for Partnering with Local Venues

11 Ideas for Partnering with Local Venues

This week’s blog is re-posted with permission from Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA. Aaron is the founder and president of Event Garde, a professional development consulting firm based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Website:

When’s the last time this happened to you? There’s a highly recommended, world-class speaker you’d like to feature at an upcoming program.

She’s perfect for your event in every way, except for the associated price tag. After much negotiation, you’re able to secure the “friends and family” discount; however, it’s still more than you’ve budgeted.

If your meeting comprises a qualified audience of planners or other decision-makers, you might consider an in-kind sponsorship with a local hotel or conference center. Following are 11 ideas for partnering with local venues:

What other ideas do you have for successful partnerships between venues and associations?


11 Tactics to Alleviate Board Micromanagement

11 Tactics to Alleviate Board Micromanagement
Do you struggle to get things done with a board that’s constantly looking over your shoulder? Your board might not be to blame. Robert Nelson at NSC Consulting tells us about the other side of the coin in this week’s post …

CEOs are not always innocent when it comes to boards engaging in micromanagement. In fact, CEOs are sometimes culpable in creating and sustaining such behavior and are most often in a position to refocus boards on true board level work and what really matters. If you are tired of your board’s micro management and you want create change, you must be willing to make undertaking such change a priority and be intentional about doing so.

In some cases, a dramatic change in culture is required. In other cases, it’s more a matter of changing the behavior of some individual board members. Of course, the first step is to determine why your board micro manages. In other words, the first step is defining the root problem(s) / cause(s). Once you have done this you can craft a strategy and a plan to transition your board’s culture or change the behavior of a few. Toyoda’s 5 Whys and an Ishikawa Diagram are two methods you can use to determine root causes.

As you consider root causes, also ask yourself: What am I doing, or not doing, that may be contributing to Board micro management? Be brutally honest in answering this question.

The next step it to create your change strategy. This begins with creating a vision of the future state you are seeking and identifying the barriers that will impede that change. Likewise, you will want to identify factors (driving forces) in the current environment that can be exploited to facilitate moving toward the future state. Craft your strategy in a manner that strengthens the driving forces and weakens the barriers.

Although your strategy and associated tactics will be dependent on the root causes you uncover, following are eleven tactics that are often engaged to diminish or eradicate board micro management:

If you have a board that micromanages and you are contemplating setting out on a journey to change your board’s culture or behavior, the road will be easier if you’ve cultivated a strong partnership with the Board chair. Likewise, it is always helpful to have 5 – 10 percent of your board on board as champions for change.

About the Author

Robert Nelson, a Certified Association Executive (CAE), brings over a quarter-century of successful executive leadership experience, working with Boards and high-powered CEOs in a not-for-profit setting. He is the founder of Nelson Strategic Consulting and brings hands-on experience guiding and facilitating the design of strategy development processes and think tanks. His focus on organizational strategies and strategic solutions to complex organizational and global grand challenges for national as well as international organizations.

Contact Robert through his website, or learn more about Nelson Strategic Consulting at


Why Perfectionism is a Big Time Waster

Why Perfectionism is a Big Time Waster

There’s a rule known as the Pareto Principle. It teaches us that 20% of our efforts produce 80% of our results. The additional 80% of our efforts will only yield an additional 20% of results. The first thrust of effort then is the most productive use of our time. The latter thrust is very costly.

For example, let’s say you allocate 2 hours (which we’ll represent as 20% of your time) to clean a room, a basement, or a garage. Let’s say that will you will be able to get it to be 80% clean. It won’t be perfect, but it will be acceptable and a job well done. However, to squeeze out an additional 20% of results, to make it “perfectly clean,” will require an additional 80% of your time, or 8 hours. The additional results are sixteen times more costly than the initial results from 20% of the effort, not to mention that while you’re trying to squeeze out those additional results, you are kept from doing a lot of other more productive things.

Looking for ways to boost your productivity? 123Signup will save you tons of time managing your events and members.

This rule has a lot of application to you as a time manager. Ever notice if you’re in sales how 20% of your customers give you 80% of your sales and the other 80% of your customers give you the remaining 20% of your business? Where then should you be spending 80% of your time? With the 20% of the customers who are giving you 80% of your business.

Ever notice how 20% of your relatives give your 80% of your headaches?

It may not always work with exact mathematical precision, but, typically, the small chunk of input yields the biggest chunk of output or results.

Most of us benefit from this rule intuitively. When you and I approach a task (clean a room, prepare a term paper, write up a project, etc.) we decide to put in a reasonable amount of time and effort to achieve a reasonable result. The result may not be perfect but it will be acceptable and this will release us to devote our time to tackling other endeavors.

We put in a reasonable amount of time and produce a pretty decent report. It may not be perfect, but putting in a whole lot more time to make it a little better is not cost-effective and therefore not worth the effort.

Those who suffer from the Curse of Perfectionism do not understand this principle. Their goal is always perfection, which, realistically, is unattainable. For example, you cannot clean a room perfectly. As you clean it, it’s getting dirty as the dust settles. Any written report can be polished and improved upon with more time and effort. Striving for perfection is then always stressful and frustrating.

Their overall productivity suffers as they spend an inordinate amount of time on a few things, trying to make them perfect, rather than a lesser amount of time on a lot of things that will multiply their results.

The curse is cured when they abandon the need to do their tasks perfectly when they understand that excellence in performance is attaining a degree of perfection, not absolute perfection. This does not compromise one’s standard of excellence in performance. It enhances excellent performance with increased results.


5 Simple Tips for Attracting New Members

5 Simple Tips for Attracting New Members

Attracting new members is challenging in an increasingly competitive marketplace.  If marketing has been on the back burner for your organization until now, are a few simple things you can do to start stepping it up:


3 Attendance-Boosting Online Event Registration Tools

3 Attendance-Boosting Online Event Registration Tools

There are some powerful online event registration software products out there, packed with fancy features and tools that let you do far more than just accept registrations on the web.

Whether you realize it or not, it’s likely that your software can do more to help you increase your signups. So the question is: are you taking advantage of all the tools that are available to you?

Here are three things you should be doing with your event management system:

1) Tracking Abandoned Registrations

This is a big one because if you can track people who have started registering but haven’t finished, you have a great start to closing those extra registrations. People who take the time to click on the link and start the process have shown interest, so they’ll likely be your easiest targets.

Many systems will let you download a report that tells you who left your site without completing the process. Send those people a personal email reminding them that they haven’t yet completed their registration, and you’ll likely convert at least some of them to attendees.

2) Tracking Where Registrations Are Coming From

You likely promote your event through many different channels – partner websites, social media, and in advertisements. It’s important to understand where your registrants are hearing about your event so you can direct your marketing time and resources to the most productive channels.

How do you know where people are hearing about your event? A simple way is to “tag” your registration links. This simply means adding a unique label to the end of the link for each of your referring channels. It takes no time at all, and many online registration systems will allow you to download a report that shows you exactly where each registrant was referred from.

3) Using Promo Codes

The right promotion targeted to the right group of people can do amazing things for your registration numbers. The classic promotion for events is early bird registration, but there are so many other ways to discount tickets. You can set up promo codes to offer special rates to certain membership types, run a refer-a-friend promotion, or offer special pricing in advertisements.

If you aren’t already using discount promo codes, it can’t hurt to try them out. It’s easy to set them up if your system has the functionality in place, and the results might surprise you.


5 Things Every Association Should Have Check-listed

5 Things Every Association Should Have Check-listed
Beyond the usual financial audits, the end of the year is a great time to review your operations and processes – and shed the inefficiencies that could hold you back from achieving your goals in 2015.

Here are five things (besides the obvious review of your business plan) you should consider doing before January rolls around.

#1 – Review Your Service Contracts

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” isn’t the motto to operate by when it comes to your service contracts. Your needs have likely changed since you first signed some of your contracts, and you could be wasting unnecessary time and money by sticking with a provider that you’ve outgrown.

Make a list of all your service providers – including utility and equipment rental companies, printers, professional service and software providers, and any others you use regularly. Consider how they’re priced, the value you get for the money, and their level of customer service.

Prioritize the services that are most critical to running your organization, and invite proposals and quotes from competing companies. Even if you ultimately stick with your current provider, doing the research may give you the leverage to negotiate lower prices or more favorable terms.

#2 – Evaluate Your Internal Processes

While you’re refining your business plan for next year, make it a point to review your day-to-day processes to determine how well they support your strategies. You can do this internally, or consider hiring a consultant to perform the assessment for you.

Ask staff and committee members to document the processes they use to fulfill their responsibilities. Brainstorm with your team to identify inefficiencies and come up with ways to improve. As you go through the process, don’t forget to research new technologies that can help you save on time and resources.

#3 – Update Your Policy Manual

If you don’t already have a policy manual, create one. If you have one, review it. Your policy manual is your blueprint for your internal operations – yet it’s an often-neglected document, particularly in smaller associations.  It covers everything from human resources … to attendance and dress codes … to facilities management issues.

It’s important to review your policies every year to make sure they continue to meet changing employment and business laws. You’ll also want to check that they still align with your current practices and procedures.

#4 – Do a Marketing Audit

Using outdated marketing materials can reflect poorly on your organization – whether it’s letterhead with your old phone number or address on it, membership welcome packs that still mention old services, or a website that lists Board members who retired last year. Sometimes these details slip through the cracks, so gather all the collateral you currently use and go through it with a fine-tooth comb.

Ditch any materials that have information, messages, graphics, or branding that no longer reflect your organization’s direction, and put a plan in place setting out how and when you will update each piece with specific dates for completion.

#5 – Say Thank You

Recognize and thank staff , volunteers, members, committees, sponsors, and anyone else who had a part in your organization during the year. Convey your appreciation through cards, events, gifts, or just a special note in your newsletter if your budget is slim. “Feel-good” gestures will have everyone heading into the new year feeling appreciated and engaged with your organization.


7 Rules for Successful Membership Strategies

7 Rules for Successful Membership Strategies
So you’ve brainstormed some exciting membership moves, but are you ready to play them? Here’s a list of things to remember when implementing your membership strategies to ensure they pan out just as you intend …

#1 – Do your research.

Don’t rely on a hunch – test your ideas on your members. Select a sample of current members – or prospects that represent your ideal member types – and conduct informal interviews with them. Once you have their feedback, there will undoubtedly be things you need to change or refine before you launch your new strategies. …

#2 – Plan and document your processes.

How will you administer your new membership structure? If you’re really serious about growing and have limited staff to help you do it, you will need to make your processes as efficient as possible. You may need to look for an affordable online membership management software to help you organize your member data and automate many of your day-to-day tasks.

You’ll also need to think about how you will communicate changes to your members and promote to non-members, what actions members need to take to sign up for new benefits or transition to other membership levels, how you will keep track of the different types of members, who will be responsible for each step of the process, how you will set up reporting to help you track the effectiveness of your strategies, and what systems and technologies you will need to manage your members.

#3 – Include your staff, volunteers, and Board.

Enlisting the help of the people “on the ground” can increase buy in. Go through the processes for each new service or initiative you’re introducing with your team, and assign someone responsibility for it. Do some mock run-throughs with your staff on the new procedures. Once you’ve confirmed your processes, document them so that everyone involved is consistently following them.

#4 – Pilot your programs.

If you’re introducing new programs, identify a sample of members or prospects to test the waters before you jump in – even if it’s just running the high-level idea past them. For example, if you’re introducing a new member portal online, have a diverse group of stakeholders test it out before you make it available to your entire organization.

#5 – Communication is key.

For any new event, initiative, program, or service offering, it is a good idea to create a communications plan that outlines the key stakeholders, messaging for each, time frame for communications, how you will deliver the communications, and overall goals. If you are making changes that impact your members in any way, always let them know well in advance, and continue to remind them as the scheduled changes approach.

#6 – Set specific, measurable goals.

Setting goals helps to create a sense of accountability for you and your staff. The basic metrics to measure will include participation in programs and events, sales and revenue from products, renewal and acquisition percentages, data from member satisfaction surveys, and your return on marketing investment. You may also have more specific metrics depending on your objectives.

#7 – Re-assess.

Make it a point to touch base with a few of your members through informal phone calls every month to get their feedback on what’s working and not working for them. Conduct another survey a year from now. It can be effective to use the same survey from the previous year so that you can make direct comparisons in the various areas. Analyze the data to see if your strategies helped you reach your overall goals, and continue to make adjustments on an ongoing basis.


Delegation: Six Steps

Delegation: Six Steps
Effective delegation is often thought of as one of the most challenging management skills to master. Yet, delegation is one of the most powerful management skills. In fact, if you are not an effective delegator, you are shortchanging yourself, your employees and your organization. Successful delegation entails delegating the right things to the right people at the right time, along with the authority and resources needed to carry out the assignment. Delegating, of course, conveys a number of benefits beyond getting the job done. It is an important part of employee development, employee motivation, self-development and succession planning.

Before exploring how to delegate more effectively, let’s take a look at why people don’t delegate. Often, those who are considered by their employees to be micromanagers simply have not perfected the art of delegating. Some people don’t delegate because they are perfectionists and others don’t want to take the time to delegate. Yes, it does take time to delegate properly, but the time invested pays dividends.

Some people think that they need to protect themselves; in part, this may be because when you delegate, although you delegate authority and responsibility, you don’t delegate liability. Some people just enjoy doing the tasks that they could be delegating. Often, it is a matter of trust; managers don’t trust the people working for them. Finally, some people are new to management and are not comfortable assigning tasks to others, especially those that were former peers.

Irrespective of the reason for not delegating effectively, we can all learn to delegate more effectively and reap the benefits that accrue to everyone involved. The first step is to identify work that can be delegated. Although there are some exceptions, I lean more toward the belief that you should delegate everything that either someone else can do or be trained / developed to do; to do otherwise is a disservice to your employees and your organization.

When identifying what you are going to delegate, try to delegate the complete job, rather than just some small tasks. By giving an employee a complete job, you can take better advantage of their creativity. Further, there is an exponential increase in employee pride and satisfaction when they can see that they took something from beginning to end.

Next, it is important that you plan ahead and provide enough time for the entire delegation process. That begins with setting clear objectives and boundaries, and ends with follow-up, completion of the task / job and feedback. The process may also require some employee development and / or training. Keep in mind, it may take an employee longer to complete a work assignment than it would you. Even considering that it may take longer for delegated work to be completed, for the reasons mentioned above, in the long run, delegation is worth it. The fact is, if you don’t delegate overall productivity declines due to your focus being taken away from critical issues that require your attention and a workforce that lacks motivation and is disengaged.


  1. Provide clear instruction: Articulate clear, observable and measurable objectives. The employee must understand exactly what outcome(s) you expect. The goal is to communicate the outcome, not how you expect them to do the job. This is a balancing act. You don’t want to micromanage; on the other hand, you want to provide them with enough input that sets them up for success. In determining how much information to give the employee beyond the objective(s), consider the employee’s experience with the specific task / job, the employee’s past performance related to taking initiative to figure things out, and their overall performance on previously delegated work. Also, communicate boundaries or constraints, if any, that the employee should abide by in carrying out the assignment.
  1. Determine resource and development requirements: Engage in a conversation with the employee to determine what additional training / development they feel they will need to complete the job. Also, find out from the employee what resources they believe they will need. As a manager, it is your responsibility to make sure the employee has the resources and training necessary to succeed. I find it best to start by asking the employee what their needs are and let the conversation flow from there; again, you don’t want to micromanage. You may also want to ask the employee how they plan to proceed with the work; this often informs what resources or development may be needed.
  1. Agree on a timeline: Once the objectives are agreed on and training /  development needs are determined, agreement should be reached on when the assignment is due. Again, I find it best to begin this conversation by asking the employee when, considering their current workload and other responsibilities, do they think it would be reasonable to have the work at hand completed in a manner that meets objectives and rises to the quality expectations? In my experience, it is helpful if you raise the issue of the employee’s other responsibilities, because it often results in the employee suggesting a more realistic deadline. In fact, I find employees are often over ambitious when estimating the timeframe needed to complete a work assignment. Often, when an employee suggests a timeframe, I respond with a suggestion that they take a minimum of 50 percent more time to complete the work. For example, if the employee states they could complete the job in two weeks, I ask them if they think 3 weeks might be more reasonable. Keep in mind, as a manager you want to create a situation that results in the employee’s success. Always factor in enough time to re-do or improve on the submitted work; let the complexity of the job and employee background / experience be your guide.
  1. Agree on follow-up plan: At the outset, you and the employee should agree on follow-up plan. Determine how often you and the employee will check-in to monitor the progress of the work. Depending on the work, you may agree to check in when the assignment it complete or you may set weekly or milestone check-ins. Regardless of whether or not “check-ins” are agreed to, it is important to let the employee know that irrespective of scheduled follow ups, you are available should the employee run into a roadblock. A word of caution, however, on check-ins: if the employee comes to you with a problem or question, make sure that you don’t end up being on the receiving end of someone delegating up. Only in a very rare situation should you permit work to be delegate back to you. Just as you delegated the responsibility to the employee to get the work done, the employee must take the responsibility and complete the task.
  1. Provide Feedback: Once the task is complete, provide the employee with feedback on the results. You may want to discuss the actual results and the process the employee engaged in in completing the work. The goal in these discussions is two fold: look for opportunities to give positive feedback and look for opportunities for you to learn something from the employee.

Finally, give credit where credit is due. Look for every opportunity to give credit to the employee for the work well done. On the other hand, if your board or members criticize the work or the job doesn’t come out like expected, it is important that you take full responsibility. Regardless of the circumstances, I firmly believe that as leaders we should always give credit to others, and take full responsibility when things go south.

Are there tasks / responsibilities that you think should never be delegated?

About the Author

Robert Nelson, a Certified Association Executive (CAE), brings over a quarter-century of successful executive leadership experience, working with Boards and high-powered CEOs in a not-for-profit setting. He is the founder of Nelson Strategic Consulting and brings hands-on experience guiding and facilitating the design of strategy development processes and think tanks. His focus on organizational strategies and strategic solutions to complex organizational and global grand challenges for national as well as international organizations.

Contact Robert through his website, or learn more about Nelson Strategic Consulting at


What Does Member Engagement Mean, Anyway?

What Does Member Engagement Mean, Anyway?

The phrase “member engagement” is big in the association world. But what does it really mean, and how do we measure it?

Member engagement runs deeper than member satisfaction. You would use the word “satisfaction” to describe a member’s attitude toward your organization. But engagement covers both attitudes and behaviors, and gives you a measure of your relationship with your members. Retention is all about building strong relationships, so it’s really important to know where you stand with your members.

Recently, the Loyalty Research Company (LRC) did research to determine the key indicators of member engagement, and found that engaged members are more likely to:

It boils down to this: a strongly engaged member equals higher non-dues revenue and strong participation. A weakly engaged member is less likely to buy “extras” and rarely participates.

You should know who your highly-engaged and moderately-engaged members are, and what aspects of your membership value proposition are most important to them. That information should drive your business strategies. You’ll want to put the most effort and resources into the initiatives that are most important to these groups because that’s how you’ll keep them, and attract new members.

So how do you determine an engaged member from a non-engaged member?

You check in with them through surveys and other forms of member research. Matt Braun from LRC says when it comes to measuring engagement in surveys, it’s not a one-question solution. You’ll want to include questions that cover:

The combination of responses to those questions will tell you whether the member is strongly engaged, moderately engaged, or weakly engaged.

If your members’ behaviors don’t seem to be matching up with the answers they provided on the survey, that’s a sign you may need to dig a little deeper to find out what’s going on. But this is a good place to start.


The Six Stages of Brainstorming

The power of brainstorming as a creative thinking technique is enhanced by engaging the six stages of brainstorming during a brainstorming session. Although brainstorming has been used since the 1930’s and many, if not most, people have engaged in informal brainstorming, few have led formal brainstorming sessions. To get maximum benefit from a brainstorming session, it is important that brainstorming session leaders understand the six stages. The stages were originally identified by J. Geoffrey Rawlinson in the book he published for the British Institute of Management in 1971.

State the Problem and Discuss

Either the leader or the person who requested the session states the problem. If optimal diversity is present in the room, there will be varying degrees of familiarity with the problem. Therefore, time (usually not more than five minutes) is given to discussing the problem. It is important that the discussion not get into too much detail about the problem, as you don’t want to get into a discussion of solutions at this point and it is helpful that some in the diverse group are not overly familiar with the problem.

Restate the Problem

After the problem has been stated and captured on a flip chart, the group is asked to restate the problem in as many ways as possible. Often, the problem can be restated in 20 to 100 different ways. In asking the group to restate the problem, ask them to step back and look at the problem as a huge elephant. Ask them to look at it from different angles and sides, to climb over it and identify as many different facets as possible. All of the restatements should be phrases that begin with “How to…” Each restatement is phrased in terms of “how to” do something. The “how to” statements must make sense in a literal way; otherwise, it is likely that a solution, rather than the problem, is being identified. If a restatement doesn’t make sense, the leader should ask the participant to restate the thought in a way that makes sense in the “how to” statement form.

Select a Basic Restatement

Selecting the problem restatement that will be used for brainstorming can be done in one of two ways: autocratic or democratic. Either the leader can pick the restatement that will be used or the group can pick it. It the group is asked to pick, the leader can ask can capture a few group suggestions (4 or 5) on a flip chart and then have the group narrow the list down to the top one (or two) by voting or another method. Once the top restatement is identified, it should be re-written in the following format: “in how many ways can we…” Reformatting the restatement transitions the group from the restatements to the identification of solutions.

Warm-up Session

A warm-up session is used to get the group to focus on the session and to get them used to “free-wheeling.” The leader’s objective during the warm-up session is to create some laughter and excitement in the room. Warm-up sessions are short but can last up to 5 minutes. They are based on the audience throwing out ideas to complete a key phrase that begins with “other ideas for…” For example, other ideas for rubber boots or other ideas for a dining room table or other ideas for a fan, etc.


Brainstorming begins with the leader reading the chosen restatement and calling for ideas. All of the ideas should be captured on flip chart pages, with each idea (ideally) numbered. It is important that the flip chart pages, as they are filled, are posted on the wall for all participants to see throughout the session. It is also important to keep the session moving, so the leader should be prepared to offer solutions/ideas. The leader should also encourage laughter and noise. Ultimately, noise is good during brainstorming; either the leader or participants should be saying something at all times. Unplanned silence can kill a brainstorming session. If the session slows down, the leader can ask for a moment of “silent incubation,” by asking participants to read a list near them to stimulate more ideas. Then, after about a minute, the leader repeats the current restatement and the flow of ideas begins again. Other methods to re-invigorate a session include taking an idea that was previously stated and asking the participants to state variants of the original idea, using a second or third restatement, or taking a break to do an additional, funny warm-up session.

Wildest Idea

The final stage of brainstorming is the wildest idea. After all ideas have dried up, the leader closes the session by asking the group to find the wildest and most foolish idea. The wildest ideas are captured on a fresh spreadsheet. Once they are captured, ask the group to come up with additional ideas based the wildest and foolish ideas. This will generate a few more ideas (often 10 to 15) and end the session on a high and fun note.

Ultimately, conducting brainstorming sessions effectively takes practice. Through practice, you will be able to move through the stages in a seamless manner. Of course, there are some other tricks to the trade, but these basic stages will get you started on running powerful brainstorming sessions.

How do you structure your brainstorming sessions?

About the Author

Robert Nelson, a Certified Association Executive (CAE), brings over a quarter-century of successful executive leadership experience, working with Boards and high-powered CEOs in a not-for-profit setting. He is the founder of Nelson Strategic Consulting and brings hands-on experience guiding and facilitating the design of strategy development processes and think tanks. His focus on organizational strategies and strategic solutions to complex organizational and global grand challenges for national as well as international organizations.

Contact Robert through his website, or learn more about Nelson Strategic Consulting at


5 Reasons Your Event Registration Numbers Are Low

5 Reasons Your Event Registration Numbers Are Low


You have the date set, your event organizing a committee on board, and your online registration site all set up. You’ve got an amazing event planned, so why aren’t people registering?

It might be that you need to give your marketing strategy a little more thought. Here are our top five reasons why you may not be filling your seats.

#1: They Don’t Know About It.

It’s too obvious, right? But when you are eyeball-deep in event logistics, it’s easy for marketing to become an afterthought. In reality, marketing should be the FIRST thing you think about when planning your event.

Start by putting together a simple event marketing strategy. Who are you trying to attract? What do they care about? How will you make the content of the event relevant and exciting to them? What are they willing to pay? What industry websites and publications do they read for their information? How and when will you communicate with them? Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll better understand how to bring value to your audience through your content and speakers.

#2: They Can’t Relate.

Prospective attendees should immediately connect with the event, and be compelled to learn more. They need to know exactly how they’ll benefit right off the bat. Fancy slogans can sometimes miss the mark. So when you’re putting together your marketing materials, always include a simple and brief description that includes who should attend, and specifically how they will benefit. This simple step can make a big difference.

#3: Your Topics and Speakers Are Old News.

People attend conferences and seminars to get new ideas. You need to give them valuable content, or they’ll move on to the next event. Find fresh ideas for topics and speakers by looking at industry websites and publications and making a list of topical themes in the most recent blog posts and articles. Check the Facebook pages of leading industry organizations to see which posts have generated the most activity.

It is good practice to pull out surveys from previous events to remind yourself of what went over well, and what didn’t. Looking back at reports from previous years will also give you an idea of which sessions were most attended, and who attended them. Even better, ask past attendees about which subjects most interest them.

If you’re struggling to generate the reports you need to make decisions, you may want to consider looking at event registration software that gives you in-depth event reports and built-in survey functionality. It’s worth the investment if it can help you make better decisions in the future.


Improve Your Employees’ Performance in 4 Steps

Improve Your Employees' Performance in 4 Steps
As managers and leaders, as Ken Blanchard stated if we want to “help people reach their full potential, catch them doing something right.” In fact, wouldn’t be great if we started each day with the conscious goal of catching our employees doing something right and giving them immediate positive feedback?

Unfortunately, even if our default position is to catch people doing things right, there will be times that an employee’s performance doesn’t meet our expectations. When this occurs, immediate feedback is also necessary. Of course, unlike positive feedback that is great to give in public, comments regarding negative performance are best given in private.

Most often, employee performance issues can be corrected informally. It is simply a matter of bringing the issue to the attention of the employee, clarifying the expected behavior and talking about what the employee can do to improve the performance. However, there are times when a more formal approach needs to be taken. In these cases, a performance improvement plan can be put into place prior to the need to take disciplinary action.

Performance Improvement Plan

The goals of a performance improvement plan are to identify the causes of the poor performance and to develop a solution(s) to help the employee succeed. Creating a performance improvement plan is a four-step process.

Meet with the Employee

First, one meets with the employee, preferably in their office, to discuss the issue and to let the employee know that a performance improvement plan is going to be developed. During this meeting, it is important that you inform the employee, in specific terms, what the problem behavior/performance is and clearly define what your expectations are for acceptable performance/behavior. This initial meeting is also an opportunity to listen to what the employee has to say about the poor performance and engage in a dialogue about what the employee thinks is the cause for the poor performance and what tools if any, the employee might need to improve the performance. The objective of the conversation is listening for cues from the employee about what appropriate action(s) might be useful in improving the performance. This dialogue will often provide information that you can reflect on as you develop a formal performance improvement plan.

Write the Performance Improvement Plan

The second step is to actually write up a performance improvement plan. The written plan should pinpoint the performance needing improvement, explain how that performance impacts the organization and clearly state what action steps need to be taken to get the performance up to standard.

When pinpointing the performance that needs improvement, it is important that specific examples are provided. For instance, if it is an issue with coming to work late, state specific dates and times that employee has arrived late. If it is an issue with deadlines not being met, list the specific assignments, the dates they were due and the actual completion dates. If it is an issue with the manner in which an employee communicates with other employees or customers, list specific examples.

Next, explain how the performance impacts the business. It is important that the employee understands how their performance impacts other employees and the business at large.

Finally, the plan should contain an action plan, with specific target dates, that pinpoints the steps to get the performance up to standard and maintained at the standard. This section should also include what the follow-up process will be for monitoring the employee’s improvement, including the frequency of follow-up meetings. If it is a performance issue that requires professional development, the should state exactly what professional development should be engaged in, be it attending certain training programs, reading certain books, registering for a particular webinar, etc. If it is a more basic issue such as arriving at work on time, the plan might require to an employee to record his / her arrival time each day on a graph and meet with you once a week to review the graph.

Review the Plan with the Employee

After the plan is written up, meet with the employee and review the entire document. It is important that you review all of the information in the plan to ensure that the employee understands what is documented therein. It is also important that the employee understands that their job could be in jeopardy if they fail to meet and maintain the expected performance standard(s).

Follow Up with the Employee

Meet with the employee at the intervals specified in the plan to provide feedback on the employee’s improvement or lack thereof. These follow-up meetings might be fairly frequent during the beginning of the performance improvement cycle with the frequency diminishing over time until the performance improvement timeframe, as defined in the plan, concludes.

At the end of the performance improvement timeframe laid out in the plan, the employee will have met the requirements of the plan in their entirety, demonstrated improvement but not fully met the requirements set forth in the plan or failed to comply with the plan. If the employee meets the requirements, it is important to give the employee positive feedback and communicate the importance of maintaining the standard going forward. If the employee should be marked improvement but didn’t fully meet the requirements set forth in the plan, you may come to the conclusion that some of the requirements were too aggressive and consider the performance improvement timeframe to be over; or, you may revise the plan to give the employee a little more time to comply. If the employee did not meet the plan requirements and made little or no progress, termination may be in order. Of course, if legal counsel has not reviewed your termination procedures, you may want to seek the advice of an employment attorney before triggering the termination process.

Click here for a Performance Improvement Plan template.

How does your performance improvement process differ from this?


The Right Questions to Ask on Your Next Membership Survey (Part 2)

The Right Questions to Ask on Your Next Membership Survey (Part 2)

In last week’s post, we looked at why membership surveys are important, and the basic demographic and personal information you need to understand who your members are. The key to retaining your members – and attracting new ones – is knowing what they need and value, how you can fill those needs, and what they think of your organization.

Once you have some data to paint a good picture, you can begin adapting your strategies so that you’re relevant and providing better value. That’s ultimately the deciding factor in whether your members stay or go.

Here we look at the kinds of questions you’ll need to ask to collect this vital data …

Annual Membership Investment – and RETURN VALUE on Investment

Knowing how much revenue you are generating through each member can help you prioritize where to devote your efforts. Some experts are now suggesting that perceived value on investment is an even stronger motivator than actual return on investment for members to join and renew. Perceived value is what people are willing to spend on a particular product or service.

Comparing what members are spending with their perceived value of the benefits can help you identify potential barriers to retention. It can also give you clues as to how your benefits could be packaged differently to provide your members with more value for money.

When you analyze perceived value in conjunction with your members’ challenges, you’ll be able to determine how well you’re delivering your value promise.

Questions to ask in your membership survey:

  • Which programs and benefits have you used during the year, and how often?
  • For each benefit you’ve used, what dollar value would you assign to it?
  • How much did you invest in our association during the year, including dues + add-ons?
  • Do you believe your membership investment last year was fair, less than fair, or more than fair for the value you received?

Challenges and Needs

Your association exists to meet your members’ needs. Staying ahead of the curve and leading the charge on new information and industry trends is an important feature of many associations. For this reason, it is crucial not to become one of those associations that offer the same exact services year after year.

Could it be possible that your services are designed to meet challenges that are no longer relevant or not as valued? Your survey can help you find out.

Questions to ask in your membership survey:

  • What are the top three challenges you are facing right now?
  • Rank our services based on what you feel is most important. (List all services)
  • Is there anything you would like to see added or enhanced about our service offerings?
  • What other member-based industry organizations do you belong to?

Perception of Your Organization

Perceived value is the fundamental driver of membership, and different members value different things. If you consider your organization to be a leader in your industry, you should find out whether your members agree.

Questions to ask in your membership survey:

  • What do you believe is the primary function of our association?
  • Compared to other organizations in the industry, what are the advantages of belonging to our organization?
  • How did you first hear about us?
  • Do you intend to renew your membership?
  • If not, what could we offer you that would make you renew?
  • What do you like the most about being a member of our organization?
  • What would you improve about or add to your membership experience?
  • Why did you initially join the organization?
  • How long have you been a member?
  • How often do you read our newsletter, visit our website, etc?
  • Rate each of our benefits/programs on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most valuable and 1 being least valuable.
  • What types of information and resources do you seek to stay on top of industry trends?
  • How likely are you to refer a friend to join?
  • Which of these words do you associate with our organization? (list several words, ie. Advocate, knowledge leader, innovator)
  • How satisfied are you with our level of service?
  • What is your preferred source for industry information? (magazines, websites, etc)