Archive for May, 2021

How to Expand Inclusivity Efforts Ahead of Your Next Meeting

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4 steps planners can take to make meaningful change.

What do you think of when you hear the word “inclusivity” with respect to meetings? Probably adding more women to a panel, designing content that represents the racial diversity of the audience and having an ADA-compliant setup.

And that’s an excellent start. But truly inclusive meetings go far beyond ticking to a few of the most frequently discussed boxes. Accommodating everyone means planning for diverse ages, religious backgrounds, dietary restrictions and abilities—among many additional audience-specific considerations.

“You want everyone to feel comfortable, safe and respected at an event,” explains Jackie Quintyne, conference manager for Waste Management Symposia, based in the Greater Phoenix area. “And unless you can be inclusive of everyone, people don’t have that feeling.”

Refocusing On The Attendee Experience

When it comes to both conference content and the on-site experience, planners must consider the perspective of every single attendee at every step of the process.

Underscoring the importance of thinking outside the box on every detail, Quintyne recounts learning that a fellow industry professional received feedback from an attendee who felt unsafe because no gender-neutral bathrooms were available.

“That’s an awful feeling to have in whatever format it comes, whether it’s not finding your bathroom or not finding food you can eat,” she says. “You want to accommodate everyone’s needs and make everyone feel valued.”

Inclusivity is crucial for conference content, too. Quintyne points to former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who spoke to her group right after being confirmed as U.S. energy secretary.

“Our female attendees, young professionals and students were able to look at her and say, ‘That could be me down the road,’” Quintyne explains. “For my older attendees, she was a person who could reflect on the industry’s evolution and inspire them for the next level up. We are always trying to find someone who can represent and connect with as many attendees as possible.”

Next Steps For Planners

Quintyne recommends multiple approaches for planners seeking to build inclusivity and get a “bigger-picture view” of what that means. First, she suggests that planners seek out published information and coursework that’s available through industry associations.

Second, planners can look for additional perspectives —from both within an organization and beyond, including peers. “Talk to your senior and junior counterparts,” she says. “Try to bring in people who represent your diverse audience. You have to get other viewpoints besides your own.”

Third, Quintyne notes that pandemic-related industry shifts have made it easier than ever to collect data from meeting constituents through surveys and other digital tools.

Finally, planners can learn from industry leaders without even picking up the phone: After all, conference websites are often public, and their approaches can inspire new ideas for inclusivity efforts. “There’s a lot of information out there,” she says. “A planner can do just a little bit of research to make their events so much better.”

To find out how Greater Phoenix can help foster inclusivity at your next meeting, visit


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Good Reads You Might Have Missed: Member Renewals

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Getting members to renew is challenging every year—but this year in particular, associations need effective strategies for member retention. These articles have smart advice from association pros.

Membership renewal is a perennial topic in the association space, but recently the conversation has felt more urgent because of the pandemic.

This time last year, for example, some associations were considering waiving dues for new members. And while those short-term policies may have ended by now, the retention challenge always remains.

Fortunately, the association world includes a lot of smart membership strategists. Read on for a few highlights from the Associations Now and ASAE archives highlighting the latest knowledge in member renewals.

How to Craft Member Renewal Messaging Amid COVID-19 Crisis. Association consultants Scott Oser and David Patt, CAE, highlight the need for a strong value message during the pandemic. “You need to maintain people’s loyalty and their trust,” Patt says. “You don’t want people to say, ‘I really don’t need this.’ You have to come up with a way to make them still want you.”

Get More Renewals With a UX Mindset. User experience research in the ‌Membership Renewal Guide produced by Marketing General Incorporated in 2019 includes recommendations for wording, payment options, and renewal cycles. “If you’re not already testing subject lines in renewal emails, start doing it now,” writes Associations Now former senior editor Tim Ebner.

First-Year Renewal Issues? Tweak Your Onboarding Strategy. A survey from GrowthZone included a disturbing stat: Just 11 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in first-year member renewals. “It’s extremely important that new members understand the value you bring to their lives,” says Amy Gitchell, senior marketing communications specialist at GrowthZone. “In the survey, associations whose members recognized their value proposition reported higher renewal rates overall.”

Three Ways to Boost Membership Renewal With Video. In a webinar earlier this year, Gather Voices CEO Michael Hoffman made the case for video as a tool for building engagement in a member community. “Engagement is about creating something new and letting members be the star of the show,” he says.

3 Questions to Ask Before Adopting Auto-Renewal. Auto-renewals are all the rage outside associations—your phone carrier and power company probably convinced you to sign onto one at some point. But for associations, the equation is more complicated, wrote Rita Santelli, MBA, then CEO of The Savvy Org. “Auto-renewal, just like any other feature of membership, must be member-focused to succeed,” she noted. “It requires understanding your members’ needs and providing ongoing staff support to meet or exceed those needs.”

Put Two-Year Renewals to Work for Your Members. Extending member renewals over a two-year period can save money for both members and associations, according to Patricia Qvern, operations manager at Quality Contact Solutions. “In my experience, after working with several associations that offer two-year membership as an option, typically, 10 percent to 30 percent of renewing members take advantage of the cost savings and convenience of a two-year membership,” she writes.


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Are Microconferences on the Rise?

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

As vaccination rates increase and people get more comfortable with the idea of attending meetings again, some associations are taking baby steps by hosting microconferences in several cities instead of having one large meeting. A look at the format and its benefits.

In 2018, we wrote about the rise of tiny conferences, as well as small-scale meetings. But microconferences are definitely having a moment again as organizations consider the best ways to safely bring people together.

For example, the Technology Association of Grantmakers announced last month that it would replace its larger, in-person annual conference—planned for November 2021—with “a series of hyper-local microconferences held in communities across the continental U.S.”

Called #TAGreconnect, the series will take place from August through early October in five or six different cities, which will be “selected based on their proximity to member organizations.” According to TAG, no more than 30 people will meet at each hosted location.

Then there’s the Flexible Learning Association of New Zealand (FLANZ). Last month, it held its 2021 conference at one principal venue—Victoria University of Wellington—and four satellite venues, which were other universities. The number of guests allowed at each venue ranged from 20 to 80 people.

“The principal venue enabled great face-to-face networking and fantastic spaces to both engage with presentations and to present from,” FLANZ said in a press release. “Satellite venues provided a vibrant space at key moments for attendees and for keynotes and presentations delivered from the satellite. Feedback on the satellite experience was very positive: it will remain a feature of future FLANZ conferences.”

What I like about these microconferences is that they allow people who may be more anxious about attending meetings post-pandemic to dip their toes in the water and build comfort around seeing people face-to-face again. On top of that, this format is likely to help attendees build deeper connections with each other, as well as other speakers, exhibitors, and partners who may also be onsite.

If your association is looking to develop microconferences, you may want to take advice from your peers who have successfully held these type of events. Back in June 2020, I spoke to the Society of Women Engineers about its popular WE Local events—which have been around since 2017—and why the microconference model might grow in popularity post-pandemic.

“More people may want to stay closer to home and limit who they are around, so a meeting like this could be more appealing,” said SWE Executive Director and CEO Karen Horting, CAE.

What other benefits do you think microconferences could offer associations and participants? Please share in the comments.

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The Document That Will Improve Every Meeting You Have

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A meeting agreement, especially for virtual meetings, not only sets the stage for stronger conversations but also makes room for voices that may not always feel comfortable speaking up.

Virtual meetings offer a different dynamic than in-person ones. It’s easy for people to talk over one another, privacy norms are altered, and the format means that distraction is a tab away.

A meeting agreement is one way to tackle the free-for-all that a virtual conversation can become. The agreement, which represents an extension of an association’s code of conduct or code of ethics, helps to encourage better conversations during virtual meetings by fostering engagement and room for people who may not feel comfortable speaking up.

The Western Arts Alliance (WAA) has taken this approach to heart with a meeting agreement that lists 10 guidelines for participants to follow during virtual gatherings. It addresses ways to engage, the need for time management, and the importance of confidentiality.

Tim Wilson, WAA’s executive director, emphasized that the agreement is meant to encourage members to see virtual meeting rooms as a place where people are respected.

“I think it’s really important that members and participants, constituents, feel that they’re in a safe place,” Wilson says. “That was our primary motivation for adopting these, so that there’s a set of protocols in place that go beyond the obvious.”

This comes to life in an agreement that does more than simply address the basics of engagement, such as avoiding harassment and bullying. It takes the next step, making room for flexibility in the ways that people communicate with one another. For example, one of the rules in the meeting agreement allows for “productive silence”—that is, if the meeting goes quiet, there is no push by staff, moderators, or volunteers to prod participation.

“We can just be present with silence,” he explains.

By Members, for Members

The agreement, Wilson says, comes at a challenging time for the performing arts. COVID-19 has shut down venues, leaving many people out of work or forcing a pivot to livestreamed performances.

He says the agreement, inspired by a similar agreement used by Dance/USA, represents an attempt to directly address industry needs.

“We have an industry that is in high levels of stress or distress, and these agreements, when we adopted them, were an important step in recognizing how much distress there was, how fragile people were in this environment,” he says.

WAA developed the agreement’s tenets through its committee system. Committee members, including people representing traditionally marginalized groups, built the rules collaboratively during the early part of the pandemic.

The agreement is intended to be flexible and can be updated or changed based on need. And Wilson says there’s room for members to make suggestions on the fly.

“When we use these meeting agreements, before we start, we say, ‘Here are the meeting agreements—is everybody comfortable with them? And does anybody want to add anything?’” he says, which gives participants the opportunity to adapt the agreement to that meeting’s needs.

How to Bring a Meeting Agreement to Your Association

Wilson says that associations looking to implement a similar approach should focus on the needs of their members. In fact, members might bring up the concept themselves, so staff should be prepared to accommodate such a request.

“It’s the kind of thing where you have to be prepared for the moment when it comes,” he says. “It’s an idea that started with members—they brought it, other members say, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea.’ And the staff has to be willing to really listen and give it a try.”

Wilson says awkwardness may emerge when first using this approach, as “productive silence” and other tenets may not immediately feel natural. And there is always the risk that your members may be “pooh-poohing and not really accepting” the strategy, he says.

But understanding where your community is can help. WAA had put in years of work on equity issues long before the pandemic, and it instituted the agreement at a time when there was a clear need for something like it for its member base. As a result, the arrangement found a warm reception.

“I think when you can create spaces where there is real trust, where people can make themselves vulnerable, that it can be a powerful way of engaging our members and of making change,” he says.


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