Archive for September, 2021

Five Keys to Starting a Successful DEI Program

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By emphasizing communication and making DEI a strategic priority, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy is learning how to better represent its members.

In 2017, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy decided to make a deeper investment in its DEI efforts. It hired a director of recruitment and diversity, and committed to increasing diversity within its membership and across its volunteer groups, including the board. “It was really apparent to us that our board was not reflecting our membership,” says Cindy Ziegler, AACP’s associate director of governance and executive office operations.

In the four years since then—and especially since the nationwide conversation about race that came to the fore last summer—AACP has learned a lot about what makes for a meaningful ongoing DEI effort. (Internally, AACP uses the term DEIA—for diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism.) Though it’s a work in progress, Ziegler shared five keys that have helped AACP along the way.

From a committee all the way up to the board, there should be diversity.

Build diversity into the strategic plan, and put a spotlight on it. AACP’s latest strategic plan, adopted earlier this year, makes DEI a key pillar. That was a direct result of conversations at the association’s annual leadership forum, where speakers argued that it was important to elevate DEI as its own priority. “We thought it would be great to weave [DEI] among all the priorities, but our volunteer leaders said it needs to be its own priority.”

Get outside assistance. Establishing a successful DEI effort involves sensitive conversations and close attention to interactions with staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders. For guidance, AACP became a signatory with CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, a PricewaterhouseCoopers initiative to encourage and guide corporations and nonprofits in their DEI efforts. That introduced the association to best practices and a support system. “A lot of people don’t know what to do, and there’s just so much to do when you start,” Ziegler says.

Introduce DEI efforts throughout the leadership pipeline. In 2017, AACP created a Leadership Development Pipeline Taskforce to address diversity challenges, and one of its mandates is that “each nominating committee was making a conscious effort around leadership development from the beginning—from a committee all the way up to the board, there should be diversity,” Ziegler says. And that means paying attention to a wide range of characteristics. The association’s leadership diversity declaration addresses the importance of “inviting, encouraging, slating, and appointing people who bring different viewpoints afforded by their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, physical abilities, geography, disciplinary expertise, rank, institutional classification, and many other attributes.”

Create forums for conversation. AACP is creating a dedicated internal DEI forum online, but considers it just as important to have these discussions in person. In January, it hosted the first Mississippi Inclusion Institute, a two-day event host at the University of Mississippi focused on DEI matters in pharmacy education and practice. “It’s one thing to be invited, it’s another thing to be asked to dance,” Ziegler says. “We don’t want to just invite people in and say, ‘OK, now we’ve included you.’ We’re trying to have activities where people do feel really included.”

Build on successes. This year, Ziegler says, AACP will seat its most diverse board ever. The proportion of underrepresented minorities in pharmacy education is growing. Nearly three dozen volunteers have signed on for the association’s DEIA Advisory Panel to determine next steps. And it’s been sharing its experiences with other associations working on DEI. “Organically, we’ve become a framework for other associations—many CEOs have reached out, asking about what we’re doing,” Ziegler says. “We’re certainly not the best, but we like the way ours is happening.”

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Leadership Pro Tip: Write a Vision Statement for Your Remote Team

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If your employees are struggling to see your organization’s purpose, a vision statement can help you clarify. Just don’t make it too pie-in-the-sky.

A remote workforce and a hot job market make a tough combination for employers who want their team to feel connected and engaged—and motivated to stay rather than look for greener pastures elsewhere. It’s especially tough if your employees regularly complain that your organization has no “North Star,” as the Harvard Business Review recently put it

Now is a good time to refocus on the North Star on your horizon.  

What’s the Strategy?

A vision statement, a document stating what your organization stands for and what it represents, is an important tool for guiding your team. And the team can even take part in the process of shaping it. Virtual Vocations recommends a five-step process that starts with a virtual team meeting in which everyone discusses what motivates them and their work.

The statement needs to be clear, short, and realistic. “While your team is working remotely, they need to be reminded from time to time about the business goal. Therefore, a one-sentence and concise team vision statement will remind them what they are working for,” the site’s Jessica Fender writes.

“Creating a clear and optimistic vision statement is the best thing you can do for your team,” she says.

Why Is It Effective?

The most effective statements are grounded in realism. Writing in HBR, CEO coach Sabina Nawaz warns that a statement that is too broad or is unclear about how the team can turn it into day-to-day action won’t benefit anyone. 

“Some vision and strategy statements are at a high, 50,000-foot-view level. They might sound good but leave too much to the imagination of an employee operating lower to the ground, trying to make a connection between their day job and the purported purpose of the organization,” Nawaz writes. “Make sure the message is adapted for delivery at all levels of the organization. When someone completes a project, underscore how their work ties to the big picture.”

What’s the Potential?

Fender says the vision statement represents the now, but it should be built to last.

“While it is important to keep your team focused and get quick results, you should also think about the future,” she writes. “Before sending the vision statement to the team, you should consider future goals.”

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How to Work With Destinations to Plan Safe In-Person Meetings

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Creativity and adaptability are key to help you welcome back delegates to successful events.

Travel restrictions are loosening and in-person meetings are ramping up. However, it’s still a dramatically different world for associations looking to host in-person events and conferences. Fortunately, there are steps that planners can take to do this safely—and it starts with forging strong relationships with destinations. Here’s a look at a few best practices to equip you as you welcome back delegates.

Start by researching the destinations that appeal to you as a fit for your event. Many destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) are experts on their destination’s health and safety protocols. By reaching out to them directly, you can ensure you have the most up-to-date information to make an informed decision. Many also have dedicated sections on their website with information on protocols and helpful resources. DMOs and CVBs are also experts in what makes a city unique, and can offer great advice on the best things to do and see to elevate the delegate experience.

In many amazing destinations, there are innovative initiatives in place that go above and beyond standard measures. For instance, Montréal launched a 720° Safety Protocol where a 360° sweep of the city has been completed—twice—checking everything from hotels to taxis to ensure a safe experience during the pandemic. Extra steps like these go a long way to help attendees feel comfortable.

After exploring what steps destinations have taken, take stock of procedures and protocols at a destination’s venues, hotels and restaurants. For instance, the Shaw Centre in Ottawa has developed its own safety guidance plan, including a dedicated team that monitors hygiene standards and clean common contact points. As a starting point, ask your DMO or CVB contact pointed questions: Is technology, such as touchless check-ins, embraced? Is the venue able to host events with both virtual and in-person components? Does it accommodate social distancing?

Finally, it’s wise to assess the types of outdoor spaces that are available. Many people are likely to feel more comfortable meeting outdoors — but not just anywhere. Especially successful events often take place in extraordinary venues, such as the foot of a towering mountain or in a charming coastal city. In addition to promoting wellness, settings like these are also more likely to spark big ideas and leave attendees feeling energized.

As we navigate the return of in-person business events and conferences, it’s important that associations are creative and adaptable. By working closely with local DMOs and CVBs, you can ensure your attendees feel confident in attending.

Plan a conference that people feel safe and comfortable attending—host in Canada and watch your attendance soar. The Destination Canada Business Events team can help you meet with purpose.


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Why This Association Says Print Remains a Vital Piece of Its Communication Strategy

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Gordon Dixon, Executive Vice President of VTCA, explains the value that print publications bring to its membership offerings.

In a world where updates continue to come at a breakneck pace, it is no surprise that more and more associations are dialing back on their print efforts and doubling down on digital communications. In fact, according to the Association Adviser’s 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, print media usage slowed to the lowest level since 2018. The survey of nearly 500 leaders of North American trade associations, professional societies and association management companies further reveals that for the first time in 10 years, print magazines were not among the 10 most valued communication channels for association professionals.

Does that mean print, as a means of keeping members connected and informed, is effectively dead?

No, says Gordon Dixon, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance. VTCA provides a number of printed materials to its members and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. “I still see value in printed material,” Dixon says. “For one thing, it is physically present in your face as opposed to an email or post that may very easily be missed. When you look at the number of emails you get a day, you’re only going to go through so many before screen fatigue sets in. But having that publication or document laying there on your desk—you may not get to it right away, but it’s not going anywhere.”

Dixon likens print versus digital to an in-person meeting versus a virtual one. “I don’t think anyone would disagree that in-person conferences are more memorable than those held over Zoom, and I feel the same way about print. For me, there is something about reading off the printed page that leads to more retention of information, that has a longer-lasting impact.” Plus, he says, printed materials can be a powerful marketing asset. “Whether it is a mailer or a publication, that physical content catches people’s attention and is a great tool for our member recruiting and renewal efforts.”

That’s not to say that the VTCA is 100 percent all-in on print as their only communications tool. The association puts out a staggering amount of content via nine publications, and six of those are digital. “Two-thirds of our members are people who work more in the field than in their offices—contractors, engineers, inspectors. So having information available on a device when they are traveling makes it easier to access and keep up with new information as it comes in.”

So it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition—it’s all about finding the right mix of platforms and cadence of delivery to serve the total membership’s needs, Dixon says.

“At VTCA, we’re going forward with a balanced approach and trying to understand what kind of communication pieces our members want,” he explains. “Anecdotally speaking, the more corporate types tend to want more digital these days, whereas the traditional family-run businesses seem to lean a little bit more towards printed materials.”

The VTCA leans on its partnership with association solutions company Naylor to better understand what types of content their members want, and uses that data to bring greater value to their membership and as a tool for increasing ad revenue, Dixon explains. “Knowing open rates and click-throughs on the digital pieces helps us understand what subject matter people really want to hear about, and in addition, empowers us to sell more ads in those areas or charge a higher rate because of the higher demand.”

But whether the platform for communication is print or digital, the main goal is the same in Dixon’s eyes. “We want to provide our members with information that they can’t get anywhere else. And our mix of communication tools is a crucial component to that, making sure that they get whatever support and materials they need to be successful.”

Naylor Association Solutions provides innovative association tools and services for strengthening member engagement and increasing non-dues revenue. Our offerings include member communications, management of live and online meetings and events, online career centers, Association Management Software (AMS) and Member Data Platform (MDP), full-service association management and online learning. A strategic partner to professional and trade associations in the U.S. and Canada, Naylor serves more than 1,700 associations across 80+ industries. For more information, visit


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What Makes a Membership Marketing Campaign Successful?

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Advance planning, member research, and clear goals can make all the difference in an effort to increase membership numbers. An association expert offers advice on charting a course for success in your next campaign.

So many things are out of our control right now, and recent research on association membership is not painting a pretty picture. Forty-seven percent of associations reported a decline in membership and 45 percent saw their renewal rate drop in 2021, according to Marketing General Incorporated’s latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. One way to create order and regain some footing is a marketing campaign aimed at tangible goals, like increasing member recruitment and retention.

But before launching a campaign it’s a good idea to figure out what kind of campaign is necessary, says Brianna Martin, senior marketing and events manager at Mighty Citizen. Associations often want to focus on a specific campaign, but it doesn’t always line up with what is actually needed, which is why she recommends conducting a needs assessment. “I definitely think it is something everyone should do,” she said.

Gather Member Data

Start the research with stakeholders to get more information about the industry and how the association fits into it. Then conduct member interviews to assess their perceptions, what they find valuable, and where they think value could be added.

“You can’t make assumptions about who you think your members are and what’s important to them—what keeps them up at night,” Martin said.

This process takes time and resources that associations don’t always have. But most associations conduct some type of member interviews, so Martin suggests adding those needs assessment questions to the interviews and surveys you’re already conducting. The good news is, you can use the information culled from that research for purposes beyond just a campaign strategy.

Use the information from the interviews to build out personas that represent the target audience for the campaign. If you don’t have the time or money to create personas, you can still build out an audience profile. Next, determine the crux of the campaign by figuring out goals, strategies, metrics, and more. Martin suggests using a template to keep everything in the marketing campaign straight.

Risks, Strategies, and Buy-In

Another key component is factoring in risks and opportunities. If you are trying to do something that you haven’t done before, or if you anticipate challenges, make sure stakeholders know about it ahead of time. Risks could include launching digital advertising for the first time or making changes to a newsletter, which could result in higher unsubscribe rates. The benefits could outweigh the risks, but it’s wise to be upfront with stakeholders from the start.

Then it’s time to get into strategies about how to reach the goal, keeping in mind that several strategies can be focused on the same goal.

Once you’ve developed strategies, it’s a good time to stop before going any further, Martin said, to meet with stakeholders and anyone else who needs to approve the overall campaign. Make sure you have complete buy-in. “You don’t want to start getting everything in place and scheduling without making sure everyone is on board,” she said.

The last step is to create a schedule. Tools like an Excel spreadsheet, a Word document, or project management software can help you build a calendar. “Just make sure you have one,” she said, “and then make sure it’s all in one place.”

So many associations are scrambling with reduced staff who are stretched thin and wearing several different hats. That’s why planning is key. “The success of anything is having a well-thought-out plan and strategy,” Martin said. “It just keeps you organized, and it helps you for the future.”

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How the Right Technology Kept This Association Prepared for the Unexpected

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Rachael Bell, director of content and communications at the New Jersey Society of CPAs, discusses the power of community.

The work of a certified public accountant (CPA) involves a lot of preparation. So it might not come as a surprise that the director of content and communications at the New Jersey Society of CPAs was as technologically prepared as anyone could be when the pandemic abruptly disrupted the association world in early 2020.

“About 10 years ago, we were looking for technology that would help our member committees and interest groups communicate better,” says Rachael Bell. “The technology we were using at the time had very limited functionality, so we began utilizing the Higher Logic community platform to connect these subsets of our members.”

Bell admits that the association initially underutilized the platform’s capabilities, but after the team at Higher Logic recommended opening up a communication channel for all 14,000 members in addition to the smaller groups, it completely took off. “I’ve been here 32 years and I would say it is the best thing we have ever done for our members,” she exclaims. “It was a situation where, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ They embraced it full on.”

The ability to easily and quickly ask questions and get answers from fellow members was extremely useful in those early days, and it proved to be invaluable as the pandemic emerged right before the 2020 tax filing deadline. “During the height of the pandemic, activity in our Open Forum (full-member community) increased 160 percent,” reports Bell. “To give you perspective, we had 823 total postings from March to June 2019 compared to 2,170 postings for the same period in 2020.”

And this tech has staying power. While the level of activity has dropped off from its 2020 peak, they have not dropped back down to pre-pandemic levels. “March to June 2021 had 1,370 postings, which is a 66 percent increase from the same period in 2019,” Bell says.

“All of our segments of members engage with the community forum, but it is really valuable to our sole practitioners,” Bell explains. “They don’t have an in-house network of colleagues to turn to for questions and issues that arise, and so this open forum has provided them with that network.”

As the one in charge of all content for the association—including NJCPA’s quarterly magazine, articles on its website, blog, two podcasts, and social media posts, Bell says the key to engagement is the automation tools that Higher Logic provides. It creates a daily email notification that pulls in all of the topic discussions from the prior day. Members also have an option to choose real-time email alerts about new posts.

“Members can choose whatever cadence they prefer to fit their schedules,” Bell explains. “The system also automatically reaches out to members who haven’t posted in a set amount of time to re-engage them. The emails are automated, but they look like they come from me, so I often get replies back saying, ‘Sorry I was on vacation!’ or something. It’s great because even though it is automated, you can customize the message to make it warmer and more personable.”

Bell believes the success of the community continues thanks in part to restraint from her department. “We have a policy of not using it to market our programs. If somebody asks a question and we have resources to address it, we’ll post that. And we proactively post breaking news that impacts our members. But by not flooding the community with marketing messages, members really feel that it is their group.”

The interconnection has helped everyone at the association during these difficult times, and Bell says it has been rewarding to see the community boards continue to flourish. “We get many unsolicited compliments and thank yous, members saying that they couldn’t be helping their clients if they didn’t get this information from us. And those sorts of messages are just amazing,” she says. “It’s a great payoff for me and for the staff who have been working long days to help keep our members supported and thriving.”

Higher Logic, the industry-leading, human-focused engagement platform, delivers powerful online communities and communication tools to engage members at every stage of their journey. Higher Logic provides a robust engagement platform and strategic services with over a decade of experience in building personalized and scalable community engagement programs. We serve more than 3,000 customers, representing over 350,000 online communities with greater than 200 million users in more than 42 countries worldwide.


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Content Is King When Competing for Sponsors

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The pandemic’s impact on businesses has led to higher competition for sponsorship money. Being able to offer sponsors content placement and provide performance data can help associations win coveted sponsorship dollars, experts say.

The pandemic’s lingering economic effects continue to have associations looking for nondues revenue in every spot possible. One area that organizations look to is sponsorship. While event sponsorship was always big, the pandemic has left that more nebulous. In order to stand out in today’s environment, two experts suggest looking at ways to provide sponsors a platform for their content and then showing them how much members engage with that content to stand out.

Bruce Rosenthal, a corporate partnership strategic advisor, said competition for sponsor dollars is fierce in today’s environment.

“When we look at any trade or profession, there are numerous associations in that space, so companies have numerous choices—both national and the state affiliates,” Rosenthal said. “There are so many associations competing for the same sponsorship dollars.”

Rosenthal noted that sponsors also are using social media and their own webinars to reach potential customers, meaning associations are competing with internal marketing for dollars as well. Rosenthal and Jeff Schottland, CEO of digital content solutions firm Lead Marvels, contend that associations can stand out as good sponsorship candidates by highlighting sponsor-written content and thought leadership.

“One way the association can rise above is to think more about how to offer digital content marketing and thought leadership strategies that corporate sponsors and advertisers are demanding,” Schottland said. “[Sponsors and advertisers] want to be the thought leader, and they want to receive leads. It would benefit associations to think: How can we develop these solutions to remain competitive?”

Knowledge Hub Can Share Content

Rosenthal and Schottland point to the launch of the American Public Transportation Association’s Knowledge Hub, as an example of a way a site can feature sponsored content on a variety of topics.

When it comes to allowing sponsors to include content, associations sometimes worry the content won’t be appropriate for their members or will be useless sales pitches. While that is a valid concern, Schottland and Rosenthal note that there should be multiple layers and filters to make sure content is vetted. When that’s the case, sponsored content can provide valuable insight for members that they wouldn’t otherwise get.

“There is so much going on now with COVID, with globalization, with diversity and equity issues, it is difficult for associations to provide all the content,” Rosenthal said. “A lot of what we’re talking about is not just to meet the needs of sponsor companies, but to meet the needs of members. [Associations] need more information on more topics, and [they] often don’t have the bandwidth, the staff, or the money to produce all that content.”

Schottland notes that including a content hub on an association’s website not only has an advantage for the sponsor but also for the organization. “[Members] are not going to another website to find that information they need,” he said. “They are turning to the association as the one-stop shop.”

If an organization isn’t keen on content from sponsors, Schottland said corporate partners can also sponsor research or other thought leadership produced by association staff.

“Do it in a collaborative approach,” he said. “Here is the association white paper, e-book, report, or survey results in partnership or sponsored by ABC vendor. They can position themselves, the association, as the thought leader but also generate some sponsorship dollars.”

Data Matters

In addition to allowing partners to sponsor content, it is key to provide metrics about how that content is performing. Schottland said metrics to include are time spent on site, page views, leads, and conversion rate. The conversion rate is how many people who visit the page where the content is download the content. So, if a 100 people visit the page and 50 download the content, that’s a 50 percent conversion rate.

Data helps the sponsor know if their content is connecting well with members or if they need to do something different. The overall picture of content performance is useful to the association. “They are seeing what content is resonating, what the topic of that content is, and can use that market intelligence to shape their next event or next product,” Schottland said.

Rosenthal noted these metrics are what companies typically get when they sponsor for-profit endeavors, and associations can compete better if they offer that same info. “If the association provided all the metrics as well as for-profits, I think these companies would go to the association,” Rosenthal said. “They really value the affinity with the association.”

What are some ways your organization interacts with sponsors to stand out and show value? Share in the comments.

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Membership Pro Tip: Talk to Members Like Humans, Not Widgets

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Sparking better member engagement is all about talking like real people do in everyday life. Conversations are not one-sided—they are a give and take—a concept that is often absent in member communications. Here’s how to do better.

Communicating with members like we do with people in the real world sounds easy. But something gets lost in translation when we write emails, even when we try to make them more personal by using a person’s first name in the salutation.

You can personalize emails in any system, but “it’s not personal, it’s a mail merge,” says Dave Will, cofounder and CEO of PropFuel, a conversational engagement platform. “The way you make something personal is by creating a way for somebody to interact with you.”

How Does It Work?

When you ask a question, listen to what the person says, and then take action. You won’t know what kind of action to take unless you hear what they have to say. “That’s how humans interact,” he says. “But we don’t treat our members like that.” The idea is to spark a conversation.

The way to engage members is to start with a question—not a rhetorical question—but something like: “Your membership expired 30 days ago. Are you planning to renew?” If the answer is no, find out why not. If the answer is yes, then find out why they haven’t renewed yet and give them the link to renew.

Why Is It Effective?

“You’re talking to members with a human approach to conversation and engagement, you’re not using a digital approach,” Will says. It’s replicating the way people talk to each other rather than having a more transactional correspondence. “If you make it more like what you would say to someone in everyday conversation, then you’re more likely to get a response,” he says. “Stop thinking like a broadcast system and start thinking like a human.”

What’s the Benefit?

Members are getting an individualized experience with the association. If you ask them a dozen questions over the course of a year, every member will take their own journey through their member experience based on how they answered questions about what’s important to them. Some might be focused on getting professional certification, while others might want to get a better job.

Associations will double the level of engagement because members will engage more. “They’re going to sign up for more things, renew faster, and take more action because they’re actually engaged in a conversation as opposed to deleting an email,” Will says.

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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Good Reads You Might Have Missed: Member Onboarding

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Member onboarding doesn’t look quite the same as it did a few years ago, but it’s still important to get it right. Check out a few insights from our archives.

As anyone who has ever gone on a job interview can tell you, first impressions matter—and the member onboarding process is your association’s first impression.

With that in mind, you want to think strategically to ensure that the onboarding process sets the stage for keeping members engaged and happy over the long haul. Here are a few pieces from our archives that offer advice on how to do just that:

Six Ideas for Upgrading Member Onboarding. From messaging tips to suggestions for personalization, this article gathers ideas for onboarding. One such idea? Drop the member packet in favor of drip-marketing campaigns over email.

Six Ways to Make New-Member Digital Onboarding a Success. How has the pandemic changed onboarding? Lia Zegeye, senior director of membership at the American Bus Association, hosts webinars for new members that introduce them to the association and bring a personal touch to a virtual connection. “It’s a great way for me to connect with our members,” she says.

Small-Scale Ways to Improve Member Onboarding. This piece, by Ashley Uhl, CAE, of Association Think, argues that onboarding is really a form of member retention, just at the beginning of the process. “Individuals do not typically join to be passive members,” she says. “They are ready to get involved and get the most out of their purchase, so your onboarding program should be ready to engage them immediately.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Member Onboarding. An association might understand the importance of a good onboarding program and double down on its efforts, but there’s a risk of hitting folks with too much at once, says consultant Scott Oser. “Pace your onboarding communications so that members receive information in digestible chunks,” he says. “If you don’t engage them in a way that they can handle, you risk overwhelming them, which will ultimately lead them to ignore or block your attempts to communicate.”

First-Year Renewal Issues? Tweak Your Onboarding Strategy. Based on research from GrowthZone, this piece makes the case that a poor onboarding strategy can keep members from renewing early on. “It’s extremely important that new members understand the value you bring to their lives,” says the company’s Amy Gitchell.


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Five Ways to Improve Your Virtual Body Language

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Body language can take time to perfect even in the best of settings—and virtual settings aren’t always that. With that in mind, here are five strategies for ensuring that you’re making your point on camera.

Arms crossed. A wandering gaze. A focus on your phone rather than on the person speaking. These are just some of the ways that bad body language can undermine a face-to-face conversation.

Talking to someone in a virtual setting isn’t exactly the same, but it does involve many of the same cues, according to communications coach Ann Timmons. She says many people think they’ll be more comfortable at home than they are in the boardroom—and that expectation might create a false sense of security in their presentation skills.

“There’s that real disconnect that I think throws people off because they expect to be more comfortable than they are,” Timmons says.

But as with in-person presenting, practice makes perfect. Here are some of Timmons’ suggestions for improving your body language in virtual settings:

  1. Consider the frame. When you’re presenting in person, you don’t have to think about what’s in the frame. But when presenting remotely, what falls within the frame can affect the way others interpret your body language. If you do a lot of hand gesturing, Timmons suggests being aware of how these movements look in the frame. “You need to be aware that if you’re gesturing, you want to be in the frame, so you have to practice this,” she says. She adds that hand gestures may feel most natural near the top of your chest, but this position can look unnatural on camera. Instead, she suggests positioning your gestures closer to the sides of your face. “It feels unnatural but looks really natural.”
  2. Look at the camera, not the screen. One big challenge many people have in remote meetings is that it’s impossible to maintain eye contact—webcams are positioned above the screen, so when you’re looking at someone as you would in a face-to-face conversation, your gaze appears downward to that person. Timmons suggests training yourself to look at the camera instead of someone’s face. “I tell my clients when you are speaking, look in the camera, and then wait for a response,” she says. “Look at the person. You need to do a fair amount of both of those.”
  3. Embrace verbal check-ins. Timmons says some speakers may fret that they can’t “read” their audience in a virtual setting, but she points out that we aren’t superstars at reading reactions correctly even in person.Timmons suggests that presenters check in verbally with the audience every once in a while to make sure they’re still following. “I think Zoom is making us more aware of that, for which I am very grateful,” Timmons says of the face-reading issue, adding that she hopes it transitions to in-person settings as well.
  4. Get in touch with your body. Many people may face a bit of nervousness during important calls, which can affect their body language. “Everybody feels nervous; it’s part of the human condition,” she says. “It’s perfectly normal, but there are strategies to mitigate that.” Timmons coaches people to breathe more carefully as they focus on building their confidence. Even the classic advice to breathe deeply when nervous can help.
  5. Watch out for bad habits. A lot of people (this writer included) have a tendency to speak too fast when they’re on camera, leading to an increase in filler words. Or perhaps you have a bad body-language tendency you want to break. Timmons says that being consciously aware of these habits is key to erasing them. “It’s not even like an itch you have to scratch,” she says. “You can literally say to yourself, ‘I’m not gonna say “like”!’ It takes a while to break it, but, again, practice over time.” She adds that these habits are often the result of nervous energy, so taking time to breathe and slow down can help. “Speaking is a physical activity, and so you need to train your body how to react, how to get in that position,” she says.

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