Four Ways to Meaningfully Measure Your DEI Efforts

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

Make sure your initiatives to build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace are generating real change by measuring more than just demographics. A comprehensive look at inclusion, retention, and employee advancement will offer a better yardstick for DEI success.

Your association has probably been focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in recent years—but has your work produced real, positive change on your staff team? Success can be difficult to measure, but one thing is certain: Your organization needs to go beyond filling quotas.

“There is definitely room for improvement, especially in the association world,” says Heba Mahmoud, senior manager of diversity initiatives at the Consumer Technology Association. “What I see is associations looking at the demographics of who they’re hiring and just leaving it at that.”

Use these strategies to perform a deeper analysis of your organization’s workforce DEI initiatives.

Define Goals Using Benchmarking Data

Your association may have hit what your leaders consider an ideal level of representation across the organization, but is it enough? Get a sense for where you stand in your recruitment efforts by looking at demographics benchmarks across your industry and beyond. Organizations such as Culture Amp create reports [PDF] on diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality that offer insights into representation in the workforce, based on data from more than 100 organizations.

Mahmoud says some organizations try to have their staff demographic composition mirror the composition of their community, the customers they serve, or their country. For added context, look at your own organization’s year-over-year data to see if you’re making consistent progress.

Measure Outcomes, Not Just Output

Hiring diverse candidates is only the first step. Go further by measuring how well these employees are succeeding in your organization and determining whether they have a clear path of advancement.

“We need to start moving past that first stage of recruitment,” Mahmoud says. “Ensure that you’re creating spaces that allow for the journey to continue.”

You can do that by measuring representation at all levels of your organization. What percentage of leadership positions are filled by people in underrepresented groups? Has that percentage increased year over year? Are employees moving up through your organization? If minority groups are underrepresented at the leadership level, your organization may have barriers to career development that need to be removed.

Focus on Retention

You’ve hired diverse workers, but will they stick around? A revolving door of talent doesn’t serve your organization or your employees—in fact, high turnover could have several negative effects. Go beyond recruitment by measuring your employee retention rate. The average employee retention rate in the United States in 2019 was 90 percent; meanwhile, Black employees are 30 percent more likely [PDF] to say they have an eye on the exit than white employees are.

If minority employees are leaving more often than other groups, it could be a sign that your DEI efforts aren’t working beyond the hiring stage.

Use Surveys to Measure Inclusion

A diverse organization is not necessarily an inclusive one. Your DEI efforts need to ensure that all employees feel a sense of belonging and all voices are heard and respected. Inclusion is about making sure your employees’ experiences in your organization are not negatively affected because of their identities.

“One of the key ways that I think we can measure inclusion is engagement surveys,” Mahmoud says. “Ask people how they feel about their inclusion within your organization.”

In your survey, don’t just ask “How do you feel?” Ask specific questions, Mahmoud advises. For example:

  • “Do you feel like you have a safe space to speak up in meetings, to your boss, and to your colleagues?”
  • “Do you feel like you’re able, as a [demographic] person, to provide input to our organization?”
  • “Do you feel like there is a work-life balance here?”

When you analyze your survey responses, you’ll see where your DEI efforts need improvement. For example, if a number of employees express concerns about approaching higher-ups, you can create a leadership inclusiveness training initiative. And if your retention rate is low, these answers could help explain why.

The post Four Ways to Meaningfully Measure Your DEI Efforts appeared first on Associations Now.

A Member Exit Survey That Tells You What You Need to Know

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

Want to know why members left? Ask them. Effective exit surveys can give you insight into what your association can do to better retain current and future members. Here are a few best practices.

What’s worse than a member leaving your association? Not knowing why. With an exit survey, organizations can turn their lapsed members into valuable sources of information on what they can do better.

But not all organizations take advantage of this opportunity. Jayne Tegge, member engagement manager for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), says she has received only one exit survey from companies she has worked for. “And I’ve worked at a lot of places,” Tegge says.

For smaller organizations with limited staff, it’s probably just not a priority, she says. But if you make it one, you can gain insights on the state of your organization. Use these tips to build an exit survey that will tell you what you need to know.

Keep It Short and Simple

Members who are on their way out probably won’t want to sit through a hundred questions. Promote participation by asking about a dozen questions that cover the basics. Questions should include:

  • Why are you discontinuing your membership?
  • What did you like best about your member experience? What did you like least?
  • How can our organization improve the membership experience?
  • What could we have done to keep you as a member?
  • Do you plan to rejoin in the future?

The key is to understand exactly why they’re leaving and what they think you can do better.

Avoid Leading Questions

You won’t have a clear road map for improvement without truthful responses. Make sure that questions are worded simply and without bias and that they don’t suggest an answer. For example, don’t ask, “Do you think our low-cost membership dues are fair?” Instead ask, “What do you think about our membership dues?”

If you create multiple-choice questions, make sure the list of answers covers the entire spectrum of possible reactions, from very positive to very negative, instead of putting a positive spin on each potential response. Make sure to add an “other” option as well to offer more flexibility.

Allow Anonymity

Another way to ensure honest responses is to keep participants anonymous; SIOP follows this strategy, Tegge says. Don’t ask for any identifying information, and make sure you’re not requesting details that are too specific, such as the exact date the respondent joined.

On the technical side, services such as SurveyMonkey let you decide whether to track and store identifiable respondent information.

Leave Room for Written Responses

Use some open-ended questions—including a final question such as “Is there anything more you would like to add?”—to allow respondents to expand on their thoughts.

“That’s why we have open-ended questions, so they can tell us exactly what they want to tell us,” Tegge says. “That is where the content we want is located, because that is an individual’s personal experience.”

Give Lapsed Members a Breather

Wait a few months after members lapse to send your survey so they have a chance to spend time away from your organization and reflect on their experiences. Plus, you don’t want to contact lapsed members too frequently, or they might tune you out.

At SIOP, members receive an exit survey 12 months after their membership ends. Three weeks after that, the organization sends a reminder to complete it, and lapsed SIOP members have a month to submit their answers. This generous window of time increases the number of responses—and the more you get, the more data you have to work with.

“Some think, ‘I’m going to do that, but I don’t have time today.’ So they might do it in five days. Then we have all the stragglers who totally forget about the survey,” Tegge says. “So when we send the reminder at the three-week mark, we get a whole other blast of people.”

The post A Member Exit Survey That Tells You What You Need to Know appeared first on Associations Now.

Normal is Over(rated) – For Now

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

This is a guest post by Joy S. Davis, CAE, based on an email she sent to me after reading Lisa Block’s recent post, “I Am Sorry, But We Are Not All Fine.” Joy is Managing Director, Member Products, for the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

Not too long ago, I gently asked my Executive Director to stop opening her weekly columns to members with a depressing reminder of COVID-19 and how weird things are right now. She’s a very upbeat, can-do kind of person, and her columns are always forward-looking and sunny, except for her first paragraphs these past few months. Week after week, I’d been editing out those first sentences.

I’m on the verge of saying something similar to a few of the volunteer leaders in my organization. In every video call at some point they give everyone a sad look and offer some variation of, “I wish we could be together.”

I have also banned the phrase “return to normal,” because right now is normal. Change is normal. Perhaps our current rate of acceleration is not – but change itself is normal. Today it’s normal that I don’t eat in restaurants or fly, and at some point it will be normal that I do those things again.

We association people are talking like “normal” is a perfect, balanced state to which we will inevitably return. It’s what we know and it’s comfortingly familiar, so we have begun to fetishize it. We fantasize about crowded exhibit halls, packed hotels, and chummy, in-person board meetings.

I get a million emails a day with some variation of “Here’s when I think we can hold big meetings again.” I delete them all. Reading them would be a waste of my time. I need to operate now and look forward, not try to claw may way back to “normal.” The “normal” we know is history. And I have to ask, do we really want to repeat it? We should not, even if we think we can.

Good Business Strategy Looks Forward

Going backward has never, ever been a good business strategy. Why are we all sitting around talking about how much we want to go backward, as if that’s an option?

I am increasingly disturbed by association leaders who, nine months into this pandemic, are talking about “a return to normal” as if it was just around the corner – as if this were just a bizarre interruption in our regularly scheduled programming. This is despite all the evidence in the world that:

1) We won’t have a widely distributed vaccine as a preventive solution until mid-2021 at the earliest

2) This solution may not be widely accepted or long-lasting

3) We’re not going back to normal, because normal is how we got here

You cannot find your way forward if you are constantly looking backward. Or waiting for things to go back to normal. Or trying to recreate your favorite memory, which some of us appear to have labeled “normal,” bedazzled for extra zing, and placed in a jar so that we can stare at it longingly.

The stress of clinging to a past normal will break you. It’s breaking people right now. At the very least it will limit or paralyze you. Inflexibility in the face of things so far beyond your control – of changes so far afield from the security of your trends, and your past performance, and your conventional wisdom, and your beliefs about what kind of people your neighbors are — will lead to your total mental shut-down.

An obsession with what the world once looked like and getting back to that will also keep you from seeing what it could look like, and what you can do about that right now. It will damage your ability to assess risk because it limits your scenario planning. It will also limit your ability to imagine things differently — the root cause of organizational failure cited by a thousand motivational speakers during “normal” times. “We’ll get a vaccine and then everyone will get back on planes and it will be business as usual” is a dangerous line of thinking for people who are responsible for large organizations that depend on meetings. What if that’s not what happens?

I’m not sure my association will hold a big, in-person meeting in 2021. A few of the largest partners in my space are beginning to whisper to us they won’t have people on the road again until 2022, and I believe them. My association may be doing all-virtual meetings for another year. Or more. Or something else altogether.

So, we’re placing our bets, just like we always do. We are making educated guesses, based on the cards we can see, about what will come up next in the 2020 deck.

Placing Bets About the Future

I think what we have missed most is the relative, data-driven certainty of past guesses in a world that we understood so much better, and that we knew how to measure. I think that in these exhausting days, drenched in uncertainty and drowning in self-doubt, we’re longing for how much simpler it was when we had the comfort of easy foresight and the ease of having done everything before. All our tools – our spreadsheets of past registration numbers; our well-tested, reliable membership renewal mailings; our annual crowding of the exhibit hall without a care in the world – were easier than now is.

But now is what we can affect. And we have always placed bets. We just called it forecasting.

Mourning our dead dreams of what might have been and wrapping them in the shroud of “normal” is not going to get us anywhere. They were just dreams, you know. You have no idea what really would have happened in 2020 if there hadn’t been a pandemic. My organization was supposed to hold a 5,000-person meeting in Louisiana in late October. Seen any weather reports from the Gulf lately?

We need to stop talking about a return to normal and start thinking our way forward. And we can’t do that if we keep starting every conversation with some reference to “normal” and how much we miss it.

In this, the year of the Murder Hornets, my team put on a great meeting. We brought the pharmaceutical scientists together to discuss how to vaccinate billions of people and develop antiviral treatments, among other Very Important Stuff. We are taking advantage of opportunities and gambling on the cards we can see to keep supporting our scientists, and the advancement of their science.

We never lost sight of the fact that our mission is not to have an in-person meeting – it is to bring scientists together. That’s our actual job, and we’re doing it. I’m proud of my team, which did not lose sight of that while baking bread, protesting social injustice, and teaching the new math at their dining room tables. We are doing something important for the scientific community. That’s what we can control, and we’re taking full advantage of it.

The Rise of Apology Meetings

When we began planning this meeting, we looked at what other organizations were doing and saying – and I quickly became frustrated by what I have come to think of as the rise of the 2020 Apology Meetings. The underlying message of these meetings is that “in these unprecedented times,” (another phrase I have banned) “this is the best we can do. Please register out of a sense of duty.”

As leaders we are complicit in diminishing our purpose, vision, and accomplishments when we think this way. Worse: we let it drip into our marketing and our board meetings, and from there into our members. We are telling our people that no matter what they do, it will never be as good as what we did before, and we cannot wait to get back to doing things that way, without even trying what we could be doing now.

Normal wasn’t great. It (almost) never is, at least in real-time. It’s always better in hindsight. That’s where our emotion-driven perceptions hinder us right now.

You shouldn’t go back to doing things the way you did them before. If you do that, then you didn’t learn anything. That’s dangerous, because right now your partners are learning how much data they can get from online engagements, and your members are learning how to network online with intentionality. The market you operate in is undergoing profound, likely permanent shifts in labor and capital. If you are not following and analyzing those trends – these new flows in the 2020 card deck – you’re not doing your job as the leader of an organization.

Help Your Members Where They Are Today

Now is a chance to remember and refocus on why your organization exists. It’s also a chance to give your people an opportunity to try things.

But no one can do that if you start every conversation with, “I’m so sorry we can’t be together.” At least give that up. Start with something different. “I’m glad to see you!” is about now, and not what might have been. So is: “Who do you think will go back to work first, and last, in our membership? How do we help them right now?”

Lead with your value. You are so much more than people who know how to organize a gala fundraiser. Your value was never in the beauty of your exhibit hall layout or your ability to negotiate a good hotel rate.

Get a little excited about what you can do right now. Start every conversation from a place that encourages creativity and problem-solving. Ask your members to renew because you’re doing stuff that helps them where they are today.

I’m proud of all our association brethren, who are figuring it out and doing the mission and hustling. Who they are and what they can do is way more important than what I thought was true, or what was definitely easier, a year ago. I’m not going to talk about then – I’m going to talk about now.

Now is always happening, and the future is the only thing you can change. Stop talking about normal and getting back to it. Start talking about where you’re going and what you’re doing, even though it’s harder, and the numbers are less impressive than before, and we’re not sure when we’re going to reopen the office. Give up on the “return to normal” and be what you can be today and be incredibly proud of that. Understand and create what a good normal is for you and your organization right now.

It’s all going to change again anyway, you know. It always does. That will always be normal.

How is your organization seizing opportunity in this time of change?

The post Normal is Over(rated) – For Now appeared first on Velvet Chainsaw.

How Can I Expand My Virtual and Hybrid Meeting Expertise?

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

These four tips can help hone strategy and maximize the attendee experience.

Q: Having produced many live events with small hybrid components attached, I am somewhat familiar with the required technology and strategy. But before the pandemic, I never worked on a major hybrid or all-virtual event program. Now that it’s essential, I know I need to develop my skills. What are some top tips for virtual and hybrid meetings?

A: Rob Kall, owner of Tailored Virtual, a Cleveland, Ohio-based production firm focused on virtual and hybrid experiences.

It wasn’t so long ago that a meeting’s live component was often its main event. Even thoughtfully produced virtual or hybrid elements might have been structured as supplements to the program, rather than a core component. Historically, we’ve described them as an afterthought.

But as we now know, virtual is the new live. And while the pivot may have been a requirement of pandemic circumstances, it’s also an opportunity for leveling up. In many ways, it’s a really exciting world we’re heading into. The possibilities are so much greater.

To capitalize on the new opportunities, here are four tips for perfecting events in virtual and hybrid formats.

1. Plan for the long haul.

When the pandemic first changed the landscape in the spring, the prevailing mentality centered on putting a temporary hold on events and adding some virtual components while waiting for a return to normal in the fall. We now know that’s not how it happened.

So people are realizing that these formats are here to stay. There’s a lot more activity in terms of long-term strategy planning—for instance, planning for events that start virtual and then migrate eventually into a hybrid experience. So take a big-picture approach to your strategic planning; focus on a long-term time horizon because the pandemic isn’t slowing down just yet.

2. Look at the program through the attendees’ lens.

With the new sense of permanence around this approach comes a higher bar for a more seamless, high-quality, and content-rich experience. You could get away with a lot more in March, when attendees forgave all kinds of technical glitches. Now it’s a lot of different pieces that have to come together effectively to create engaging experiences.

To deliver on that expectation, put yourself in the eyes of the attendee. Is your attendee virtual? Hybrid? What’s it going to look like through both of those lenses?

That means focusing on not just the event’s technical execution, but also the guest experience before and after it. For instance, think about creating social media communities around experiences, with various platforms offering exclusive access to content.

Behind the scenes is a huge new world now: Think about teasers leading up to the experience or during the event itself. For instance, someone might walk off the stage from a keynote, and the virtual audience has access to a behind-the-scenes conversation they wouldn’t have seen before.

With virtual events, there’s often an opportunity to add entertainment to the mix to enliven the guest experience. For example, in between sessions for events here in Cleveland, we can have a DJ spinning vinyl albums from Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. It’s these small details that really help add excitement and variety to the experience.

3. Emphasize interaction and engagement.

It’s critical to create a connection between the audience and the content that’s being produced. Successful planners will prioritize opportunities for interaction and engagement among virtual events. And while equally important, those two successful meeting essentials aren’t exactly the same things—and that distinction is important.

The first component is interaction, which is the live back-and-forth experience. This refers to giving attendees a chance to be an active part of the conversation through, for example, breakout sessions.

The second component, engagement, means getting attendees involved during presentations. This needs to be a heavy part of the experience, such as through Q&A, live polling, word clouds, and a lot of the other tools we’re seeing right now. It’s important for the presenter to understand what engagement tools they have access to and then to understand how to best utilize those during their presentation.

These tools allow presenters to adapt the content in real time based on attendee response—like a DJ reading the dance floor and responding with music in the tempo that’s hitting with the crowd.

Think about the perspective of somebody just having a PowerPoint pushed to them for 45 minutes. That’s a ho-hum approach without engagement. On the contrary, when you have a live poll pop up, not only do attendees get to see the results but the presenter is adapting their presentation based on the feedback they’re seeing.

4. Work with the destination.

Even for events that have gone hybrid or almost entirely virtual, the host city is still significant. A lot of times, there is history there—maybe the meeting has been there every year, for instance. For a lot of attendees, there is some disappointment they weren’t going to have that experience, so it’s a huge opportunity for destinations to connect the audience with the city. It’s an opportunity to build excitement for future live shows in town.

Through our partnership with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, we use various lively approaches to connect attendees with our destination here in Cleveland: a game show concept through which we integrate the institution’s content into the meeting; the Hall might talk about artifacts and do some storytelling; or its CEO might present in a morning keynote.

It really gives people a sense of being here. The destination is an amazing resource for planners. We’re all in this together, and we can help each other create amazing experiences, whether it’s fully virtual, hybrid, or eventually, back in person.

This Q&A column is brought to you by Destination Cleveland. Keep an eye out for more meeting planning tips as you continue to navigate the new environment. And to learn more about Cleveland, visit

The post How Can I Expand My Virtual and Hybrid Meeting Expertise? appeared first on Associations Now.

Four Steps to Improve Gender Equity in Remote Meetings

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

Recent research shows that workplace meetings held remotely often blunt women’s voices. Communication expert Carol Vernon says that ground rules and good planning can ensure everyone has a chance to contribute.

In the roughly eight months since the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to socially distance, the dynamic of office meetings has changed significantly—and that shift threatens to leave women out of the conversation.

A recent study by the research firm Catalyst found that women often lose out in remote conversations, with 45 percent of female business leaders saying that it’s difficult for women to speak up during virtual meetings. Nearly the same number of men (42 percent) agreed.

Carol Vernon, a certified executive coach and founder and principal of Communication Matters, says that creating more equitable meeting environments may require some tactical changes for meeting organizers and attendees.

Women “have to be comfortable in this space, speaking up, voicing our opinion—not just comfortable with the technology; that was Zoom 101,” she says. “We’re in a whole different video world now.”

Vernon offered tips that can help meeting planners and female attendees set the stage for a better conversation that makes room for everyone.

Create Ground Rules

Too often, Vernon says, hard-charging coworkers interrupt or leave little room for other speakers to get a word in edgewise. Ground rules can play an important role here.

“It will be hard to hold people accountable if we did not set something that we are accountable to,” she says.

In larger meetings, this can be handled using technology tools—say, by putting someone in charge of muting and unmuting speakers or by using the chat function as a way to raise hands.

These rules for meetings can be set across an organization. Vernon cites the American Forest and Paper Association, which created standards for video-based member interactions, including when employees can leave their cameras and microphones off during a discussion.

Plan Ahead

The differences between video and in-person interactions can leave some communication styles at a disadvantage. While some body language may be visible on a video call, for example, it’s limited.

For participants who may have a harder time being heard, it helps to plan ahead and consider what you can add to the conversation and when you intend to speak up.

“Do more than read the agenda five minutes ahead of time,” she says. “Look at it, think about, ‘I need to be on that agenda. I’ve got something I want to share.’” She adds that it’s important to consider the setting, the technology, and who else might be on the call.

“Show up early. Make sure there’s no tech issues,” she suggests.

Speak Up Early and Often

Some women hold off on talking until they’re sure they have something smart to say—but waiting to jump in might create missed opportunities. Vernon suggests speaking up within the first five minutes and engaging through body motions such as head nods and leaning forward during the conversation.

“Get into the moment, build on other people’s points, ask questions, shake your head, really let somebody know ‘I hear you,’” she says.

If you find yourself being interrupted or talked over, calmly but firmly remind others of the ground rules. Vernon suggests language like, “Hey, I’d like to make sure I’m speaking next, and I’ve got a few ideas for how to do this.”

Support Others

Many of these issues are rooted in bias, and sometimes the best way to handle bias is to subvert it. Vernon points to a tactic used by female White House staffers during the Obama administration. As noted by The Washington Post, women in meetings would often repeat key points raised by other female staffers while crediting the originator of the idea, reinforcing the value women brought and eventually leading to stronger gender equity in the White House.

“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” a White House official told the Post in 2016. Meeting moderators can borrow the technique by summarizing what female participants have said and crediting them.

“It’s an easier way, it’s a more comfortable way for some of us as women,” Vernon says. “We tend to be more collaborative.”

The post Four Steps to Improve Gender Equity in Remote Meetings appeared first on Associations Now.

Five Ways to Have Fun With Remote Colleagues That Aren’t Just Another Happy Hour

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

As months of remote work go by, organizations are ready to find new ways to engage employees. Consider these activities to help virtual team members connect with one another.

Back in March, organizations had to think of clever ways to connect coworkers as they transitioned to working from home. Thus, the virtual happy hour was born. But for some, the novelty of this activity has vanished after months of remote work.

Yet social activities are still important in combating feelings of isolation among those working from home. Consider these five fun approaches as you plan future virtual team-building experiences.

Three Minutes of Nerd

Put a twist on show-and-tell: Have everyone come prepared to talk for three minutes about something they “nerd out” about. Star Wars, baking, computer programming, craft beer—anything goes! (Props welcomed.) Understanding interests is an important part of building relationships, so employees are likely to make connections as they discuss things they’re passionate about.

Taste Test

Send participants a “taste test” kit with three different brands or varieties of a snack—such as a chocolate bar or potato chips—to taste together and take notes. This offers a new dimension, adding a physical component to a virtual setting.

Another taste-testing activity is to compare name brands to generic alternatives to see if the popular brands live up to their reputations.

Worth a Thousand Words

Get your team’s creative juices flowing with drawing activities. Try a blind drawing exercise, where one person describes an image taken from a random image generator while other team members attempt to draw the image. The catch: The speakers can’t say what the image is, so they are forced to use descriptions, like “wavy lines in background” to describe a mountainous landscape. If you want to turn it into a competition, do it Pictionary-style and ask participants to draw pictures while separate teams guess what the picture is—whichever team makes more correct guesses wins.

Play these games often enough and your workforce might become more productive—studies show that drawing can sharpen memory, improve concentration, and relieve stress.

Virtual Escape Room

The popular in-person experience has gone virtual, allowing teams to cooperatively solve puzzles from home. There are a host of virtual escape rooms to choose from: You can figure out how to jump off a runaway train in the nick of time, or see if you can evacuate from a damaged space station with no gravity and no power. Whatever the adventure, virtual teams will bond over conquering these challenges together.

PowerPoint Karaoke

Put your coworkers’ presentation skills to the test with PowerPoint karaoke. Participants deliver an on-the-spot presentation based on slides they’ve never seen before—and hilarity often ensues. Hold a video meeting with your usual happy-hour group, and select a new person each time to be the presenter.

Silliness aside, this activity can also help employees to build their presenting skills by learning to improvise in front of an audience.

The post Five Ways to Have Fun With Remote Colleagues That Aren’t Just Another Happy Hour appeared first on Associations Now.

Short, Low-Cost Videos Show Members Benefits—and Value

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

Sometimes if you can see how to do something, it makes it much easier. The American Concrete Institute wanted to make sure its members understood their benefits and how to access them. Short, inexpensive, how-to videos were the answer.

Everyone has become a lot more proficient in the virtual world—whether they wanted to or not. Realizing that, the American Concrete Institute’s marketing team, in concert with its membership team, saw a way to connect new, prospective, and longtime members with ACI benefits using short, one- to two-minute whiteboard videos.

“As membership and marketing professionals, we think the longer the list of benefits the better,” said Kevin Mlutkowski, director of marketing at ACI. But the reality for members is that knowing what those benefits are and how to take advantage of them is not always as straightforward as it should be.

The ACI team wanted to make it as simple as possible. Their solution: They would walk members through what is sometimes a multistep process with short videos people can watch at their own pace. The whiteboard videos take members through the benefit options and show them how to navigate different sections of ACI’s website where benefits can be accessed.

“Our goal is to have members understand what’s available to them,” Mlutkowski said.

They also knew they wanted to do a better job with member onboarding, and so they built an automated email campaign of eight different messages and sent them to new members throughout the first 35 days of their membership. Many of those email messages had the whiteboard videos embedded in them to make it as easy as possible for new members to learn about ACI.

Important to the process was breaking out the estimated costs for different types of videos made it easier for them to budget effectively. The videos ACI produces range from commercial-quality promotional ones, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, to the short whiteboard videos, which start at around $1,000.

The construction industry is an essential business, Mlutkowski said, even in a pandemic, and members are reporting they are busier now than they have ever been. “There’s a huge demand for our content and resources,” he said, which ACI expects to continue into next year. So, in January, ACI will roll out new member benefits: All members will have access to all ACI webinars, plus all recorded and on-demand courses, at no cost. Members will also be able to access all technical digital research published through ACI’s symposiums for free.

The team is now finalizing a new whiteboard video that will walk members through those three new benefits and how they fit into existing programs, Mlutkowski said.

“We’re really providing members with the knowledge they need to succeed,” he said. “And the videos make it easier to communicate that value to members.”

What strategies are you using to help members make the most of their benefits? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

The post Short, Low-Cost Videos Show Members Benefits—and Value appeared first on Associations Now.

Leading During a Pandemic: Setting Strategy, Virtually

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

With virtual meetings as the current norm, many associations are Zooming strategic discussions. Here’s how to make that process effective.

The past few months have given many of us a crash course in teleconferencing. We’ve set up Zoom meetings, watched our colleagues’ cats and children stray across our feeds, and most likely discovered that short virtual meetings can be effective for small groups in your office.

But what about more complicated, days-long strategic conversations with a far-flung board? As social distancing guidelines remain in place and health risks associated with travel remain elevated, many associations are conducting their board meetings virtually. And getting that right requires more of organizations than making sure everybody has a Zoom link.

You have to be paying attention to who has spoken, who is engaged, and who hasn’t spoken.

Earlier this year, association leadership consultant Lowell Aplebaum, CAE, helped coordinate a day-and-a-half leadership retreat for the board of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). The rapidly changing situation around the coronavirus meant that some were able to travel to Chicago for the meeting, while some were stuck at home. It was, accidentally, a hybrid board event. Aplebaum shared a few of his insights about the experience on LinkedIn, and I wanted to hear more about what worked during the event and what challenges strategy sessions still face.

The bottom line is that the system can work: “I’m not sure there’ll be a run to embrace all virtual all the time, but I think there’ll be more latitude toward hybrid approaches,” he says. “We’ve gained experience enough in this way of functioning digitally that we can blend in-person with virtual in meaningful ways.”

Aplebaum offers a few tips for how to make the most of a virtual or hybrid board meeting:

The conversation leader needs to be free to lead. Whether it’s the board chair or the CEO directing the conversation, that person should not be expected to be the ad hoc IT staffer in addition to moderating conversations. Assign a person to handle the technical issues. “In a digital environment it’s nearly impossible to be both a facilitator and contributor,” he says. “You need a back-end person to take care of logistics and knowledge capture.”

Recognize that virtual conversations aren’t introvert-friendly. A board member who is cautious about engaging during in-person meetings may feel all the more so in a virtual environment. A mass of little video boxes can be intimidating, and as Aplebaum points out, the virtual environment repels quiet—people will talk to fill the space. So be intentional about gathering input. “You have to be paying attention to who has spoken, who is engaged, who hasn’t spoken,” he says. “It’s harder for there to be moments to pause and process. A facilitator has to be really intentional about inviting voices you haven’t heard.”

Kill oral subcommittee report-outs. Kill them dead. Extended chatter from committee chairs about finance, events, membership, and so on can be boring on a good day. In a virtual environment those reports can feel like sitting through the most tedious, slow-moving art film you can imagine. “Do you really want every group reporting out for five minutes? That’s an hour of just sitting and passively listening except for your five minutes from your group,” Aplebaum says. “Take advantage of a digital platform to have the groups report out through digital means. During a break, have the facilitator go through it and then come back to the group with overarching themes that emerged from all the groups.”

Icebreakers and opportunities to connect still matter. Overall, Aplebaum says, the CSI retreat was a success: “We heard that every person felt that they were engaged and invited and there was space for their voice.” But the experience showed that even the best-planned virtual meeting will leave some people craving opportunities for social connection. Setting up a virtual “happy hour” where people can connect over meals can help. So can group activities that encourage people to share something personal. After all, these days people have their personal lives near at hand.

“One thing that I would do next time is have everyone find their beverage and then pick one picture on their computer or phone that shows me something about your life,” he says. “Or a physical object in your home. Something that tells the story of who you are, that lends itself to personal narrative. That can build cohesion in the group.”

Whether it’s leading virtual meetings, managing staff, or coordinating with stakeholders, I want to hear how you’re putting your leadership skills to use during COVID-19. If you have a story to share, please drop me a line at

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from the original version published on March 29, 2020.

The post Leading During a Pandemic: Setting Strategy, Virtually appeared first on Associations Now.

Five Ways to Help Members Maintain Certifications in 2021

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

The pandemic has created challenges for professionals who wish to maintain their association certifications. What members need will vary across professions, but these five tips can help you assess how to help them.

Of the many things shaken up by the pandemic this year, a specific pain point is emerging for association members: professional credentials.

With in-person meetings on hold and job situations altered, certification renewal is more difficult now. But for associations that want to help members maintain their certifications, “there’s really not going to be one kind of blanket solution,” says consultant Mickie Rops, CAE.

She points out two examples: healthcare employees, who currently have jobs but little time because of the extra work they’re doing to fight this disease, and those who have lost their jobs and have the time to work on certifications but may not be able to financially invest in continuing education.

“I think that the biggest thing would be to find out what the members’ struggles are,” Rops says. “They may be obvious, but for some, I don’t know if they’re obvious.”

She offers a few considerations for associations as they move into 2021:

Explore whether you can change the rules for renewal. Right now, circumstances may cause members to miss renewal deadlines that they otherwise would have hit—particularly if their pandemic workload is unusually heavy, as in the medical and education fields. In such cases, it may be worth considering whether to extend renewal timelines. But Rops urges caution: “If you’re accredited and you have established policies and you’re held to those, you’ve got to be more careful about just changing things,” she says.

Offer a hiatus or grants to those with financial hardships. Rops suggests offering out-of-work members an inactive status for their certifications; once they return to work, they can become active again. Another option is to start a grant program to help cover member expenses. “I do have some clients that are seeking grants and being pretty successful in it,” she says.

Add flexible elements. Certain renewal requirements, such as attendance at in-person meetings, don’t make sense at the moment. Additionally, Rops notes that many people working remotely for the first time may find it difficult to focus, so virtual events may not be the answer for everyone. “Attention span right now is at an all-time low because of all the distractions and all the people that have both two adults in the house, working at home, and then the kids” that may need help with schooling, she says. While virtual learning events might make sense for some learners, others may do better with looser formats that allow them to learn at their own pace.

Look into microcredentialing. One way to reach members who may not have the time to invest in a full certification is microcredentialing. (One example is the National Education Association, which is highlighting microcertifications relevant to the current moment—on technology integration, cultivating socially just environments, and cultural competency.) Rops, a strong advocate for microcredentialing, says that this approach may be particularly effective in this environment. “Right now especially, you can’t be expecting someone to put 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10 years into something,” she says. “Break it down, so they can start getting some immediate learning and/or credentialing.”

Consider building or refreshing a program now. Rops says that despite the disruption that many organizations are facing, associations have an opportunity to make lasting changes to an existing credentialing program—or to start a new one. “In a time of recession and things like that, that’s when people need education and credentialing,” she says. “So if associations can afford it, now’s the time, because it really is when your members need to reskill and upskill the most.”

The post Five Ways to Help Members Maintain Certifications in 2021 appeared first on Associations Now.

How to Better Accommodate People With Disabilities at Meetings

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

A disability inclusion expert shares ideas for making attendees with disabilities feel welcome and included at your conferences.

Whether organizing in-person, hybrid, or virtual events, association meeting professionals want to make sure they are accessible, inclusive, and equitable for everyone.

But even with the best of intentions, there are likely areas where you could better accommodate people with disabilities, some of which you may have never considered.

To gain some insight into how to do this, I spoke with speaker, trainer, and consultant Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D., president of Rossetti Enterprises, Inc. Rossetti, who has used a wheelchair since she suffered a spinal cord injury in 1998, said that meeting pros who “lead with an inclusion mindset” will be most successful.

“You need to think about having people with disabilities and having people without disabilities,” she said. “You want all attendees to be able to take part, on their own terms.”

Here are three tips she shared that are worth keeping in mind as you plan future meetings:

Ask attendees about their needs. When people with disabilities attend your events, it is important to be prepared and know ahead of time how your staff—and for in-person events, the venue—can be helpful. “During the registration process, ask people what assistance they may need,” Rossetti said. “And then follow up with a phone call or email to get clarity so you can begin making the necessary plans and preparations to accommodate them.” This may include a special meal due a food allergy, or you may need to convert handouts to braille for a person who is blind.

Inform and educate your speakers. As part of their orientation or training, speakers should learn how to accommodate people with disabilities during their sessions. Part of that may be providing them with instructions on how to create accessible presentation slides and handouts. And if speakers are using lots of graphics or other visuals, Rossetti said they should describe the slides briefly. “That’s a really quick, simple thing for them to do, and it will make your participants who are blind or have another type of visual impairment feel included,” she said.

Get feedback and input from people with disabilities during meeting planning. As face-to-face meetings make a comeback, so will site visits. Rossetti said these visits are a prime opportunity for your association to think about how to accommodate people with disabilities. “If you’ve never been in a wheelchair, I suggest having one on hand as you tour your venues,” she said. “This will give you a better idea of how to set up rooms and to accommodate participants who will be using a wheelchair. For instance, can they easily maneuver through a room?” Another idea that Rossetti shared: Invite members with disabilities to participate in your site visits or to test out your virtual platforms. They’ll be able to give feedback and raise any potential challenges that could make their participation more difficult.

What steps has your association taken to ensure that both its in-person and virtual meetings are accessible for everyone? Please share in the comments.

The post How to Better Accommodate People With Disabilities at Meetings appeared first on Associations Now.