Highlight New Products To Up Excitement at Events

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To continuously improve events, VP Blake Swango incorporates feedback from all American Sportfishing Association members and exhibitors.

Our seventh planner of productivity is Blake Swango, vice president of trade and membership for the American Sportfishing Association. Established in 1933, ASA includes more than 900 member organizations representing all aspects of America’s $50 billion recreational fishing industry.

Swango, who has a background in both political science and environmental studies, joined ASA in 2016 to direct the organization’s premier event: the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST. ASA is based in Alexandria, VA, but since 2014 has chosen to host ICAST at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.

This past July, more than 10,850 exhibitors and members attended the event, creating an estimated economic impact of $27.9 million. Attendees participated in new product launches and networking, as well as virtual product demos and webinars. Partnering with Visit Orlando, the Convention Center and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allowed Swago to pull off a safe event. Swango also had peer support as well: when he attended an event in Orlando in January 2021, the Visit Orlando team connected him with the planner who had learned the ropes and shared key insights for how they held a safe event. Leaning into this network of support, along with listening to feedback from the exhibitors, ensures ICAST 2022 will be just as memorable.

VO: This year has brought a lot of change. How do you define innovation right now and what are you doing to infuse it into your trade show plans for 2022?

BS: This year, we decided to hold our trade show as an on-site, in-person show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Our industry thrives on face-to-face business, and our community told us they would support the show’s live format.

One of the reasons is that ICAST is all about what products will excite the community. For us, that means the New Product Showcase. ICAST is THE place where our member exhibitors debut their new tackle, gear, apparel and accessories for the entire sportfishing community. In a “normal” year, there would be more than 1,000 innovations shown to the sportfishing community. Each of the exhibitors hopes that their product will be chosen as “Best in Show.” We are always looking for ways to up the “excitement factor” for the showcase and our other events.

VO: What advice would you give to peers about meeting show attendees’ expectations?

BS: For ASA, we decided to produce an in-person show, and it worked for us. Every organization is different, so I suggest listening to your exhibitors about what they want. Assess the venue and location to see if it will work for them and make plans from there.

VO: Why did you select Orlando as the sole host destination for ICAST?

BS: Florida is known as the sportfishing capital of the world and the Southeast is, by far, the part of the U.S. that supports the most recreational fishing. Orlando is a natural fit for the largest recreational fishing trade show in the world. So, it’s hard to say if we picked Florida or if Florida picked us.

I enjoy all the amenities that the area offers to me and my family as well. The Orlando area—and Florida itself—has a lot of appeal for both our domestic and international trade show attendees. Not only is it a natural fit for our industry, but it’s within driving distance to many retail outlets in Florida and throughout the Southeast. The Orlando airport is a hub for both domestic and international flights making travel easy. We hope that in 2022, most air travel will be back in full swing.

VO: What’s your favorite experience there?

BS: We convinced our Orange County Convention Center partners to let us stock the ponds located behind the buildings with fish so that we could debut our popular “On The Water” fishing tackle demo day. The convention center staff worked with us and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ensure that the catch-and-release fishing during ICAST (and in between my site visit meetings!) was the best. My thanks go to their staff for storing my fishing rods in their offices!

VO: What is your relationship like with Visit Orlando? How did you first get connected?

BS: I inherited the relationship with Visit Orlando when I joined ASA in 2016. Since that time, I believe our relationship has grown stronger as we’ve worked together to make ICAST a bigger and better overall show experience. There are many bigger organizations and trade shows that work with Visit Orlando, but they never let you know it.

Visit Orlando was there every step of the way to provide updated communications about what was going on at the Convention Center. The team even produced a short video specific to ICAST for us to share with our membership.

This article has been provided by Visit Orlando.

When it comes to productivity, innovation and unique attendee experience, Orlando tops the list. With fantastical backdrops you won’t find anywhere else, only Orlando can offer incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences that your attendees will be talking about for years to come. Tapping into the heritage of creative thinking from its first-rate theme parks, Orlando offers a wide range of creative resources to help transform your meeting or event. From unique team building activities, exclusive dine-around options to immersive private events inside its world-renowned theme parks complete with a fire-breathing dragon, you are sure to wow your group in Orlando. Discover the many resources available to you to help make your next meeting or event unforgettable at Orlandomeeting.com.


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Five Ways to Rethink “Professionalism”

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Professionalism isn’t just about choice of attire—it encompasses diversity and personal discussions too. As people return to the office, the topic promises to get complicated. Here are some tips on how to navigate.

After a year and a half of people regularly wearing dress shirts with sweatpants, you weren’t expecting everything to go back to the way it was in the office before the pandemic, were you?

The pandemic and other major events over the past year shifted expectations for what professionalism means. As offices reopen—and as some workers stay remote—this multidimensional issue gives leaders a lot to think about. Here are some considerations for organizations trying to discover what “professional” means to them now:

See professionalism through the lens of DEI. Being professional in a work environment might be seen as a basic requirement, but the guidelines of what exactly constitutes professionalism have traditionally forced people to behave in a way that caters to the dominant culture. In recent years, however, some cultural observers, such as Stanford Social Innovation Review contributor Aysa Gray, have questioned professionalism as forcing a culture that “explicitly and implicitly privileges whiteness and discriminates against non-Western and non-white professionalism.” With that in mind, now might be a good time to consider whether professional standards are serving all of your workforce.

Make room for discussions of family and personal challenges. Millions of people contracted COVID-19, and there’s a good chance that the virus directly affected some in your office. But even if they remained physically healthy, your employees may have suffered in other ways—mental health and substance abuse issues were heightened during this period, and those concerns don’t necessarily vanish with a vaccine. Traditionally, “professionalism” has discouraged these discussions, based on a theory called Protestant Relational Ideology, which sets aside personal concerns to focus on the work at hand. But after a tough year where many families had to manage Zoom calls around children stuck at home, there may need to be more room for personal discussions when they emerge in the workplace.

Accept that difficult discussions might happen. Perhaps it was inevitable that a company like Basecamp would run into a conflict over political discourse in the workplace (ironically, this unfolded on the platform the company developed to boost productivity). But the conflict resulted in something that was not inevitable: mass resignations. Perhaps the key for associations hoping to avoid this is to build a culture that can handle those discussions in meaningful ways—and to avoid banning political discussions.

Let your employees get a little more casual. Businesswear often took a back seat over Zoom (sweatpants and button-down combos aside). As people head back to the office, they may buck against a return to business attire. This might be even more of an issue for offices operating in a hybrid model: With recent studies finding that most people working remotely don’t adhere to a dress code, enforcing a strict dress code for in-office workers sets an inconsistent standard. (Luckily, clothing makers are adapting, according to The Wall Street Journal [subscription], with some retailers offering “hybrid dressing” that combines professional with casual.)

Embrace a diversity of emotions. Diversity isn’t limited to demographics. It can also be about how employees feel and react to things, and that not everyone sees eye to eye on everything. As Associations Now blogger Mark Athitakis wrote in January, the pandemic offered us a reset on emotional diversity, allowing leaders to shift away from attempting to emotionally align teams. “Perhaps a better place to start is to double-check that you know where your people are emotionally in the first place,” he wrote. “And if there’s a silver lining in 2020 when it comes to management, we’re doing a better job at prioritizing that.”


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Leadership Pro Tip: The Case for Improving Thought Leadership Content

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Today’s glut of thought leadership creates an opportunity to stand out by creating better content—including original research.

For leaders looking to make an impression through thought leadership, your message can guide the way. That’s especially true at a time when people may not be traveling long distances to see you speak at an event.

But since a lot of leaders are embracing thought leadership right now, you need to upgrade your approach if you want to stand out.

What’s the Strategy?

As a recent Edelman and LinkedIn study finds, there is an oversaturation of thought leadership content, with around 38 percent of decision makers saying that the market is producing more thought leadership than they can consume. Despite this, more than half of C-suite executives are reading an increased amount of thought leadership content.

That content, though, is often low-quality. Per the study, more than 70 percent of decision makers say that less than half of the content they consume provides valuable insights.

“Thought leadership remains critical to customer engagement but breaking through the noise is harder than ever,” the report states.

For association leaders, this actually presents an opportunity to kick things up a notch, by raising the quality of your thought leadership—either by deeper research, or by stronger presentation.

Why Is It Effective?

Building content with original research and insights can make your content and capabilities stand out among the crowd.

“Doing your own research rather than relying on previously published data makes your thought leadership distinct, giving you a competitive edge that helps you stand out from the crowd,” Boston Digital’s Samantha Davidson writes. “This is important because visibility is one of the key objectives for many who put out thought leadership content, and establishing a qualitative difference in your work will make it more salient, valuable, and visible, to prospective readers.”

The Alterra Group has a useful list of qualities that associations can follow when building their own thought leadership—including high relevance, strong credibility, a unique style, a persuasive argument, a timely focus, approachable writing, and informative content.

What’s the Potential?

Even with the challenges associations might face in raising their standards, it’s often worth it. Solid thought leadership can help increase awareness of an organization, lead to potential new business contacts, and even encourage the purchase of a new product or service—something the Edelman study says 54 percent of respondents have done after consuming thought leadership content.

It can also raise your association’s platform—64 percent of respondents say that thought leadership is used as a barometer when deciding whether to trust an organization’s overall capabilities.

“It’s no secret that high-quality thought leadership is far less common than attempted thought leadership,” Davidson writes. “With this discrepancy comes an opportunity to distinguish yourself from others, and original research can help you do that by transforming your work into effective thought leadership and you, a thought leader.”


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Listen Up! Here’s the Secret to Knowing Which Content Is Worth Your Team’s Time and Effort

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The simple-yet-effective tactics the American Hospital Association uses to determine what its members want.

Do you know which subject lines will entice your association members to open an email and which they will skip? Do you know which webinar topics will get hundreds to sign up, and which will flop? In short, do you know what your members really want?

If you are like many of the association professionals surveyed in the 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, which surveyed nearly 500 leaders of North American trade associations, professional societies, and association management companies, you might feel unsure. Forty-one percent of respondents said they must do a better job of “understanding member needs, demographics and goals,” and 32 percent replied that they have to do a better job to understand why certain content “resonates with members.”

But what about those associations that do seem to have a finger on the pulse of their membership? Are they mind readers who know just the right webinar topic that will cause members to drop everything to attend? Can they predict the future? Not at all, says Diane Weber, executive director for the Society for Health Care Strategy & Market Development at the American Hospital Association. It’s less about superpowers, she says, and more about the fact that her team has a skill that gets powerful results: they know how to listen.

“We pay attention to what’s being discussed in our online communities,” says Weber. “My entire team is subscribed, so if I didn’t pick up on a hot topic, another team member will ask, ‘Did you see so-and-so indicated that this is a problem today?’ So we’re seeing our members’ wants and needs in real time.”

The AHA hosts several online events every month, and Weber says a survey always follows webinars and talks. “The surveys are very short, and we always leave an open-ended question asking members what current issues they are having trouble with or, very simply, what else they would like to hear more about.”

The answers to these questions, as well as email queries and other communications from members, are discussed by Weber’s team on a weekly basis and used as a launching point for content creation. “Somebody might say, ‘I have a connection with a speaker who can cover X, Y, Z topic in a webinar.’ Or, ‘I can quickly turn this topic into a podcast.’ So I feel like we’re very good at listening, coming up with ideas based on what we hear, and putting those ideas into action.”

For smaller organizations that might feel overwhelmed searching for speakers and content creators, Weber points out that premier leaders in their industries are already at their fingertips: the association members. “I have some knowledge of healthcare and the different jobs that our members are responsible for, but clearly the real experts are in the field day in and day out. So we have really leveraged that expertise,” says Weber. “We reach out to members to do presentations and lead discussions, and the response is always great. It is a wonderful way for members to connect, share ideas and elevate the industry.”

When content is created by members for members, Weber says, “It ends up being a wonderful culmination of insights that is sure to be directly relevant to them.” And for Weber and the team at AHA, success delivering what their members want goes beyond good marketing. “To be able to support them and to give them programs that help them fight COVID — it is an honor.”

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 https://www.naylor.com.


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How to Prepare for Mid-Meeting Emergencies

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With events, it’s best to expect the unexpected. These how-tos of preparation and onsite protocols for handling emergencies will help meeting professionals be ready for anything.

Meeting professionals aren’t strangers to preparing for the worst. But “the worst” encompasses a range of incidents, from natural disasters—occuring at a higher rate than ever before—to acts of violence. And while venues have evacuation protocols and planners are probably aware of legal needs surrounding emergencies, planners have so much to juggle that thorough planning might go on the back burner.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a meeting and something does happen, whether it’s a power outage or an alarm going off, and everybody—including the meeting planners—looks at each other like, ‘What do we do?’” says Tyra Warner, an expert in legal and crisis preparedness issues for the meetings, events, and hospitality industries.

Consider these tips from Warner to prepare for emergencies and create contingency plans before an event and to act effectively in the moment.

Create a Risk Matrix

Plenty can happen—natural disasters, violence, positive COVID-19 cases, protests, medical emergencies—so it’ll help to evaluate the likelihood of certain emergencies and prepare most thoroughly for the high-risk incidents.

For example, if you’re hosting an event in Oklahoma, you might prepare as much for a tornado as you would for an active shooter scenario. There are a number of risk matrix templates that can help you prioritize what risks to prepare for.

Establish an Emergency Response Team

Get your staff ready for the unexpected by assigning each person a role should an emergency occur. This should include:

  • Onsite personnel: Make one person the team leader who communicates with attendees, give another the responsibility of contacting emergency services, put another in charge of coordinating with vendors, and give others the job of evacuating attendees if necessary.
  • Offsite staff: Have staff prepare emergency messaging that they can deliver immediately. This can include your organization’s web team so they can update the website, social media managers to spread the word on social channels, and a member services lead to field questions from members.

“The leader of the risk team might not be the CEO, it may not be the director of meetings, it should be the person who can orchestrate well in a crisis. So it’s going to be somebody with a level head,” Warner says.

Gather Crucial Attendee Information

During registration, ask attendees for emergency contact information and ask them to volunteer information about medical conditions organizers should be aware of. That way, in the event of an injury or medical emergency where an attendee can’t speak for themselves, you have relevant information to share with first responders.

Prepare Attendees for Emergencies

Once you have their information, it’s your turn to provide attendees with emergency preparedness guidance. In registration materials, include information such as floor plans with marked emergency exits, the location of first-aid equipment, instructions on where to go and who to follow in an emergency, and contact information for emergency services—crucial for international events where 911 isn’t the number to call.

“Information like that needs to be pushed to attendees even before they get onsite at the meetings,” Warner says. And when the meeting is about to kick off, the event’s host can quickly review emergency information.

Establish Multiple Lines of Communication

If things go wrong, don’t rely on one form of communication, especially if you’re conducting hybrid meetings where two distinct groups need to be notified at the same time in different ways. Be ready to use the venue’s PA system onsite, and notify virtual attendees that they should check your website, event app, social media channels, along with their text messages and emails for updates should a disruption occur.

“Redundancy is important,” Warner says. Warner experienced this personally when she lost cell service before attending an event. She couldn’t contact the venue to ask about a tornado in the area, but she was able to check Twitter to see that the venue had been hit by the storm and she knew to stay home.

Test Protocols for Contingency Plans

“Every property is a little bit different,” Warner says. “Historical hotels won’t have great PA systems and built-in systems that new convention centers will have, for example.”

Make sure to include security and loss prevention teams in preconference meetings to go over details about the venue’s alarms, PA systems, and security capabilities. With your risk matrix in mind, run through emergency scenarios with your team to determine immediate steps for each one.

For example, if there’s a tornado, the next steps wouldn’t be to instruct attendees to step outside, but to take shelter in a windowless room. On the other hand, if there’s a fire, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll use the PA system and where you’ll direct attendees to evacuate. Crisis management apps can also help you craft a plan based on the detail of your event.

“These are the kinds of things you want to run through as a meeting organizer so that you know what to do because the attendees are going to look at meeting planners,” Warner says. “One way to think about it is to group them into emergencies that we’re going to have to evacuate for, shelter in place for, and medical emergencies.”


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Create Video Content That Engages Members and Increases Nondues Revenue

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Looking to sponsors as thought leaders and content creators can boost nondues revenue and increase member engagement and retention. Find out how.

By now it’s pretty clear that “business as usual” as a concept is over. Opportunities lie in places no one ever thought of looking before. Case in point: sponsors. There has been a traditional way of looking at sponsors, but what if you look at them as thought leaders who create value for members?

“Sponsors are seeing themselves as credible thought leaders today. They are seeing themselves as solution providers today, and they want to inform, educate, and inspire members,” said Dan Stevens, president of WorkerBee.TV, Inc., during a recent webinar, “Five Key Content Models That Engage Members and Sponsors.”

Make Video Work for You

Millennials, Gen Z, and younger generations are at the stage of their careers where they are joining associations. And they are digital natives who expect and rely on video content. That means associations need to create videos that work for them. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to do that, Stevens said, is to integrate your sponsorship model with your content-planning model.

One content idea shared during the webinar was a video-zine series, which can be a member profile series, or any other kind of content that has a consistent theme. A video-zine is the most like a magazine and, as many associations have moved to a digital-first format, it is more intuitive to take sections from the print magazine and replicate them in video format.

Sponsorship can fit into those digital video sections in the same way sponsors supported magazine content. But with video it’s not one sponsor, but multiple sponsors. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t publish an entire magazine with only one advertiser, so structure the video content model so there are premium solutions, mid-range solutions, and lower-priced solutions—just like full-page, cover, back cover, or half-page ads for print magazines.

“That opportunity has allowed people to bring the concept of the magazine into a modern and consumable format,” Stevens said.

Increase Engagement and Retention

The proliferation of online video content for conferences has created another content stream that can be repurposed in many ways. Associations tend to “firehose members with all this content at once and hope they can figure out what to watch,” Stevens said. A better approach? Take live content from a webinar or a prerecording from a virtual event, and instead of turning it into a full-length video, create a summary or micro-learning video that can be used on social media and other platforms.

The benefits of maximizing content in this way is, it creates several ways for members and nonmembers to access content. A two-to three-minute summary of content might be all some people need. But if they want to go deeper, they can opt to pay for the additional, longer content. “That’s an engagement tool that helps with retention,” Stevens said.

Going to sponsors with ideas for content they can create is much better strategy than just asking them if they want to do a video with your association. “Their eyes will glaze over,” Stevens said. But if you approach the sponsor and ask if they can speak or write on a specific topic that is relevant to members, they are more likely to want to participate. That’s why it’s essential to have a list of member-relevant topics ready to present to sponsors.

There is the potential to make money on each video, fill up your content calendar with useful topics for members, and invest the profit from those videos into content that wouldn’t be as desirable to sponsors. It’s a win-win.

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How This Association Re-Energized Itself and Its Membership with Online Connections

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This association professional learned that it is never too early to innovate.

In the summer of 2019, The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) was in the process of identifying its strategic priorities. Member engagement emerged as a key theme. That fall, ATS turned to Higher Logic to launch an online community called Engage ATS for its members to network and engage in peer learning.

This move proved to be serendipitous—it enabled the association to be uniquely prepared when, just months later, the pandemic changed the world as we knew it. Engage ATS soon became essential for the organization and the 272 North American graduate theology schools comprising its membership. “The timing could not have been better,”notes Lisa Kern, manager of member engagement at ATS.

“Our members were very appreciative that this community existed so that they could quickly and easily turn to one another to figure out a game plan in the middle of this unexpected crisis,” says Kern. “Theological education is a unique niche. “You cannot currently participate in webinars or virtual business events to easily find other people who do the exact same thing that you do. Our members have said, ‘My gosh, I don’t have this anywhere else. It’s so great to connect with people who speak my language.’”

Engage ATS consists of 15 hyper-focused communities, ranging from areas of work to specific topic interests, plus one big open forum community that any registered member can participate in. Engagement, Kern reports, began with an organic need for members to communicate during lockdown, but it has stayed strong in some of the focused communities ever since. “Members continue to reach out and learn from one another,” Kern says. “It has helped us learn a lot about our members too— their needs, their successes and their outlook,” especially while in-person meetings and business travel remain limited, she adds.

While organic growth and enthusiasm are great, Kern has started to initiate strategies to ensure that these communities continue to thrive. “I’ve been trying to work with my staff members to incorporate Engage ATS into our events and other offerings,” she explains. “For example, we recently asked event presenters to post established discussion threads for their specific topics into an Engage ATS community before their event. Once the event ended, presenters reminded attendees that the conversations continued among those discussion threads that they started in Engage ATS.”

For many associations, the ultimate goal of increasing member engagement is to increase renewals. But for a unique association serving a unique membership like ATS, the goal is, not surprisingly, outside of the norm. “Our goal is to learn from, for and with our members by continuing to provide accreditation and to offer them resources and tools like Engage ATS to enhance the good work they are already doing at their schools.”

For Kern, helping theological institutions connect in an online member community has been rewarding. “With the pandemic shutting down many office spaces and many in-person events ATS used to host, it’s been very difficult,” she says. “I’m energized by the presence of people around me, so I am very empathetic toward the people working for our member schools who may be feeling the same way. With Engage ATS, our members can have real-time conversations with their peers facing the same challenges, and they can share resources and success stories others may learn from. I’d like to think that this platform can make them feel like they are not alone in their work. That also energizes me.”

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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Membership Pro Tip: Give Members What They Want

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Using data to get a better idea of member preferences helps associations provide them with a better experience and boosts engagement.

Member job titles are not always the best way to gauge their interests. To get a better picture, the United Fresh Produce Association set up a customer relationship management system to track member interests based on what emails they opened, webinars they attended, and more.

The system automatically tags their records, which allows United Fresh’s membership team to retarget and take a deeper dive into the content, instead of constantly pulling lists, says Miriam Wolk, CAE, United Fresh’s vice president of member services.

How Does It Work?

In the past, United Fresh had several disparate systems. For example, members registered for a meeting on one platform and website visits were tracked on another. Having an effective system in place that integrated both its marketing and sales activity gave the membership team a way to track how members were interfacing with United Fresh because the information was all being sent to one place.

“Basically, we have a better sense of how members are choosing to interact with us,” Wolk says. Having that all information consolidated into one area gives the membership team a chance to follow up with members in a more meaningful way.

Why Is It Effective?

“It’s a timesaver for staff,” Wolk says. Instead of having to check multiple sources to get a read on members’ activity, there is a snapshot all in one place. It is also not a heavy lift technologically. “Once you get the basic architecture in place, it’s pretty seamless,” she says.

What Is the Benefit?

Members are getting information and content they are actually interested in. “It helps us provide a more tailored approach,” Wolk says, instead of throwing out emails to members hoping something will stick.

It has also helped make member prospecting more efficient. The more targeted approach has led to an increase in the download of publications and participation in webinars, too. “They get curated content that’s of interest to them, which in turn means it rises through the clutter,” she says.

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

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Why Associations Need to Improve Their Approach to Mental Health

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A new report on mental health in the workplace finds that workers are experiencing more mental health distress. For associations looking to address the issue, it begins with leaders advocating for mental health and putting resources behind it.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been an increased focus on mental health. A new report from Mind Share Partners shows the negative impact the pandemic has had on workers’ mental health and offers some advice on how employers can help.

According to the “2021 Mental Health at Work Report,” 76 percent of workers experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition in 2021, up from 59 percent in 2019. The most common symptoms were burnout (56 percent), depression (46 percent), and anxiety (40 percent). The symptoms weren’t short-term either: 80 percent of workers said their symptoms lasted a month or more, and 36 percent said their symptoms lasted five months to a year.

That’s why supporting mental health in workplaces is something that employers can and should do. The first step is looking at the problem in a holistic way.

“Historically, we thought about supporting mental health in very individual ways—such as providing therapy or the more common mental health day,” said Bernie Wong, manager of research and design at Mind Share Partners. “Increasingly, we are really encouraging organizations to think from a systems and culture level.”

How Employers Can Help

For associations looking to improve their approach to mental health, Wong said there are a couple of broad items to begin with.

“One is a bit more public facing: leaders really advocating for mental health and really normalizing mental health as an everyday experience that many people go through,” Wong said. “This can look like sharing their own story to simply verbal encouragement.”

The second approach focuses on resources. “Really prioritizing the budget for mental health or making sure there’s a steering committee committed to and accountable to those activities internal in their organization,” Wong said.

While having top leaders be supportive is important, it’s also key to empower people managers at every level to have open conversations about mental health and the team dynamic.

“Managers really have a lot of control over the experience of work itself within their teams,” Wong said. “So, conversations around working norms or even checking in proactively in an intentional way can do a lot for individual employees to make sure that their experience of work is positive, especially amidst remote working and even return-to-office conversations.”

When organizations look at employee mental health as something they can collectively work to improve, they can take on a proactive role to head off problems.

“It’s important to prioritize noticing the signs and symptoms of mental health burnout and averting crises,” Wong said. “We encourage this proactive culture piece around creating a culture where it’s safe and supportive around mental health and [where] individual employees who may want to share or seek support can do so safely in an encouraging and empowered way.”

One way to support mental health proactively is through check-ins, where managers find out how things are going with their employees.

“Checking in isn’t just simply checking in,” Wong said. “It’s communicating value. It’s creating opportunities for individual employees to share, because bringing it up yourself can be challenging. And also checking in doesn’t have to be so explicit around mental health; we don’t need to share our deepest-darkest challenges every time there’s a check-in. Most of the time check-ins will look very anticlimactic.”

While mental health concerns affect all employees, there are some differences among groups, and it’s important for associations to take that into consideration when planning their efforts to address mental health.

“We think of mental health as a diversity, equity, and inclusion issue,” Wong said. “We found that certain groups like caregivers, the LGBTQ+ community, Black, and LatinX employees face greater mental health challenges and are more likely to report work and the workplace as having a negative impact on their mental health.”

Being sure to support all employees will be crucial, as many employees are seeing a supportive mental health environment as a requirement to staying at their job. “How an employer organization decides to prioritize and support employees will really drive many of the attrition rates for the general wellbeing of their employees,” Wong said. “It’s important that any organization explores different strategies. For example, if you have a mental health day, who takes advantage of that? And then make sure they pursue those strategies that are inclusive for people.”

What is your association doing to address your staff’s mental health? Share in the comments.

The post Why Associations Need to Improve Their Approach to Mental Health appeared first on Associations Now.

Will Use-It-or-Lose-It Budgeting Negatively Impact Expo and Sponsor Revenue?

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

Our crystal balls are pretty foggy when it comes to predicting the return of in-person expo and sponsor revenue. Three of the big questions are:

  1. With the advancement of digital demos, will exhibitors opt for smaller booth spaces?
  2. If marketing budgets intended for show participation in 2020 or 2021 were reallocated, or not spent, will corporations recall the good days and include your show in the 2022 marketing budget?
  3. Will poor ROI from virtual shows negatively impact future spend decisions?

For larger shows, advance deposits for booth space are often paid nine months in advance. This means show organizers who postponed in 2020 had already received 50% or more of booth fees. For many shows, those funds were carried forward to the virtual and/or next live show. This means that exhibiting companies have not allocated and spent their marketing dollars on live expos for nearly two budget years. Use-it-or-lose-it budgeting is alive and well in many corporations and is a real threat to near-term show revenue.

Three Strategies for Protecting Expo and Sponsor Revenue

1. Organize around your top customers, not your products.

Exhibiting companies despise multiple and competing asks. If you have multiple team members, or vendors, soliciting your exhibitors for booth space, sponsorship, and print and digital advertising, this is the year to bring it under one account manager. Do this for the top 10% or companies by total investment. If you have 200 exhibitors, build an account management plan around the top 20. Retain them, and others are likely to follow.

One of the keys to growing sponsorship is to have senior leadership open doors. The same holds true when you are building a plan to proactively retain your largest or anchor exhibitors. Assign senior executives to each company and schedule calls with your top investors to discuss your plans for returning to face-to-face.

2. Double down on sponsorship.

 Now is the time to diversify your expo and sponsorship revenue mix and reimagine your sponsor menu/offerings. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Eliminate most sponsor items that are promotional or advertising. These usually include bag inserts, print advertising, banner ads and room keys.
  • Eliminate sponsor inventory that was not purchased during the past two conferences. If two-thirds of your inventory is not being sponsored, you have a problem.
  • Add new inventory that allows sponsors to be viewed as thought leaders. Also add inventory that improves the attendee or VIP experience.
  • Organize your sponsor menu like a restaurant would: Appetizers = Attendee Experience, Entrée = Thought Leadership, Dessert = VIP Experiences.

3. Create comprehensive, bespoke packages.

Most exhibitors and sponsors prefer to write a single check. Help them get the most bang for their buck by creating packages that provide exposure before, during and after the show. Include visibility and activation through all of your channels, including any used for virtual participation. Comprehensive and customizable packages should be organized using these buckets:

  • Home base/Presence – Where can sponsors meet-up with existing clients or prospects? This can include a booth, private meeting room or sponsor activation area.
  • Access Passes – How many conference badges are included? What VIP events can they attend? What special access can they provide to their clients and prospects?
  • Content and Experience – speaking or panel slot, keynote sponsor, webinar, session rebroadcast, track sponsor, featured article. Reception, charging stations, wellness programs, mobile app.
  • Advance/Post Recognition – promotional and registration emails, website, newsletter, social media mentions, company description on website/mobile app
  •  Onsite Recognition – main stage, signage, mobile app, virtual access platform

 What are your predictions for 2022 expo-and-sponsor revenue recovery?

The post Will Use-It-or-Lose-It Budgeting Negatively Impact Expo and Sponsor Revenue? appeared first on Velvet Chainsaw.