28 May 2010

Friday Top 5

We're headed to Gotham for the long weekend, and I haven't been there in AGES! (actual time: I think almost 3 years...wait, that can't POSSIBLY be right...)

Anyway, the top 5 things I love about NYC:
  1. Getting to see my fascinating friend the photographer Barbara Nitke, who has a new gallery show open (the ostensible cause of the trip). (Her stuff is mostly NSFW, so no link.)
  2. DC is a good walking city, but NYC is a GREAT walking city.
  3. The Gershwin Hotel, which is pretty much where we always stay. Funky place, great location.
  4. NYC is a shopper's dream, and it's also home to the Manolo Blahnik store, aka the Mecca of Shoes.
  5. It's not New Orleans, but it does have a decent live jazz scene. (Don't get me started about the DC "Jazz Fest," where they've chosen to do the exact opposite of everything that makes jazz fests great. Sigh.)
Happy first weekend of summer!

Image Credit: opentravelinfo.com

27 May 2010

Get Buzzed!

Remember how awesome Buzz 2009 was?   The babes at SocialFish and the SmartBrief team are doing it again - that's right, it's Buzz 2010.

This time, the format is 3 breakfast meetings, spread out about 1 month apart, with a different lineup of speakers each time:
  • June 16 will feature Groundswell author Charlene Li talking about open leadership
  • July 20 will feature a panel discussion on managing risk
  • August 18 wraps the series with Oliver Blanchard, aka "The Brand Builder," talking about ROI.
I won't be able to attend them all, but I hope to see *you* on July 20 and to read everyone's thoughts and lessons about the sessions I'll have to miss.

26 May 2010

What I'm Reading

  • 10 quick tips to make your next presentation better.
  • FB finally starts listening to the outrage, but is it too little, too late?
  • Zen wisdom from Seth Godin - the last 10% takes the most effort but also makes the most difference.
  • Scott Briscoe  rocks it out again at Acronym (hopefully this time ASAE will actually leave the post alone): is the reason you can't communicate your value to your members because you're inundating them with too much unimportant crap?
  • Brian Solis encourages us to flip the script:  instead of focusing our social media policies on how to avoid mistakes, why not focus on how to increase engagement? (Isn't that what you were after in the first place?)
  • Social media efforts going nowhere?  Dave Fleet has some ideas as to why.
  • Top 10 Mistakes New Bloggers Make (it's ostensibly about food blogging, but trust me, there's universal application here).
  • Zappos, an excellent example of all things social in general, shows us how to turn lemons into lemonade (provided you can stand to lose some revenue in the short term).

25 May 2010

Velvet Rope or Come Party with Me?

I don't often write posts that start with, "I was standing on line to buy at cantaloupe at Harris Teeter the other day when I had this profound insight into association management...!" mostly because you don't care about my cantaloupe purchasing habits, nor do I often think about association management at the grocery store (I'm usually busy wondering why I ALWAYS seem to pick the slow line and whether I can trust the bagger not to bag said cantaloupe on top of the loaf of bread or if I should just bag my own groceries).

But I did have two contrasting non-work-related experiences lately that really did get me thinking about associations.

Experience one: we're in New Orleans on vacation wandering down Frenchmen Street in Faubourg Marigny looking for a good place to hang out and hear some tunes on a Wednesday night.  First stop: the Spotted Cat.  It was so packed we couldn't get in the door (literally), so we hung out on the sidewalk with a WIDE mix of characters (and nobody does "characters" like NOLA) for a while enjoying the music...for free.  At the band break, we decided to move on, and down the street, we heard the sweet strains of Shamarr Allen's trumpet pouring out of Cafe Negril.  There was a short line, as the guy at the door struggled to keep up making change for the $5 cover when everyone kept handing him $20s.  When we got inside, the crowd ranged from middle aged+ white people to hipsters from the neighborhood to Jazz Festers to a "professional hugger" from Austin (yes, really - Keep Austin Weird!) - all ages, all races, all styles of dress, everyone just grooving on the Underdawgs. Vibe? Awesomesauce, even before the generous pour, very cheap cocktails.

Experience two: one of my spouse's co-workers moonlights as a DJ in DC.  He was spinning at the POV Lounge at the W Hotel on a recent Saturday night, and we thought we'd swing by and see him. So we roll up 15th Street NW only to spot a velvet rope, two scowling bouncers, and a LONG line. And I'm WAY too old to stand on line with a bunch of overly made up 20-somethings in cheap shoes hoping to be deemed hot enough to merit being allowed in. Vibe?  B-A-D BAD.  And totally unwelcoming.  And definitely *not* groovy.

So what's the connection to associations?

What does your organization look like to an outsider?  Not someone on staff, not someone who' s been a member for a million years, not someone who's served on your Board - someone who doesn't know you at all but might be interested in what you provide? 

Are you welcoming to everyone or only to the "right" people? Do you make it easy for people to get access to what they want and need, even if they aren't an "insider"?  Do you let people participate at the level they want to, even if that's standing on the banquette outside the club just grooving to the great tunes for free?  What's your barrier to entry? What's your image in your industry, profession, or community?  Are you affordable to people with lesser means who might benefit from what you offer? Are you groovy or snooty?

24 May 2010

Always the Last to Know: Compendium Blogware

Trying to manage a corporate blog?  Pulling your hair out because your contributors can't seem to understand relatively simple SEO concepts?  Check out Compendium Blogware - among other cool features, it provides a simple red-yellow-green gauge for your blog authors so they'll know if they're matching up with your desired keywords.

21 May 2010

Friday Top 5

Continuing on the theme of the Association Foundation Group conference, my top 5 takeaways:
  1. Lawyers love to relate (slightly exaggerated?) "you'll never believe what the client did!" horror stories. These make FANTASTIC cocktail party anecdotes. Conference presentations? Not so much.
  2. The use of social media for fundraising is developing incredibly quickly. There were significant changes in data and examples between the presentation I gave for AFG yesterday and the virtually identical presentation I gave for AFG-DC in January of THIS year.
  3. Only about 5% of ASAE members engage with any kind of social media.  Yes, I found this hard to believe, too, but it's straight from John Graham's mouth in his opening keynote.
  4. Make it INSANELY easy for people to give you money online.  This is something we always tested for when working with clients at Beaconfire, but it was really good to be reminded of it (by David Gammel) in an association context. David was specifically referring to online donations, but how hard do you make it for members to join or renew - or register for a conference - or buy a book? Could your mom do it? How can you make it easier?
  5.  Another goodie from David Gammel - want to engage people? Always make sure there's a call to action of some sort. They can't take the next step with you if there IS no next step.

20 May 2010

19 May 2010

What I'm Reading

  • Great post on why Xers will never be Boomers (be sure to check out the comments) from the GenerationXpert (aka Suzanne Kart).
  • Maddie Grant's latest column for Social Media Today on why a corporate blog will beat a press release every time.
  • Yet another call (from Marketing Sherpa this time) to Dump the Jargon.  Huzzah, I say!  Also, if you've never read it, check out the Gobbledygook Manifesto (PDF).
  • More on FB's utter lack of regard for your privacy and preferences, via an awesome New York Times graph. Also, more on the disaster that is FB community pages. And how to put your FB account on lockdown in only 33 easy steps (yes really, but at least it works and is comprehensive).
  • Should you respond to that complaint or not, and if so, how?  Associations Now has some advice.
  • A slightly tongue in cheek take on the whole MS Office 2010 v. Google Apps throw-down, also from the Times
  • KiKi L'Italien shares why tassels are critical to success.
  • In case your personal jury (or the jury of someone you know) is still out, Jeff Hurt answers the "is social media a fad?" question resoundingly:  NO.
  • Steve Almond (who's hilarious, by the way) on his history of email addiction (which is really a brief recap of the lifespan of the Internet to date). 
  • I might be crazy, but why does ANYONE think "social shopping" is a good idea? I REALLY don't want y'all to know how much I spend on shoes.
  • (really solid) Tips for live-tweeting an event.  
  • I'm re-reading Gloria Naylor's fantastic novel Mama Day. I was trying to explain it to someone on Monday, and the best I could come up with was "mystical realism fiction (a la Isabel Allende) set in the south and written from an African-American perspective."  If you haven't ever read it, check it out - it's quite good.
  • The nola.com coverage of the HBO show Treme.  I get probably 75% of the references, but for that other 25%, you can't beat it.

18 May 2010

Next-Generation Leadership

JNott recently concluded a great series on leadership skills for the 21st Century, and Acronym has declared May to be Leadership Inspiration Month, and the combo got me thinking:  
What qualities will the association leader of the future need?
Rather than putting together some laundry list, I thought I'd focus on the two that seem most important to me:

Nimbleness of Mind 

It took us a while to catch the bug, but boy howdy, do associations love planning these days.  We love strategic planning.  We love action planning.  We love work planning.  We love metrics.  We love data.  We love environmental scanning.  We love SWOT analysis. We love Gantt charts.  We love Microsoft Project.  You'd think we were getting ready to invade Normandy, rather than just trying to roll out the renewal notices on time.

And that's all great - really it is.  A constant Ready --> Fire --> Aim approach can get you in big trouble.

But the thing is, you can't plan for everything.  Associations were never the most change-friendly organizations in the first place, and all this process-heavy planning infrastructure is slowing us down even more in a time when the *pace* of change is accelerating.  Rapidly.  News cycles, already 24/7, have been sped up by social media.  Competition from free and for-profit sources is increasing - and neither of those types of groups has to wait 6 months until the next board meeting to even get an idea on the agenda to be considered.

I'm not saying fly by the seat of your pants all the time - that can leave you without the available cash to make payroll at the end of the month.  But I am saying that the ability of our leaders to perform rapid analysis, trust their instincts, adapt, and come to decisions quickly is going to be critical to our ability to thrive as an association community.

Cross-Generational Fluency

We have 4 generations in the workplace at the same time for maybe the first time ever, as younger Silent generation members and Boomers delay retirement, while Gen-Xers are firmly in the middle of our careers, and the Millennials are moving en masse out of their schooling years and into their careers. Even the most cursory review of the available data reveals that these generations have MASSIVELY different ways of interacting with both people and technology. That lack of shared experience and understanding can produce significant friction in the workplace.  Does any of the following sound familiar?
  • That old guy in my office still prints out all his emails and dictates his responses to his assistant!  What's wrong with that guy?
  • Why won't those damn self-centered Boomers retire already? Or at least help prepare younger people for leadership positions?
  • Stupid Gen-Xers - they're so secretive.  Why do they always want to work on their own?  What's their problem with team work?
  • Why does the 25 year old program assistant think she's too good to make copies?  And why did she apply for that open director position?  She's only been here 6 months!
One of the key management lessons I've learned over the years is that you need to meet people where they are, not expect them to come to you.  Our leaders are going to have to become multi-generational-lingual in order to be able to get the most out of our teams.  For more on this idea, I highly recommend Karen Sobel Lojeski's work on virtual distance.

What do you think?  What do our next-generation leaders need to do and be to make sure associations continue to thrive?

17 May 2010

Always the Last to Know: Kontagent

Aiming to be the Google Analytics of Facebook, Kontagent's free if you're willing to share your data for benchmarking purposes.

14 May 2010

Friday Top 5

I had the opportunity to participate in UnAssociated with about 40-50 other really smart people this past Monday.  My top 5 takeaways from the unconference are:
  1. Membership is not a physical thing - it's a sense of belonging.
  2. Don't rebroadcast everything you do to every possible channel, or you'll risk pissing off your most involved members (who are the people who donate, volunteer, etc.) as they get notified of everything a million times.
  3. Live streaming events is a great marketing tactic - you don't know what you're missing until you know what you're missing.
  4. Want transparency and engagement? Get new blood on your Board, and get your traditional Board tasks disseminated out to other segments of your community.
  5. Your bottom line shouldn't be your only concern - think about how what you do affects your volunteers, your members, your customers, and your entire community of interested parties.

13 May 2010

10 Management Truths for the Digital Age

AWESOME presentation about how your organization needs to adapt in an era of constant, ubiquitous communication (thanks to @edbennett for the link)

12 May 2010

What I'm Reading

  • I've been flogging the net neutrality issue ever since I worked at CoSN (2004 onward), but Shelly Alcorn does a typically awesome job of explaining why you should care in one blog post (or less).
  • The Hourglass blog has a compelling post on the idea of being "disruptively good" as relates to associations working with for-profits as for-profits move into our mission areas (get ready). 
  • Jamie Notter addresses this post as well, pointing out that associations are not entitled to exist.
  • Lynn Morton argues that privacy and trust are inextricably linked, and she's losing hers in Facebook (me, too).
    Speaking of, in light of recent screw-ups, are you planning a Facebook exit strategy?  This post at Tech Crunch will help.
  • Enterprise-level Twitter (may be) coming soon.
  • Are niche networks the next big thing? Mike Zapolin thinks so (which would be good news for associations).
  • DC Central Kitchen announces a Volunteer Bill of Rights which, by the way, is a GREAT idea.  What would one look like for your association?
  • I'm also reading the third Arianna Franklin "Mistress of the Art of Death" mystery, Grave Goods.  I'm not usually a huge mystery fan, but her protagonist is pretty compelling:  a female surgeon in 12th century Great Britain. 

11 May 2010

Future of the Internet

GREAT presentation on the Future of the Internet from the team at Morgan Stanley (with a deep dive on mobile & lots of outside the US data).

Top trends include:
  • Mobile
  • Social networking
  • Cloud computing

10 May 2010

Always the Last to Know: BIN

Or Benchmarking In an Instant, a new service from ASAE.

The surveys that make up the annual Policies & Procedures studies are now all available online. The system is primarily set up for data collection rather than reporting, but you can get the accumulated results of any survey that's available to you AFTER filling out the survey. Your access to fill out surveys is limited by what you've selected in your ASAE profile as your key areas of responsibility. However, you can see a full list of all the surveys and the nice folks at the Knowledge Center can still get you access to anything you need, either from a "filling it out" or from a "reporting on it" perspective.

07 May 2010

Friday Top 5

Top 5 music moments from my recent vacation to New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
  • Davell Crawford (Marva Wright's son), Jon Cleary and Dr. John: 6 hands, 1 piano in the WWOZ Jazz Tent on Saturday, April 24.
  • Sitting almost in Evan Christopher's lap (I wish!) at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse for the weekly Playhouse Review that, on Saturday, May 1, featured David Torkanowsky, Don Vappie, Leon Brown, Johnaye Kendrick, Shannon Powell, Bob French, burlesque star Trixie Minx and a few others in addition to Christopher and Mayfield.
  • The Soul Rebels set at the Tipitina's Foundation benefit on Monday, April 26.  Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and Orleans Avenue also rocked it out that night.
  • Heading into the Blues Tent on Saturday, May 1 thinking we were going to hear Mem Shannon and the Membership and discovering that he'd been pre-empted...by personal favorite and somewhat ailing blues legend Bryan Lee.  Bonus?  Mr. Lee played about 5 sets (no cover) at 241 Bourbon on Sunday, May 2. Can you say, "boogie"?  I think you can!
  • Discovering Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs (thanks Dave!) and dancing my butt off at Cafe Negril.
Just missing the top 5:  Kermit Ruffins at Vaughn's, Legends of Zydeco night at Rock n' Bowl, Tim Laughlin at Fritzel's, and (all Fest sets) Amanda Shaw, Pete Fountain, the Treme Brass Band, Evan Christopher and Tom McDermott, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Jeremy Davenport, and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

06 May 2010

Happy 50th Birthday, CAE!

Did you know that this year is the 50th birthday of ASAE's signature professional development program, the Certified Association Executive designation?

Lots of cool celebratory stuff is in the works - there was a CAE only learning experience at the recent Great Ideas Conference, the annual CAE Celebration here in DC may go on the road, and we've got some really fun stuff in development for this year's Annual Meeting.

But we need your help!

Already a CAE?

The CAE 50th Anniversary Task Force (of which I am a member) is collecting memories from CAEs to create a multimedia timeline on the past 50 years. We'd love to get your story, whether you volunteer for a video or audio interview, have pictures or other artifacts you can share, or want to write a short (or not so short) vignette. ASAE staffer Mike Skiados, CAE is our contact point, so either drop him an email or ping me in the comments, at ewengel at yahoo dot com, or via Twitter (@ewengel).

It doesn't have to be some big long complicated thing, and it doesn't matter if you're not "important" (whatever that means) - we want all kinds of stories and you can just send in a sentence or two about what getting the CAE has meant to you, or give us a picture of you walking across the stage at Annual or with your study group or wearing your CAE pin. If you're willing to be interviewed, just contact me or Mike and we'll take it from there - or if you prefer, you can record something at your home or office and just send it in.

Not a CAE yet?

There's no time like the present to earn the association industry's most well-recognized, prestigious credential. You're running a little late for the May exam at this point (it's tomorrow), but you have PLENTY of time to prepare for the December exam. What are you waiting for?

05 May 2010

What I'm Reading

Aside from going through PILES of email post-vacation (see my post below on information overload and yes, I really do unplug completely - there's been no electronic communication from me for almost two weeks)...
  • Which came first - the metrics or the strategies?
  • Jamie Notter talks about the missing link (in strategic planning) and why it's killing us (and costing us a lot of money to boot).
  • Shelly Alcorn has completed her Associations At Risk series, and you should really check them all out if you haven't already.
  • I understand that Mark Zuckerberg thinks that privacy is dead, but seriously, WTF is wrong with FB
  • To post that update or not? Take this simple test.
  • 8 Key Elements for Online Communities:  how many do you have?
  • Build a better FAQ page (and yes, you still need one).
  • Researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center have come up with some tools to help tame the Twitter beast.
  • The Wall Street Journal now has Foursquare badges.  Yes really.  I think that is the definition of going mainstream.
  • 21 ways to become a Facebook Page ninja.
  • Respond to that negative post or not?  Trust the flyboys at the Air Force to come up with a simple flow chart to help you figure it out.
  • While on vacation I re-read Women Who Eat (seemed apropos since I was heading to New Orleans) and finished Dancing in the Streets (again, given that I was going to the land of doing just that, the timing seemed very good, although I was left puzzling over why Barbara Ehrenreich completely ignored music festivals in her otherwise excellent analysis).  
  • I also read Zeitoun, Dave Eggers' searing non-fiction account of the terrible injustices suffered by Syrian-American New Orleanian Abdulrahman Zeitoun in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  As if the death and destruction caused by the storm weren't bad enough, the private security contractors and National Guard troops called in to "help" basically went apeshit and completely disregarded people's civil rights and even common human decency and common sense.  The HBO series Treme has been alluding to what happened in the David M. Brooks storyline, but if you read this book - and trust me, you should - you will be shocked that such things could take place in America. The Zeitouns have set up a foundation to use the proceeds from the book and additional donations to benefit a variety of of excellent causes.
  • On a lighter note, I nearly completed Imbibe!, David Wondrich's reissue of "Professor" Jerry Thomas's seminal 1928 guide to cocktails. I learned three key things:  2-to-1 simple syrup (rather than the more traditional 1-to-1) make a HUGE difference, people used to drink a LOT more than we do now (even when "now" constitutes two weeks of vacation in New Orleans), and you go through a lot fewer bags smashing up your ice if you use canvas rather than plastic.