31 August 2011

What I'm Reading

I've got link love for EVERYONE this week. Hey, it's the week before Labor Day - things are pretty quiet around here.
  • Mastered the Conversation Prism? Then you're ready for the Brandsphere (it's a little complicated but I like where Brian Solis is going with this).
  • Jamie Notter is starting to write some Humanize-related posts, and they're good stuff.
  • The Beloit Mindset list is out for the class of 2015, and Shelly Alcorn has some great advice for those of us who AREN'T 18.
  • Hugh MacLeod is reclaiming blogging - should you?
  • What might your use of pronouns say about you?  (hat tip to Jeffrey Cufaude for the link)
  • You can't make the All-Star team if you never get to play.
  • The diversity conversation continues, and Jamie Notter weighs in, as does Shelly Alcorn.
  • Still figuring out Google+? Do you participate in any classes?
  • Think LinkedIn is just a Rolodex that updates itself? Think again.
  • I don't usually link to MarketingProfs because they have weird access rules, but this piece about impact of Facebook pages on customers' perceptions of your brand's openness to helping them seemed too important not to mention (hope you can actually get to it).
  • Interesting post about innovation and competitive advantage from MemberClicks.
  • Content not being shared? Social Media Examiner can help.
  • Just in case you weren't sure, the right leadership CAN transform your organization.
  • Your association should be a movement not an institution.
  • Finally, I'm reading Jane Smiley's Ten Days in the Hills. I doubt any of her other books will ever surpass my love for Moo, and this one seems a little...unfocused so far (although I think that may be at least part of the point).

30 August 2011

Can I Trust You?

I've been thinking about issues related to trust and risk ever since Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant's unsession on their forthcoming book, Humanize, at #ASAE11.

During the session, Jamie made a really interesting point: trust and risk are correlated. As trust goes up, risk goes up. In order to lower risk, we also end up lowering trust.

Ever wondered why staff members have such strong reactions to new policies at your association? Voila. That reads, on some level, like you don't trust them.

Here's the thing: we can't just throw out all our policies and skip merrily along trusting everyone completely and all the time. First of all, my many lawyer friends would be out of business if we did. They're all smart people, so I'm sure they'd find something else to do. But the unemployment rate is high enough right now.

But also, it's not realistic. There are people out there who, through ignorance, accident or ill intent, can harm our associations. Our members and the other communities we serve have the right to expect us to do what we can to protect our associations, by preventing what risks we can and being prepared to ameliorate those we can't.

On the other hand, our staff members deserve respect and professional courtesy. After all, if we can't trust them even a little bit, why did we hire them in the first place?

I don't have the perfect answer to this. In fact, there isn't one. Different organizations have different levels of tolerance for and exposure to risk. If you deal with credit card or HIPPA protected data, you know exactly what I mean.

I think this raises and important consideration for us as part of our own risk calculations. We often focus on the downsides of being more open, more trusting, etc in assessing risk. Do we think about the other side: what is the risk of reducing trust? Now that social media is, to quote Jamie, "kicking our asses" maybe we need to weigh that side of the calculation a little more carefully.

29 August 2011

Always the Last to Know: Stumbling for Good

No, this is not about a benefit happy hour.  StumbleUpon has launched a new service called Stumbling for Good. Each month, they donate Paid Discovery credits to 3 nonprofits to help raise awareness of their causes. Know any good candidates? They're accepting nominations.

26 August 2011

Friday Top 5

OK, seriously, an earthquake AND a hurricane IN THE SAME WEEK? Top 5 most likely next disasters to strike DC:
  1. Locusts (I hear they're due on Tuesday)
  2. Chuck Brown gives up go-go for bluegrass
  3. Ben's Chili Bowl shuts down
  4. Embattled mayor Vince Gray resigns in favor of...Sarah Palin
  5. The 2011 Redskins season
Stay safe this weekend, y'all!

25 August 2011

Are Some More Equal Than Others?

Yep, it's another post about Joe Gerstandt's awesome How to Fly Your Freak Flag session as #ASAE11.

One of the exercises consisted of Joe reading a variety of statements and asking us to stand up, purely voluntarily and only if we wanted to share that information about ourselves, when any statement that was true about us was read.

Some of them were fairly obvious, about gender and race/ethnicity. Some were less obvious, like being raised in a rural community or by a single parent.

One of the statements he read was: "I have a disability."

I thought about it for a few seconds, and stood up.

No, this is not going to turn into some heart-warming "coming out" story. I'm a GenXer - I don't do heart-warming.

I don't have depth perception, which people who know me well tend to be aware of. Thing is, I never had it in the first place, due to some serious eye problems I had as a baby/toddler. So although people who lose their depth perception later in life, particularly if it was *after* they learned to drive, tend to see themselves as disabled, that's not an identity I generally claim. But in fact, I do have a non-apparent disability. And it felt a little scary to stand up in a crowded break out session room and claim that.

And it got me thinking: are some types of diversity easier to own in our world?

Example: in the association world, there are lots of fabulous - and fabulously out - gay men in prominent positions, both paid and volunteer. But how many out lesbians can you think of in power positions in associations? I can't think of many. Doesn't that seem odd, given that association work is largely female-dominated?

What about people with disabilities that aren't visible? Hell, what about people with disabilities that *are* visible? I've worked in plenty of ADA-compliant buildings in the past 14 years, but I've never, to the best of my knowledge, worked with a person who had a disability that required ADA-covered accommodations. Several years ago, I worked on the floor *above* a disability rights organization, so I shared plenty of elevator rides with people in wheelchairs, but none of them were coming up to my floor to work for my organization.

Or think about religious minorities for a minute. Many organizations are open to our Jewish colleagues taking vacation days to celebrate their holidays, but what about other religious minorities (or at least minorities in the US)? We're within the last few days of Ramadan this year, and summer is a tough time for Ramadan, because that sunrise to sunset fast lasts a LONG time. Are our associations open to making accommodations in work schedules or responsibilities for people whose energy levels might be low by late afternoon because of religious observance?

I quote my esteemed colleague Jeffrey Cufaude: "We have got to start walking the talk on diversity." Also: "You won't get different results for diversity & inclusion if you don't even ask the question as a part of your regular work."

Are you asking the question yet? If not now, when?

24 August 2011

What I'm Reading

This week's all about advice:

Location:N Fairfax St,Alexandria,United States

23 August 2011

Are You Ready to Fly?

Without a doubt, the best session I attended at #ASAE11 was Joe Gerstandt's How to Fly Your Freak Flag.

Aside from the awesomeness of the topic, Joe's presentation style fit his message to a T.

His basic point is that the pressure on humans to conform to whatever group we're in is enormous, but conformity makes us “radically incomplete.” Sure, staff members who hide key aspects of themselves in order to fit in are easier to manage, but doing that is ultimately unhealthy. And when our people are holding back important elements of their real selves, they're almost definitely holding back characteristics, skills, and behaviors that would be good for our organizations.

Illustrating his point about how difficult but ultimately positive opening up is, Joe led us through a series of exercises where we gradually revealed more about ourselves to a gradually larger audience.

He walked us through:
  • Writing our own obituaries (surprisingly difficult)
  • "Who am I?"
  • "Why am I here?"
  • "What is my gift?"
  • "Is there any evidence?" (my favorite of the questions)
In the end, while we're never EXACTLY the same person at work and in our private lives, we have to be comfortable with where we draw the line. Are you comfortable with that place in your own life? If not, what are you going to do about it?

22 August 2011

Always the Last to Know: Katango

Tried of trying to manage all your social media connections and figure out who should have access to what? Let Katango automate it for you. I'm not sure that I'd be willing to completely automate this process, but if a tool could get me, say, 75% of the way there, that would be a big help.

19 August 2011

Friday Top 5

Yes, it's another post about belly dancing. This weekend is the Sahara Dance end of trimester show - Sahara Dance Caravan: Exploring the Evolution of Belly Dance. The summer show is a lot of fun. Top 5 Reasons you should join me (at the 8 pm show - or go to the 4 pm show if that's when you're free):
  • This is the "experimental" show, which means you might hear some music you actually recognize and you'll get to see belly dance combined with other forms of dance (aka "fusion" styles).
  • You'll get to hear me bust out my ululations, which I've been practicing, since learning the skill was this year's New Year's resolution.
  • You'll see lots of beautiful, smiling, wonderful, joyful women dancing. How awesome is that?
  • I'm not performing, so I can clue you in to what you're seeing.
  • You'll be supporting the arts and live performance. And it's late August, when not much else is going on around town. And the tickets are only $25.
Tickets are still available by following the link above, or you can get them at the door at the Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theater of American University, which is on Wisconsin Avenue a few blocks south of the Tenleytown Metro stop.

18 August 2011

Dare to Think BIG

During Jeffrey Cufaude's ASAE11 Ignite presentation on living a sustainable life, he quoted Mary Catherine Bateson: "we're living longer but thinking shorter." And I got thinking about the concept of thinking small.

Associations are under tremendous pressure right now. The economy is not getting any better. Social media, to quote Jamie Notter and paraphrase Clay Shirky, is kicking our asses. Generational shifts are battering our traditional membership and leadership models. Peak oil and global climate change are beginning to affect our society in countless ways, one of which may very likely be to cripple our traditional educational and networking models. What volunteers are looking for, and the hoops they're willing to jump through in order to get it, has changed in ways that render traditional board and committee service models obsolete. Information is no longer scarce, and even the most backwards and self-delusional associations can't pretend to hold a monopoly on it any more.

Everything in our environment is whispering: "Protect your ass. Guard your turf. Trust no one. Rock no boats. Prepare for the worst."

In other words: "Think small."

Sure - think small, and watch your organization die.

Now, as Jamie has pointed out, your association - my association - has no inherent right to exist. And if the best thing for your profession/industry/community/audiences is for your organization to die, then get on with it and decrease the surplus population.

But if you do believe that your organization brings something useful and good to some group of people, now is exactly the time to think big, take chances, rock the boat, make change, and see where it can take you.

It's easy to be afraid now - a lot of shit is going down. But if we can get past the fear and be courageous and willing to take risks, we have HUGE opportunities to do better by our members, our professions/industries, our audiences, and maybe even the world. As my good friend Catherine says: "What are they going to do - take away your birthday?"

At the end of his Ignite session, Joe Gerstandt asked us: "Do you approach life from fear or from love?"

It's time to choose.

17 August 2011

What I'm Reading

16 August 2011

Innovation: Small Staff v. Large Staff

In the past 14 years, I've held a variety of positions in association management: senior staff in a mid-sized professional academic society, senior staff/acting CEO for a small ed-tech association, consulting, and now mid-level management at a large medical trade association.

Each place has had upsides and downsides. The academic society was in my "official" field (from undergrad and grad school), so I was really engaged in the meat of what we did and felt a deep personal connection with my members. I had the opportunity to manage a fantastic team, most of whom I'm still in touch with 14 years later. But tradition weighs particularly heavy on an august association of PhDs. Even though I had good internal support to try new things, there was only so far we could go. And the annual meetings were murder!

The small association was nimble and innovative, and I had pretty much totally free reign to try anything I wanted. We turned on a dime and had an AMAZING mission and community. Unfortunately, resources - staff, time, money, capacity, space - were a constant problem. Comes with the territory, but we constantly struggled to figure out ways to push all our great ideas forward on the cheap (or preferably, the free).

Consulting brought lots of fun, exciting variety, and I got to meet and work with terrific people from all sorts of associations, finding out about worlds I never would have encountered otherwise (and I got to work with a metallurgy organization staffed and led by a bunch of guys who reminded me a lot of my dad, which rocked - I love engineers!). But I was often in the position of turning over a bunch of (hopefully) useful recommendations that would have an immediate positive impact, with an "OK! Let me know how it goes!" It killed me to mostly not be able to help make change happen.

Large organizations allow you to be more specialized, so you develop deeper expertise in your areas of responsibility. Resources are rarely a serious impediment. And once again, great mission (there may be a theme here). But decision making can be glacial, and it's often not entirely clear who needs to be involved in a given decision until you're down the path and someone's upset they've been left out.

So here's my question for you, association peeps: how does one bring some of the good things small staff organizations enjoy with regards to new ideas and nimbleness to a large organization?

That's not rhetorical - I'd really like your thoughts.

15 August 2011

Always the Last to Know: Word Lens

Word Lens translates words inside of image - like for instance, signs when you're visiting another country - pretty much instantaneously and gives them back as augmented reality.

For more on how this works, check out Technology Review's article on the technology (subscription required).

12 August 2011

Friday Top 5

I'm basking in the afterglow of #ASAE11 (and trying to dig out back at the office), so this seemed like a perfect time to devote my Friday Top 5 to the Best Things About #ASAE11 (YMMV):
  • IGNITE sessions. I HAVE to do one of these in the near future. I think I even have my topic. I'll post the links as soon as the recordings go live for those who missed them.
  • Joe Gerstandt's Fly Your Freak Flag session. I will be writing a longer post specifically about it within the next week or two, but while I went to many good sessions this year, this one was, by far, the best.
  • The amazing S-T-L hospitality. I have to admit, I was not super-excited to go to St. Louis, particularly not in August. The city blew my socks off. And it wasn't so much the two big parties, although they were great. But the ASAE host cities always throw us big parties. It was the little touches - all the Red Shirts with "Welcome ASAE" signs EVERYWHERE and ready to help with anything you needed. The mayor and local business being active in the tweet stream. The "Welcome ASAE" flags and signs in the cabs and street stencils. The fact that the Ren Grand had a veritable ARMY of people behind the counter at their Starbucks in the mornings. The Washington Avenue entertainment district bars and restaurants all having welcome signs and specials for us. The famous parting gift Starbucks cards. Other cities could take a lesson, and I think ASAE should ALWAYS go to tier-2 cities if they're going to be this fantastic to us. Association meeting planners, be sure to show the S-T-L a little love in coming years - they've earned it.
  • The service aspects. Monday night's YAP party raised money for Joplin tornado relief. We asked people to bring $5-$10 to drop in a bucket. We raised over $1300 at the event. YAP party sponsors AMR Management Services and Avectra agreed to allow us to use some of the funds they provided for the party to match up to the first $1000 in donations, an anonymous donor stepped up to match the rest, another anonymous donor has pledged an additional $300, and Jeffrey Cufaude and Jeff De Cagna have also both stepped up with additional funds. It's not too late for you to donate - just get in touch with Jamie Notter. I also had the opportunity to help out with Tuesday afternoon's service project at Stray Rescue of St. Louis. It was hot and dirty and hard work...and it was AWESOME. I love that ASAE is now formally including a service aspect to the Annual. I'd love to see something similar at all the big events.
  • ASAE themselves. ASAE operates on a very public stage in front of a highly opinionated and often very critical audience - us. And we all work for associations, so we all think we know better. Last year, the organization took a lot of flak from a lot of quarters about a lot of elements of the Annual. They could've said: "Those damn bloggers think they know everything about everything. We're not caving to a small but vocal minority. And you kids get off my lawn!" They didn't. They moved the Online Engagement Lounge and the CAE Lounge to the center of the action. They provided a flash learning space for unconference sessions. They overhauled the general sessions. They provided more educational sessions and in innovative formats like deep dive and IGNITE. No meeting will ever be perfect, but I can't thank ASAE enough for their efforts to respond positively to criticism, incorporate suggestions, and do everything in their power to get this as close to perfect as humanly possible.

11 August 2011

Home Again, Home Again


And trying to dig out.

Amazing time at ASAE. You know tomorrow's Friday Top 5 will be the Top 5 highlights. Once the IGNITE session videos are online, I'll be linking. Sessions I went to caused me to think of all sorts of interesting things I'll be blogging about in the coming days.

In the meantime, read JNott's recap post. What he said. (Damn that was fast, JNott!)

Edited to add: Jeffrey Cufaude also has a great post, in which he talks about how to translate your conference-fueled passion into action at your organization without making all your colleagues crazy in the process. 

Edited again to add: Even more goodness from JNott: your association is NOT the center of the universe. 

07 August 2011

Social Media Trouble Spots

Lindy Dreyer, Chief Social Media Marketer for Social Fish, and I are presenting a session on this topic today at the ASAE Annual Meeting. True to my usual form, I'm posting our resources here at T4P.

Unsurprisingly, they're all directly from the Social Fish:
  • Did you know they published a book called Open Community? Our handout for the session (which you can download from the main conference site linked above) includes an excerpt from it, and it looks at the concepts of process, culture, and skill set in detail. Check it out!
  • The Social Fish and Leslie White of Croydon Consulting also came out with a white paper on risk, legality and social media policies. Having clear policies that everyone knows and understands and procedures they can follow is a key component of getting your culture in order.
  • I was going to try to link to some relevant blog posts from Maddie and Lindy on this topic, and quickly found myself realizing that nearly ALL of their blog posts are relevant to this topic (go figure). So do yourself a favor and add them to your RSS feed.

05 August 2011

Friday Top 5

Much like Nat King Cole, I'm going to St. Louis (where I'll be attending a benefit for Joplin, Missouri), although he wasn't lucky enough to be headed there for ASAE, whereas I am!

So what does that mean?

Aside from being really happy to get the hell outta Dodge for a few days, things will be pretty quiet here other than a post related to my session (more on that below), but my Twitter stream will be blowing up.

Top 5 Things I'm Looking Forward to at #ASAE11:
  1. Seeing, hanging out with, and learning with all my association peeps, particularly those from outside the DC area.
  2. My session with the brilliant Lindy Dreyer of SocialFish. Come hang with us Sunday afternoon, August 7, at 1:30 pm to learn how process, culture and skills will drive social media success in your association.
  3. Volunteering for Stray Rescue of St. Louis through the Community Connection on Tuesday afternoon.
  4. Getting inspired at the Ignite sessions and the unsessions. Big shout-out to ASAE for providing official space and support for unsessions!
  5. The YAP party! You are planning to join us at Jive-n-Wail Monday night aren't you? Remember to wear red and bring $5-$10 for hurricane relief for Joplin, MO, hometown of association rock stars KiKi L'Italien and Kylee Coffman. Thanks to our generous sponsors, YAP is going to match donations dollar for dollar up to $1000. Let's get ALL those matching funds, people!
Image credit: MommyofThree blog

04 August 2011

Gettin' Paid

As is, who's getting paid what in the association world?

Association TRENDS has recently released their annual association compensation report, both nationally and for the DC Metro area. They are both things you have to purchase, but I was fortunate to get a free copy of the executive summary.

Among the findings:

  • Associations provide salary increases for merit/performance, cost of living, tenure, and combinations of the above. In DC, the biggest increases were reported for the combination of cost of living + tenure, with cost of living + merit close behind. Nationally, the biggest increase came from merit + tenure, with cost of living + tenure close behind. 
  • Average increases ran just over 7% in DC and just over 6% nationally. Given that everyone is considering cost of living, that's not so surprising. 
  • Salaries in the DC area were higher than the national average for every position and every level considered. Again, given that the cost of living around here is so high, that's probably not that surprising, either. 
  • Breaking down DC/MD/VA, salaries paid actually in the District were higher across the board. MD came in second in mar/comm and admin, with VA coming in second in finance and executive management.
If you deal with compensation issues, buying the full report is probably a good investment. If you don't and are just curious, let me know, and I'll hook you up with my connection for the executive summary.

03 August 2011

What I'm Reading

  • Thinking about a new website? Burned more than once by bad organization of your information? A good friend of mine who is an information architect highly recommended this guy's information, and he'll be doing a workshop in DC in early September that you might want to check out.
  • 11 key social media metrics - how many are you measuring?
  • Tired of social media? Maybe you're doing it wrong.
  • Does your association do any advocacy work? You have to check out the latest about Congress and social media.
  • Does your association have a white label social network? Mayo Clinic, usually a winner in the social space, is providing a negative example, so learn and avoid their mistakes.
  • Going to #ASAE11 next week? Better check out Maddie Grant's review of the iPad app first! (Edited to add: my bad! It was actually Lindy Dreyer who wrote the iPad app review.)
  • Meet better. Jeffrey Cufaude thinks you can (and so do I).
  • Just started reading Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. It's an interesting read for me, not least of which because it's describing something that's a bit foreign - I don't do Living Social or Groupon (I think both hurt small businesses) and I don't shop at big box stores (same reason). If one of your goals is to be a conscious consumer, though, I highly recommend it.

02 August 2011

Blue Mood

You know how some times you get into a pattern where NOTHING seems to be going right? It can happen in any area of your life, of course, but when it happens at work, it seems to hit harder. I think it's because you have to continue to behave professionally to your colleagues, members, and corporate supporters (whereas your friends and loved ones will often give you at least some slack to pout, rage, cry, get even more excessively sarcastic and cynical than normal, etc., at least for a little while), and they really frown (at least at my office) on replacing the water in your environmentally friendly refillable aluminum water bottle with Bloody Marys.

So when that happens, what do you do to pull yourself out of it?

A few of my tricks:
  • Music in my office. Help me, Thelonious Monk, you're my only hope.
  • Reminding myself, on a minute by minute basis if necessary, that I can't control current circumstances or other people's reactions to them, but I CAN control MY reactions to them, I can choose how I respond, and I want to be able to be proud of being my best self in times of stress, not ashamed of how I took my stress out on other people.
  • Taking a walk. Nothing like a little time away from the computer, phone, etc. out in nature to help provide perspective.
  • Spending some time reading all your big thinkers and innovators in association management. It reminds me of all the good potential and good ideas in our world that sometimes get to win out.
What are your tricks for getting back on track when it feels like the universe has it in for you?

01 August 2011

Always the Last to Know: TR 10

Every year, MIT's Technology Review identifies the 10 technologies that emerged in the past year that they think will have the largest impact in the future. This year's choices include: social indexing (aka the thing most likely to lead to the semantic web), a technology that would allow for fully secure cloud computing, a way of writing crash-proof computer code, solid-state batteries, and improvements in the electrical grid and a variety of medical technologies.

Check out the full list and feel, if you're like me, both awed and kind of not very smart :)