30 April 2012

Always the Last to Know: Dropbox

I really am the last to know on this one. I had tried using Dropbox maybe 18 months ago, and I couldn't get anything to work: not my login, not sharing, nothing. So I gave up and uninstalled it.

Then MIT's Technology Review named them one of their top 50 innovative companies of 2012, and I figured I should give it another shot.

Propitiously, this happened at the exact time I started working on my session for ASAE's upcoming Membership, Marketing and Communications Conference. My co-presenters and I have been collecting and sharing samples of marcomm materials to make over. You know what makes that really easy? Dropbox! I've also stashed the script for my MMCC IGNITE presentation in there, so when I have a free five minutes, I can pull it up on my iPhone and run over it.

I think I'm in love.

27 April 2012

Friday Top 5

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? I must admit, I am not a huge poetry fan. One of my besties is, though. She has a theory that people who don't like poetry were introduced to it poorly. I'm willing to buy that. Still, even with my poor introduction to the art form, there are poets I'm quite fond of. My top 5 favorite poets:
  1. e.e. cummings
  2. Walt Whitman
  3. Khalil Gibran
  4. Mary Oliver
  5. Rumi
Follow the links for particular favorite poems (bonus: the link for Mary Oliver is to her actually reading her poem).

26 April 2012

Looking into My Crystal Ball

I'll be speaking for DMAW's Bridge Conference in August. Leading up to the event, they'll be devoting a feature in their July issue of AdVents to“Fall 2012 Predictions from the Experts To Jump Start Your Year-end Planning.”

They asked each speaker to answer (in 75 words or less) the question:
What development, trend, or marketing innovation do you predict will be in place by the fall of 2012 to influence every direct marketer’s year-end planning? 
My answer?
Mobile. The percentage of people using smart phones is going nowhere but up, and it’s having an increasing impact on the ways we can engage our audiences and on their expectations of us. From apps to mobile-friendly websites to ensuring your emails render correctly and legibly to the ability to take mobile donations, nonprofit organizations MUST become fluent in mobile in 2013. 
 How would you answer the question?

25 April 2012

What I'm Reading

  • Heard of flipped learning? Jeffrey Cufaude goes one better with flipped volunteering.
  • Acronym asks: is there something wrong with association professionals?
  • Supervising people? Don't be average - be awesome!
  • Change IS NOT hard, but solving problems is.
  • In associations, who's the sun and who's the planet?
  • Check out Deirdre Reid's series on member onboarding for Avectra.
  • Addressing the sticky wicket of intellectual property in content curation.
  • I've got two books going at the moment: re-reading TC Boyle's Drop City and reading Barbara Ehrenreich's second-wave classic Complaints and Disorders.

24 April 2012

Big Risk, Big Reward

This is IT. You've just come up with THE game-changing idea for your organization. It's going to transform membership, and through it, your profession or industry.

Upside: potential HUGE reward.

Downside: equally HUGE risk.

But we're associations. We're risk-averse. So don't do it, right?


Part of making a big impact is being willing to make a big bet. But be smart about it. Do your homework on your audiences. Run a beta test. Get member input, and not just from your board. Invest. Determine in advance how much you can invest before you need to start seeing a return. Have a plan B and a plan C. Define what success looks like. Be ready to capture what you learned, whether it works or not. Iterate. Know what your exit strategy is.

You only get so many opportunities to take the big leap, so choose carefully. If you do, you'll start a virtuous circle where you get MORE opportunities to take those game-changing risks because you know how succeed AND fail well.

23 April 2012

Always the Last to Know: OnLive Desktop

Have an iPad and need to use MS Office? Now you can, via OnLive Desktop. The 2 GB of cloud storage? That's just a bonus.


20 April 2012

Friday Top 5

This weekend is the Greater DC Cares Servathon, an annual event where thousands of volunteers participate in the DMV's largest community impact service program. I've had the opportunity to be a part of this and other GDCC service projects over the years. My Top 5 Favorites:
  1. Painting murals at McKinley Tech high school
  2. Planting flowers at the Minnie Howard campus of TC Williams high school
  3. Cleaning up the Atlas Theater
  4. Giving residents' rooms a fresh coat of paint at The Carpenter's Shelter
  5. Sorting donations at the Capitol Area Food Bank (which is a good thing, since that's this weekend's project, too)
It is, sadly, too late to register for this year's event, but you can plan now to be a part of the next one, which will be the annual September 11 day of service. If I had to guess, it will be observed the prior weekend.

19 April 2012

How To Grow Your Own Fresh Air

Great TED talk on a simple way to dramatically improve indoor air quality, just in time for Earth Day (Sunday, April 22) and Arbor Day (Friday, April 27).

18 April 2012

What I'm Reading

Short list this week:
  • It’s not what you sell, it’s what you believe.
  • What can the Boss teach you about branding?
  • Are we REALLY risk averse, or is something else going on here?
  • Another negative effect of the current economy? Polarization of our employment options.
  • Joe Gerstandt on flying your freak flag for the April issue of Associations Now. Read it. NOW!
  • Just started The Hearts of Men by Barbara Ehrenreich. Interesting read what with the new season of Mad Men just underway.


17 April 2012

Safe Home, Discovery

(Back to regular association focused posting tomorrow)

16 April 2012

Happy Empancipation Day, DC!

Today marks the 150th anniversary of DC Emancipation Day. On April 16, 1862, Abraham Lincoln emancipated over 3000 enslaved African-Americans in the District, nearly 9 months before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the rebelling states of the Confederacy. It's been a holiday in DC since 2005.

I'm at work in Alexandria today, but if you're downtown or can get away with playing hooky, the HuffPo has a great summary of events you can attend.

Photo credit: Mr. T in DC


13 April 2012

Friday Top 5

Oops - it's almost 5 pm! Top 5 Reasons I nearly forgot to write a Friday Top 5 post today:
  1. Mind still blown from working on IGNITE presentation yesterday.
  2. It's Friday the 13th. Nuff said.
  3. We celebrated the success of our spring conference with a pizza and cupcake lunch, and the resulting sugar high and crash has me totally confused.
  4. I've been too busy reliving Arias with a Twist in my mind all day to post.
  5. I'm on Australian time. No, I haven't been to Australia recently. Why do you ask?
In separate but related news, got a good Friday Top 5 topic for me for next week? Leave it in the comments.

12 April 2012

Brevity is the Soul of Wit

And a picture is worth a thousand words, which is a good thing, because today, I've been putting together my first IGNITE presentation.

For those who aren't familiar with the concept, you get 5 minutes and 20 slides to make your point. But here's the kicker - the slides auto-advance every 15 seconds.

No "I only need this slide up for 10 seconds."

No "I really need at least 20 seconds with this slide."

Nope - 15 seconds, and then the deck is moving on, with or without you.

Now, I present pretty frequently, so I'm used to thinking about my main points, and putting together an outline, and creating slides, and looking for good images to support my points, etc.

But this is totally different - and it's not easy.

The thing that's cool about it is that it makes the presenter (me in this case) think deeply about what she's trying to communicate and how best to convey that with words AND images and get crystal clear about the "so what?" There's no meandering your way through 30 minutes and 15 slides to get to your point. You gotta hit it and quit it.

To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.:
I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity. 
Somehow, I think he would've been a fan of IGNITE.

Want to see me - and a bunch of really smart, awesome people - throw down? Register for ASAE's Membership, Marketing & Communications Conference in May, or keep an eye on their YouTube channel around late June, when the recordings are likely to go live.


11 April 2012

What I'm Reading

  • Want to lead effectively? Work on your assertiveness.
  • Continuing on a theme, nine key leadership characteristics - how do you measure up?
  • Jamie Notter has written a smart piece on race and politics.
  • Want to earn trust? Jeffrey Cufaude urges you to be trustworthy.
  • How NOT to welcome a new employee (I don't agree with all of these, but there is some good advice).
  • And just in case you've managed to miss it, Texts From Hillary. I heart her.
  • Between books at the moment while I catch up on magazine reading, and I'm trying to decide fiction or non-fiction for my next read. Any recommendations?


10 April 2012

Reaching Detente With Your Chapters

One of the truisms of association management is that national/chapter relationships are often...fraught. Even though we're all ostensibly on the same side, it doesn't always feel that way. Each side feels like the other is holding out on the them or trying to gain advantage, and the lack of trust that results makes it hard to communicate and to work together for the good of the organization as a whole and, ultimately, the profession or industry you serve.

How do you get past this?

I was recently chatting with some colleagues who were working through this exact problem. Details concealed, of course, but a little background. The organization has chapters in every state. As is common, some are quite strong and many are less so. The national provides staff support for chapters, but it's in the form of two staff members who are both in DC (and in the eastern time zone). 

The national wants to switch to an "account executive" model, dividing the country into regions and locating a regional chapter support manager in each of them. Those regional managers would still report to the national membership director, but they would work remotely and be charged solely with supporting the chapters in their region (so they would really work FOR the chapters).

Sounds great, right? Unless you're a strong chapter that's worried that this is a power grab by the national. And there is one chapter in particular with a strong, nationally-known executive and a full staff of their own. The national staff is concerned that she will lead the revolt that will doom their plan to help struggling chapters by providing better overall support and coordination.

What we realized is that this apparent negative could actually be a huge advantage. But it would all depend on the approach. Going to the strong chapter executive with, "This is the plan that we, the national, in our great and mighty wisdom, have devised for you, the poor little chapters, and you'll accept it whether you want to or not!" would result in disaster. It turns her into an opponent immediately. "My chapter is just fine, and we don't need your help/interference, thanks."

But, if the national approached the strong chapter executive with this as a POSSIBLE idea to provide better support for the chapters that they'd very much like her to PILOT for them before they consider rolling it out to all the chapters, suddenly, we're on the same side of the table working together to solve a problem.

Of course, the national has to be genuine. The program really IS a pilot and is open to modification - or even being dumped - based on the experiences of the beta group, which should probably consist of some or all of chapters in the strong chapter executive's region. The staff person would remain at the national headquarters during the pilot, but he would switch his work schedule to better align with the region's time zone. And if the beta testers came up with a better idea, the national would pilot that as well.

What kind of tiger-style management-fu can you deploy to start standing next to your chapters facing issues together rather than standing opposite them and *being* the issue?

09 April 2012

Always the Last to Know: Infographics

I love infographics. Although I don't have much in the way of skill myself in representing information visually, I'm definitely down with the idea that people generally understand visual representations of information better than any other way it can be presented.

Voila: everything you ever wanted to know about infographics.

Need data? Need to understand how they work? Need the tools to create them? Need to hire someone to create one? Just want to talk infographics with other data visualization geeks? It's all there. Data geek out.

(hat tip to John Haydon for the link)

06 April 2012

Friday Top 5

J and I are going to Rogue 24 tonight with a good foodie friend, which is putting me in mind of amazing meals I've enjoyed over the years. My Top 5 Most Amazing Meals EVER:
  1. Solo omakase at the sushi bar at Morimoto in Philly in 2005.  The food was OUTSTANDING (quite seriously the best of of my life, no contest), the beverage pairings were creative, and I happened to be sitting next to Roy Yamaguchi.
  2. The third time we went to the Inn at Little Washington, for our anniversary in 2010. We finally knew how to do it up right at that point, leaving ourselves enough time on the front and back ends to enjoy the area as well. We were raving over one of the sauces (and talking quite a bit about the meal in general), and our server noticed. She arranged for us to go back into the kitchen and meet Patrick O'Connell, who proceeded to show us the technique to make the sauce. We drove home the next day during the beginnings of the storm that became the December 2010 Snowpocalypse.
  3. Our first dinner at Komi after Johnny Monis switched to the current prix fixe mezzethakia system. We had theater tickets at Studio that night (for Top Dog, Underdog, one of the most amazing plays I've ever seen), so we did everything up to the cheese course (with wine pairings), then saw the show, then came back for cheese and dessert. Again, the food was outstanding, and it's a big meal, so the break in between left us ready to fully enjoy cheese and dessert later, and we had plenty to talk about after having seen the play, too.
  4. The meal J made for my 40th birthday dinner party. He planned the entire thing, and it was an incredible evening of good food, good friends, good wine, and stimulating conversation. I asked him to make lamb, which he hadn't done much of to that point. So he tested recipes, while keeping the whole menu secret from me, for weeks leading up to the party. One of my best birthdays ever.
  5. Any Friday lunch at Galatoire's, champagne, raucous laughter, and fabulous hat NOT optional.
Well, now I'm hungry! Good thing it's lunchtime.


05 April 2012

"My Members Don't Read!"

Raise your hand if you've heard this.

Now raise your hand if you've SAID this.

Everyone's hands should be up by now.

And we can all also relate to hearing, "I didn't know you did X! I really need that!" from our members. ALL THE TIME.

OK, so we've all been complaining about this for years. Our members have no idea what we offer them. What we're doing to educate them isn't working.

What do we do to fix it?

I don't claim to have the answer, but I do have some ideas about where to look:

K.I.S.S. Many of our organizations, in an attempt to be all things to all people (or due to the temptation of all that tasty, tasty non-dues revenue), have larded up our membership "benefits" with so much tangential crap that our members can't focus on the stuff that will actually help them fix their problems. Not to single out a particular industry, but while royalty revenue from your credit card program is nice, is it worth losing your members' attention over the things that really matter to them?

Inside Voice. How much do your members need to know about the internal workings and arrangement of your association to find stuff? If the answer isn't "zero," you need to rethink how you present information. Your members don't care that the professional liability insurance you offer them lives in your financial services department, which they have to access under Member Services --> Other Services --> Affinity Programs. What does "affinity program" mean anyway, if you're, say, a professor of economics, as opposed to an association membership professional?

Broadcast. Are you targeting the particular needs of particular members, or are you still broadcasting everything to everyone? Have a conference that's for marketing directors? Why are you sending a thousand marketing messages to CEOs? They're tuning you out, and the next time you release a CEO salary survey for your industry, they aren't going to be listening. "But our AMS..." "But our bulk mail client..." No buts. Learn what your members are interested in AS INDIVIDUALS, track it, and target it.

Push versus Pull. As we all know by now, one of the key differences to social media is that it's a PULL mechanism. That means people become subjects who pull the information they want to them on their schedules. Our models are built on people who are objects that passively receive the information we push out on our schedules. And while most of our associations are using social media now (latest figure I saw was that 86% of associations are on Facebook), we haven't changed our mindset. We're still using these platforms as push marketing outlets. Which is, to say the least, missing the point.

What do you think - how can we do a better job of educating our members about the things we offer that we know they need (because they told us) but that they don't know we have?


04 April 2012

What I'm Reading

And a question: has anyone read the new Jim Collins book, Great by Choice? After reading this review in the February Associations Now, I'm thinking it's a "must skip." Rigid discipline, data-data-data-, fear and an incremental approach to change are the way to greatness? That CANNOT be right (I hope).

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03 April 2012

Start With the "Why"

Want to lead in a way that inspires action? Start with the "why."

02 April 2012

Always the Last to Know: 50 Most Innovative Companies

The cover story for the latest issue of MIT's Technology Review is the periodic 50 Most Innovative Companies.  Some are not that surprising and/or have made appearances here before - Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Square, Zynga, the Goog, PatientsLikeMe - but some are new at least to me (Nicira, WiTricity, Alta, etc.). Check it out and get inspired!