An Executive Director's point of view


April 17, 2014: Board leadership

Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
Here are some more ways that members of the Board of Directors can contribute to an organization's bottom line without engaging in direct sales.

#4 - being a door opener - is of tremendous value.

April 16, 2014: Culture clash

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Associations with multi-cultural audiences often claim they cannot accommodate the holidays and customs of all the groups they represent. So, they don't try to accommodate any of them.

That's wrong.

Dealing with many different cultures, whether internationally or within the United States, does not absolve the organization of the responsibility to respect what each considers important.

So, identify those days that can and should be respected. Learn when it is best not to schedule events, when to refrain from serving food, when members and prospects should not be phoned, and any other procedures that can be adapted to minimize conflict and display cultural sensitivity.

Be practical when making these decisions. Some groups may be more concerned about conflict, so it may be necessary to bend more for them. Others may understand why conflict may be unavoidable and won't be offended by the association's actions.

But don't ever appear uninformed or insensitive. And if you make a mistake, apologize for it.

NOTE: When determining whether or not a conflict is likely to exist, consult an official organization that represents the culture in question. Don't merely ask a member of that religion or nationality. That person may not be representative of the group that concerns you.

April 14, 2014: Don't make them pay

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
People who use conference calls for Board meetings, committee meetings, job interviews, or other association activities should not have to pay to participate.

They should be able to call a toll-free number and the organization should pay the fee.

Even local associations should do that. A person who organizes a conference call from a cell phone, for example, may have relocated from across the country and kept an old number. So a call to a colleague down the street will incur a long distance charge.

Conference calls should be free to all of the individuals on the call.
Posted by: David M Patt
Because they don't feel included.

The association's educational conference delivered the high-level knowledge that frequent attendees demanded. Those folks often complained about presenters who addressed subjects they already knew about.

But the younger professionals wanted more basic information. And many of them could not afford the cost nor the time away from work to attend the conference.

So, the association decided to create low-cost webinars (that qualified for continuing education credits) addressing issues relevant to colleagues who were new to the field, and post other valuable information for free on the members-only page of its website.

It was hoped that those needing introductory material would benefit from the online resources, while the more experienced folks would continue to enjoy the cutting-edge presentations delivered at in-person events.

As the younger folks grew more knowledgeable and became able to attend the conference, they, too, could be expected to value the high-end presentations.

The effort has just been launched. We'll see how it works.

April 10, 2014: Learning can be fun

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
The Society of Correctional Physicians ended an educational conference with a hands-on casting and splinting workshop. Most of them rarely needed to perform these medical tasks but wanted to know how to be prepared in emergency cases when injuries required immediate treatment.

About half of those in attendance left before the session began. But those who stayed had a blast.

They learned how to create casts and splints for broken limbs and enjoyed experiencing the process from the patient's perspective. They left their seats and congregated around medical supplies and improvised treatment stations.

While they were certainly serious about learning, they also had a lot of fun placing and removing splints and casts from each other. It was a great "wind-down" activity after a full day of presentations.

Most trade and professional associations can create "fun" activities at their educational events.

Just remember, though, that not everybody wants to have "fun." So, schedule the activity at a time when those who want to opt out can do so without interfering with the rest of the program and without calling attention to themselves.

April 08, 2014: Sweet home, Chicago

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
Association meetings have led me through half-empty airports, with limited food vendors, no arrival/departure monitors, and no indoor passageways to planes.

So, returning to Chicago's O'Hare Field was a pleasant homecoming.

Yes it's crowded - and that's great. There are lots and lots and lots of choices for everything. And the place doesn't seem to close.

Airport security is excessive, but that's true everywhere. At least I've passed through pre-check a couple of times at O'Hare. Food and other merchandise is grossly expensive - but it is in other airports, too (and at hotels, too).

The airport reflects the City of Chicago - constant activity, late night hours, a downtown that is never empty (thousands of people live there), and lots and lots and lots of choices for everything.

It's nice to be back home.

March 29, 2014: Web priorities

Category: Web sites
Posted by: David M Patt
Design your web site from users' perspectives, not from the association's perspective.

Make it easy to navigate to information that users want, not information that the association wants users to want.

And don't hide important marketing information on member-only pages.

Non-members should be able to view the list of Board and staff (and contact them individually), association policy positions, and details about upcoming meetings and conferences. That info may induce people to become, members, attendees, or customers.

March 26, 2014: You talk too much

Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
Does your Board take 30 minutes to conduct a 10 minute conversation? Does it matter?

Sometimes, Board discussions take too long. Dialog meanders and issues get visited and revisited, and sometimes visited again.

But some people think that way and talk that way. If the end result is satisfactory, maybe it doesn't matter.

So, instead of trying to achieve efficiency in Board discussions, it may be better to simply ensure that important issues are addressed and resolved, even if it takes longer than you think it should.

March 18, 2014: Bloggers on the take

Category: Ethics
Posted by: David M Patt
What happens when companies pay bloggers to lie? Read this.

March 16, 2014: What, no moderator?

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
A number of suggestions have been made to change the manner in which meetings and educational conferences are conducted.

One of those is elimination of session moderators.

It may be argued that a "referee" is not needed to moderate panel presentations, and that panelists should interact more with each other and more with the audience.

But a "moderator" can help make that happen. A moderator can serve more as a facilitator, prompting presenters to engage in more interactive behavior and encouraging constructive discussion that may fall outside of traditional parameters.

And a moderator can manage the entire event so the presenters don't have to - staying on schedule, cutting off irrelevant questions and discussions, and subduing unruly attendees.

So, think through all aspects of moderator use before deciding to do away with it totally. Like everything else in the association world, do what works, not what's trendy.
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